With All The Trimmings

Arriving in St Vaast in the early afternoon we have the sumptuous prospect of dinner and a card evening with our dear friends, the Tuttles.  We always enjoy Claire’s cooking and playing Spite and Malice with them, at the same time catching up on news since we last met.  This is a great start to our festivities which pick up speed with the arrival of The Perrymans, Barns and Lukie on the 22nd.  Thereafter we spend happy and convivial days as we approach the big day.  I have bought Ted a Michel Roux Jr cooking jacket which he looks really cute in, and with his mother’s help he cooks some delicious bacon and egg soufflés.  On the evening of the 23rd Barns and Lukie cook us lamb followed by fondant chocolate puddings.  Charlotte bakes a terrific chocolate log.  On Christmas eve I poach a bass and on Christmas Day Charlotte and I pitch in and cook the full roast turkey lunch.  Charlotte has encouraged me to use Nigella’s roast turkey recipe which involves steeping the bird in a brine laced with all manner of spices, oranges, onions and some maple syrup.  This renders the bird wonderfully easy to carve and juicy to eat.  During these days we organise some wine tastings amongst ourselves which are great fun.  We make some good new discoveries.

On Boxing Evening we have an open house for our neighbours and friends.  With the help of the young, including Ryan who is a great hit as the wine waiter, we put on a good show for our English tradition of cold cuts, salads, bubble and squeak, Stilton, mince pies…… even if our French guests are a bit phased by it all.  The French have a worldwide reputation as gastronomists but equally they are conservative too.

Our children sail for England on Sunday leaving us to spend 10 more days in France.  We celebrate Georgy’s birthday followed by New Year’s Eve which is spent with Daniel and Christine: a meal of brown shrimps from the harbour, scallops fished from the bay, cote de boeuf cooked on the open fire, and a traditional frangipane galette aux Rois which has a lucky ‘bean’, the finder of which gets to wear the paper crown.  We have one more special soiree chez Francois and Fefe Taille when Francois serves Coquille St Jacques in their shells encased in flaky pastry.  Just exquisite!

All too soon it is time for the decorations to come down and the house to be put to bed.  With a wonderful Christmastide behind us we sail for England.

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