For me, Christmas fare is a mixture of tradition, family favourites, magical flavours and aromas, and memories of relatives who either passed down the recipes or introduced me to special foods. I think Christmas favourites should be a personal choice: forget fashion and foodies.
We’re lucky to have independent retailers who supply good quality food fresh without most of the shrink-wrapping you get from supermarkets. It certainly makes a difference to start with basic foods already full of flavour. Here’s my top 10 favourites, which I have eaten and drunk again this Christmas.
1. Fresh turkey from Mike Turton’s family butcher, Ilfracombe High Street. Yes, we’ve had roast dinners, leftover dinners, sandwiches, salads and, soon, turkey stew, but it’s still lovely. It tends to be a once-a-year purchase for most people, so why do people have to grumble about it?
2. Christmas bread from The Pantry, Ilfracombe High Street. Even better than their ordinary fruit bread, this had cinnamon and spices in. We bought one loaf, then had to have another. As good as their hot cross buns, which, quite rightly, they only make a few weeks before Easter.
3. Home-made pickled onions. Yes, they fared all right in the shed and have a real crunch to them. Not as good as the ones I remember from my grandmother, but not bad.
4. Home-made fruit cake. Everyone tends to have their own favourite recipe and this one is based on my mum’s. I had to make two cakes and give some up to the family!
5. Home-made red cabbage. Another family recipe passed down from my other grandmother. Red cabbage cut into strips and boiled in alcohol, white wine vinegar and water, along with chopped cooking apple, lots of cloves and a great deal of sugar. The aroma defines Christmas dinner for me.
6. Home-cooked bacon joint. Delicious locally-reared bacon joint from Mike Turton’s family butcher, Ilfracombe High Street. Boiled, then baked with the rind removed, the fat scored and coated with marmalade and pricked with cloves.
7. Home-made mulled wine. I didn’t make this so don’t know the precise spices, which we get from Nana Sue’s Sunfoods in llfracombe High Street. It certainly warmed us up before Christmas dinner!
8. Aspall’s Premier Cru Cider. I’m getting to prefer drinking this to champagne, which some say was developed from English cider-making.
9.Lorenz Saltletts Sticks. A personal tradition going back many years, but for me Christmas Day would not be the same without them. I prefer German makes to others.
10. Gourmet Mulatte coffee beans from the Algerian Coffee Stores. Ground freshly to make a beautifully smooth cup of coffee.