Administer brandy – in my kitchen
Christmas cooking is made special for me by the rituals of marinating, bathing, sousing and macerating various foodstuffs in alcohol. So no surprise that my kitchen is full of the aromas of brandy, whisky, bourbon, rum and orange-scented liqueurs this December.
My kitchen space, however, is a strange place to be right now. My oven finally packed up and a second-hand replacement gifted from a friend stands in splendid isolation waiting….waiting….waiting for an electrician to keep his promise to connect it. Frank – where are you? This is ominous as Christmas looms.
If my maths are correct I have 0.1% of the Christmas stollen baked in aid of charity by the Kempinski Hotel, Mall of the Emirates. I bought a whole stollen (60cm) out of an enormous 600 metres of stollen (made with 2,210 eggs, 600 kilograms of flour, 278 kilograms of raisins and 55 kilograms of marzipan, 120 kilograms of lemons and 131 kilograms of oranges). Staff from the hotel give up their time voluntarily to sell the stollen and give tastes to passers by. They ring a bell and give a massive cheer every time someone buys a piece (a slice is only 5 AED). It’s one of my favourite festive events in Dubai. As my family are dried fruit haters this marzipan-laden loaf needs to be shared; thank goodness half is pledged to I Live in a Frying Pan or I would end up eating the whole thing myself (not a bad thing in theory).
Thankfully my oven-deficiency hasn’t affected all my cooking as only the hob is needed for Christmas puddings and mincemeat. Adding Grand Marnier, orange juice and zest to mincemeat imbibes future mince pies with a warm spiciness and I’m confident that sploshing in an amount of rather nice Caribbean rum (Pyrat) into the pudding mix will impart smooth vanilla tones (hope KP isn’t reading this).
At last the growing season is bearing fruit here in Dubai – actually not fruit but veg – and early on a Friday morning I’m down at the Farmers’ Market at Jumeirah Emirates Towers. Planning my menu around the local, organic veg I buy from the farmers saves me money (it’s incredibly cheap and fresh), keeps my family healthy and it challenges me to think differently about what we eat. It’s the shortest supply chain too; knowing where my food comes from is so important. Getting up early on a weekend has more than one reward; the market now offers a mean organic breakfast courtesy of Baker and Spice.
The dried fruits inside my Christmas cake are plump from steeping in brandy since September. Since baking, I administer extra spirit every ten days. This is not as lavish as it sounds as I’ve discovered that this brandy is perfect for cooking (from MMI at only 25 AED per bottle – ex.tax).
The moment I saw the blue jug in Ren’s picture I was on a mission to find one (PIP studio from Holland, bought in Galeries Lafayette); you could say I have a thing about blue jugs. Younger teen and KP definitely have a thing about Lindt chocolate as this is all that’s left from my Food Photography and Styling workshop goodie bag. These Christmas bears are good for tucking into stockings and scattering on tables as decoration.
Being a golf widow sometimes has its advantages and the Jack Daniels annual golf day is one of them. The dinner in the evening is set on the beach at The Westin, looking out over the lights of The Palm. KP makes a mean Lynchburg lemonade but the new JD Tennessee Honey is really smooth and a lovely long drink mixed with ginger ale and very sippable neat over ice (perhaps I did have a little glass in my hand as I was writing this).
Chocolate keeps creeping into my kitchen in different guises. The strange truffle in a jar is a crunchy praline chocolate given to me at a wine tasting event at Rare, Desert Palm, Dubai (the food was superb).
Celebs at the Dubai International Film Festival (who one presumes can afford to buy anything they like) are led through a series of rooms where they are given a range of luxury goods. While having a sneak peak in the VIP lounge, I forgot to ask whether they all receive one of the 16 kilogram camels displayed by Al Nassma but was very happy with my mini-version. As a historic trading hub, Dubai offers very few souvenirs which are actually made here so this range has become incredibly popular with visitors – and rightly so. What a handsome beast.
Are you inspired to get sorted with your seasonal cooking? Christmas Sorted – 23 recipes to take you from freaked out to festive is just what you need. This online magazine is the brain-child of The Hedonista with a few additions from me. Simple recipes that work ranging from homemdade truffles, cranberry sauce to gingerbread plus Winter and Summer Christmas menus (for those like us in warmer climes). Sarah is a great cook with an exceptional palate (here’s what she did for Come Dine with Me) and I love her recipes.
How do you get this? Simply subscribe to my posts (this is easy – it’s over there, in the column to the right) or Sarah’s at The Hedonista. You’ll receive an email with the secret link. If you already a subscribe or follow, email me at sally(at)mycustardpie.com and I’ll send it to you.
Kudos to Celia of Fig Jam and Lime Cordial who tapped into an innate desire to have a nosey round other people’s kitchens. Nearly fifty bloggers joined in for November’s ‘In My Kitchen’ and there are sure to be plenty in December – imagine the collective scent of Christmas spices. Do tell me what’s in your kitchen this December?