Molly Tait-Hyland

An Instinctive Cook at Christmas

by Molly Tait-Hyland The Food 1 Dec 15

Molly Tait-Hyland enjoys some festive breakfast treats

Christmas morning is the most exciting and jolly morning of the year. For the cook, it’s probably the most stressful too. The turkey has to go into the oven (only it won’t quite fit); small hands scrabble at presents that demand to be opened (without delay!); the potatoes have to be slathered in goose fat and sublimely roasted (the all important crispy/fluffy balance needs attention) and everyone wants SOMETHING. No matter how much planning and preparation goes in, it’s always a kind of cheery chaos, or... just chaos. Even if you aren’t cooking, a good breakfast is needed to cope with the frivolities of the day. Stocking-chocolate and damson vodka is delicious, but doesn’t stave the hunger off for long.

On November’s Instinctive Cook, 'clementine and Campari marmalade' and 'festive Chelsea buns' were on the menu. These lovely recipes can be prepared well in advance and are perfect for Christmas morning. Using seasonal ingredients is what Thyme's instinctive cookery classes are all about. Chefs Marj and Daryll take enormous pleasure in devising a class based on the best produce from the garden and local suppliers. At the moment, clementines are at the height of tastiness. Like tangerines, they are seedless, juicy and sweet. Campari, a bitter crimson liqueur, complements the orange flavours. Yes, this is a Negroni (Daryll's favourite cocktail) in jam form. Thyme's marmalade method is incredibly easy. In essence, it's boil, chop, boil, but see the recipe for some excellent tips and tricks. To serve, liberally spread on hot buttery toast. If you can bare to spare a jar or two, these make fine Christmas gifts.

In English Food, Jane Grigson describes the Chelsea bun as “the best of all buns, on account of their buttery melting sweetness, and the fun of uncoiling them as you eat them”. A simple twist - replacing currants with dried cranberries and adding a little almond to the glaze - creates a delightfully festive flavour. This, and the 'flying sponge' (see recipe) is what separates these breads from the norm. These are best served hot, so pop them in the oven for ten minutes before breakfast. Restraint is futile, as Marj and Daryll would say: "Crack open the English Sparkling, its never too early - it's Christmas".