The great Christmas dinner test > part I

Posted On October 27, 2006

Filed under Festive Recipes

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This year, I’m doing Christmas by the book. Three books to be precise, all of them by bestselling cookery writers. There is method to my madness. By showing you three quite different versions of Christmas, perhaps I can help you decide which one suits you best.

Maybe you are the pick-and-mix type. If so, you will love the latest book by Nigella Lawson. Feast: Food That Celebrates Life blends Christmas with American Thanksgiving. It is a truly novel way of looking at things, from whichever side of the Atlantic you look at it. And it really works, because the two festivals share many attributes. Feast is the Christmas manual for you if you want to design your own table.

With this in mind, I plumped for a meal without a bird or Brussels sprout in sight. I hope Nigella would approve. I built my feast around my mother’s tradition of cooking a ham on Christmas Eve, which she serves with braised red cabbage (the book contains recipes for both).

My mother (and Nigella) will tell you this provides you with cold ham as well as turkey for Boxing Day. Neither recommend cold red cabbage, which is practically chutney by December 26, but trust me, it’s great.

If the thought of glazed pig on the big day is anathema to you, there is stuffed goose or spiced turkey among a number of other options. I couldn’t resist Nigella’s recipe for sweet potatoes with marshmallows, which should raise a few eyebrows.

Fans with copies of How to Eat and Domestic Goddess will know that she has a highly developed sense of camp (it is Christmas, after all) not to mention a bit of a thing about trashy Americana.

What follows here is not a perfect rendition of Christmas chez the domestic goddess; I adapted recipes and methods to suit my kitchen and I tend to improvise if I think I’ll be able to draft in my favourite ingredients.

With a book like Feast, such meddling is entirely appropriate. This meal was fun to make, and I hope that comes across.