Twelfth Night is a movable feast

Our Christmas decorations were put away on Twelfth Night, 6th January. Christmas cards were taken down, messages re-read and then all put into a couple of bags to be taken to Sainsbury’s recycling box.

Removing everything from the Christmas tree took longer. After so many Christmases, every item has meaning, from the little glass bell bought in Germany decades ago, to the crocheted red hearts from a Swedish friend long ago.

Friends in Australia sent the Christmassy little kangaroo and koala that are hung on the tree each year. There are also shiny, ultra-thin glass ornaments that date from my childhood, as well as a simple paper decoration made by an old neighbour.

Everything has its own story, and it lives for 11 months in special boxes which are then carefully placed in a large bag before being stowed in a cupboard until the next December.

The whole process is rather sad: Christmas is over and done for another year.

It was a surprise, therefore, to see the Christmas trees, nativity scene and papier mâché angels still in their places on 13th January in Salisbury Cathedral when a friend and I visited.

Afterwards I did a little research and discovered that, if you follow the church calendar, you can display your decorations until the Feast of Epiphany which is a week later than Twelfth Night.

Perhaps I should do that in future and stay surrounded by our pretty things for a little longer.

There are no sentimental stories attached to the Brussels sprouts on this tree.

Salisbury Cathedral’s nativity scene the evening before epiphany.

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Leftover turkey ideas

THIS is the time of year when there is leftover turkey in the fridge. What’s to be done with it? If you’ve had enough of cold slices with cold stuffing and cold bread sauce, it can be sliced and put in the freezer and used within a few weeks, or you can make a savoury white sauce and serve it as blanquette of turkey.

Alternatively, you could mince or finely chop brown and white turkey meat together and make turkey meatballs. This recipe was inspired by seeing one for beef meatballs which were cooked in tomato sauce.

Turkey balls in tomato sauce.

Turkey meatballs in tomato sauce   

Serves 4

Ingredients

500g minced turkey meat (cooked or raw)

2 tbsps of fresh wholemeal breadcrumbs

1 finely chopped sage leaf, or 1 tsp dried sage

Salt & black pepper

1 large egg, beaten

For tomato sauce

1 onion, chopped (approx. 200g)

1 clove of garlic, crushed

400g tin of chopped tomatoes

1 tsp maple syrup

Method

Mix turkey and seasoning together in a bowl, add breadcrumbs and beaten egg, then, on a floured surface, shape the mixture into 20 balls.

Bring the sauce ingredients to the boil, lower the heat and carefully add the turkey meatballs in the sauce.

Cover and simmer gently for about 40 minutes, stirring from time to time.

Once cooked, place meatballs in warmed serving dish and cover with the tomato sauce.

If you prefer, you can use the same ingredients to make turkey burgers. Just use a tablespoon to make eight burger shapes and gently fry them, 10 minutes on each side, in a lightly oiled frying pan. See photo below.

Turkey burgers

Date, banana and walnut cookies

So you can’t stand mince pies either?

Your alternative could be these date, banana and walnut cookies. They also happen to be sugar-, dairy- and gluten-free.

There is no hard pastry and no mincemeat or bitter orange peel anywhere near them.

You can eat them all year round too, and not just at Christmas.

 Date, banana & walnut cookies

Makes approx. 18-20

Ingredients

85g dried dates, finely chopped

85g walnuts, finely chopped

3 medium bananas (skin-off weight approx. 225g)

2 cups of oats (buy gluten-free oats if you wish to)

3 tbsps veg oil, such as extra-virgin olive oil mixed with linseed oil

1 tsp vanilla essence

Method

Mix everything together really well and put tablespoons of the mixture onto an oiled or lined baking sheet.

Flatten them down a bit (they won’t spread while cooking because there is no egg/S-R flour/bicarb) and bake for about 20 mins max.

Leave to cool before storing in box in fridge.

They soften rather nicely after a day in their box.

I particularly like this recipe because, not only do the cookies taste good, but you only need to wash up one bowl and one spoon.

When Mary Berry came to town

Mary Berry pictured with her assistant, Lucy Young, in Salisbury.

WHEN this photo appeared on my computer slideshow I realised that I had taken it exactly 12 years ago.

Mary Berry and her long-serving assistant, Lucy Young, came to give a demonstration in the studio at Waitrose in Salisbury on 30 November 2005, and as far as I know that was the last time they visited this part of the county.

Since then, the legendary Mary has seen her career take off once more. Thanks to the BBC’s Great British Bake Off, her professional wisdom has been shown to a new generation of cooks and would-be cooks. A well-established television cook and writer of dozens of cook books over several decades, she had reached an age when she could have been forgiven if she’d declined the invitation to co-host the show.

So thank you, Mary, we salute you for proving that age need not be a barrier to success.

All caution abandoned

Tilly in one of the biggest and best puddles she has found this year.

WHEN I see how fastidious Tilly is about so many things, how careful she is when offered a titbit, and how she refuses to jump out of the car in the dark, I am always surprised by her attitude to muddy puddles. She goes straight in without any hesitation. There is never any question of walking in slowly to check the depth or making sure it is not going to cover her tummy in mud. In fact, the muddier the better, as she demonstrates in the photo above.

Nature goes its own sweet way

A self-sown sunflower that appeared from nowhere.

THE first photograph (above) shows a successful and wonderful sunflower, sown by a passing bird, which had nothing to do with The Happy Moonraker. There was no question of choosing the right position for it, no careful sowing of the sunflower seed, no watering, nothing. Just watching as this mysterious plant began to outstrip the neighbouring French beans in the vegetable plot. Easy gardening with a great result.

Carefully sown nasturtiums succumbing to a fatal problem, and no, it was not lack of water.

There is a moral somewhere because the window boxes of nasturtiums produced such a dreadful crop (above), in spite of all the care lavished on them.

A neighbour’s nasturtiums doing what they are supposed to do.

My neighbour, however, who claims just to have chucked the seeds into his brick tub, has the most amazing crop of flowers (above) that have lasted and lasted, and have made their way up and along from their original spot.

How can two attempts at growing nasturtiums just 100 yards apart produce such radically different results? It’s enough to make me abandon gardening altogether.