Tuesday, 29 December 2009

How To Cook The Perfect Christmas Dinner!

How To Cook The Perfect Christmas Dinner!

1. Don’t.
2. If you have to, remain sober.
3. Not sober? Don’t be over ambitious.
4. Check size of turkey in relation to size of your oven.
5. Only invite guests that drink too, then they won’t notice the state you’re in.
6. Lower the lights so they can’t see the cat’s hairs in the first course.
7. Pour plenty of wine in the gravy to camouflage alien flavours.
8. Try to eat something yourself to soak up the alcohol intake in your blood.
9. Wear waterproof mascara for the inevitable moment when you cry/sweat.
10. Don’t ever get talked into doing it again.

My then still comparatively new man is assuming that because I ran a restaurant I could cook, and on the strength of this invited six good friends to Christmas day lunch. My cottage is small, and my kitchen is a galley.

They, including man looking smug and proud, are sitting round the dining table in the glow of myrrh-scented candles (No: 6). Their glasses are permanently being topped up, and they are feeding from a large oval dish of crudités and dips while I cook the first course. I have a very large copper pan full of mixed seafood being sautéed in butter, olive oil, garlic and herbs for the Italian style ‘Frito Misto’ I am ambitiously preparing. (No: 3) I give the heavy pan a chef like swirl over the heat, and amazingly, the entire contents of prawns, scallops, mussels and squid, take on a life of their own, and spiral into the air, hang suspended and dump themselves over the kitchen floor and into the cat’s dish!

I look furtively at my guests from the open plan galley. They’re laughing, drinking (No: 5) and talking merrily! Haven’t apparently seen a thing! I scoop everything up, from under the edge of fridges, washing machine and yes, the cat’s dish and throw it back into the pan, add fresh lemon juice, more black pepper, pray and serve it up in a large dish
for them to shell and pick at and dunk their crusty bread into the hot, garlic butter. I am saved. I sit and join in, but I can’t bring myself to eat (No: 8), so partake of a little more wine. (No: 2)

My oven is too small to take a turkey adequate enough for eight diners (No: 4). I am cooking three plump whole boned turkey breasts. They have been roasted, basted in butter and ready to ‘rest’ out of the oven to continue cooking in their own heat, while I make my gravy. I like gravy. I like rich, slightly thickened gravy, not much of a ‘jus’ person.

The saucepan has all the delicious roasting juices from the turkey breasts and I’m whisking in my flour, making a roux. I gently add my homemade chicken stock, stirring continually, watching it satisfyingly thicken. I reach over for my old fashioned Gravy Browning, pour, and stare in disbelief at the Fairy Liquid bottle in my left hand and the green globule slowly dissolving into my pan full of rich gravy! I panic! I slurp! I honestly think for one moment I am able to scoop the offending green Fairy Liquid out of the pan with a slotted spoon, add lashings of wine and get away with it! (No: 7)

I tip the gravy down the sink. I look at the residue in the roasting pan where the breasts are resting, but I’ve used it all. I have to resort to a chicken stock cube, cornflour and this time, the Gravy Browning, and not the Fairy. I am dripping, with perspiration and with tears. (No: 9)

My guests are having a deliriously happy time. I’m glad somebody is. I’m the hostess and I’m not! I serve up. Roast potatoes the Delia way; Crispy chipolatas and bacon; Baby Carrots caramelised with fresh grated ginger; Sprouts and roast chestnuts; Roast parsnips with Cinnamon; Moist Fruit stuffing; Carved Turkey breast and disgusting wishy washy gravy….

The compliments flow, the wine flows, the conversation gets more outrageous, my galley
kitchen is a tip, but I know the cheese course will be trouble free, and we have home-made Christmas Pudding Ice-Cream, Syllabub and fresh fruits and nuts to follow.

I manage the coffee and fudge without serious accidents, and feel my job is done, so sit back with an impressive looking Brandy Bottle in front of me, my special glass, my roll up tin and eventually join in the fun.

My company were blissfully unaware of all the ghastly happenings in my galley, of which I’m glad. I made man promise NEVER to invite friends for Christmas again, bearing in mind, the only time he goes into the galley is to visit the fridge for a beer……………

To summarise: This leaves points one and ten! I mean it, it’s just another roast dinner, well, that’s what we’re told. They’re lying! It’s a monumental task, hard, stressful, fraught, expensive, over lavish, unnecessary, somebody’s always drunk, either the guests, the host, or in my case, both.

