This is the solstice,
the still point of the sun,
its cusp and midnight,
the year’s threshold and unlocking,
where the past lets go of and becomes the future;
the place of caught breath,
the door of a vanished house left ajar.
Every year I dream of Christmas white, of trees swayed and of chill and mist lingering in the air. Such were my childhood Christmases, with enough snow to hold the keenest souls in their tracks. But whether shy or early in season, snow is nowhere to be seen for far, far too long and that magic and lightness it brings just before days start growing longer is most dearly missed.
So this year, in search of snowflakes I have travelled throughout. I hoped to see my family home, surrounded by white or maybe in the country of rain, frost bitten canals fairy tale like. Sometimes a light blanket of snow even covers the fields of Provence, sending the “tranquil” life of locals into abyss, but alas it was not meant to be.
Hence, countless flights later, as I’m sipping tea in what would be best described as spring like Provence. If it weren’t for the lights and Santa’s hiding between coloured shutters, I’d be putting winter coats to rests.
Whenever we descend to celebrate Christmas in Provence, life flows in a rhythm of its own. Christmas Eve is celebrated with relatives, where only sipping of champagne is allowed and aperitif is so long and delicious and that dinner begins well into the night. When we do leave the table or rather crawl from it is in early hours, as 13 Provence desserts aren’t a light affair
Christmas morning is an adventure of it’s own. Champagne pops up before noon hits and so the feast begins. Oysters and foie gras follow each other, but chestnuts have a way of sneaking in with courses and together with purple gems have been inspiration for a little Christmas feast.
Starting with purple sprout tarte tatin and going forth with rich and silky sage roasted chicken along with very naughty chestnut crème fraiche sauce and a side of truffle potato terrine, tis not the feast for the faint hearted. It’s indulgent and rich and invites to linger for hours around the table, everything Christmas should be.
I wish you all a loving and warm Christmas surrounded by those you hold most dear! Merry Christmas!
- Short crust pastry, recipe here
- 100g bacon, diced
- 200g purple Brussels sprouts
- 2 tbsp honey
- 3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- Preheat the oven to 200C/392F.
- Toast bacon in pan till it crisps up. Spoon on a paper towel to absorb excess oil.
- Heat honey in a pan till it turn dark amber caramel, stir in balsamic vinegar and either pour into a ovenproof dish or if your pan is such arrange Brussels sprout halfs, sprinkle bacon on top and finished with rolled out pastry.
- Bake for 35-45 minutes, till the pastry is golden brown. Once out if the oven immediately tip oven into a pan. Serve warm.
- 1 whole chicken, preferably free range
- 5 tbsp/75g butter
- a handful of sage
- 2 garlic heads, halved
- salt and pepper
- 2 shallots, chopped
- ⅔ cup/ 160ml white wine
- 200g/ 7 oz roasted chestnuts, halved
- 2 tablespoons crème fraiche
- Preheat the oven to 190C/375F
- Wash the chicken and pat dry.
- Slightly loosen the chicken skin around the breast and stuff with 2 tablespoons butter.
- Season the cavity of the chicken with salt and pepper stuff with one half of garlic and some sage.
- Rub chicken the remaining butter, season with salt, pepper and few tablespoons of chopped sage. Scatter garlic around, assuring the cut side is covered with butter.
- Bake for 1 hour 15-30 minutes. Then cover and allow resting for another 15-30 minutes.
- Heat 1-2 tbsp of pan juice in a non-stick pan and sauté shallots for a few minutes, till soften. Tip in wine, chestnuts and cook for a few minutes more, finish by stirring in crème fraiche and take off the heat. Taste and adjust seasoning.
- ½ kg truffle potatoes (purple potatoes)
- 1 cup/ 240 ml cream
- ¼ cup/ 60ml milk
- 2 tbsp chopped rosemary
- 2 eggs
- salt and freshly ground pepper
- Slice potatoes with mandolin or a thinly as possible. Tip into boiling water few minutes, then run with cold water and pat dry.
- Beat cream, milk with eggs and rosemary, season with salt and pepper.
- Grease terrine base and arrange potatoes, seasoning a little more between layers. Pour over cream shaking the tin so it would cover all potatoes. Cover tin with foil and bake for about an hour, removing foil the last minute to brown potato terrine. Serve warm.