What we learned reading Elizabeth David’s Christmas cookery book

    What we learned reading Elizabeth David’s Christmas cookery book

    By Ella Walker . Published 2020-12-18


    We take a look at the compendium of the late food writer’s festive thoughts and recipes.

    Elizabeth David is arguably the most influential British cookery writer of all time.The London-born writer and cookbook author was the first to truly introduce Britain to Mediterranean food, and penned recipes and musings on ingredients in the likes of Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, The Telegraph and a score of Sunday papers.So, it would be utterly churlish to not consult her work at Christmas, too.First published in 2003, following David’s death in 1992, Elizabeth David’s Christmas features festive recipes, essays, articles, quotes and extracts – all compiled, written or collected by David, but fashioned into book form posthumously by her editor and great friend, Jill Norman.It is a guide to every course (if you wish to bother with multiple courses), every possible Noel-suitable condiment, and is smattered with ideas from, and memories of, David’s own collective Christmasses.You can’t help but learn a lot…The book opens with the most apt quote, which you will find comes to mind regularly throughout the season“Roses are things which Christmas is not a bed of,” – Ogden Nash.You don’t have to opt for turkey and all the trimmings if you’d rather notDavid was very against the commercialisation of Christmas, and would in fact have preferred it if “the Cromwell regime’s bid to suppress the whole thing” had been a success, as “clandestine activities would have been a lot more fun”. Meanwhile, when it comes to the eating, she writes that “smoked salmon, home-made bread, butter, lovely cold white Alsace wine” is “a glorious way to celebrate Christmas”. Turkey be damned. In fact, her dream Christmas dinner would involve an omelette, cold ham, salmon and lots of Champagne.Christmas puddings are really not worth the fussThe prepping and boiling of a home-made one can be a “mess” and there’s no need to feel bad about not bothering with a shop bought one either. Although the naffie ration one David ate during WWII in Egypt does sound rather magical. Instead, serve her sister’s beloved chocolate ice cream with shortbread biscuits.Cumberland sauce is a big deal…David calls it the “best of all sauces for cold meat” but it’s pretty much fallen out of favour these days (she does note it goes particularly well with tongue…). Never heard of it? Apparently it’s a kingly condiment of orange, redcurrant jelly, Dijon mustard, ginger and port.… and apparently lemon and celery sauce is a thingWho knew? Good with chicken and turkey. Step aside, cranberry.There’s a whole array of turkey stuffings you’ve probably never even considered beforeChestnuts and apples, tongue and ‘forcemeat’ (Victorian style), rice and almond, pork and chestnut, pork and mushroom… shop bought stuffing balls look positively heinous in comparison.Soup shouldn’t be undervaluedDavid explains that there “must be something hot and inspiring” to kick off Christmas dinner, her preference being a fish consomme. No, half a chocolate orange will not do in its place. She’d top hers off with a drop of brandy and serve with cheese croutons, grated thickly with parmesan.You must remember to try and eat a few fresh things over the Christmas period – however tough it may seem. David’s winter salads will certainly sound appetising after overdoing it on the mince pies. Her classic French carrot rapees sounds positively tangy, the endive and beetroot is all bitter and sweet, her raw fennel dressed in lemon juice and olive oil zings effortlessly, and her rice and cucumber salad sounds rather odd, but will make a change from scoffing roast potatoes.embedded1544050.jpgElizabeth David’s Christmas: Festive Notes And Recipes From The Distinguished Cookery Writer, is published in hardback by Michael Joseph

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