Growing up my memories of Christmas was food. My mother would spend weeks making Stuff for Christmas, and given that we were just four people it was probably a bit over the top. She would make a Christmas cake, of course, Christmas puddings, of course, and another cake she called it a Tunis Cake. They were available in the shops, but she was a baker. A Tunis cake was a Madeira Cake the top covered with a thick layer of dark chocolate along with a few marzipan balls made to look like fruit and holly.
She also made fancy cup cakes, in the form of butterflies, cabbages and even cauliflowers, madeleines, tall sponge cakes covered in jam and shredded coconut, and many others that I can’t remember what they were, but we had them all.
Oftentimes we spent Christmas Day at my grandmothers, who lived not a million miles away and we were fortunate to have a car ( most people I knew didn’t have one) . Nanny lived with her youngest daughter ( there were three daughters) and for the most part was cook in chief, but in latter years the role was taken over by Aunty Brenda. Brenda was a Feeder. Would you like a biscuit, a jam tart, a cake, a bit of toast, another biscuit. Hers, was the table laden with whatever might just take your fancy. My fancy was always CHIPS, not for me the roast turkey, the roast potatoes, the Brussels sprouts, the sausage rolls or mince pies, but Chips, and Uncle Bob could always be relied upon to produce them, just for me !
I could however be persuaded to try just a tincy wincy bit of Christmas pudding because there were always silver coins wrapped in paper hidden inside.
The other food memory of Christmas was celery, yes celery. Washed and trimmed and standing straight in their special jar. Were you aware that there are such things as celery jars? ( another Victorian invention ). Actually I don’t have one but they have been part of my life since forever, but who can imagine sitting down for Christmas tea with a jar of celery stalks by its side?
Being an unbelievably fussy eater, I think my mother was pleased that I at least ate celery. So much so that she made me celery and cream cheese sandwiches for my school lunches! Not for me the stodge that was served up on a daily basis, which was School Meals .
But I digress. Christmas food, Christmas afternoon tea. This year I managed to fit in, in between various Lockdowns, an afternoon tea at the splendid RAC club on Pall Mall. It was for the “Girls” and so my girls and eldest granddaughter met for our tea.
Unfortunately, I think the next day became our second lock down, hence although the tea was lovely, complete with the requisite “Bubbles” for the Big Girls, there was only one other table occupied! Still as my eldest said ” This year we will take what we can get! Never a truer word! And they even produced extra Sausage Rolls for Miss Tess, and for once in our life I allowed a “Doggy Bag” and she took the excess home for her brothers ( who had not been invited).
So moving swiftly on or rather back to sausage rolls. Synonymous with Christmas, rugby matches and golf or all things English! However have I have commented previously I find English Sausage meat BLAND! So I set myself a challenge to make them satisfied. I tried adding red onion chutney, only OK, English mustard powder, again only OK. Then it struck me. Merguez.
Merguez is a a sausage of Middle Eastern origins, but popular in France made with uncooked lamb or beef. It is heavily spiced with cumin and harissa, which gives them their red colour.
I despatched himself to our local Middle Eastern Stores, of which there are many, but he failed to find my sausages, but not wishing to disappoint, bought Chorizo! Very innovative. Consequently, I threw it into the food processor to make a fine mush of chorizo and then mixed it all with the English sausage meat. The result was very satisfying. More for adults than for children, but presented them to my neighbours during our terraced distanced cocktails. I think I have it !