‘On at least one day during the Great Too Long Stretch I stay in bed, making myself lunch on a tray. Smoked salmon, home-made bread, butter, lovely cold white Alsace wine. A glorious way to celebrate Christmas.’ In her introduction to this anthology of Christmas food, Elizabeth David rebels against the ‘obsessive present-buying and frenzied cooking’ that characterise modern celebrations. Instead, she advocates a simpler and in every sense more tasteful approach, with delicious, straightforward recipes that liberate the weary chef from some of his or her festive toil.
Readers familiar with Elizabeth David’s continental recipes will be pleasantly surprised to find a wealth of traditional British specialties here, such as dry-spiced beef and roast pheasant with chestnut sauce, as well as Christmas dishes from further afield. Never a slave to convention, she suggests, for a small group, ‘something simple and unexpected such as a big bowl of crimson sweet-sour cherry sauce with a roast duck; a handsome dish of tomatoes stuffed with savoury rice with a capon; a Madeira and truffle-scented sauce with a piece of plain roast beef; sliced oranges with a pork roast or a ham.’ While candidly admitting that she finds Christmas pudding ‘a pretty awful concoction’, she nonetheless supplies two excellent recipes. There are wonderful literary and historical vignettes and personal anecdotes, from childhood Christmases spent with her cousins in Hampshire to a wartime Christmas in her tiny flat in Cairo with her cook Suleiman proudly bringing in the blazing Christmas pudding – before the turkey.
Sophie MacCarthy has illustrated all of the Folio Society editions of Elizabeth David’s books. Her artwork for this book is particularly delectable in its colour and simplicity. In a new foreword, biographer Lisa Chaney describes the genesis of Elizabeth David’s food writing career and praises a ‘culinary manual of good food for family and friends at Christmas.’
See more Elizabeth David titles:Italian Food
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