23 Dec 2012

Hestia's pre-Christmas Christmas

Ivy from my garden, tied with red ribbon as napkin holders
Very festive.
Juno thinks I've been watching
 too many episodes of Kistie's Vintage
Christmas :-D
I'm not the world's greatest cook, so how it came to pass that I thought it would be a Good Idea to do a full Christmas dinner for my brother and sister in law AND my mother and not-my-boyfriend-Ron I have no idea.  I can only surmise that I'd been imbibing the Crabbies Ginger Beer at the time.

Anyway, for the past 3 weeks I have been anticipating/dreading the meal that I was to prepare.  I alighted upon the fact that Beef Wellington looked like a bit of a show stopper and a quick panicked message to Legend asking for suggestions for dessert resulted in a recommendation for Tiramisu.

Of course, being only a purchaser of mince, bacon and the odd slice of liver, I nearly DIED when the butcher told me what the 3lb of fillet beef would come to - £54.00!!!!

But what a hunk of gorgeous meat!  Besides, I hardly ever see my bro - so I didn't begrudge the money at all.  But WHAT a price!

On the Friday before they visited I made the Tiramisu (the Sainted Delia Smith version) which was easy peasy, but took a lot of bowls.  And Sonshine and I ate quite a lot of the mixture before it ever made it to the crystal fruit bowl that was doubling up as the dessert dish.

I also roasted off the meat.  My big mistake was phoning my mother to ask how she wanted her beef wellington done.  Well done. WELL DONE.  A cut of beef that should be served practically still mooing at you was now to be rendered GREY.  ah well.  I have to give them what they want.  So I roast it off for longer than Gordon Ramsey suggests.  Also longer than what Legend suggests.   I am aware that I am ruining the meat.  I press on.

I prepare all my vegetables - parsnips for mashing with nutmeg, carrots to be roasting with coriander and potatoes boiled for roasting.

The roasting of the taters is giving me palpitations. I have been having nightmares about getting it wrong.  I recall trying to do it once before and ending up serving people rock hard, parboiled potatoes that dripped goose fat.  This time would have to be perfect.

I was up to midnight primping the table, working out the timings for everything on a little bit of paper that I tacked to the back of the kitchen door - eventually I collapsed into bed, fingers crossed that the weather would be good enough for them to make the ferry crossing to the island.

At 7am the following morning I awoke with the sudden realisation that I still had a ton of stuff to do!

The veg were duly prepped, the actual beef wellington was assembled....all systems were ready.  Heck, I even made them some fresh soda bread to accompany the soup!

My friend Elaine delivered a dozen festive cup cakes at 10.30am.  I attended to her with my hair clipped up in a million different directions:  'I'm straightening my hair,'I explain helpfully, in case she thinks I'm working my inner Helena Bonham-Carter.

I look at the magnificence of her cupcakes and realise that no one will ever, EVER believe that I made them.  I'll have to tell the truth when asked - I admit, it's a blow to my veil of carefully cultivated Christmas domesticity.  

At 11.30, my guests arrive!!!!

There is much kissing and exchanging of gifts.  There is Bucks Fizz.  There is a general ripple of familial appreciation that I have Pushed The Boat Out.  These people know me.  They are surprised not to be getting fed a plate of mince.  Or lasagna.

The Christmas table.  Don't worry, I put that binbag in the bin before they arrived :-D

On the tops of Sonshine's and my brother's heads are visible as they sit, hunched figures on the floor exploring the new LEGO Mindstorms 2.0 that they have bought him.  Sonshine is ecstatic.  He doesn't get to see his uncle very often - once a year at most.

They stay until 5pm - we talk a lot. We laugh a lot. They tell me how much they have enjoyed their meal.  That the roast potatoes were gorgeous.  That the meat was perfect.  That I CAN actually cook.  Of course, I shall not tell Tartarus this - why bark yourself when you've got a perfectly good dog, that's what I say.

I realise how much I miss seeing my brother on a regular basis.  His hair's totally grey now, but he's still that little boy that I use to fiercely protect at school.  I look at Juno (who has, amazingly, not even been mildly irritating today) and see how arthritis is deforming her hands.  The hands that love to paint, to make greetings cards and to cuddle her grandson (who is becoming increasingly recalcitrant in that respect recently).

I need to see more of the people that I love.  In 2013 it will have to be different.  It will have to be BETTER.

Happy Holidays everyone everywhere.

Sending you squashy hugs from Scotland.


  1. Awww! Squashy hugs back! It must be, well, interesting, living on an island where folks have to take a ferry to visit you. Glad you got to reconnect with family (assuming Tartarus is away on naval patrol at the moment), and that, blessing of blessings! The meal turned out well. I think you are secretly a much better cook than you admit here, but definitely, I would never take credit for those cupcakes. Works of art, those are.

    1. Tartarus is currently somewhere between Cyprus and Israel, back in early January.

      The ferry does add an interesting dimension - about 30 minutes additional travel time needs to be factored in, plus it's kinda pricy if you bring the car over too.

      The cakes were gorgeous - isn't she talented?

      Have a lovely Christmas, Joanne!

  2. I must admit that this made my jaw drop. Not because you cooked a successful dinner (I have faith in you) but that you have only once before made roasties...I mean, seriously? :o

    1. I am really not very confident in the kitchen. I used to have a stab at things that were quite intersting, but Tartarus can be pretty brutal when his food isn't up to scratch, so it put me off. I also gave a boyfriend food-poisoning once. All strung together, it leaves me not confident.

      It's true, I've only tried to make them once before and it was pathetic. We don't actually eat many potatoes - Sonshine isn't a huge potato fan and neither am I. These roasties were pretty delicious though, I'll be doing them again :-D

  3. I had every faith it would be splendid, but I am very pleased for you.

    Also, I teared up a wee bit at the end there!

    Merry Christmas my lovely! xx

    1. Thanks LM! I hope that you and the lovely Dr Dave have a magnificent Christmas together. I hope that we can catch up on the mainland at some point in the new year!!!

      Ali x

  4. Your table looks so festive and pretty. Congratulations on pulling this off!

    1. Thank you! It actually looked better than the photo because Sonshine made place settings for everyone and I always put out a little gift for everyone at the table too.

      Have a lovely day tomorrow!

  5. AND SQUASHY HUGS BACK AT YER. Have a lovely Christmas Ali, it looks like a great start. xx

    1. Thank you for the tiramisu recipe. I think all my friends will be sick of it by the time Hogmanay comes along, Wally!

      Hope you get tons of business for your cookery business - cos you're an EXCELLENT tutor!!

      Ali x

  6. have a gorgeous christmas and new year, ali!

  7. That all looks and sounds amazing! Glad you had such a beautiful, touching time with the family :)
    Huge holiday hugs,

  8. If you are going to see more of the people you love in 2013 - I take it you have booked your trip to see me ?? :-D

  9. well done on every level........ increasingly I find christmas leaves me with the must-do-better feeling re-my family.......the shifting priorities of my ever increasing age!! A very merry new year xx

  10. I bet it was bloody good, too. Well done on a sterling, festive, impressive effort! I'm inspired x


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