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Christmas 2009 – how was yours?

Christmas lunch. First course: parmesan custard with anchovy toast, recipe from Café Anglais, executed by my niece, Charlotte.

There was a time when my mother, Fay, good Jewish mother that she is, would insist on cooking every morsel of Christmas fare.

Finally we managed to persuade her we were old enough to take over.

Now we share the cooking.

My sister, Geraldine, cooked the goose reared by wise animal welfare expert, Sheepdrove Organic Farm, which has a shop in Bristol.

From top left clockwise:  the goose, then green bean, cranberry sauce, roast potato, roast parsnips, roast carrots, roast sweet potato, apple sauce and bread sauce.

It sounds bloody grand and it was. A local Big Issue vendor ate nothing on Christmas day, he told me today.

Juliette, eldest niece, cooked all of vegetables including her own concoction, green beans with olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, mint and a little sugar.

I made the tiramisu. None of my books had a recipe but luckily I found Tiramisu Heaven.

Mine did not look like Tiramisu Heaven pic above.

Mine looked splodgy – see below.

Yet it was delicious, if both bread-puddingy and way-creamy. I used less sugar than recipe (3oz instead of 4oz/ 1/2 cup) and brioche instead of ladyfingers. Lots of strong coffee.

I made the tiramisu late-at-night and last-minute. After carefully separating eggs, I made fatal mistake and did to egg whites what should have been done to yolks.

My mum does not use eggs at all. How sensible is that? Just 8oz mascarpone +brandy +  coffee-soaked ladyfingers, sprinkling each creamy-layer with cocoa powder, and topping with rest of coffee-soaked cake.

Geraldine provided an extra treat: mince pies with homemade pastry.

She homemade the mincemeat too: you assemble the fruit and suet, and warm. “Dead simple,” says mincemeat-demystifier, Delia Smith.

This feast was manageable thanks to six of us cooking. I made my dish in advance while others cooked on Christmas day. So division of labour was not equal.

How did you manage Christmas?

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Firewalking in Bristol


After firewalking (she says nonchalantly – of more later) we ate by candlelight (see pic) wholefood vegetarian dishes we had bought to share: tofu, sprouts and potato salads, hummus, homebaked spelt loaves and a coconut-apple dish to round off the feast.

In a forgotten farm lane in the heart of Bristol city, the Larch barn (our home for seven hours) made eco-living a reality. Powered solely by solar panels on a grey-cloudy day, the sudden departure of electricity plunged us would-be firewalkers into dramatic darkness.

The candles sent shadows flying to the wooden eaves.

The fire we had built earlier in the rare November light was burning brightly in the winter night.  Waiting.

We had prepared: voiced some fears (and did not exhaust my list). It was striking to hear others express sometimes identical anxieties – I was not alone when gripped by irrational thoughts.

Sumir, our firewalking teacher, guided our 12-strong group like a gentle young father. Firewalking four years ago in California had been the catalyst for jacking in a sensible career to follow his dream of making music.

I am slightly group-averse but something about facing this fire-filled experience broke through my usual social barriers. We stood on the cold grass in our bare feet.

Samir raked the fire so the embers glowed.

The first person crossed the red-hot dust and I followed as if caught in her eddy.

I walked, as instructed, at my normal pace. I was crunching on hot embers but it did not hurt – no minor blisters or any ill after-effects. I accepted and gave hugs to my fellow firewalkers. We crossed and recrossed the embers several times. It was exhilarating.

And of course I had to write about it.

Is it OK to boast?

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