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eG Foodblog: Jackal - Xmas week

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8am... Why did I volunteeer for this? I'm sure I will lose any reputation that I might have as a serious foodie...need more coffee. This is not going to be about elelegant restaurant food, but bourgeoise domestic cooking.

For those that don't already know Jill and I live about 5 miles west of Cambridge, UK where it is currently dank and raining, but not too cold. Some forecasters predict the weather will turn cold and snow, but a white Christmas is unlikely.

Our main meals tend to be in the evening, except for holidays and the odd Sunday.

Unless otherwise noted, breakfast for me is a mug of coffee (mix of 1/3rd Old Brown Java, 1/3rd Kenya Pea Berry, 1/3rd Mocha Mysore, all medium roast and made in a press pot) with semi-skimmed milk. Probably made stronger than coffeee in the US, and when I'm in the US I find there is something strange about the milk usually served with US coffee. Powdered milk, or NDC is not acceptable at any time.

I usually skip lunch, or graze.

For the holidays this year we are expecting this year Jill's grown up sons plus their partners, one of whom is vegetarian, and various waifs and strays. We are not religious, so this is a secular celebration, encompassing as many traditions as possible, but rooted in English customs with a fair bit of Provence influence.

Currently I plan. eG folk, please comment and advise. Circumstances may change, and it may not all happen.

Today Saturday 20 Dec. First day of Chanukah

Supermarket shopping at Tesco's, 100,000 sq ft of supermarket for most of the basics.

Start making Pannetone.

Has to be Latkes, and I guess Brisket for supper. Maybe kale or cabbage or sourkraut to go with.

Sunday 21 Dec Winter Solstice, Yule

Get in Yule log, holly, Mistletoe, Xmas tree, (which my brother, being frum, calls a Hannukah bush)

Finish Pannetone

Baked Ham, parsley sauce

Monday 22 Dec

Dunno. Leftovers or take-out

Tuesday 23rd Dec

Company (www.artimi.com) Xmas dinner at the University Arms Hotel.

Rubber turkey I expect

Wednesday 24th Dec Xmas Eve

Bread baking: Pome a l'huile

Making mince pies to the sound of King's College Carols

Provence style Gros Souper, meat free maybe: l'aigo boulido, a garlic and herb soup, cauliflower (gratin), Salt cod balls or en raito, celery with anchoïade. Cheese.

Trifl; the "trieze deserts".

As we don't go to Midnight Mass, we wont follow with the Souper Gras

Thursday 25th Dec Xmas, and Sir Isaac Newton's Birthday.

Late Xmas lunch


Truffled Brandade and Tapenade crostini

Caviars, blinis etc

Truffled consomme dore (shot glasses)


Turkey, with all the trimmings

- Fois gras truffe

- Sausage meat and a vegetarian chestnut stuffing (for the veggie)

- chipolatas, bacon rolls

- cranberry and bread sauces, Jus

- roast potatoes, parsnips, Jerusalem artichokes (sunchokes)

- Sprouts, carrots

Christmas pudding, hard sauce


Mince pies, tangerines, walnuts etc

Friday 26th Dec Boxing Day


Invited to supper by our neighbors

Saturday 27th

Leftovers: Soup, maybe devilled turkey wings, a pie, or Risotto...

Sunday 28th

Standing rib roast

Monday 29th


Tuesday 30th:


Wednesday 31st New Years Eve



Syllabub and shortbread


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I'm curious...I know turkey has become more common in NZ at Christmas since the '80s...when do you think it started to make a serious stand on the UK Xmas table?

In Japan, I'll be lucky to find a whole chicken small enough to fit in the oven...if not, there's always the frozen chicken legs that came from the 100-yen bin at the supermarket.

Looking forward to following the blog.

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Think turkeys have been around and widely available in the UK for a couple of centuries, have they not?

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Turkeys and Tobacco came to England in 1524.

This will work best if there is lots of feedback and you ask lots of questions, or for recipes to be demonstrated..How many pix can you stand?

We feed the pheasants with birdseed and chopped peanuts from the kitchen door.

They now expect it and come and tap on the door if they don't get their breakfast.

These one are for decoration only, not eating...


Most mornings we get a dozen or so. The most we have had is 29, one very cold day.

Here is the alpha male..


Went to the hell that is the supermarket on the weekend before the holiday.