This year, twenty of us are all contributing in our local by preparing and bringing all the vegetables, deserts, first courses, nibbles and a French Run for the booze, and our landlady is cooking the geese, ducks, turkey and beef and leaving us to run riot in the comfort of her lovely Inn.

My Favourites

My favourite things this Christmas are the drawing above given to me by my thirteen year old Grandson. I love this because it shows that he knows me so well, demonstrates his sense of humour and he took the time out to draw me such a personal gift. I shall always treasure it.

The above Pavlova was also made by the same Grandson following Nigella's recipe. It looked wonderful with a crispy outside and the soft marshmallowy centre and tasted delicious. We ate this on Christmas Day instead of Christmas Pudding. He also took control of the Carving of The Turkey by following Jamie's advice to rest the turkey for an hour after cooking and then the magic bit - removing both breasts and carving them longways and serving rather than slicing. It worked a treat.

A talented young man. Me - biased? Of course I am.
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Wednesday, 16 December 2009


I really enjoyed watching The Curious Case of Benjamin Button on a wet November afternoon curled up on the settee with my legs intricately crossed. I didn't move for over two hours. I sensed these pins and needles in my right leg but felt so cosy I stayed put. I do wish I hadn't. By dinner time I was in searing pain from my right buttock to my ankle. Pain so bad I screamed out loud. I couldn't sit, stand, lie down. Never mind - I have paracetamol and I have the worst ever pain I have experienced but paracetamol will sort it. No they won't.

Day two and Morty more or less carries me to the GP. Yes, you've trapped a nerve, the sciatic nerve, so take these pain killers and anti-inflammatory drugs and rest. A tub of sixteen paracetamol last a year in this house. My past history of prescriptive drugs have been my HRT patches and the very occasional anti-biotic for a gum infection. But the searing, chronic pain is barely touched by these drugs so I am carried back to the GP and he prescribes stronger pain killers. He tells me they are opiates and I can take the full 400gm dosage alongside eight paracetamol a day. This is nineteen pills a day. Nineteen pills a day including Class B opiates for a person who looks at half a paracetamol and thinks that'll do.

I feel very ill. Still have severe leg pain and any sleep I get is lying on the floor on my stomach for the odd hour or so as the drugs kick in. I research the side effects of my pain killers. The list is endless and I seem to have every single one of them. Body rash, profuse sweating, itching, acute nausea, diarrhoea, out of body, dizzy, so very tired, can't eat, can't get in the bath,  can't even sit on the lavvy, can't string a sentence together.

Day six and I stay in bed as I am so doped up I really don't care anymore. The pain is still extreme and I sleep in snatches. I need all these pills every four hours for some sort of pain relief. I phone the doctor and tell him how ill I am but only sleeping in brief interludes. He gives me slow release pain killers to add to the list and take at night. Lovely. At the end of week two I am existing on tea, water and dry biscuits and still have this excruciating pain. My leg is numb from the knee to the ankle. Heaving every half hour or so. Carried to the surgery again. Surely by now the doctor can see I am not quite the woman I was nearly three weeks ago. He prescribes a different Class B Opiate pain killer plus anti-sickness tablets. That night I lay in bed dry retching for seven hours. That ill that if I had been sick I wouldn't have moved anyway - I'd have lain there in it. My limbs are leaden, my heart is racing out of my body as if it is bursting to get out. I am scared.

I am now on twenty two tablets a day. I decide to ditch all his prescriptive pain killers and go back to paracetamol alone. I begin to feel human again. I can get out of bed. My leg hurts but by comparison it's a dull nagging pain. I have hope. All the good advice I get to see a Chiropractor, Osteopath, Reiki are well meant but I couldn't allow anyone within a foot of my burning, throbbing, pulsating with pain leg.

I research forums on the InterWeb and to my alarm there are hundreds of them with people offering to buy my Class B Opiates for pleasure. Describing the fun they get from any one of my three prescriptive drugs combined with alcohol and a smoke making for a good night out. I could sell them all and make enough money for a good Christmas. I also find genuine pain management forums with people who are addicted to these pain killers and have resorted to ordering them online as their doctors won't continue prescribing them as their original pain has gone but they need them just to function. Just to get through their day.

It's a month since I watched Benjamin Button. A month of misery. The after effects of these drugs are still with me but hopefully fading away. I think I'm back in control of my body and seeing an Osteopath but ready to try any alternative treatment as long as it doesn't involve drugs.

I don't like my doctor.