CHRISTMAS 2010 RECIPES

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Christmas recipe serves: 16
calories per serving: 495
preparation time: 25 minutes
cooking time: 1 hour 40 minutes
Suitable for freezing after step 5

Christmas recipe ingredients:

oil for greasing
white chocolate, 125 g (4 oz)
milk chocolate, 125 g (4 oz)
plain chocolate, 375 g (13 oz)
softened butter, 175 g (6 oz)
caster sugar, 175 g (6 oz)
ground almonds, 175 g (6 oz)
eggs, 6 separated
breadcrumbs, fresh brown 75 g (3 oz)
cocoa powder, 45 ml (3 tbsp)
orange, grated rind & juice from 1
salt, pinch
double cream, 150 ml (5 fl oz)

Christmas recipe instructions: 1.Chop the milk and white chocolate into unequal pieces. Take an 8 inch (20.5 cm) diameter cake tin and grease and line.

2.Melt plain chocolate (225 g, 8 oz) over hot water and allow to coll for a bit.

3.Mix the sugar and butter until airy and add the orange rind, ornage juice, cocoa powder, breadcrumbs, egg yolks, ground almomds and the melted chocolate.

4.Make soft peaks with the salt and egg whites and blend a quarter into the mixture from step 3. Mix what is left with the chopped chocolate from step 1.

5.Place into the cake tin and bake at gas mark 4 (180 degrees centigrade, 350 F) for 1 hour 40 minutes. Allow to cool for about quarter of an hour before placing onto a wire rack.

6.Melt the remaining plain chocolate (150 g, 5 oz) with the cream over a bowl of hot water and allow to thicken slightly. Cover the cake with this mixture, cool and store.

We have a lovely tradition in Hebden Bridge (a gorgeous little town in Yorkshire, UK). On Christmas Eve, in the early evening, the townspeople gather in the square, around the tree, to sing carols accompanied by the local junior brass band. Afterwards we ask everyone we know to come back to ours for mulled wine and mince pies. Sometimes just a few people come, but usually lots do.

Now, my partner is a bit of a paragon, works outrageous hours and still manages to cook fabulous food for the girls and me most nights. Because of this I have built up an expectation that when folks gather for yule cheer, HE will be involved in serving up the mulled wine.

The reality for many years was that I would become increasingly hot and stressed as people piled through the door and queued for their festive cup. My beloved, meanwhile, was knocking back the vino and engaging in animated conversation, oblivious to my ‘suffering’.

By the time I emerge from my sticky, red corner, the first wave of guests had moved on to other gatherings and I was slightly grumpy. At the end of the evening, he was always slightly taken aback by my uncharitable, unseasonable and frankly, unusual low spirits, and I was always feeling slightly guilty about having minded. We would then have a rather sulky discussion about it and forget it until just after the party started the following year, when I would remember that ‘it’s always like this’.

SO – one year I decided we should discuss it BEFORE Christmas Eve (Doh!) i.e. BEFORE I got all hot and bothered about it. We both talked about how we felt about the annual event – and we agreed to share the tasks – and (blindingly obvious, this one) to encourage people to get their own refills. During the event we would make a point of checking each other is OK and be on hand to mop up spills, great new guests etc. We talked to the girls about it as well, and though they had always helped by taking coats they were delighted to get involved in all the other erstwhile ‘chores’.

What a HUGE difference that made – my expectations, my vision for a warm and welcoming happy family-hosted gathering was finally translated into a reality. Apologies of those of you who are thinking along the lines of ‘not exactly rocket science, that one, Jan’ – believe me, it felt like it at the time.

However, maybe this scenario strikes a chord for you. Your Christmas expectations are always scuppered, and it has a feeling of inevitability about it. If so, you might like to try the following in an effort to defuse the potential situation in good time. First of all, take a few minutes to ask yourself:

What are the things that sometimes go wrong, or give you stress at Christmas?
Is there a feeling of inevitability about this?
Have you got any control or influence over the situation?
If you answered ‘no’ to that last one, just check it again, are you absolutely sure there is nothing YOU can do? What are all the different things you could do to deal with this? (and this is when you are allowed to make crazy suggestions, sometimes the daftest ideas contain a real germ of wisdom. All I ask is that in the spirit of Christmas, your ideas should not involve violence ;)
Which of those suggestions feels possible?
Whose support do you need to make it happen?
What resources (time, money, people, kitchen paper) do you need to make it happen?
Now you have to take action (that’s always the crunch with coaching!): At a time when you are feeling relaxed and happy, open a discussion with the key players about this stress-point. You could tell the other person you always worry about this and you really want to make sure its OK this year. In a nutshell:
Be clear how you would like it to be
Ask the other person how they would like it to be
Discuss your hopes and expectations with each other
Decide on the division of labour (if that is the issue)
Agree to be kind to each other
Agree with them to talk about how it’s going

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