Les Petits Gris a Midi and much more…..

 

Coloured fairy lights, and twinkly bits and pieces are finding their place in the house.  By the time the Perrymans arrive the only task remaining will be to decorate the Christmas Tree.  During this week Nick will celebrate his birthday and we are invited to supper that evening by Soizic and Pierrick.  Coincidentally Soisiz celebrates her birthday the day after Nick.  We are taken by the Poulets through whom we know S and P, and another couple who are mutual sailing friends of the quartet, join us too.  The house has been decorated and it is a festive evening.

One lunch-time we are invited to eat escargots chez Taille.   They have a neighbour, Jean-Claude, who collects them and his wife prepares them. resizeescargots-2Mimi has worked her way most recently through seven hundred snails and has declared she is not going to do any more!  These are all the so-called Petit Gris, that is Cornu aspersum, the common garden snail.  We love eating them and so does Francois, Fefe on the other hand prefers to eat some squid prepared ‘a la Francois’.

Nick goes fishing a couple of times and brings home some useful catch.  He fishes for squid on one day and manages to catch three modestly sized ones. img_5236 I have picked up a different way of cooking squid from Francois Taille, which involves soaking them in boiled and cooled milk spiced with star anise.  You then toss the squid pieces in a frying pan with a bit of garlic butter.  As long as you don’t overdo it the squid is wonderfully tender.  A couple of days later Nick goes fishing a second time with Stephen and they have a rewarding day, catching five species which includes four Red Gurnard, Pout Whiting, a Red Mullet, a Mackerel and a Bream.

IMG_6524 (2).JPG

On Saturday evening we have a date at the Daniell house for Carol Singing and Mince Pies. To my shame I get the timing wrong and we arrive and hour and a half late and there is no way out other than to confess.  Yes, we could blame it on a number of things not least the very nasty blanket of fog which has enveloped our bit of Normandy but honesty wins over.  It is a very pleasant, and distinctly English, occasion with the majority of the guests being ex-pats including two Americans.  I start to chat to American Gerry, who we met last time, and am completely mystified and shocked when she tells me that although she could not vote she would surely have voted for Trump because she did not like or trust Hillary.  She feels we should wait and see because it won’t all be bad and in any event, she tells me and I don’t know if this is true or not, Trump is currently touring the States, talking to voters, telling them he didn’t mean everything he said, he wanted to get elected.  I feel a wave of dislike and anger rise up and fortunately Lorraine calls us to order for the singing of more carols.

Fortunately we know some thoroughly interesting and thoughtful Americans who have real political integrity and as it happens are great friends.  They come to supper on Sunday to celebrate their arrival in St Vaast that afternoon and I make Rick Stein’s seafood tourte and we play a hand of Spite and Malice.  The fog, which has been hanging around, continues to come and go and Ty later sends me a photo of our house.spookyhouse

On Monday I start to make my curries.  The Tenorios, the Daniells and the da Costas are coming to us for a curry evening.  They will Christine Street’s Chicken curry and our own Pollack Goa Fish Curry, with a Daal and some Naan breads.  Our own house Lemon Pickle is hugely appreciated.  Which reminds me that I must make some more.

This soiree brings our pre-Christmas social activity to a close and we then prepare for the arrival of the Perrymans.  When they arrive the adults are ready to switch off.  They work long and hard hours.  Teddy is full of excitement and we will spend the next few days doing Christmas, tout tranquille a la maison, just us and some presents and some good things to eat.  jigsawCharlotte starts a Christmas jigsaw and I work on finishing my jigsaw in progress. Our differing approach to tackling our puzzles, and how we arrange our pieces, is quite amusing.  RubyGymnast.jpgThe Hackneys send us some lovely family photos including one of Ruby who has excelled at gymnastics!  We learn that the new best friend she made that day is standing on the podium numbered 1.

