I think I've cooked less this Christmas than I ever have before, thanks to a combination of being invited to eat out, and having goodies brought to me (thank you all - you know who you are, and you know how much I enjoyed it all). On Christmas day night we had last year's pudding, doused liberally with extra brandy and steamed for two hours. It was a great success - except that because Harvey wasn't here, we couldn't get the brandy to flame up around it (he was always in charge of that and got it right).
I love Christmas mince pies, but while I'll happily eat the ones with sweet short pastry when I'm given them, I've always preferred them made with flaky pastry and served warm. This year I came up with a new idea that suited me perfectly. I bought little ready-made filo pastry cases from Tony Gamboni, carefully filled them with Ali's mincemeat and heated them up gently in the oven. But when I went to take a photo I discovered I'd used all the cases, so I'll get some more when the deli reopens and put a photo in later. We had them for lunch after our gathering for Harvey's plaque, and I made some more for myself on Christmas Eve. You keep the cases and mincemeat separate until you need them, so they're perfect for extra visitors.
Another very simple Christmas treat I've got used to is buying the Italian Christmas bread, panettone, and toasting slices of it for breakfast. It's like a slightly solider brioche with crystallised peel and dried fruit, and the first time I had it was the year Harvey and I had Christmas dinner at Lake Como, when they served it as the last of six courses.
This year I didn't have it on Christmas morning because I was going down the road for fruit and croissants, first with Paul's home-smoked salmon and then with Lesley's jam. But I've been happily tucking in ever since. One medium panettone lasts a long time if you keep it in the fridge, and the last of it makes amazing bread and butter pudding (see that post).
On Wednesday I went up the coast to friends at their beautiful beach house for the afternoon and dinner outside (it was the last fine day). We had their home-smoked kahawai made into pate, and barbecued Middle Eastern spicy lamb fillets. I took the dessert - berries and lemon mousse (see that post too), which I decorated with more dried strawberries. I used all the pretty heart-shaped pieces, and kept the little side bits for myself. This morning I had them piled on toasted and buttered panettone, and it was absolute bliss, halfway between fruit and jam.