Monday, 26 December 2011

Christmas Rituals

It's funny how memories can be so strong for some but not exist at all for others. When I was a kid, every Christmas we had Anchor squirty cream in a can for the purpose of blanketing our Christmas Pudding in aerated foam. It was the only time of year we had it in the house. This was long before supermarkets started gifting us with luxury ranges of boozy, fresh, double cream from the best dairy cows in the land and laced with the most impressive brands of champagne, brandy or, if you're properly posh, artisan ice vodka from some remote Finnish distillery.

I have a distinct memory of making squirty cream sandwiches with McVities Digestive biscuits. I mentioned this to my mother last week, who took two full days to drag a vague picture of us doing it to the front of her memory. She doesn't remember at all that I also used to drink glasses of hot orange juice topped with squirty cream. I quite like the idea that I may or may not have done this without her knowledge and with the aid of a 1980s microwave.

Not a Christmas has gone by where I haven't remembered this ritual, even when it had been years since a can had even appeared in the fridge. I decided it might be fun to revisit the biscuits, orange juice and cream combinations this Christmas Eve for the sake of a comforting, cosy memory.

Not being able to crunch a biscuit without significant pain at the moment, and wanting to avoid the mess of squishing overly airy cream between two biscuits, I topped them like a cracker. I doubt the cream we had as kids had brandy flavouring in it (even though it's alcohol free) but if I was going to make a grown up version, a little extra flavour couldn't hurt. I also topped them with some coarsely grated clementine zest and ate them with a large mug of coffee at my side.

They tasted even better than I was expecting, and not just because of the nostalgia trip. I've assembled and eaten some more while writing this post. Crumbly, sweet biscuit, rich brandy cream and zingy clementine - all wonderfully well matched flavours.

As for the orange juice, I steeped it with some spices (a cinnamon stick, ground nutmeg, cloves) and honey before transferring it to a sundae glass and topping with the cream, ground cinnamon, finely grated clementine zest and dark chocolate.

Ideally, this should be done with clementine juice. It's far sweeter than standard orange juice, which was all I had, and infinitely more festive. You might even be able to do away with the honey. The juice needs to cool slightly before putting the cream on top. As I discovered, too much steam will suck the air right out of the foam topping. To strengthen the flavour of the spices, it might even be a good idea to leave the juice to cool completely before gently warming it back up again. I was a little too excited to wait for this, but I plan on playing around with it so it'll be perfect for next year.

Merry Christmas! I hope you've had a wonderful time filled with your own little rituals.

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