The Perrymans head for home after Boxing Day, in time for their New Year celebrations with their usual suspects.  We had a similar thing going with the Pitts, Leathers and another couple when we decamped to the Pitt family holiday home at West Wittering during the afternoon of the 31st.  Unlike the Perryman cohort who do fancy dress which they order off the Internet, we used to wheel out our black tie and ballgowns.  These were special occasions and they make for good memories and it was a tradition which endured a good while.  On New Year’s Day we would walk the shoreline around West Wittering, returning for lunch before driving back to Surrey.  And then things started to unravel, but it was fun whilst it lasted and all these things are of their moment.  There is a tide in the affairs of men. Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune”  In St Vaast we celebrated New Year with the Poulets, who are the best of neighbours, and a day or two after we undressed the house and would be heading for Dorset and 2017.

 

 

 

A Pot of Coffee and a Mince Pie…..

……………… is all you need for breakfast in the Christmas aftermath.  Weeks behind with my blog, I now settle to a morning at my screen with a mug to my right and my diary to my left.  I must go back to November 28th.

With my Christmas willow tree worked and sitting in the hall awaiting shipment, I now turn to the task of sorting things that will need to travel to France,  wrapping a few presents and writing my remaining share of Christmas cards, assisting Gill with the cleaning and turning out things that she can usefully take for her car boot enterprises.  I slip down to Weymouth to visit Mum. mum1-2 Also I have managed to persuade Nick to come back from France a day earlier than he had planned so we can spend a day with the Dukes.

We meet at the car park by Thorncombe Wood near Bockhampton.  Hardy’s Cottage is nearby, it is a popular spot for visitors and walkers.  We make a short circuit through the woodland and heath and end up at the dog-friendly café where we have a light lunch. img_5305-2 Initially Maddy had proposed a walk but I tacked on the idea that we go to see Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them  in Dorchester.  Written in 2001 by J K Rowling under the pen name of Newt Scamander it is about the magical creatures in the Harry Potter universe.  This would be my second viewing of the film at a cinema, a rare occurrence in my film-going experience.  Rather like books, I only do works of fiction once. My favourite beast is this fellow: niffler%20fantastic%20beasts-png

After the film we went back to Maiden Newton for tea then drove ourselves back into Dorchester for dinner at the Cote Brasserie.  A restaurant which is not expensive and manages reasonably authentic French cuisine.

Cut to Thursday morning and we must be on the ferry ready for departure at 08.30h.  The car is packed full.  Our departure is delayed after a minor medical emergency for which the lack-lustre ambulance service manages to delay us by a couple of hours.  Happily I am always content to be on the Barfleur.

The weekend is spent quietly and I start to think about decorating the house.  I go up to the top floor to investigate the walk-in cupboard where I keep Christmas decorations.  I am somewhat nonplussed to find very few boxes and certainly none of the old familiars.  I realise in that moment that they are sitting in our garage in Dorset, stacked where they were stacked last January ready for transport to France.  In my mind this task had been completed but in reality the boxes have been moved and re-arranged during the year by Nick without him realising what they contained.  At least the wooden reindeer made it across the Channel.  Once I look at the contents of the boxes and bags which are there I realise I will have enough baubles and tree ornaments for the fresh green tree, as well as the new willow one.  This will be a year for holly and ivy over the pictures, and candles, lots of them.

We will gradually start to pick up with our friends.  Martine and Alain come from Paris at the beginning of the week and we meet them that evening for a meal at Le Chasse Maree.  This restaurant has recently changed ownership and the new management are more agreeable than the former.  We enjoy our food there.  The Tailles invite us to eat native oysters at midday.

That is a real treat, they are more favoured than the locally farmed non-native ‘huitre creuse’ but I would be hard pushed to distinguish the two were I to subject myself to a blind tasting.

Friday is a very special day in that I go to have coffee with my talented friend Bibi who I haven’t seen since April.  This seems incredible but she spent two months in Mexico painting a stunning mural in a friend’s house and then we were away in June, then summer intervened and a busy autumn and that’s how it went.  She makes lovely things.  Her current theme is to create puzzles, wooden shapes which form her special brand of jigsaw puzzle and each puzzle comes in its own box which is a work of art.