Came out £300/$500 lighter although a lot of that was booze, but got most everything until the New Year. Still to come the Turkey, an organic Norfolk Bronze from Kelly's Turkeys, and the cheese and some goodies from the Cambridge Cheese Shop. May need to get some milk and last minute things Xmas eve.

Also went to Burwash Manor at Barton for their farm shop. USed to be just a frm sho for their wonderful asparagus years ago, now is a whole complex of knick-knack shops, but "The larder" still sells some good things, in particular unpastaurised cream.


Also selling Xmas trees (though I did not buy one)


Picked up some sprouts still on the stalk, and some proper dirty fen celery, sweet and nutty after the frost on it.


Put on the Brisket. Mixed tradition here...its a cross between Deli brisket and Xmas spiced beef, except I haven't salted it for a fortnight. However the spicing is reminiscent of the old spiced beef preserved for the winter and served at Christmas time.


Holiday Brisket.

About 2 lbs/1Kg brisket

2 onions peeled and coarsly chopped

2 carrots, the same

2 sticks ceelry chopped

1/4 tsp each of ground cloves, allspice, macecrushed black pepper

sprig thyme

Bay leaf

2 Tbs dark brown muscovy sugar

pinch salt

Soy, worcester, tabasco to taste

2 glasses madeira or port

Water or stock

Make a bed of the veg, put the brisket on top. Mix everything esle and pour over.

bring to boil, and cook at 350F for 3-4 hours or longer.

Made the first dough for the pannetone. This is a very rich sweet dough


Recipe is On this thread

Edited by jackal10 (log)

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That is a great looking cut of meat in that dish. Does not look at all like the huge, flap on, briskets seen typically here in the states.

That cheese board and menu board in fromt of the farm shop are great. Is that bitter listed about halfway down the second column, or is it something else? Do they sell beer? I kind of doubt it, but stand ready to be corrected. It is kind of hard to read on this cheesy monitor.

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Very cool pictures.

What does "patchwork" mean in relation to stuffing? (Ah... the English language. :biggrin: )

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What does "patchwork" mean in relation to stuffing? (Ah... the English language. :biggrin: )

It's a brand name of a small food producer... never tried it. Prefer to make my own

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Delicious sounding food jackal10.

Those are some handsome pheasants. I once worked on an island club that the grounds keeper raised them. The island's longest strip of green grass served three purposes - primaryily the fairway for the three holed golfing extravaganza, the island's runway for private jets and very territorial grounds for the wondering pheasants.

One early Tuesday afternoon when I was returning from my "weekend of time off the rock," they were so stubborn we had to re-circle to scare them off so we could land. I tried bribing these strong willed creatures as the grounds keeper was always around the bar area tinkering with this or that with the pool and they followed him everywhere. They make the oddest and rather unexpected sounds.

Back to Christmas food -- I'm really procrastinating with the trip to the supermarket myself as I need some last minutes like eggs and healthful foods I'll snack on in the middle of all this marathon baking that I can call "meals." :wacko:

Nice pictures. :smile:

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Pheasants, or at least these ones will do almost anything for peanuts.

One day I will leave a trail fom the kitchen door to the oven...

Apparently one pachers trick is to put peanuts in the bottom of a sticky cone of paper. The pheasant pecks at the peanut, and get the cone stuck over their head.

Not being able to see they assume its night and settle down.

Another trick is to feed them raisins soaked in rum. They get drunk and can then be caught easily. However be sure to kill them before plucking. The story is told of one poacher;s wife, the phesant being in a deep alcoholic coma, who plucked the bird and left it in the larder. After a while the pheasant sobered up, and the poacher's wife got the shock of her life as the naked pheasant tried to escape..

About one third of the cookery books in my study, just to the left of the desk


Latkes frying


Latkes, Brisket, Dill pickles (see egCI Preserves 1 - home grown and made), kale.


1999 Anjou VIllages Domaine des Forges (Brancereau) Gold Medal Paris 2001

Happy Hanukah!

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wow, thanks a lot for sharing all the great pix. Loved the pheasants and really enjoyed the photos with the chalkboards at the farmshop (thanks for the closeup).

Jealous of the great big space for cookbooks also; I have shelves near the kitchen for about 80 books, but the rest are separated in a spare room. So I always have to pick and choose which I keep in more 'active rotation' out near the kitchen.

The latkes and brisket look very good; hope you'all enjoyed them.

