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Wednesday, 26 December 2007

Christmas 2007



I wonder how you have all spent Christmas? Let us know. I tell you what we did. Christmas day I woke up early with a bit of a sniffle, sort of a hint of a cold. First one in about 3 years. It seemed to be getting worse during the day, but seems to already have passed. All this freshly squeezed orange juice we have every morning seems to have done the trick, building up my immune system. After breakfast we lit a fire in the kitchen and slowly started preparations for the meal. Instead of stuffing ourselves with mountains of food in one sitting, we tend to cook a bit, then eat a bit, cook a bit more, eat a bit more, maybe go for an energetic walk and cook a bit more and eat a bit more. Thus spacing out Christmas lunch from about midday to midnight.

First we boiled and peeled the chestnuts that we collected last week for the stuffing. Then we sat around the fire having tea and biscuits. About 1 o’clock we tucked into a mixed platter of smoked fish and a glass of Prosecco to wash it down as antipasto. The primo consisted of a creamy cauliflower and leek soup, one of my specialities, with a slice of wholemeal bread. After that we needed a walk to work up an appetite again. We just wandered around the village shouting “auguri!” at everyone. Various neighbours had already called at our door to wish us a happy Christmas and deliver wee presents.

For a main course I cooked a guinea fowl, stuffed with chestnuts and sage, cooked in a casserole on a bed of carrots, celery and mushrooms and dowsed in white wine. The wine came more as an afterthought, as one of our neighbours very kindly gave us a bottle of their homemade stuff. Now I don’t want to appear fussy, but the trouble with the homemade wines here is that after a year or so they turn to vinegar as they don’t use any additives whatsoever. This year’s vintage is not bottled yet, so last year’s vintage is good with chips, but not to drink. Also as an afterthought, I picked a pomegranate on our walk through the village and added it to the sauce and the bird. I did not quite realise how sour a pomegranate is and together with the sour wine, whilst it kept the bird nice and moist, it made for quite a sour sauce. So we added some of our own apple sauce, which we made from the last apples from Villa. All in all that worked really well. And to drink? One of the treasures out of my cantina, a 1999 Brunello di Montalcino Donatella. The winery make point out of the fact that this wine is made entirely by women. After a few hours in the decanter, this turned out a rather classy wine, possibly a bit to big for the fowl, but hey, so what?

We skipped the cheese course, had some Panetone (also a gift from the neighbours) with a Moscato Spumante and relaxed around the fire for the rest of the evening listening to some music. As far as musical accompaniment to the day was concerned, we started slow and easy with Bach’s Christmas Oratorio and Handel’s Messiah, moving on to folky music such as Tandarandan and Irish music, finishing with upbeat soul and blues, which finally prompted me to get my harmonica out and dance in the middle of the kitchen.

The weather? The 3 days of rain forecast did indeed happen, finishing on Christmas eve. Christmas itself was dry, cloudy and quite warm. Now today, as you can see above, it’s been glorious, spring-like sunshine, which drove us straight to the seaside. We had a walk around the small fishing village of Tellaro on the Gulf of La Spezia. Tomorrow these frivolities, like eating all day or going for pleasant walks, are going to stop. Back to work. I’ve set up a to-do calendar for the new year and the next couple of weeks the list includes pruning vines, apples and olives as well as digging beds for spring sowing. So onwards and upwards!

1 comment:

pedals and paws said...

Ah! Just written and lost a long post I wrote to you - so here goes again. Don't know where you find the time to write so much, but really glad you do because you are giving us an insight into Italy, where we think we hope to be this time next year. Having said that we are still not entirely decided.

Loved your detailed account of the Christmas meal. For our part we had a raucous day with friends and not a lot of culinary appreciation - my fault because everything is left up to Paul who is the cook in the family. But in contrast, as a (rare) Portuguese Fado lover I appreciate your musical tastes.

In answer to your question about how we got over the mountains with our bikes - the explanation is easy - by carrying them - which was not so easy.

Tommorrow we are off to Spain to bring in the New Year with Friends.

All best to both of you for 2008.