I love them all but cannot resist the Picasso one which I buy then give to Nick on his birthday!  He likes it too. In the evening we have been invited to eat chez Burnouf, and Dede serves a delicious ‘couscous’.  The Poulets are there, also the Tailles, wonderfully convivial.

Over the weekend Bibi and three other friends hold a Christmas ‘Expo’ and sale of their work.  15380688_551366855059399_4150434975071553341_nI am able to properly meet Charlotte Franklin who I spoke to briefly in the summer at the Daniell event.  She is a talented painter and sculptor and a friend of La Poulette.  I buy some of her lovely cards.  Then it’s also good to meet up with Pink Sarah, she who made the tartan replica of my favourite pinafore dress.  I decide to take a couple of ‘off-the-pegs’ into my wardrobe.  There is a charming Frenchwoman, Florence Renault, who makes beautiful jewellery in glass.  Some Euros are parted with.   Having been in the morning, I later accompany la Poulette and Fefe who both expressed an interest in going to the sale.  As it happens they each buy a version of the striped ponchos that Sarah has made.  I think they suit their respective new owners well although later I gather from Fefe that she has gone off the boil with hers as she feels as if she has a rug slung about her shoulders.  I think she may be missing the point!

By Sunday evening that’s a diverse week wrapped up, another one is in view.

And So This Is Christmas……….

And we have a houseful of peeps at The Old Workshop.  Claire and the Gang of Four arrive a couple of days before Christmas Eve which puts everyone in good spirits.  Joel the Little Green Chef is an absolute gem in the kitchen and he makes a fantastic Yule Log using his Hairy Bikers’ Cookbook. IMG_5606

He also puts me in the shade when we go to collect the turkey from the Puddletown butchers.  I have already ordered a Bronze one, which is what he told me would be best.  Then I am floored when he says that the turkey should have been dry-plucked and hung.  ?!!!  Well I’m not going to ask the man!  Being someone who can easily be intimidated by shop assistants.  But not as bad as I was.  Joel asks the question, and yes it turns out both requirements had been fulfilled.

Barns and Lukie, as well as Carl, arrive on Christmas Eve and Claire cooks a wonderful gammon with comfort vegetables such as red cabbage, mashed swede and the last of my homegrown celeriac mash.  The children take ages to go to bed and even more ages to go to sleep.  This does mean that they do not wake up at the crack of dawn which is a plus.

ChristmasMorning2015

On Christmas morning the children wake and find one present at the foot of their beds.  They open this on the waterbed with Claire and Carl then there are various hoops to jump through before we can all sit down to open the presents beneath the tree.

Joel is an absolute star in the matter of cooking Christmas lunch.  He helps me stuff the turkey, rub it with butter (which gives rise to a hilarious video sequence as Joel really gets down to this task) and tends to its needs during the roasting.  IMG_5629 (800x598)When I serve the meal there is only one minor glitsch as far as I am concerned and that is that the potatoes could have been a bit softer and crisper too.

After lunch we all settle to enjoy our Christmas presents, whether it be watching a video, playing a game, reading a book or getting a plastic sausage dog to poop real gunk complete with sound effects.  Chacun a son truque.  For myself I start to look at a book about Pigs, gifted by Lis, and fall into a shallow and short siesta.  With the main event in the bag the rest of Christmas Day passes gently but I am delighted to have a game of cards – Barbu – with the two older boys in the evening.

On Boxing Day Dan, Charlotte and their families arrive around lunch-time. IMG_5640 (800x598) Claire and Carl, as well as Lukie must leave for other commitments.  Around 3ish Christina comes bringing Cerys and my mother.  This is very special as Mum’s well-being is of concern and I had been hoping very much that she would be able to spend a couple of hours with us and all her Light family members.  1917011_10153182249921126_625731020119666110_nAlthough she remembers few by name these days.  Still it’s very convivial, she opens a few packages and has a plate of salad before Chrissie takes her back to her home.  As she is about to leave I suddenly think to organise a photo of her with her great grandchildren which turns out to be a lovely shot.