It's wonderful to get a peak at an 'English' Christmas. It's funny, my family all comes from Austria--my mom, aunt and dad, and we have traditional Austrian things on Christmas Eve. But on Christmas day, we have our 'English' Feast of Rib Roast, Yorkshire Pudding, brussel sprouts, etc followed by Plum Pudding. Maybe not traditional, we have shrimp cocktail to start. It is one of my favorite food events of the year (better than Turkey at Thanksgiving...)

Thanks again and look forward to the rest of your blog; the preview was nice; we can follow whether things change or if you improvise!

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Jackal, This is better than a Gourmet Travel Log!

Really LOVE your post.

Does Jill cook with you?

The garlic herb soup sounds fantastic.

What is your culinary background?

PLEASE keep the pictures coming.

I hope you can keep this post all year. It is very unique to see a

different way of life. THANKS :rolleyes:

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I am going to love this blog!

keep up with the pictures :biggrin:

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Thanks! Maybe for the rest of this year, but I'm sure you'd get bored if I were to do this all year.

Jill mostly gets lumbered with the clearing up, but she does cook herself. She is the cake baker, so the Christmas cake is hers, and the trifle to come...

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The photos are great. They add to the immediacy.

That brisket sounds good. Hmm, maybe I'll make it for dinner one night this week....

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Thank you Thank you for sharing your life in pictures and prose with us!!!

This is a wonderful blog!

How sad is it that I tried to recognize some of your cookbooks!!! To no avail! Close ups of the bookshelf please!


have a wonderful holiday!

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I'm curious...I know turkey has become more common in NZ at Christmas since the '80s...when do you think it started to make a serious stand on the UK Xmas table?

In Japan, I'll be lucky to find a whole chicken small enough to fit in the oven...if not, there's always the frozen chicken legs that came from the 100-yen bin at the supermarket.

Looking forward to following the blog.

In England the Holiday Turkey is often a Bird that you order at the end of November from your Butcher, who then especially if they are locared in any of the Traditional Public Markets with receive your Turkey in all it's feathered Glory and Hand it on the Wall of his stall or Shop after weighing and taging the bird with your name.

Since the majority of these shops have littne or no heating the Turkeys will hang on the walls to age until you arrange to pick it up just before the Holiday when the Butcher will remove the Feathers, Dress and Truss the Bird for your Roasting.

The first time that I was served this type of Hung Turkey I expected it to taste like other types of Game that had been Hung that I wasn't able to actually manage to eat, like the Queens Grouse [WOW] or Dressed Hare or Pheasant [acceptable].

But the Turkey possably due to it's size, or the time of the year weather wise has always been DELICIOUS. Its juicy, tender and yummy. Nothing Gamy or Aged in it's taste. Plus the Birds don't have any addatives, injections or flavor enhancers so common in Domestic Turkeys.

For years at various Restaurants that i've been involved with we purchase the Largest Free Range Turkeys available, arrange to have them Kosher Killed and using the Chinese Fan/Air Drying Method Hang them for about 8/10 days in a Walk In Aging Refrigerator prior to Roasting.

It doesn't take long for these Restaurants to full up for the Holidays they are serving this Turkey as word of mouth and customers enjoyment of the Dinners seem to bring them back annually.

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AHA! Le Cordon Bleu Baking book ... one of my favourites, it has everything you could possibly want... and then it tells you the variations!

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Ahh, the first hit of coffee in the morning...almost as good as the first puff of tobacco in the days when I smoked..

This moprning a family of grey squirrels moved into finish the peanut crumbs the pheasants had left. I know they look cute with big eyes (night vision)and bushy tails, and have great intelligence and pre-hensile hands, but they are really just tree-rats, and are the reason why our hazels and walnut trees bear no friut. Aslo we find acorns growing in surprising places, like the potted plants. I'm sure they are deliberately planted, rather than food stores, forgotten.


Today is the winter solstice, the shortest day, and hence the ancient pagan. modern wiccan festival of Yule. Holly, ivy, Xmas trees, and especially mistletoe are ancient and powerful symbols for those who care about such things. Sir Gordon Fraser in his famous book The Golden Bough describes the myth and history of Mistletoe. Although his theories are now somewhat discredited it is an intruiging and fascinating tale well told, and I urge you to read it, if you have not already done so.

Today has dawned cold and windy, but the sky is clearing and the sun beginning to shine. Time to get on.

