This morning I went to an Italian market in town to buy jars. There, the jars are for sauce and soups, but each year around this time I snatch empty ones for eggnog. I never liked eggnog much until I started making it; this one has rum and bourbon, and gets aged for 10 days before we start sipping. It is a work in progress— I've never even typed up the recipe, but it feels like it'll always be a part of our holidays.
I started writing on November 30th, but never got far. I've spent the last half hour trying to remember where I was planning to go from that paragraph, and what I'd hoped to say, but I can't reconstruct the memory. Maybe it's still as good as a start as any, because I'm happy to be here and talking again.
The bulk of that eggnog went to the annual holiday party Nikole hosts at the Herriott Grace studio. I held some back for our household supply, but went through it faster than expected and December 15, the fridge was dry. We made another batch, the halls were decked, and the holidays were as bright as we could make them.
There was a rice pudding I forgot to serve one night that was eaten in the morning as porridge, dusted aromatically with Ceylon cinnamon. I made gingerbread dough and the boys decorated cutout snowflakes on Christmas Eve. (On the topic, do you have a favourite gingerbread cookie recipe? I wasn't thrilled with the one we used.) The trifle on Christmas Day was one of the best in recent memory, its surface regal in gossamer silver leaf. Instead of the usual sponge, the base was an egg-rich coconut cake. It was heavy with vanilla and woolly with shredded coconut, and it held its own against the black raspberry filling, custard, and cream.
Through the days, and those meals, all the things I've wanted to mention have been rattling around my brain. So, we've got ground to cover.
I've been revising favourite essays of the year and finding new ones by working my way through this list: Longreads best of 2016.
Speaking of Herriott Grace, Sean and I have a pair of these little earthenware cups for our household nog—they are matte and feel like velvet in the hand. At the party we served it in these beauties, and they were equally perfect.
George Michael rehearsing for the Freddie Mercury tribute concert . (Yes, that's David Bowie watching from one side.)
Back in September, I started another column with The Globe and Mail. I am still in the Life section every month, and now in the Style section too, as part of Kitchen Cabinet. It a feature in rotation with three other cooks—they're proper chefs, actually, and I'm chuffed to be the odd one out. That cake up top was for my December column, and it was inspired by both sticky toffee pudding (a cake I enduringly associate with winter) and the Dark and Stormy cocktail (a drink I'm happy to have in hand any time of year). The cake is vaguely stodgy, freckled with waxy nubs of walnut, the leathery chew of dates, and fiery flecks of candied ginger. You soak the cake with some toffee syrup while it's still hot, then save the rest to offer at the table. I think it's a cake that will take us to spring.
A friend was looking for vegetarian recipes and one I recommended was Heidi's Green Lentil Soup with Curried Brown Butter. It's terribly good.
Ashley wrote about the Everyday Yellow Dal from Seven Spoons; I've often said that dal and rice, finished with a pat of ghee, flaky salt, and finely minced onion, is my never-fail comfort food. Ashley's words, capturing the fortifying effect of gathering at the table, are its ideal partner.
And finally, if you haven't seen it already, this piece by Molly isn't to be missed.
May this new year bring you such happiness. xo
RUM AND GINGER TOFFEE CAKE
FOR THE CAKE
Butter for pan
- 3/4 cup | 180 ml water
- 1/4 cup | 60 ml dark rum
- 1 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger
- Zest of half an orange, finely grated
- Zest of a lime, finely grated
- 12 ounces | 340 g pitted dates, Medjools preferred
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 ounces | 60 g walnuts, toasted and cooled
- 2 1/4 cups | 290 g all purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Scant 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 cup | 215 g dark brown sugar
- 3/4 cup | 170 g unsalted butter, soft
- 4 eggs
- 1/4 cup (50 g) finely diced candied ginger
FOR THE SAUCE
- 1/2 cup | 115 g unsalted butter, cubed
- 1 1/4 cup | 260 g dark brown sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
- 1 tablespoon black treacle or molasses, optional
- 2 tablespoons dark rum
- 1/2 cup | 120 ml heavy cream
- Seeds scraped from half a vanilla bean, or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Please refer to my column in The Globe and Mail.