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Every December is a clean slate to make new traditions with what your Christmas tastes like. Last year's latkes with Panzer's smoked salmon on Christmas Eve feel just as close to home now as my Christmas morning mangoes in Sydney. With so much uncertainty at the moment, I'm trying not to think too far ahead. Instead, I'm focusing on the little things we cook and eat that make this month feel like one long feast. Yesterday's Guinness brown bread ice cream at Cafe Cecilia, that I spent the afternoon eating and the spiced shortbread we snacked on as we decorated the Christmas tree today are all a part of my plan to finish this year in the ways that I couldn't start it. 

There are so many moments we can take time to create that will shape our memories of this year. As I write to you, my boyfriend is in the kitchen putting baked potatoes in the oven for dinner, Dean Martin is playing through the speakers and the adorned tree is ready to be pounced on by the cat. There are three Sunday's left for 2021 and on each of them, I want to remember how what we cook can shape these little love stories of our lives.

The glow of fairy lights in December seems to pull everything that is important into focus — the friends we don't see enough, the family we miss and toasted panettone for breakfast. So this week, wherever you are I hope that you can find some time amongst the Christmas chaos to cook something that makes you pause and think about all the good in the world that's waiting for you.


 

Full of all the colours of Christmas, these spiced shortbread are ideal to make for a gift or to simply snack on with a glass of port while you wrap presents. It's a really quick dough to make and aside from a few hours in the freezer to chill (so you can slice them) they only take ten minutes to bake. Make the dough ahead of time if you fancy so that you'll always have warm shortbread waiting for you when you want to bake them. As they cook, the spices and butter will make your kitchen smell like Christmas which is only half the reason why I love them so much. 

Spiced Shortbread
with pistachios, sour cherries and candied citrus

  • 230g of soft unsalted butter
  • 150g of caster sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon of mixed spice
  • 1 teaspoon of ground ginger
  • 300g of plain flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
  • A big pinch of salt
  • 80g of chopped pistachios
  • 80g of dried sour cherries
  • 40g of candied citrus peel

In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar with an electric whisk until pale and fluffy. Crack in the egg, add the vanilla and whisk for another minute until combined. In a separate bowl sieve together the mixed spice, ginger, flour, baking powder and salt.

Add half of the dry mix into the butter mix and slowly combine adding the rest of the flour little by little. Just before the dough comes together add the pistachios, sour cherries and candied citrus to the mix in batches so that they are evenly combined throughout the dough. 

Form the dough into a long sausage shape and roll it up in a sheet of baking paper. Place this in your freezer for two hours, it won't freeze fully but it will firm it up so that you can slice it. With a heavy knife, cut 2cm discs of the dough and place them on a lined baking tray. Bake the shortbread for 10 minutes at 180 degrees. Let them cool a little and eat them with a Christmas cocktail, a glass of port or a mug of something warm. 

Christmas feasts can come in so many ways. The silent night spent with a tub of Mince Pie ice cream like I did on Friday is just as festive as the roast dinner I'll cook on Christmas Day. Here are three feasts that I loved reading about. 
 

My Ex-Husband and the Fish Dinner by Joan Acocella

Someone Else's Christmas Cookies by Mairi Bunce

Brief Reflection on Killing the Christmas Carp by Miroslav Holub 


A week's worth of menu ideas featuring Julia Child's favourite roast chicken recipe and the polenta I make as soon as it feels like it's going to snow.
A busy week ahead means that the breakfast needs to be good to get me out of bed. These Breakfast Bars from Nigella are quick and so divine.
Because what could be better than having a bath and knowing that when you get out there's a plate of best Lasagna waiting for you?
Nigel Slater's Braised Oxtail with Smoked Garlic sounds like the ultimate mid-week/rainy day/life is too much dish to escape into cooking.
As I'd trust Julia Child with all things in the kitchen, I have to make Julia's Favourite Roast Chicken with lots of mashed potato on the side.
There's no reason not to spend Friday night with this Kimchi Cheese Toastie and a lineup of your top festive films. 
I love making huge bowls of this Polenta with Lemon Garlic Greens when it's grey and cold outside. Top it with a big spoonful of cold ricotta.
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All photography by Bre Graham.

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