One may cook one’s goose on Christmas Day, render sprouts edible, time an array of vegetables to be hot all at the same time, or lie gibbering on the couch sipping another glass of champagne, whatever takes one’s fancy, but really the only important part of the festive meal is the dessert. I care not particularly about the bird – I prefer to pass it over to my husband as if it were a rugby ball, saying “Catch this, darling, it’s all yours”. And he obliges by trussing it down, tending it, nursing it and finally carving it up.
It is the pudding that obsesses me (I use the word pudding generically, to mean “the interesting sweet stuff that follows all the other stuff”). I start some weeks before, researching, re-reading all the well-thumbed “dessert” sections of my favourite cookbooks. I don’t bother going the traditional route – no-one, or hardly anyone, likes an old-fashioned Christmas pudding (here I use the word specifically to mean “a pudding cooked in a basin with lots of fruit and nasty stuff”). I rather like mince pies, but no-one else in my family does, and they can only be eaten with tons of brandy butter, so I eschew those too. This year, I narrowed down the favourites to:
Nigella’s Raspberry and Lemongrass Trifle (with vodka)
Nigella’s Chestnut Cheesecake (with rum)
Nigella’s Festive Pavlova (with no added alcohol)
I’ve made the first three times now, and it’s always a raging success, but this year I needed to chart new territory. In a raging fit of domestic goddess-hood, I decided to make both the latter puddings. Now, given that there were three adults for Christmas Eve supper and four for Christmas lunch, this was completely OTT. But I allowed myself the excuse of Christmas excess and sold myself on the plan by justifying that the egg whites could be used for the Pavlova and the egg yolks for the cheesecake. Saving eggs! Saving money!
The pavlova was easy: those aforementioned egg whites, whipped up with caster sugar, cornflour, vanilla extract, splash of vinegar and pinch of salt and tossed into the oven for a slow cook at 150 degrees. After it had cooled down completely – be attentive, here comes the really clever bit – I turned it upside down. This is Nigella’s tip and it ensures that the moist, spongy bit of the meringue amalgamates nicely with the cream. I then layered thickly whipped cream, lemon curd, cream again, and then scattered the pomegranate seeds on top. It looked extremely pretty, as you can see, and tasted light and delicious. Father-in-law and husband were suitably impressed.
The chestnut cheesecake has thus far proved itself to be extraneous. I am the only person who has sampled it. It is subtle and lovely and standing in lonely splendour in the fridge, being elbowed by goose and sprout remains. I shall have to try and foist it on the children tomorrow – cheesecake for breakfast, anyone?