….is a very lonely time for some people. I had to have this explained to me because Christmas Eve to me is the longest, busiest day in the calendar year. But, I was told, in the world there are those who are so organised that they have nothing left to do, and those who have nothing to do. That’s why our friend Gordon, who lives by himself, has Open House for his village on Christmas Eve. “Many single people are invited out on Christmas Day, “ he says, “but Christmas Eve can turn out to be quite empty”. So Gordon stokes up the fire in the ancient stone fireplace in his ancient house, brews up his secret recipe for mulled wine, opens the door, and lets the party happen.
That’s the thing about parties. You can plan meticulously. You can be so prepared that you even have time to apply lipstick before party time (it happened to me once). But when the first foot of the first guest crosses the threshold, the party is no longer yours. It doesn’t matter if the sink is piled high with dirty dishes, and half made fruit salad adorns the juice-stuck counters in the kitchen, newspapers, dead socks, and strangely-placed cushions bedeck the front room. Relax, smile, hug, offer a drink, and think, “The party has begun, hooray!” Aside from the lipstick thing, Gordon’s hospitality is known world-wide (he travels a lot). His village loves to come at this special time of year.
And like the three kings, they come bearing gifts! He told me about a baked camembert dip that was a hearty success. So I’ve tried to Christmas-ify it a bit. It’s an easy one, too.
Christmas Baked Camembert.
Remove the wrappings of a whole camembert cheese, perforate the top in a few places, to help it puff up, place the cheese back in its wooden frame and place on a baking sheet. Pre-heat oven to 220C or about 475F. Place in hot oven for 12 minutes. Remove from box and place in the centre of an attractive plate. Garland with watercress, cover the top with cranberry sauce (see recipe below), and serve immediately. The watercress initially was only to give the green for Christmas, but our tasters found the combination of cheese, cranberry and watercress very refreshing. Serve with garlic bread, sturdy crackers, and, for the carbo-phobes, sliced apple. Nice!
Cranberry-Ginger Sauce. Empty one bag of whole cranberries into a slow cooker or heavy-bottom pan. Add a cup and a bit of sugar (yes I know, but it is Christmas), three finely chopped stem gingers, and 2 tablespoons cherry brandy. In a slow cooker, this can be left alone until you feel like looking at it. In a pan on very low heat give it a stir now and then, but be careful of explosions. Cranberries pop when they cook. Optional: when done, add a couple of tablespoons of Grand Marnier. It’s nicer if made the day before so that the flavours get a chance to “hold hands”, as the Persians say.
May all your Christmases be bright.