Food Fit For… Winter

“What about food fit for Winter dad?”

Fair point – sorry about that darling, I didn’t realise at the grand old age of 4 you’d really be bothered about things like that.

So this one is all about you and your even more adventurous (bonkers) outlook on the culinary world than Felix has.

Winter is a duracell-powered, blue-eyed princess with verbal diarrhoea and a broken off-switch. We love her very much and wouldn’t change her for the world.

Bonkers Winter

Last night she devoured her first escargot (snails – Helix pomatia to be precise). Tasty little gastropods that I adored as a child in the South of France.

bbq snailsSnails for the first time

I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying a few romantic alfresco lunches with my daughter this past week whilst housesitting for friends with a beautiful garden. She’ll be off to school soon and I realise that these idyllic occasions will become inevitably rarer or at least less spontaneous. It’s an entirely justifiable use of annual leave from work in my eyes.

fish in the garden

Winter at lunch

I’ve spent some time describing how important these little family meals in the sunshine really are – they are some of my earliest, fondest, clearest and most cherished memories from my own childhood. I can still remember every tiny detail from an early evening dinner in France … parking near the deserted market square in Saint-Raphaël and bundling into a busy little restaurant packed with locals; earlier that day my parents had asked the market traders where they went to eat. I ate escargot followed by frogs legs and was fascinated by my father’s plate of Steak tartare adorned with a beautifully fresh raw egg yolk. Many would balk at the idea of eating snails and frogs legs, but nobody made a fuss and it was therefore entirely normal for me. I suspect these memories form the basis of my emotive attitude towards food.

I recall how we were all so impressed by the dark-haired waitresses deftly slicing the foils from bottle after bottle of red wine, swiftly whipping out corks with a trusty ‘Waiter’s Friend’. Practice makes perfect I guess.

And then there was the fish.. wheeled out on a trolley in all its piscine glory and then filleted and plated at the table with such dead-pan precision and speed that you daren’t clap for fear of offending. An awe-inspiring spectacle to quietly admire. One day I hope to return to that spot.

I want to build equal memories for our children.

Although I recall my first ever trip to McDonalds a number of years later, I’m sure you can appreciate it didn’t provide quite the same inspiration.. I wonder how I’d have reacted to French cuisine if I’d already been accustomed to burgers and chicken nuggets.

So back to sitting in the garden with Winter and a can of oily fish with a green salad and home-sprouted Alfalfa seeds. Bliss.

anchovies for lunchIt still amazes me that Felix and Winter will devour whatever delicacies I place in front of them, but I guess it shouldn’t surprise me; did my parents think the same of us? Our attitudes to food are important, especially as parents. We must be mindful and avoid shaping our future generations to rely on the drudgery of mass-produced, over-processed muck.

Keep trying new things and let them explore. No child is going to like the taste of everything they try, but at least let them decide for themselves in an unbiased environment. This little monkey is obsessed with fruit – so much so that we have to hide the fruit bowl when she’s helped herself to clearly more than enough!

Winter eating an apple

We’re proud of you Winter.

At what age is a set of kitchen knives an acceptable gift?

Winter in the Meadow

Holiday Traditions

November challenge #3 for Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolutionaries: ‘Holiday Traditions’.  I instantly imagined this as a bit of a montage as I’m completely smitten with all things Christmas.

So, holiday traditions and food for your family gatherings… Easy.  I’m not going to pretend that I don’t have a ‘Christmas Book’ and start planning a couple of months in advance (you have to if you’re going to make all the good stuff from scratch…).  Heavily booze-soaked Christmas cake and sloe gin are well worth the early effort.

Let’s start with…

  • Hampers.  Who doesn’t love a hamper? I’d use an interrobang at this point if only my keyboard supported it.  I’m not sure I’m even too fussed what it contains, a hamper is a both exciting and practical whatever the festivity.

xmas hamper

It’s even more special when someone makes up a hamper from scratch for you.

Next on the agenda;

  • Christmas Ales.  I love dark, heavy and flavoursome beers and it’s a real treat when all of the special festive brews hit the shelves.  Even better if it’s Belgian.  Here’s a favourite of mine.

Christmas Beer

  • Brussel sprouts (Brassica oleracea) on the stalk.  For some crazy reason, you only seem to be able to buy sprouts on their stalk at Christmas.  What’s with that?

Brussel sprouts (Brassica oleracea)

  • Christmas Butter.  Useful stuff for poultry of any kind.  You can make it well in advance and pop it in the freezer.  I usually use cranberries, orange and lemon zest, sage and all the generally festive ingredients.

festive butter

  • Santa Sustenance.  I suspect I might get a little dreary about this tradition one day, but hopefully the children will have sussed it all out well before then.  That said, the port is particularly welcomed by the time I get to finally indulge.  Do reindeer even eat nuts?

Treats for Santa

  • Hash.  Continuing the leftover theme, I honestly look forward to boxing day more than the main event.  This is probably the ultimate in comfort food eating.  We are all guilty of cooking far, far too much food at Christmas, but use fantastic ingredients.  The rule; there isn’t one.  The beauty is that you can use whatever you happen to have left (plus eggs and maybe some hot sauce depending on how late you partied…).

Christmas hash

  • Pie.  Again, this tends to be a boxing day dinner based on cooking too much the day before.  Never be without a block of puff pastry in the freezer during the festivities. Turkey, ham, mushrooms, crème fraîche and a couple of leeks.  Heaven. Obviously this also lends itself to pretty much anything you have to hand.

pie filling at christmas

Have fun, indulge, and above all, spoil the younglings.

Happy Holidays everyone!

Happy Holidays