The pannetone first dough has nicely tripled overnight in its warm spot next to the Aga.


The ham has soaked overnight, but the water needs changing


Thank you for all your kind words.

bloviatrix: The brisket was good. Next time I think I might increase the spice (say double), and decrease the sugar, or increase the salt - you could taste an edge of sweetness.

kimabima: There are over 1000 ft of cookery and books on related subjects. I'm sure it would bore everyone and exceed my storage linits if I was to take closeups so you could read them all.

wesza: Alas, the health as safety food police mean that very few butchers shops still display turkeys outside. Although there are a few small independent producers, they tend to come plastic wrapped from the supermarkets, which have mostly driven the small shops out of business. The health regulations have shut down almost all of the small abbatoirs, which means that animals now suffer much greater stress being driven long distances to slaughter, and th econoics has become marginal. We are fortunate as we are in a prosperous part of the country where many city folk hobby farm, so for example our neighbor keeps rare breed cattle, even if uneconomic. She takes one to slaughter occaisionally, and we get a quarter for the freezer.

Sandra; Just got the Cordon Bleu baking book, and was not that impressed. Its very cookery school - the recipes mostly work, but are rather old-fashioned and to my mind uninspired.

Edited by jackal10 (log)

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Ai, woe is me!

Walking round the garden (more of that later), I noticed that in the orchard the rabbits have seriously debarked many of the trees


Surprising, since these are mature trees, and not usually attacked. Spent the afternoon frantically tying building plastic, wire mesh and anything that might ast as a rabbit guard round the remains. I guess we've lost 7 or 8 trees (out of 30 odd) that have been completely ringed, the most serious being a delicious Laxton's, and about another 6 damaged. We will see if they survive in the spring, but looks like some serious replanting. I wonder what varieties...

The late Laxton Superb


However other things in the garden are rosy. Rose hips


Haws in the hedgerow on the hawthorn


Even a few sloes (wild sour plum) not eaten by the birds


Crab Apples (John Downey, I think)


In the vegetable garden there are still leeks (some leaf celery in the background)


Chard (Blette)


Jerusalem Artichokes and yellow Carrots for digging


Purple brussel sprouts. Small, but might make a dish for Xmas


In the greenhouse ther are even a few late alpine strawberries - they got scrumped before they reached they kitchen


and even the odd tomato still . These are Sungold


Got the tree, which Jill decorated. This is a rooted tree, so it might live after the holiday.


Still need select a log, and get in holly, ivy and mistletoe. You can soak the log in various chemicals so that it gives off coloured flames, but I'm not that organised.

Mixed the Pannetone second dough, and put to prove.


Put the ham on to bake with cider and cloves in a very low oven - the plate warming oven of the Aga


One disaster: so engrossed was I in egullet I that I let the stock reduce to nothing and burn. Fortunately it was a non-stick pan. I can use the jus from last night's seasonally spiced beef instead, which might be even more interesting

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Sandra; Just got the Cordon Bleu baking book, and was not that impressed. Its very cookery school - the recipes mostly work, but are rather old-fashioned and to my mind uninspired.

Ah see, that is why I like it, it gives all the classics and then more ways of varying them - it's always good to have the basics...

This was essentially my textbook in Patisserie, we made most of the book in one class or another - I have never had a recipe fail out of it...

I think you'll find that most of those cakes and pastries can still be found in pastry shops everywhere, alongside the more modern stuff...

Oh, and I agree with the tree rat comment, I also think pigoens are just flying rats...

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Jack, I'm really enjoying your Christmas blog. Keep up the great work.

I've just gotta say, though, those are some damn fat squirrels.


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can you cook with rosehips?

is the ham cured and smoked or just cured? what are you serving with the ham?

i hate squirrels too.

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Yes, you can cook with rosehips, and they are meant to be a good source of Vitamin C: rosehip syrup, tisane, jam etc. However, mostly not worth the trouble, and beter decorative. Schoolboys used to know that the seeds inside have little barbs on them, and if dried make excellent itching powder...

The squirrels both eat well, but also puff up their fur against the cold.

The ham this year is Wiltshire cured, but unsmoked. The smoked ones were sold out by the time I got round to it. I'll glaze it with cider, cloves and sugar, and probabl serve it quite plainly - parsley sauce, baked or mashed potatoe and cabbage or even Saurkraut.

Squirrels are much too intelligent to get caught that way..

Edited by jackal10 (log)

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