Belated Festive Post #2 – Smoking Bishop & Eggnog

“A merry Christmas, Bob!” said Scrooge, with an earnestness that could not be mistaken, as he clapped him on the back. “A merrier Christmas, Bob, my good fellow, than I have given you, for many a year! I’ll raise your salary, and endeavour to assist your struggling family, and we will discuss your affairs this very afternoon, over a Christmas bowl of smoking bishop, Bob!”

– Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol (1843)

On hearing these words (or a version of) being uttered by Jim Carrey’s animated form towards the end of A Christmas Carol, I was roused from the kind of semi-catatonic state only brought on by the heady combination of Christmas films and too much Stilton. Although this is obviously not the best rendition of A Christmas Carol, I hope you will forgive me.

To clarify, Patrick Stewart is the best Scrooge…although its hard to argue that both the Disney version, featuring a Victorian-ised Scrooge McDuck (Ducktales…a woo-ooo), and the Muppet’s effort with Michael Caine (Michael Caine! Can anyone else believe that? I’d completely forgotten), are not superb efforts in their own right.

Back to Carrey though. It was upon hearing these words that I remembered watching Rick Stein’s A Cornish Christmas for the umpteenth time, specifically the scene where he is sitting huddled in the corner of a dimly lit pub with a saucy maid and big steaming bowl of Smoking Bishop – the true Dickensian festive drink!

I knew I must have it. And Eggnog too of course, because what’s not to like about bourbon and custard?

Smoking Bishop

Russian Roulette - in lieu of a bullet, the disgraced West Ham mug

Russian Roulette – in lieu of a bullet, the disgraced West Ham mug

I was delighted to find this recipe and also the above quote at the very helpful blog The History Kitchen to which I am eternally grateful for providing the Phillips’ family household with this beverage on Christmas Eve. It (nearly) inspired us to go carolling it was that good. But then we played Trivial Pursuit instead which is always going to be hard to beat.

The key part of this is to leave the baked and clove-studded citrus fruit (above) to soak for 24 hours in the red wine before adding in the port. The waft you get when you unveil it after this mulling feels like Father Christmas himself has punched you square on the nose and asked if you’re man enough. In a jovial, good hearted way.

The port, spices, red wine and fruit completely knock the socks off any mulled wine I’ve ever tried. I would seriously recommend giving this a go. I’d even crack this out now during the grim dark nights to enjoy by the fire (or perhaps a hair dryer under the sheets if you’re as environmentally friendly as Laura.)  Bottle up any leftovers in the port bottle and it’ll mature nicely.

Eggnog

I had been wanting to drink this for every Christmas since I can remember. I think its testament to how corpulently lazy I get around this period that I’ve only just managed it in 2014.

Slightly less helpful recipe here as it uses American measurements (it is the HOLIDAY season after all) but just convert it on Google and you’ll be fine.

The forgotten sherry glasses, dragged from the back of the cupboard and bastardised.

The forgotten sherry glasses, dragged from the back of the cupboard and thoroughly bastardised.

I would say that, unlike the Smoking Bishop, this drink isn’t for everyone. If you’re a fan of cold custard (and we are habitual family of such), then you’ll be well away. Vamp up the bourbon measurements though to give that much needed bit of bite.

Egg-static lads

Egg-static lads

 

Belated Festive Post #1 – Stollen Wreath & Cola Ham

Get in the hole!

Get in the hole!

It would take a bold man to argue that anyone is feeling Christmassy any more. In the midst of a bleak January riddled with guilty drinking and furtive feasting, there is arguably little for our stomachs to look forward to in this fallow month. So, if you will allow, let me take you back to a time when all was well and full of stodge, binging and general merriment…

‘Big D’ (Dad) rules the roost when it comes to the main event in the Phillips’ household over the holiday period; judge, jury and executioner on the 25th without exception. However, this does allow us minnow Phillips’s to have a pop in the kitchen in the run up and usually afterwards for good measure.

This year I thought I’d chip in with something sweet that would also flex my bread making learnings and the ham (a righteous honour once the sole responsibility of provision by Ronnie ‘The Rocket’ Goldfinch, my grandad).

Unless a dish is reasonably tried and tested in our household, it tends to come under major scrutiny even before the ingredients are bought. Anything involving ‘too much red meat’ normally requires draining negotiation with my mum and anything that is initially dismissed by my dad is a long slog to win back around.

The Cola ham certainly raised a few conservative eyebrows around the family, with I think only my little brother giddy at the prospect of meat boiled in sugary syrup. The stollen wreath less so but only because none of us really knew what it entailed, myself included.

Stollen Wreath

As alluded to above, this is basically a big sweet bread with boozy fruit and a marzipan center running through the middle. Niiiiice. You can find the recipe here.

Rum soaked fruit - always a good shout.

Rum soaked fruit – always a good shout.

Despite coming out looking seriously pimping (if I do say so myself), it was surprisingly straightforward to make. Anyone that’s made a loaf of bread before should be able to tackle this with ease.

The only morsel of advice I would offer is when adding the boozed fruit to the dough, use a slotted spoon or even drain it off beforehand. I had to do some emergency flouring halfway through to patch up some very moist dough. To say Jules (mum) would have been unhappy with the mess would be the understatement of the year. And given that we were nearly at the end of the year at the time, she would have been pretty miffed had she known. And Mum, if you’re reading, now you do.

I ended up going a bit rogue in the absence of a small cake tin for the middle, instead using this rather fetching pot which worked a treat:

Cracking with a bit of Eggnog. More on that to follow.

Cracking with a bit of Eggnog. More on that to follow.

Cranberries, pistachios, marzipan, boozy raisins and generous lashings of icing…proper Crimbo in a mouthful.

Cola Ham with Maple & Mustard Glaze

I won’t linger long on this as I feel like I’ve come rather late to the ‘ham boiled in coke’ party and may be preaching to the choir. If you’re yet to give it a go, I’d heartily recommend following this recipe here. It is face-meltingly good.

After a slight malfunction on my part (I cut the strings off before starting to boil) and a swift fix from Big D (manfully locating some string in the garage and retying the ham), we were off. Having chosen a 4 kg behemoth of a specimen, we could barely fit in the pot as it bubbled away, the stock turning a sticky brown, sweet and meaty aromas perforating the air amidst an offensively loud Strictly Come Dancing semi-final.

Following the boiling, it warranted a quick stint in the oven, being reglazed over and over with the maple and mustard in a gluttonous caress. Beltingly good meat; sweet and salty, melt in mouth and a perfect fatty crust.

The conservative eyebrows were firmly put back in their place. Unfortunately for me, I was still destined to be emasculated at the last moment as Big D stepped into carve the spoils. I don’t think that will ever change.