It’s coming on Christmas
They’re cutting down trees
They’re putting up reindeer
And singing songs of joy and peace
Oh, I wish I had a river I could skate away on.
(River by Joni Mitchell)
I look forward to Christmas like a child, especially the time of advent. But last Christmas was a poignant one. We lost Doris, one of our cats.
She fell down from the top of a cupboard and the painkillers she received destroyed her kidneys. In 10 days she changed from being vigorous to so sick there was no point of return.
The weather last Christmas echoed the feeling that something was wrong. Grey and rainy. No starfilled sky, no sound of snow under my feet, no glittering snowflakes in the air.
I miss her. I know she was just a cat and lived a good life. For eight years she was part of the family. For eight years we were together every day.
Last year I did not make the Christmas food I had planned to. My Christmas ice cream was never frozen.
But with a kid you cannot bury yourself in sand. So last year it was my first time to act as Santa Claus.
Ho ho! I played it well, but did not notice the far too baggy santa trousers slowly falling down my legs while I performed my little Christmas theatre to a wide-eyed son and a mother and grandmother who laughed so hard they could hardly stand on their feet.
Last year Loukas was too small to understand Christmas fully. This year though he is three years and filled with joy. We have already eaten clementines and sung traditional Christmas songs.
Together we will make homemade Christmas gifts, gingerbread men and maybe a crooked gingerbread house. Together we will be watching Christmas movies, slurp hot cocoa and maybe build a chubby snowman.
I look forward to giving him a paper cone with clementine and candy, the same as I received as a child. I look forward to opening the Advent Calendar with him. I look forward to getting the Christmas tree into our home and turn the lights on.
I look forward to the day before Christmas Eve when we will be eating Christmas porridge like I did with my parents and grandparents.
I look forward to Christmas Eve when we will be watching Disney films while our two new cats, Albert and Alfonso, will be playing with toy mouse they have just received.
When we ask Loukas what he desires for Christmas, he answers ”Christmas gift”. When we ask him what he wants inside the gift, he says: ”No, I don’t know”.
But he loves ice cream, and this year I will do what was not done last year. Loukas is very into Italy because we are going there next year, so I will make him Italian ice cream with hazelnuts. Gelato alla nocciola – e amore.
I have told him Doris is not here but in heaven. But then he rushes into our bedroom and points at a portrait on the wall and says: ”There, that is where Doris is.”
To me English fruitcake is part of Christmas. An English fruitcake consists of butter, sugar, flour, spices and dried fruit soaked overnight in alcohol. The plump fruit makes the cake moist with a delicate flavour. Traditional English fruitcakes mature for several weeks by regularly dripping them with alcohol. I make a non-alcoholic version with less sugar and flour but it still retains lots of moist and flavour. The orange makes this cake a little bit tangy. Wrapped in foil it keeps for a week. Makes one little loaf tin, so do double the amount. Here I have used small bundt pans, perfect as gifts. Loukas loves London too, and when I want him to try new things I sometimes tell him this is English food. So this cake is also known as “London cake”.
150 g dried fruit (a mix of apricots, cranberries and raisins)
1 organic orange (or 5 tbsp rum, brandy or cognac)
75 g butter, softened
75 g coconut palm sugar
2 organic eggs
100 g almond flour
50 g flour
1 tsp mixed spice (blend of cinnamon, ginger and cloves)
1. Cut the apricot in cubes and place in a small bowl with the rest of the dried fruit. Squeeze the juice of the orange. Leave to soak overnight or a minimum of three hours. The fruit will absorb the liquid and become plump and filled with flavour.
2. The next day put the oven on 160C/320F. Place parchment paper in a loaf tin.
3. Cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time until fully incorporated.
4. Add the dry ingredients, the zest of the orange and the soaked fruit.
5. Pour into the prepared tin and bake in the oven for about 45 minutes (or until a cake skewer comes out clean).