Saturday 2 January 2021

At the year's end - finally. Time to begin again.

 Date wise, 2020 is at last a thing of the past.  But like a bad smell, its worst characteristics will cling for a while longer.

Given the resurgence of the Covid 19 virus in North London - and the utter selfishness & stupidity of many that is behind that rise, aside of opening the front door to fetch in the milk or get a parcel delivery out of the cupboard, I haven't left the house since early December.  Howard has been noticing a marked rise in the number of ambulances on the roads since then, and is seriously worried about returning to work on Monday, even with the care & safety measures his employers have in place.  There's just too many people out & about who are not taking the virus crisis seriously enough, don't think it will happen to them, or are taken in by misinformation.  Even though I've mostly got my asthma under control, neither of us are prepared to risk our health.  I'm due to have treatment on my knee that I've been on a list for since about this time last year, but the hospital I have the appointment at is one of those with full ICU wards.  I expect it to be rearranged, and I may ask it to be even if assured it can go ahead.  After all, it took nigh on 20 years after the accident that damaged my knee to get the scan that show the extent.  After the positive & successful physiotherapy sessions I had in the late Summer & Autumn, a few more months wait for further treatment is nothing.

As ever, and this year as everyone else should have, we had a quiet Christmas.  Just us and the cat (though a neighbour's cat unexpectedly popped in briefly a few days before, following the scent of the groceries).  Neither of us are enthusiastic about sticking to the turkey & all the trimmings fare - both having memories of lacklustre versions as children. This year, partly due to not being able to get some of my favourite Scandinavian treats due to shortage of online order slots, I worked on a Spanish theme.  Northern Spain primarily, and had fun doing research into less usual, but still appropriate, dishes.

We started with something based on a traditional Galician Christmas Eve meal.  Being on the very north eastern corner of the peninsula, on the Atlantic coast, Galicia has an abundance of seafood, and the dish I found a description of is usually made with reconstituted salt cod & scallops along with cauliflower, in a creamy cheese sauce - with a scallop shell as a symbol of St James & the pilgrims to his shrine, a fitting ingredient for a sacred night.  But as with much this year, Howard could find neither, so we improvised with a very nice fillet of haddock.  To add a little colour to the dish, some strips of steamed Cavalo Nero (black kale) was added just before the sauce was poured on.

Soothing, fortifying, yet fairly light.  I guess it could be stretched or used as a main course by adding rice, pasta (I've got some squid ink vermicelli from Brindisa which would provide a contrast) or potatoes such as patatas bravas.  Definitely doing this again.

As with last year, the main course was a boneless leg of pork from our wonderful local butchers, Normans.  For this, I took inspiration from the province inland from Galicia, Asturias.  Still wild, rugged and still holding on to a celtic feel, this time with a landscape of mountains & forests instead of wild rocky coastline.  The meat was marinaded in dry cider (from Herefordshire rather than the local stuff, but still a wild, slightly lumpy region with secret celtic hotspots), then pot roasted on a bed of root vegetables & leeks, surrounded by chorizo & chestnuts sat on a "mat" of dark winter January King cabbage. To add further colour, Howard had managed to get some rather lovely looking rainbow carrots from Botany Bay farm shop, which he served glazed with butter & mead.

And finally, pudding.  Partly due to having found a box of Howard's 2018 vintage marmalade in a cupboard, we looked a little further south to Seville, with a chocolate, almond and orange steamed sponge pudding.  To describe it as lush is an understatement.  Even the cream kept to the theme, flavoured with a dash of blood orange gin.

But as with every Christmas menu, there are leftovers.  A couple of lunchtime pork & piccalilli sandwiches,and the remaining vegetables turned into a soup, with chestnuts, chorizo & chunks of pork to fortify things.

And finally, the last few slices & shreds of pork added to a Dutch style pea & ham soup.

So we managed to get several meals, and plenty of value, out of the cut of meat.

Last year, I started out with the intention to try a recipe from a different, possibly not so commonplace, cuisine.  I started last January by making a West African style chicken & peanut stew (which I really must make again some time soon) before the world went to pot.  Well, I'm going to dive back into that.  For the past few months, I've been captivated by films on Facebook of the cooking done by an Azerbaijani family on their smallholding, who live in what looks like an actual Hobbit house.  My plans for tomorrow involve food from a neighbouring former Soviet state - Georgia. But more on that another time.

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