It looks it’s going to be another snow-less Christmas this year again. Last Christmas was mild, the temperatures hardly falling below 0 degrees Celsius. This year we had a spot of snow. It made my heart flutter a bit, but that fluttering disappeared soon enough when the next morning I had to slip and slide to get to my car, and scratch it free of the thick ice. I love all the Christmas spirit but I can often do without the cold and snow that comes with it.
There will be some shaking their heads - Christmas without snow? I admit a part of me will agree that a few flakes, a white blanket over the hills, and sparkling silver reflections of the moonlight over the fields give a magical feel to the season. I love the sparkle, glitter, glimmer of everything around me at this time of year but after Christmas I am soon yearning for the green over the fields, the vibrant pastels of flowers and warmth of the sun.
Instagram | My Christmas wreath adorns the front door
For now the temperatures are bearable and the air is crisp without the biting cold. The houses glow in warmth through windows lit with candles and lights. Over the past week I’ve seen several people transporting their trees on the roof. It makes me smile as I try to imagine how the particular family will decorate the tree. Our tree comes up this weekend. As we do each year, we’ll be making our trip to the forest where the forester helps us cut down the chosen one for 2014. At home, with Glühwein, cookies and our favorite Christmas carols on the radio, we’ll decorate it – as we always do in red and gold – because Christmas always sparkles in red and gold.
I’ve been with Tom for over 16 years and except for one Christmas where we spent in Dubai, we have spent every Christmas Day at Tom’s parents’ house. With the entire family – 10 of us – gathering around a massive table laid with an immaculate white tablecloth, slim long red candles radiating in vintage silver candle stand and the good China and silverware - it really is a gorgeous sight. My in-laws are not the persnickety kind of people. They’re strong, robust folk who spent most of their lives in the GDR, working hard their entire lives. They are not much for travelling and invest most of the free time in their garden and house. They enjoy being home. So when the good stuff comes out on the table it really signifies so many things for them.
Instagram | Soeren’s gingerbread house
Christmas Day lunch always consists of a gently roasted succulent goose with stuffing and four additional legs. It is the joke each year “the mutant Goose!” As most of the family members want a goose leg, my mother in-law often buys four additional legs and places it along with the whole goose giving the appearance of a six-legged bird! A rich gravy accompanies the goose, on the side spiced braised red cabbage with apples, cloves, juniper berries and cinnamon and the every famous Klöße – those German dumplings. A big meal that had us sitting around at the table for hours.
After so many years of this tradition, this year a premier – a break in the custom – Christmas Day will be celebrated in Weimar at our place. I am thrilled mostly, maybe a slight tad nervous but generally I am elated to have my in-laws make this step and I look forward to having my husband’s entire family come over for this special festive time. My husband is sentimental as he always enjoyed going home for Christmas. He is rooted deeply in the house he was brought up in. At the same time he has accepted the passing over of the baton this Christmas as a good elder son does. And Soeren – he is just excited to have the pack of Wolffs over!
Last week I gave my Christmas meal a small trial run. I am going for duck breasts and a few legs, glazed with a chunky homemade orange marmalade. The recipe for the marmalade is from Dan Lepard's recipe for Medium-cut Seville Orange marmalade, I substitute the white sugar for Muscovado sugar instead. This was a perfect choice as it gave the tender breast a wonderful caramelized flavor. The gravy is a fine one with port wine and another few spoonfuls of the marmalade to give the perfect sauce. With the duck I am serving a fluffy, light and buttery parsnip and butternut squash mash refined with truffle butter and buttered beans with thyme. It’s an elegant meal that will have you spending more time with the family around the tree, drinking cocktails instead of in the kitchen fighting with a big bird and the oven. A lot of it can be prepared ahead of time and while the family is enjoying a selection of canapés the oven does the rest!
Dessert is in the hands of Soeren who is planning to make a dark chocolate mousse with raspberries. He’s thrilled to be able to contribute for one of the big courses!
I hope you enjoy this Christmas meal and maybe it will inspire you too. My motto while creating this meal was simplicity yet elegance using good local and organic ingredients. The recipe below is for two and therefore easy to double, triple ... :)
Recipe: Orange Marmalade and Port Glazed Duck Breasts with Parsnip Pumpkin Truffle Butter MashMeeta K. Wolff
- 1 duck breast (about 750g should be fine for 2)
- 3 + 3 tablespoons orange marmalade
- Tasmanian Pepper, crushed (crushed black pepper can be substituted)
- fleur de sel
- 2 shallots, halved
- 3 sprigs thyme
- 125ml Port wine
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 parsnips, peeled and coarsely chopped
- ½ butternut squash, peeled, coarsely chopped
- 2 tablespoons truffle butter
- Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees C. Prepare the duck breast by patting it dry and trimming off all excess fat. Then using a sharp knife, score across the duck breast 4 times through the skin and fat but just barely to the meat. Rub the skin with salt and crushed pepper.
- Heat a frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and 2 sprigs of thyme to the pans then lay the breast in the pan skin-side down and fry until the skin is brown and crisp, about 4-5 minutes. Use a spoon to carefully discard any excess fat from the bottom of the pan. Turn the breast over and cook for 1 minute.
- Before popping the breast into the oven, generously spread 3 tablespoons of the orange marmalade over the skin. Place skin side down on a rack in a roasting tin in the middle of the oven and roast until the desired doneness. See notes below. Remove the duck breast from the roasting pan and cover with aluminum foil. Set aside to rest. Pour off excess fat from the frying pan.
- Pour the port wine into the pan and add the remaining 3 tablespoons of orange marmalade. Whisk the sauce over high heat, bring to the boil and cook until the sauce thickens, about 2 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste. Press sauce through a sieve discarding the shallots and thyme. Keep sauce warm.
- For the mash mix together the vegetables with the olive oil, a pinch of fleur de sel and the remaining thyme in a bowl. Place in an ovenproof dish and roast for 30 minutes. When the vegetables are tender, transfer to a food processor and process until smooth. Add the truffle butter and whiz a few more times.
- Slice the duck breasts thinly, arrange on serving plates, and pour the sauce over the top. Serve with the hot mash, buttered beans the gravy and some extra orange marmalade on the side.
The desired doneness for a duck breast in the oven:
Rare - 10 minutes
Medium - 15 minutes
Well Done - 18 minutes
All ovens vary in performance, this is a guide only.
I wish you all a very Merry Christmas, Seasons Greetings and Happy Holidays. Have a safe and sparkly start to 2015. I am taking the rest of the year off to relax and unwind with my family. It’s well deserved for sure as we’ve had a very busy several months. I’ll be back in the new year, fresh and full of renewed energy! See you all then .... same place ...
Before I go however I have a little Christmas gift for my readers. I am thrilled to be teaming up with Bauknecht for a unique Cooking and Food Styling Workshop in January at the LivingKitchen in Cologne! Together with star chef Klaus Breinig we'll be taking a few lucky Bloggers through a incredible food journey - cooking, styling and photographing! The best part is I can invite a few of my readers to this event. It is an exclusive invite only event and for a limited number of people. So first-come-first-serve! If you are interested please do email me before the 19.12.2014 and I will connect you up with the PR company organizing the event. I hope you take up this opportunity and I look forward to maybe seeing you there!
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
Dessert inspiration for Christmas:
|Hazelnut Frangipane Tart with Quince Hazelnut Mincemeat||White Chocolate Cardamom Mousse with Spekulatius Crumbs|
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