On New Years Eve, M-D (my wife), her sister their two cousins and their partners (and myself) sat down to a typical French evening meal (started at 8pm and finished at 3am!) and, somewhere along the way (after the oysters and smoked salmon) we ate Cubes of Veal with Spicebread Sauce accompanied by Cauliflower Cheese and Purple Majesty potatoes. And it was truly delicious.
The sauce relies on the addition of Pain d’Épice (Spice Bread). You can use my own recipe for the Pain d’Épice (Spice Bread) or, if you don’t want to go to the trouble of making it yourself, you can use ready made Jamaica Ginger Cake or Ginger Loaf Cake. Your own home-made tastes much better but sometimes you must trade convenience for taste!
One of the secrets of cooking to entertain guests is to do as much preparation as possible beforehand. For the oysters, it was no problem, I simply opened them (60 of them!) half an hour before the meal. This works perfectly because they are best left for a little while to produce more water. It adds to their flavour. The smoked salmon and jumbo prawns came from a specialist shop just down the road, where they smoke their own produce, so the quality was truly excellent (good, firm, Scottish salmon). Naturally, cold seafood requires no further preparation… only a nice presentation and a good bottle of dry white wine (like the Bel Air Quincy that we served).
So the main course needed to be something that took very little cooking and that could mostly be prepared in advance. The veal cooked while we ate the oysters and the sauce was prepared before our guests arrived, so Cubes of Veal with Spicebread Sauce is an ideal dish for entertaining.
After half an hour of madness with New Year party poppers and various other lunatic activities, we cleared the rubbish off the table and sat down to fresh salad leaves in a vinagrette and a great selection of French cheeses, including one of my favourites – Langres from the east of France. We continued with the red wine we had served with the main course (a Samur Champigny from Domaine des Roches Neuves)
And then came our “pièce de résistance” … Christmas Pudding flamed in Brandy (well, Cognac, actually!!). A “pièce de résistance” is defined as a creation that defies orthodox or common conventions and practices, thereby making it unique and special. So you may be wondering what gives me the right to refer to a common or garden Christmas Pudding from our local supermarket on The Isle of Man as a “pièce de résistance”. Well, quite simply, we have fun serving our French family and friends with typical British dishes that they have probably never tasted before, just as we have fun serving typically French food to our friends and family on The isle of Man. It’s easy for us since we travel backwards and forwards between the two quite frequently, and can bring food products with us as we travel.
Just as we introduced our French family to Haggis, Neeps and Tatties a few days ago, and then came up with traditional Christmas Cake the following day, so we introduced M-D’s sister and cousins to Christmas Pudding about which they had heard and read a lot of rubbish. In fact, in small portions, Christmas Pud is an excellent dessert, served either with custard or cream. The “problem” in Britain is that, on Christmas Day, folk heap their plates with turkey, chipolatas, stuffing, carrots, spouts, peas, three sorts of potatoes, Yorkshire pudding and gravy, then immediately force down a huge helping of Christmas Pudding – and all in the space of one hour. Following French tradition, we served smaller courses, interspersed with convivial conversation (and some excellent wines) and the Christmas Pudding was served (in smaller portions) at about 1:00a.m. – five hours after we started on our oysters. So the body has plenty of time to digest the food before loading up with more!
And so impressed were M-D’s cousins with the Christmas Pudding that one pair asked if they could take home what was left for the following day! Now that’s what you call ‘seeing the light’! No more talk of crap British food from that quarter! I love it when a plan comes together!
And finally, just a little footnote, having mentioned Haggis, Neeps and Tatties, if you read my post of 25th December, you’ll see that we brought a little sunshine into the lives of my daughter-in-law and her husband by serving this traditional Scottish dish to them… and they loved it. In fact, so much so that we plan going to their home this coming weekend to celebrate a birthday (no, I’m NOT going to tell you how young I am!!). Muriel (my daughter-in-law) has asked me to bring the haggis that she knows is living in our freezer, so she can serve Haggis, Neeps and tatties as a starter too! Again, it’s a St. Paul on the road to Damascus moment!
Have a GREAT 2012!