I know it’s nearly Christmas time but I seem to have a real block writing about Christmas. I feel that, as a writer of a blog where 50% of each post is food, it seems almost sacrilegious not to be festive and talking about family awesomeness and the like. I’ve injected a few Christmas hints in my photos, but when a friend asked me whether I was going to write about Christmas, I realised that the thought hadn’t even occurred to me.
We’re still at the stage of our lives that we go to our parents for Christmas. I’m not too sure when the tables will turn and we will become the Christmas providers, but for now the most I do is sous-chef (yes, I peel potatoes and carrots, but I like the sound of sous-chef better) and bake the occasional dessert as a guilt-avoidance tactic.
Also, I live in the Southern Hemisphere these days, but I grew up in the Northern Hemisphere and there is something weird and awkward about reindeer and mistletoe when it’s 45˚C outside and we’re all in shorts. The Australians’ classically do Christmas on the beach or standing around a barbecue, eating fresh prawns the size a child’s head and enjoying fresh fruit for dessert.
I miss snow, log fires and ugly jumpers. Although my Christmas-reality growing up in central London looked nothing like that at all. One year we took a walk on Christmas afternoon in a park sprinkled in snow and that has become my perennial memory of all Christmas’ ever. It only happened once, but in my warped memory it’s all that ever happened.
And, on a slightly self-pitying note, I really miss my sister, mum and dad at Christmas. We Skype, which is wonderful, but I do tend to get a little teary being so far away at this time of the year.
Now I have a child I really am trying to get into the Christmas spirit. We got a Christmas tree this year for the first time in about ten years. We’ve put up twinkling lights outside the house. I’m singing Christmas carols to my son as we drive to daycare in the mornings, the words I remember anyway. He has absolutely no idea what’s going on, but is excited by proxy, so I’m taking that as a win.
Eton mess is a classic English dessert. Rumours abound as to how it was invented, but most stories agree that it was at Eton school and involved some sort of kitchen fail. For me, it makes me feel less homesick for England and is also similar to the classic Australian celebratory dessert, pavlova. I feel that I’m bridging the gap between the country of my birth and the country of my heart.
I’m a purist about my Eton Mess and only use the classic, simple ingredients. Feel free to ignore me and play around to your heart’s content. I’ve also included a meringue recipe from Delia Smith (which I use) if you feel like making your own. Otherwise 100g of the store bought meringue nests are fine. The only absolute suggestion I have is that the fruit is fresh, not tinned or frozen.
- 175 g golden caster sugar
- 3 large egg whites
- 400ml cream
- 1 tbl sp caster sugar
- 500g strawberries
Preheat the oven to 140˚C / 275˚F
Place the egg whites in a scrupulously clean bowl and whisk until they form soft peaks that slightly tip over when you lift the whisk
Add the caster sugar, about a tablespoon at a time, and continue to whisk until each tablespoon of sugar has been thoroughly whisked in
Take heaped tablespoonfuls of the mixture and place them in rows on a lined baking tray
Place the baking tray in the oven on the centre shelf, and leave the meringues there for 1 hour
Turn the oven off and leave the meringues in the oven to dry out overnight, or until the oven is completely cold
Whip the cream and sugar together until soft peaks form
Cut the strawberries into quarters
Crush the meringues into bite-sized pieces
Very gently, stir the strawberries, meringue and cream together and spoon into four glasses
Keep in the fridge until ready to serve wearing a cork hat, carrying a boomerang and singing the British national anthem…