Christmas is about giving (out). I like to give my husband material for his new play, so I activate my ego and let it loose alongside the turkey giblets. A playwright’s worst dream is having a happy Yuletide. It gives them Writer’s Block. I would never do that to my husband.
The run up to Christmas often feels somewhere between an Alfred Hitckcock movie and a bad Wes Anderson screening. Everything appears dreamy and beautiful. But beneath the surface, our collective passive-aggressive venom is enough to alarm the UN General Assembly.
So with military incisiveness, I start the season with a SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) on my husband. I cannot begin to tell you how much this exercise enhances the Christmas spirit. When I’m feeling particularly generous, I even share my analysis with the in-laws.
In between, I cook, eat, feed and nark. Over the course of my theatricals, I have come to realise that irrespective of how hideously I behave, good food can mend moods and marriages.
If you’re looking for novel ideas, or trying to take the hell out of healthy, here are a few life jackets from 2016’s Sunday Independent Crimbo special. (Walnut & Rosehip Cookies, Lapsang Souchung Christmas Cake, Festive Florentines).
This pomegranate halva should add a sophisticated splash of romance to your Christmas party. One taste can ignite libido, like finding Bradley Cooper under the mistletoe.
But if you don’t want romance at your party (think family gathering) then feel free to horse into this walnut whip (recipe below). It’s got enough garlic to end up on Norway’s Richter scale. We serve it alongside special G&Ts, to take the nip off our bite (alos, below).
Merry Christmas my friends. See you in 2018.
Buttery Walnut Whip
Makes 18 pass-aroundies
130g good walnuts
1 fat clove of garlic
1 teaspoon ground all-spice
1-2 tablespoons water
1-2 teaspoons lemon juice
A few twists of the salt and pepper mill
Small punnet of redcurrants
Tip the walnuts, the garlic and your all-spice into a pestle and mortar. Pound for about 5 minutes, until you’ve got an oily butter. If the mixture is still crumbly, keep going my friend.
Now add the water, some lemon, and a few twists of the salt and pepper mill. Water tends to change the colour of the mixture from biscuity brown to light beige. Don’t worry – you’re on the right track. It’s really up to you how creamy or thick you want it.
Spread across discs of cucumber and crown with juicy redcurrants. If you’re crazy fancy, try filling teeny Brussel sprout leaves with this whip, and top with scarlet pomegranate seeds.
Gin & Cucumber Ice
Makes many, many ice cubes for your festive freezer
2 cucumbers, juiced
1 wedge of lime
25ml chilled gin
55ml chilled tonic water
To make the cucumber ice, press or juice 2 cucumbers. If you don’t have a juicer at home, you can purchase pure cucumber juice from your nearest juicer. It won’t be on their menu – you’ll need to coax them into giving it to you.
Pour and fill your empty ice tray(s) with this verdant green potion. Freeze for 6 hours before using.
A gin and tonic’s sweet spot is just about twice the amount of tonic, to gin. But some prefer a little extra tonic. Depending on how many lucky peeps you are serving, measure up, squeeze in the lime, and drop 2 cucumber ice cubes into each glass. Small, chilled glasses are best. If you want extra ice, you can always freeze some tonic water a few hours before the party. Fa la la la lahhhhhh …
Taking the hell out of healthy.
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Could this walnut whip be make in a food processor or blender? Sounds like hard work with a mortar and peatle!
Time flies if you listen to a podcast (BBC Food Programme is ace). I promise!
PS loving the cucumber ice cubes – will definitely be doing these!