The following day there is an excursion to Portland for a bit of climbing and in the evening Maddy and Andrew come over to have supper with us all and we sit at the table taking it in turns to read Angloe-Saxon riddle songs from a book I have given the Dukes.  Fun.  All our young have to be on their way the day after but I do a walk with Barns and the four focused around Old Harry and Ballard Down, a windy and rather cold trek and I feel for Charlie who has not put on as many layers as he might have done.  The pub where we park is very busy when we arrive back there after our walk, with tables only available outside.  So we have a quick drink and Barns drives away with the last of my Christmas guests and I do feel rather sad as I drive back to The Old Workshop.IMG_5626 (598x800)  I should have liked to have something to eat with the gang before they started their journey home and especially as Nick and I will now have to start dismantling our lovely tree and put away the decorations before we cross the Channel to join our friends at Le Vast for New Year’s Eve. IMG_5651 (800x449)

So Long and thanks for all the Turkey ……

Late on Sunday evening the Perrymans arrived after a bumpy crossing between Portsmouth and Ouistreham.  Cue for a platter of cheeses, biscuits, pickles and a glass of red wine.  On Monday top of the list was the Christmas tree, saved for decoration by Ted.  We also made recycled wrapping paper chains and looped them around our lovely charpente on the top floor.  Then we looped our vintage strings of coloured fairy lights above the juke box and in Ted’s bedroom. On Tuesday we lunched at La Pernelle, with a table by the window we looked down onto Quettehou, St Vaast La Hougue and our patch of coastline.  One moment sunny, the next cloaked in a mist and then we watched rainclouds shed their burden before the vista cleared to reveal the familiar landmarks. xmasJaNick

We took Christmas Eve at a gentle pace, without the need for too much preparation for the ‘big meal’, we enjoyed a supper of scallops and black pudding, preceded by salt and pepper squid; my recently acquired skill with this method of cooking squid being put to good use.  Ted went to bed at the appointed hour but took ages and ages to go to sleep, fearful that if he did not sleep La Pere Noel would pass him by.  As if ……………..

Christmas morning arrived all too soon, especially for those men who had sat up till 3 a.m. in debate.  Ted would not open his presents until all were present and correct so we curled up on sofas with hot drinks and watched him work his way down a pyramid of presents until he had arrived at the base……….. a Playmobil Pyramid!

I always enjoy Christmas breakfast, scrambled eggs and smoked salmon with good French bread and champagne. The Perrymans announced that their Christmas lunch might just be the best that they had ever eaten.  Certainly I am won over my Nigella’s method of marinading a turkey before roasting it, and if there is oodles of bread sauce and not forgetting Goethe’s brussel sprouts, well you cannot go wrong.  A leisurely and tranquil afternoon drifted into evening and once young Ted was in bed the adults were very content to choose their sofa slot and relax with a device or a good book.

On Boxing day we skipped cold cuts in favour of a pizza at Le Debarcadere.  I chose my usual Choucroute de la Mer which was so dire that I will never order it again.  When I first started choosing this dish it was a delicious mountain of sauerkraut with a smooth, thin white sauce, some pieces of white fish and salmon and dressed with prawns and mussels.  Over the years the sauerkraut mountain has eroded and is no longer succulent, the fish and prawns are rather indifferent and the mussels have disappeared altogether.  Tant pis!

The Perrymans departed on Saturday and we spent the evening chez Bri and Georgy celebrating his birthday.  The evening after, we welcomed the Poulets for pool and cards on the top floor, a chance to enjoy the festive ambiance up there. The Hunters arrived on the 30th and we were all invited to Le Vast to celebrate New Year which will ever remain fondly remembered for the banquet we enjoyed and the Methuselah of 30-year old Bordeaux gifted by a friend of Alain and Martine’s.  We rose from the table at 3 in the morning!

