Parties and shopping this week, and I don’t know which is more tiring. At least the tree is dressed and Christmas lights are twinkling. It’s super cheerful in my street with strings of lights decorating every other hedge, porch and random shrubs, but I’m a little anxious about the environmental impact – and please don’t call me Scrooge. The plugged in lights are mostly low-wattage LEDs these days, but the strings of lights around shrubs use batteries by a truckload. And how many of us recycle them? Exactly.
I won’t even go into toxic-looking wrapping paper and unwelcome presents that land in the bin, plastic wrap and all, but one thing I can and will nag about is food wasting. The mountains of food wasted after each Christmas holiday are terrifying; everyone is guilty. Cook less but better – how about that? In fact, cook more yourself and buy less ready-made food – everyone including you will appreciate it more and be less inclined to waste it.
Even if panettone is a bit beyond your pay grade (or so you think), you can manage a julekake; and it’s delightful too. One festive bread, homemade, should be a must. Bake a tonne of Lebkuchen – iced gingerbreads – fantastically easy and a fun thing for the kids. Make your own stuffing with minced pork not sausagemeat and you’ll never look back. The chestnut and mushroom or the apricot and fig stuffing can be prepared even now and frozen in wait for Christmas Day. There is a generous handful of recipes on the Christmas content page as well as in my special Christmas Collection; all tried, tested and eaten to the last crumb.
What about this week nights? In between the parties (I hope to eat at home at most twice this week), let’s cook a vat of leek and potato soup; hugely satisfying especially post-party. Or a big pot of curried mussels, slap bang in season, cheap and un-festive.
Lentils and chorizo casserole; make twice as much and freeze the surplus. It is good in tacos, on a jacket potato or with plain rice; with a winter rainbow salad on the side. Or make use of root vegetables: celeriac is the next cauliflower, I’m positive. It’s versatile and as good in a creamy gratin as it is cooked more simply, celeriac fondant. Crusty bread and a green salad with either celeriac dish, and another dinner is sorted. Baked scamorza or smoked mozzarella (or, at a push, haloumi) with bruschetta will sort another night, and then there’s the office party, or departmental lunch, the friends’ pre-holiday get together, the annual neighbours’ do, going out for a bite with the Aussie cousin back in the country…