Waitrose and Partners Weekend Issue 579

33 25 NOVEMB ER 2021 DIANA HENRY Father Christmas is not the only one making a list and checking it twice I’ma planner. My house quite often looks chaotic – teetering piles of books, mail not yet filed, washing up waiting to be done (it’s all the recipe testing) – but, behind it all, there are lists. I make lists of orders to bemade online, dishes to be cooked, weeklymeal plans, pieces to be written, even a list of the rooms to be tidied, and in order of importance. The tidying list, I admit, is often pushed aside to free up time for cooking or writing, but I still make it. I wonder if it’s the illusion of control lists bestow. Or maybe you feel you’ve partially completed a task if you write it down. I also have ‘good things to do’ lists. This is because you can get to Friday night, wonder what special activity you could do at the weekend and find your mind going blank. I have a stock of possibilities – which change every so often – that are inexpensive and doable andmake themost of life. It can be a visit to the foodmarket at nearby Victoria Park, a chunky lunchtime sandwich froma loved bakery (Dusty Knuckle in Dalton, East London), baklava and co ee in one of the Turkish cafés on Green Lane… But, when the Christmas season looms, I go into list overdrive. I don’t want you to feel bad, but I startedmy first Christmas list in September. As well as lists of presents to give, themost important things are the entertainment list and the food list. The food list begins with what unusual things wemight want to eat this year and ends with the fundamentals, whether to have turkey or goose, and whether to go for ham. The amount of time and energy expended on these considerations bymy sister and I – sometimes assisted bymy sons – is extraordinary but is as much a joyful part of the season as going to a Christmas concert or seeing the Christmas tree in Trafalgar Square. It’s practical too. I’ve found that if you leave it too late stocks will have run out or the item can’t be delivered in time for Christmas. This year I’ll be ordering another luscious panettone that we’ve had before (a Loison Panettone Classico), smoked scallops and prawns fromMallaig in Scotland and a selection of British cheeses I’ll also be getting hold of some oxtail tomake a ragù to eat with pappardelle on Christmas Eve. You think it’s too early to think about the Christmas Evemeal? I’ve evenmade lists of what to do with the leftovers, so that I don’t fall back on the same old dishes. And after all that Stilton and Christmas pudding, you’re always ready for southeast Asian dishes – don’t forget the fish sauce – and Middle Eastern ones (check that you have some pomegranate molasses in the cupboard) in the days between Christmas and NewYear. If you’re a keen cook, you probably recognise all this. If you’ve never made a Christmas food list, you’remissing out. ‘This year, I’ll be ordering another luscious panettone, smoked scallops and prawns and British cheeses’ Delia’s Happy Christmas Delia Smith (2009) Many of us learnt our festive repertoire from 1992’s Delia Smith’s Christmas . Seventeen years later, this definitive guide to yuletide food updatedmany of her earlier recipes, while also presentingmore than 100 new creations. As well as her fail-safe recipes for Christmas lunch, there are handy countdowns, allowing you to plan the crucial 36 hours before the turkey hits the table, and appetising suggestions for Boxing Day suppers and leftovers. Nigella Christmas Nigella Lawson (2008) This exhaustive tome fromone of our best-loved cooks is a Christmas cookingmanual. There are reliable and in-depth guides to creating classics such as Christmas cake and steamed fruit pudding. The selection of festive centrepieces includes roast turkey, goose, beef, pork and stu ed pumpkin. As you’d expect fromNigella, there are plenty of great baking recipes and fabulously indulgent puddings such as her sherry-soaked British trifle. ScandiKitchen Christmas Brontë Aurell (2018) Call it hygge if youmust, but there’s something warming and fire-sidey about our view of Scandinavia that is so appealing at this time of year. Nobody does Nordic chic better than Danish chef and grocer Brontë Aurell. Her guide to the Scandi holiday season includes everything froma Christmas Eve feast of Norwegian roast pork, to a Juledag smörgåsbord of salmon, meatballs, ham, herring and the indulgent dish of creamy potatoes, layered with anchovies, known as Jansson’s temptation. Immoveable Feast John Baxter (2008) This memoir by Australian expat John Baxter recounts the time he was tasked with the sacred duty of preparing Christmas lunch for his newFrench wife’s venerable family. He describes his year-long quest to create the perfect meal, as he travels France in search of the country’s best dishes and ingredients. Recipes are described, rather than itemised, but this charming tome is more about the reading than the cooking. Entertaining, digressive, informative and, above all, funny. Vegan Christmas Gaz Oakley (2018) The rise of veganismhas seen a rush to retool classic recipes in ameat- free fashion – not least the assemblage of household favourites we cook at Christmas. Among the first and best to tackle this was Gaz Oakley. This collection of festive recipes includes his berry and chestnut-stu ed roast Wellington with all the trimmings (no-pigs in blankets, Hasselback potatoes), and ideas for Boxing Day leftovers, including gyros and bubble and squeak. The Eve of Seven Fishes Robert AGermano (2005) The title refers to the fish-based feast enjoyed by southern Italian families in the US on Christmas Eve. It’s subtitle – Christmas Cooking in the Peasant Tradition – gives you a clue about the no-nonsense, comforting and convivial fare it contains. Recipes include spaghetti with anchovies, salt-cod casserole and stu ed artichokes, though there aremeaty ones, too, such as cavatelli with pork sauce. Add in warm, funny family stories and you have a delightful snapshot of one culture’s Christmas. Christmas at River Cottage Lucy Brazier &Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall (2021) “The essence of Christmas is best expressed by bringing people together in a spirit of generosity and hospitality and giving them just what they need to cast their cares aside and talk, laugh and eat,” writes Hugh in this new addition to the cook’s Christmas library. He and Lucy achieve this with recipes including quince ratafia, rib of beef with horseradish, a sprout and roast potato-studded Boxing Day focaccia and a delightfully fudgy chestnut and chocolate cake. Books Best Christmas cookbooks LITTLE GEMS Nuggets of culinary wisdom that make life easier Now is a good time, before festive prep gets too frantic, to get ahead with Christmas baking. You can pre-make mince pies and sausage rolls, which you can then bake from frozen at a moment’s notice – handy for feeding unexpected guests. For sausage rolls, assemble them but don’t egg wash or bake them. Instead, place them on a baking sheet and freeze, then transfer to a freezer bag. You’ll need to add an extra 10 minutes or so when cooking from frozen – just make sure they’re piping hot before serving. DianaHenry is The Sunday Telegraph’s food writer. @dianahenryfood