Thursday, 25 December 2008 by kinakoJam
Frohe Weihnachten from Cologne, Germany. Over here the main day of celebration is on Christmas eve, but it's today, the 25th, that we'll spend with Erik's family.
So yesterday (the main Christmas day to Erik) I was reflecting on what Christmas means to me. Apart from being a welcome distraction from the onset of the cold winter months, with Cologne's city squares filled with pretty lights, roasting chestnuts and the smell of aniseed candies.
My mother didn't manage to pass on her christian beliefs to me, and her take on big family gatherings is that they are inherently dysfunctional, but she always shows a cute child-like enthusiasm about celebrating special occasions in small and personal ways. And I think this is something I try to emulate, wherever I am celebrating Christmas.
As Chicago chef Rick Bayless points out in the intro to his excellent 'Mexican Everyday' cookbook, fabulous feasts, whether once a week or for special occasions, more often, are an essential part of life.
In other words, when else but christmas would I spend ten euros on a jar of handsome duck pate with 'wild chinese mushrooms' (pictured above) sitting in a cloak of congealed fat? Or dunk Italian christmas bread speckled with raisins and citrus peel into my coffee two days in a row?
So yesterday morning (we went to Manufactum and bought three loaves of their impeccable bread, including the springy 'wurzelbrot' above, which we ate with fennel-infused salami from the Italian supermarket, where they were also giving out espressos yesterday. I made a garlicky tomato soup for lunch with fried chillies and lots of roasted red peppers.
Later on Erik made one of our favourite Catalonian snacks: 'pa amb tomaquet', with the silvery anchovies which I'd been saving up from our Barcelona trip. There's something about anchovies draped on tomato bread.... sharp but mellow and rounded in flavour, it's almost like a really really next level marmite on toast.
Pa amb tomaquet hinges on really good bread in my opinion: this was Manufactum's french-style baguette soaked in olive oil, garlic and tomato juices.
Much later, after Erik had napped and I had put my books away, we made patatas bravas (another of those simple faves from Spain - crunchy potato bits with a spicy tomato sauce and garlic aioli), a salad, and Rick Bayless' recipe for chipotle meatballs with bacon and mint which are really, truly impolite-mouth-smackingly awesome. I'll post the recipe soon.
Erik made julep cocktails with ice and ground ginger - and I made strange concoctions of rhubarb juice, feijoa vodka and sparkling water, or manuka honey vodka with pear nectar from the italian supermarket, both of which tasted nicely of medicine.
Merry spicy tomatoes, potatoes and bread with weird medicinal drinks to one and all. Or perhaps I should say: feliz navidad mis cocineros.