My garden is full of surprises.
One day last month, when I was moved to do a bit of tidying up outside, I found this:
That's one funny lookin' Christmas tree...
Having long ago resigned myself to the fact that the romanesco cauliflower I had planted earlier this year had come to naught, there it was, a single specimen, presenting its wonderfully fractal head for inspection. At times like these, you really have to hand it to Mother Nature.
Well, it’s about time that I got my Christmas baking boots on, now, isn’t it?
For weeks, my feed reader has been choc-a-bloc with blog postings stuffed with festive baked goods, and I can only hold out against that kind of onslaught for so long. So, having realised that resistance was futile, I closed my eyes and let my mind drift across the sea of baked possibilities. I ended up in Spain.
While I was still, unquestionably, in Ireland, I had found myself dreaming of that Spanish confection known as turrón. It’s made primarily from toasted almonds and honey, and varies in texture from break-your-teeth hard to soft and fudgy. When I was a kid, my brother, who lived in Spain, would bring a selection home at Christmas and I have been a sucker for turrón, particularly the soft variety, ever since. It’s just as well I can’t lay my hands on it too easily here – I inhale and it’s gone. And while the brother hasn’t lived in Spain for years, in my head Christmas is still flavoured with almond and honey. So I thought that I would try to capture that in festive shortbread form. I was very pleased that I did.
Shortbread, inspired by Christmas past
There has been an ad running of late on Irish radio for a new play. The ad includes an excerpt from the play, which runs something like this:
They eat nut roast… Nut roast? …the only nuts I want roasted at Christmas come covered in chocolate and wrapped in shiny paper…
This says a lot about the bad rap that the classic vegetarian Christmas main course of nut roast gets, and sometimes with just cause. Food for the token vegetarian at the Christmas table very often comes in a distant second to main meat event and, to quote Alice Waters, can be the kind of stridently vegetarian food that leaves us “feeling somehow punished by dishes most memorable for their meatlessness”.