We did manage a wine tasting one evening, this is becoming a regular feature for English visitors.  created Saturday departure.  This gave rise to shopping excursions to buy supplies for the Hunter cellar. On New Year’s Day we dropped by the Tailles at the end of the afternoon to wish them well and enjoyed some glasses of bubbly and a Twelth Night galette.  We then walked round to call on some English people whom Nick had met and had a drink with them too.  On their last full day we at lunch at Le Debarcadere and I chose raie a la crème.  After, Eileen and I walked round La Hougue then called in at a sale of Antiquites et Brocantes at the community hall in rue Marechal Foch. There I found a set of 12 individual oyster plates and a large platter for 80 Euros.  Finding 12 plates a little de trop I offered to share the set with Eileen, which suggestion found favour with her.

The Hunters left us on the 3rd and we again found ourselves in the fortunate possession of an invitation to supper on guest departure day, this time chez Daniell.  Lorraine cooked us delicious partridge, preceded by Stephen’s excellent home cold-smoked salmon.

We spent the remainder of our sojourn undressing our Christmas house and getting ready for a departure on the 8th.  We enjoyed one last fling with the Poulets when we invited them for a Beef Vindaloo with a bit of pool and cards thrown in.  This impromptu no frills supper thing suits us four very well and certainly lifts the pressure of expectation when you invite people for a meal.  None of us wants to be up late, a sign of our times 😦

Hopeful Blooms make a Christmas Bouquet

On Christmas Eve I needed to turn my attention to the matter of a centrepiece for the table.  I had to pop outside to pick a couple of bay leaves for the stockpot and noticed that our Honeysuckle was flowering, also daffodils, primroses, azalea, grape hyacinth, Auricula, Alstroemeria …………???  And our bee orchid leaf rosettes are much in evidence, although I think we will have rather fewer plants in 2015. There were a few hopeful roses and sure enough Helleborus niger was flowering well beneath its canopy of leaves.  So I decided to make a small bowl of fresh flowers to include the roses, Christmas rose, Daphne and Sarcococca.  But before I picked any blooms I took my iPad outside to take a few photos:

These are the Festive Days of Family and Friends

We return to Dorset with a busy and exciting schedule to meet.  On Saturday I go into Dorset to round up a range of items: presents, requisites for our French Christmas feasting and shopping for assorted French friends including White Stuff goods for Anne.  On Sunday I get to grips with wrapping up Christmas gifts for the forthcoming weekend and in the evening the Dukes come to supper.  We enjoy a poached bass which was excavated from our French freezer.  Thankfully it is still tender and tasty.

Early in the week I have a hair appointment, my Yoga lunch, lunch with my mother and sisters at the Sun Inn, followed by a bridge evening.  I am relieved that my fellow players are still bidding on open hands and that some at least are still in the foothills, like me.

To Godalming on Thursday evening.  I visit the amazing Mary Wondrausch for coffee on Friday, have lunch with my friend Vikky from Uni days at The Withies then Nick and I enjoy a dinner party chez Upcott to which mutual friends have been invited too.

We are Diana and William’s overnight guests and in the morning Nick and I drive to the Natural History Museum for a Conch. Soc. meeting.  I give a 20-minute presentation on Otina ovata thus crossing the final frontier of activities which at my lowest ebb I felt incapable of fulfilling.  There is a new dinosaur on the block at the Museum, the most complete Stegosaurus skeleton in the world.

Blog-Steg-EarthGalleries

Returning to Godalming early evening we are plunged into a weekend of feasting and jollification at the old homestead.  This is to be our Christmas moment with the young who arrive in stages, culminating in a full house in the middle of the day on Sunday.  The Perrymans cook us a fabulous meal on their all singing dancing BBQ, really an outdoor kitchen.  Sadly, with journeys to make and school to prepare for on the morrow our loved ones must start to depart at the end of the afternoon.  But we have had an amazing fun time.

