On Christmas morning at 11am, A. and I went to Westminster Abbey for the magical “Crib service” in the royal cathedral- because prayers and Carols are as essential to my Christmas as mince-pies and foie gras !
Halfway through the nave, a life-size nativity scene awaited us, on a bed of straw, next to two beautifully lit trees… and lots of small children joined in the nicest and best loved carols. It was a very moving, secluded and intimate service – but you are also in for a treat if you have booked seats for the 4pm candlelit Christmas service
There were only a few people with us, all gathered around the Crib and with the 30 metres of the nave above us, figuring the infinite sky beyond the barn. We talked of shepherds coming to worship the babe and of their gifts of lamb. I thought of giving when you have nothing to give and of the generosity of strangers that is at the core of Christmas lore. Back home, I wrapped presents with renewed energy ! Giving love… Wrapping love.
Tis’ the season of presents and goodwill and cakes make lovely little gifts. I found this recipe on the net, by Rachel Allen and changed only a little- I am notoriously bad at following recipes…
Last minute Christmas cakes: They don’t keep for long either!
- sultanas 225 g
- currants 225 g
- mixed candied peel 110 g , chopped
- Dates 75 g , stoned and chopped
- crystallised ginger 25 g , finely chopped
- Butter 250 g , softened
- light brown sugar 250 g
- Eggs 5
- Orange zest1 tsp , finely grated
- Ground almonds 50 g
- plain flour 275 g
- All spice 1 tsp
- Cinnamon 1 tsp ground
- Nutmeg 1 tsp, freshly grated
- Rum or brandy, 125ml
Cream the butter and sugar until fluffy.
Add the eggs one by one, alternating with spoonfuls of sieved flour.
Add the fruit and ground almonds; continue adding the spices and zest and mix well. Flavour with rum or brandy.
Put in a warm oven at 170º for 1 hour for a big one or just 30min for the mini versions. Much better if you are short of time than the 3 or 4 hours that Christmas baking usually entails!
Eat the next day with a cup of tea or if you want to make little new year’s gifts of them, feel free to cover with a sheet of marzipan and a duvet of icing and then decorate according to your fantasy. Wrapped up with a simple ribbon, they make delicious home-grown presents. We hosted some Christmas drinks last week and I gave one with a card to each of my leaving guest. If you are feeling like sharing more, they can go in a hamper with some jam!
Merry Christmas Joyeux Noel Feliz Navidad