Christmas Wishes

I honestly can’t believe where this year has gone. It seems like no time since ushering 2013 in, but I don’t think I’ve had a busier year than this. Writing two cookbooks in the space of five or six months has kept me busy on shopping, cooking and washing up, while being  enormous fun. I’ve been cooking lots of things that are new to me and so now that I’m back home in Belfast for the first time in twelve months, it’s wonderful to to take a break and return to the familiar, but with a freshness that keeps it interesting.

Mister North is England bound this Christmas so there’s just me and my mum eating together on Christmas Day and we’re revisiting our Christmas classic of beef, but with the twist of it being Dexter beef. I have to admit I hadn’t heard of this native Irish breed until my mum phoned a few weeks ago asking if I fancied a fillet of it for Christmas dinner, but in that way that once you’ve heard of something, you hear about all the time, I realise Dexter beef is the very thing.

A slow growing and smaller sized beef breed, the Dexter gives well flavoured and firm meat that is the very opposite of the soft, almost flabby steak one buys in supermarkets these days. Short and squat, these bulls are like the hard men of the paddock except that they are as renowned for their lovely temperament as the quality of their meat. Almost always organic meat, the Dexter is the breed to watch if you like good quality beef.

I’ve been so focused on recipe testing that I haven’t given a moment’s thought to what to serve with this beautiful bit of beast and if I’m honest, as long as there are roast potatoes and parsnips and a glass or two of red wine, I’m not too bothered about what else goes on my Christmas dinner plate. For me the day is more about the people I spend it with, the love I show them and of course all the other food traditions around the season.

Christmas isn’t Christmas in our house unless there’s a Coca Cola ham. Or some get your hands dirty seafood that involves piling shells up on the plate as you talk and eat and enjoy on Christmas Eve dinner. We often score a Lidl lobster or two, but this year it’s Dublin Bay prawns from there steamed over beer with some of my mum’s excellent home made sourdough to soak up the juices.

I take time off thinking frugally for a day or two around Christmas and raid the spoils of her fridge and her beautiful greenhouse by sampling homemade pickles to put mine to shame and to mainline cucumber relish and slow cooked green figs on the side of cold cuts. I pinch dried chillies, snaffle the remaining raspberries and toast it all with a hot port or two. This year I’m also thinking of a smidgeon of Irish cheeses on the side, some homemade Christmas pudding and custard and a few Freddo frogs with popping candy as the height of indulgence. I might even get the chance to sample some food and drink in the ever changing restaurants and bars of Belfast with friends.

What about you? What are your Christmas must haves or festive maybes? Do you try to try something new every year or do you have yearly traditions? Is Christmas about food or is about the social joy of sitting at a table and sharing the same dishes? Tell all. I love a Christmas tradition story. Almost as good as finding a spare present in the toe of your stocking…

I hope whatever you are doing this Christmas, you enjoy it. And thank you so much for your support and encouragement here over the years, it’s the blogger’s perk above any freebie!

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6 replies
  1. Bee
    Bee says:

    We have coca cola ham too, but done with half the volume of orange juice. My parents went off to Barbados every year and Ma picked this version up from there long before Nigella made it popular. I glaze it with soft brown sugar and mustard powder and we have it hot on Christmas Eve with boiled potatoes, greens and home made chilli jelly.

    Our go to Christmas lunch is pork. Done the River Cafe way with fennel and chilli, long and slow. A rack of veg, roast and mash, proper gravy. Then something other than the trad pudding plus lots and lots of cheese, butter, crackers, port and a vicious game or two of Trivial Pursuit.

  2. Diane-crewe
    Diane-crewe says:

    I hope you and your mum have a wonderful time .. lots of eating and talking and laughing xx Shame your brother wont be with you though xx
    Have a wonderful time and come back refreshed to inspire us all anew x
    I will be with my parents Christmas day and then we all descend on my son and his family Boxing day .. daughter and her partner “in the room” via skype from Australia xx Technology is such a wonderful way to bring families “to-gether” xx

  3. Caitriona
    Caitriona says:

    You’re dead right. Similarly we forget about being frugal for a few days and there is a generosity in food & spirit. I’ve been saving all year around for this couple of days. It does the heart good not to feel like you’re the poor relation!
    Have a great Christmas Miss South & Mr North. Can’t wait to see the book. x

  4. Miss South
    Miss South says:

    Caitriona: I actually love saving up all year for Christmas and then having a period of spending on food, drink and gifts. It makes me feel like a proper grown up and the novelty factor keeps it fresh. I hope you all have a lovely Christmas and enjoy the time together having fun!

    Diane: what a wonderful sounding Christmas. Maybe I’ll Skype Mister North the beauty of our beef roast! And yes, hopefully will be back in the New Year with lots of ideas. Enjoy your holidays!

    Bee: I love the sound of your house at Christmas. Never thought of pork for Christmas but am converted. And Trivial Pursuit is my favourite. The more vicious the better! Have fun! Love to you all!

  5. Alicia (foodycat)
    Alicia (foodycat) says:

    I love Dexter beef – it’s one of the breeds Turner & George often sell, and the flavour is fantastic.

    We don’t really have a traditional Christmas meal – most of my Christmases growing up were dire vegetarian affairs, and Paul’s South African family always just has many roast beasts. So we tend to eat what we feel like eating.

  6. Mrs Nordy
    Mrs Nordy says:

    Welcome home Miss South. Hope you and your Mum have a wonderful Christmas tog. Wishing you and Mr North health and happiness in the new year.

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