Nick and I stay put and on Monday I go to Ted’s Carol Service before driving back to Winterborne K.  On Tuesday we have our Book Group lunch at The Greyhound, later on fitting in an evening of bridge for me before I leave Dorset later in the week.   On Wednesday I pop down to see Mum for a coffee moment, then back home where things must be assembled, the car packed ready for the following morning.  We cross the Channel in a gale but these days I find that the size and stability of the large ferries and the confidence I have in my sea legs carry me through.  Armed with The Independent Codeword, a good book and the comfort of a recliner in the quiet lounge, I allow myself to be rocked gently as we draw ever closer to the French coast.

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.

And now for Something different……..

After a quiet Boxing Day we switched tempo the following evening, and joined a group of English friends who had rented a house in nearby Montfarville for the Christmas week.  We had been invited to a Murder Mystery evening, having been given persona to guide our dress for the evening.  Nick’s character, an Irish journalist, was a minor player and as he was below par, needed very little to dress his part.  I had been assigned the part of Cherie Boot, a 20-year old French nightclub singer which was something of a challenge.  She was described as an androgenous character for which a black tie costume would have been ideal, and given more notice I would have been able to pull this together in Dorset to bring over.  With a black top and my wide, full-length, rust-brown linen culottes (bought in Split on a sailing trip in Croatia), and my newly short hair smoothed flat I felt it was a noble try.

During the course of the evening we ate an excellent dinner interspersed with dialogue for which each of us had our own prompt booklet.  Periodically we would adjourn upstairs to listen to a DVD where a narrator summed up the plot so far, and prepared us for the next exchange.

No-one guessed the murderer although one of us got closed.  As it turned out my character played a key part, but not wishing to drop a spoiler I will say that an enjoyable time was had by all, young and not so young alike.

Canapes at Christmas

It’s been a unique Christmas for Nick and I.  Here we are ensconced in France, enjoying a house that has been out of service for a couple of years.  All our young are Christmassing in their own way this year and we are potentially ‘Darby and Joan’.  We were quite looking forward to a tranquil day with seafood figuring high on the menu.  In the event we were invited over the road for Christmas Eve supper with Daniel and his family and to Brigitte and Georgi on Christmas Day.  All I had to do was make some canapes.

Mind you, this was no light undertaking for someone accustomed to wheeling out a few blinis with creme fraiche and smoked salmon, or some quail eggs with homemade celery salt.  Usually the task of serving a full meal precludes fiddling around with small and toothsome savoury dainties.  I searched the internet and in a few minutes had found some simple recipes.  At the risk of wheel re-invention and teaching the huge foody community in the blogosphere to suck eggs, here are the savouries I produced.

Chicken skewers with satay sauce.  Basically you marinade strips of chicken in a half and half mixture of soya sauce and sweet chilli sauce, then cook them in the oven and serve with a dip of equal parts of peanut butter and coconut milk.

Prawn, chorizo and cherry tomato kebabs.  A fried tiger prawn topped with a slice of warmed chorizo and cooked cherry tomato with garlic slice on a stick.

Mini Thai fishcakes. Rick Stein’s classic recipe which is a gift for me with a freezer groaning with white fish.  I make more, smaller patties and then buy myself out of trouble and use a good brand of dipping sauce from my store cupboard.  We have a lemon tree in the garden which provides a steady supply of fruits all year round, so I use them instead of limes.

Cheese and mustard straws.   I buy a roll of Feuillete pastry from the supermarket, open out the sheet and cover one half generously with grated Red Leicester cheese (which tastes really cheesy and is a great colour), sprinkle with mustard powder and mild cayenne pepper, cut in strips, twist, lay out on a baking sheet and bake.

These found favour amongst our French friends’ palates.  All we had to do was eat our way through homemade Foie Gras, Coquilles Saint Jacques on a bed of buttery onions, and French-style stuffed chicken on Christmas Eve, and jumbo prawns with carpaccio of king scallops followed by Blanquette de Veau on Christmas Day.

On Boxing Day I cooked a big chicken curry for forthcoming guests and we ate carrot and orange soup for lunch and braised quails for supper.  This latter on our knees in front of the tv where we are deeply embroiled in Season 1 of The Killing.  On the 27th we embark on a fresh round of eating and jollification……..