An isolated Christmas

Illustration by Suzy Varty

I’m going to be on my own at Christmas, all alone and shielding, and you know what? It doesn’t bother me in the least! I’ll not be having a Christmas lunch or a Christmas dinner. No way! What I’ll be having is a Christmas meal which this year will have an Italian feel. Not purely Italian, you understand, but the general theme will be Italian.

I’ll be getting up at about 9.30, when I’ll have my breakfast, and I’ll sort of potter around a bit until the meal starts sometime between 1.00 and 1.30.

This first course will be very simple, Prosciutto Melone, but it will be a slightly posher version: rather than prosciutto crudo it will be Parma Ham and the melon will be Galia rather than Honeydew because it has a slightly more tropical flavour.

Next, somewhere in the region of 3 o’clock will be the fish course. This will be Smoked Cod (Merluzzo Affumicato) topped with a poached egg (uovo in camicia), possibly – I haven’t decided yet – served with toast fingers.

As that is quite a strong taste, I think there may be a need for a palette cleanser to follow, perhaps 15 or 20 minutes later. A sorbet of some sort would work best. A lemon sorbet would keep the Italian feel but I do like mango sorbet, so a touch of India here perhaps!

About 5.00 it’s time for the main course. This year it will be petto di pollo arrosto in burro all’aglio, roast chicken breast in garlic butter, with shrimps (gamberetti). This will be accompanied by a dish of green vegetables (definitely cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower – I’m still not sure that sprouts would blend in – cooked in chicken stock with rosemary. For potatoes I’m going German: Bratkartoffeln – fried sliced potatoes with bacon and onion. Actually, one of my favourite restaurants in Wuppertal uses diced rather than sliced potatoes and fries them in butter but since I’m already having a garlic butter sauce I might just stick to oil. I wonder what it would taste like fried in sesame oil? I think I might try that in advance.

It’s going to be seven-ish at the earliest before I’m ready to eat again. I always find Christmas Pudding too heavy, so perhaps a classic Panettone (dried fruit rather than the chocolate variety) would make a good replacement. I had considered making a Panettone bread and butter pudding but I think I’ll have it with custard. Not very Italian, I know, but I love custard and as I’m cooking for me and me alone, custard it shall be!

Now this will probably be enough, what I was taught as a child to call an “elegant sufficiency.” Mind you, I thought the phrase was an “elephant sufficiency” so it must have been a pretty small elephant! But just in case it isn’t enough (who knows, given the amount of weight I’ve put on during this year of shielding), I’ll have some fresh fruit – perhaps a small fruit salad (macedonia della frutta) standing by, along with some chocolate, of course. And ice cream

However, if a post-prandial savoury is called for, there is my own creation: a half ciabatta bun, thickly spread with garlic butter, topped with a layer of finely chopped mixed dried herbs and cooked in the oven for about ten minutes at 180 degrees.

Of course, wines, both red and white, appropriate to each course, will be served, ending with prosecco, and then a final bedtime dram or two of the Lagavulin.

Now that’s what I call Christmas!