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Pondering the season

23 November 2012


FEAST and Fast: Food for Advent and Christmas, by Christina Rees (DLT, 2012), is not so much a recipe book as a cosy sit in Christina's kitchen, listening to her reminiscences of Christmases past, meeting her friends and family who breeze in, and pondering the meaning of Advent and Christmas with a selection of their recipes.

I am a collector of soup recipes; so I was impressed by Christingle soup, which helps to use up all the discarded oranges after a Christingle service. The quantities serve 6-8.

knob of butter
45g (1lb) parsnips, peeled and chopped
45g (1lb) carrots, peeled and chopped
1 medium-sized swede, peeled and chopped
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
845ml (1½ pts) chicken stock
3 oranges
salt and pepper

Melt the butter in a saucepan and add the vegetables and then the stock. Meanwhile, grate the rind of the oranges, and squeeze the juice. Add this to the vegetables, and season. Simmer for an hour, or until the vegetables are tender, liquidise, and thin to taste with milk or orange juice. Serve hot with a little cream and a sprinkling of parsley, and some crusty bread.

If you have any oranges left over, I really liked this recipe for Orange wheatgerm bread by Jane Seabury. Rees suggests it as a tea-time bread, but it is delicious any time, and the quantity given makes a medium-sized loaf. Because it is a quick bread (that is, made without yeast), it is best eaten straight away.

1¾ cups sifted plain flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
¾ cup wheatgerm
2-3 cups hot water (approx.)
juice and grated rind of 1 large orange
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons melted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg, beaten

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/ Gas4. Grease a loaf tin. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir in the wheatgerm. Add the hot water to the orange juice to make up 1 cup of liquid. Combine with the remaining ingredients. Add the flour mix all at once, and stir until blended. Allow to stand for 20 minutes before baking, then bake for 1 hour.

Seabury also contributes a Hot Christmas wassail that soaks up a lot of orange juice - and also rum ad lib. This is my sugar-free version, with scaled-down quantities.

1.2l (2 pts) water
2 large cinnamon sticks
1 tablespoon whole cloves
570ml (1 pt) orange juice
845ml (1½ pts) apple juice
845ml (1½ pts) grapefruit juice
rum (add to individual glasses
according to age and palate)

Simmer the spices in the water for 15 minutes. Strain off the spices and add the juices to the water. Serve piping hot.

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