For some reason, I'm feeling very Christmassy this season - yes, already! I feel it could have something to do with the fact that the street lights have just gone up in my area of Montmartre, that Jack Frost has started making his presence known in the mornings and also because I like dressing up in gloves and scarves and hats just to go out and yet still feel the cold on my nose.
I also particularly like Christmas because it's a socially acceptable form of over-indulgence. At no other time in the year does the whole family sit around a table for hours eating course after course of hearty British fare.
Living abroad has made me realise my level of English-ness. It's quite strange - there are moments when people around me are surprised to find out how un-English I am... but then there are also moments when I realise that I miss certain English things. (Guy Fawkes/Bonfire Night was one of them recently.) In short, being an expat exposes you to a different culture, and that enables you to appreciate elements of your home culture that you'd previously taken for granted.
Linking food and living abroad, I'm very pleased that Marks and Spencer are coming back to France. Apparently their new shop (100, avenue des Champs Elysées) will be open in time for Christmas and they have already opened an online shop
to whet our whistle. (N.B. the online shop only sells clothes and homeware for the moment.)
However, in the meantime, I'm still craving the best of British. As it's November (and a little too early for the majority) I decided to make something Christmassy that could be kept until the more socially-appropriate month of December. I decided on a Christmas Chutney.
A British classic calls for a classic British chef, and there is none that fits the bill better than Delia Smith. You can find Delia's recipe that I used here
Dried apricots = abricots secs
Prunes = pruneaux (the best are from the town of Agen, i.e. Pruneaux d'Agen.)
Dates = dattes
Cider Vinegar = vinaigre de cidre
Demerara sugar = cassonade
for more of an explanation)
Fortunately, it's easy to find all of these ingredients in your local supermarket, and they'll be considerably cheaper there than in the Naturalia shop.
The one thing I couldn't find was allspice berries, so I just used ground "quatre epices
Whilst making the chutney, there was a LOT of vinegar that went in the pan... so much so, in fact, that my housemate (who has the patience of a saint) came up to ask me if everything was alright in there. The chutney is now cooling before I put it into jars and although I've had a couple of spoonfuls to taste, I have no idea how it's going to turn out. I put my faith in you Delia, I followed your recipe to the letter, every ounce of Englishness, please don't let me down!