A break from Christmas tradition…
Several years ago, in the run up to Christmas, my mum plucked up the courage to make a proposal never heard of in our family. It is no exaggeration to say this resulted in sharp intakes of breath, dropped jaws and even an accusation that she would ruin Christmas – which in our family takes a lot of doing. My mum had dared to suggest that we try a different pudding for Christmas dinner, rather than the chocolate fridge cake that I’d been making every year since I was old enough to measure out the brandy. So, despite the protests, bearing in mind that in those days she cooked the entire main course every single year, while I threw in dessert as a token gesture, I was in no position to refuse. She then thrust a roulade recipe in my hand and pronounced that we’d have that instead.
That Christmas Eve I ended up spending three hours in my kitchen, in an increasingly desperate frenzy of beating, separating, weighing, sweating, shouting and waving my hands around. My electric whisk was broken, and any baker will tell you that it is impossible to beat egg whites into stiff peaks with a fork, however long and hard you wish for a Christmas miracle.
The roulade was a disaster. Not that anybody was going to mind about that – the truth is we are usually all too full to eat pudding anyway. What did matter, was that my husband and children spent Christmas Eve hiding from me in another room. Eventually my daughter, who was maybe seven, crept up to me and asked, ‘Mummy, promise you won’t be in a bad mood like this on Christmas day?’
At the time, I was not able to make that promise. Instead, I dragged us all out for a walk in the hope that somewhere out there I’d find my lost perspective.
Of course, for most of us, Christmas 2020 is going to mean far more breaks from tradition than just a pudding. For my family, it will be the first year my children haven’t spent it with their cousins. The first time we haven’t gone to church on Christmas morning, or been able to give those we love a hug.
So, given all the lovely things that we will have to miss this year, how do we promise that we won’t ‘be in a bad mood on Christmas Day’? Perhaps it’s through taking this opportunity to consider which of our age-old traditions we want to break, now that life is so different anyway. How about ditching the tradition of getting exhausted and stressed trying to come up with some perfect, hallmark Christmas, that if you ever had the time, money and creative talents to actually pull off, you wouldn’t even enjoy anyway because it isn’t you, or what you like to do?
Maybe now is the year you decide to break the tradition of excessive waste, overspending on presents people don’t need, buying bucketloads of fancy food, so much of which ends up in the bin anyway?
Maybe this is the year to create some new traditions, ones where you spend it doing what you and those you love actually like to do, whether that’s beans on toast in front of the television or a five course banquet for one?
I’m taking the opportunity, with fewer people to cook for, to try something other than turkey. Two of my children don’t like it, and no-one will care as long as there are plenty of roast potatoes. Oh, and as for a pudding? That’s for my kids to decide. As soon as they were old enough to work an electric whisk, I handed on that particular tradition to them. Last year we had Irish chocolate cheesecake and sticky toffee pudding. Not a stiff peak in sight.
Wishing you all health and happiness this Christmastime, however you choose to celebrate.
A quick and simple Christmas dessert – Irish chocolate cheesecake
100g/3 ½oz butter
250g/9oz digestive biscuits, crushed
400g/14oz cream cheese
50ml /2fl oz Irish cream liqueur
50g/2oz icing sugar
150ml/5fl oz double cream, whipped
50g/2oz grated chocolate
Cocoa powder for dusting (or more grated chocolate)
- Melt the butter in a pan or the microwave, then stir in the crushed biscuits until they’ve absorbed all the butter.
- Press into the bottom of a lined 7 or 8 inch baking tin or flan dish. Leave to set in the fridge while you make the filling.
- Lightly whip the cream cheese, then beat in the Irish cream liqueur and icing sugar. Fold in the whipped cream and grated chocolate. Then smooth onto the biscuit base.
- Chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours then dust with sieved cocoa powder or grated chocolate. (note, can be made the day before and kept in the fridge overnight)
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