I’ve come to accept the fact that New Year’s resolutions don’t really work for me. But this year I heard of two things that I quite liked the sound of. The first is that in the run up to midnight on New Year’s Eve, you write down all the things from the preceding year that you didn’t much like and would like to say goodbye to on a piece of paper – which you then ceremoniously burn as a sort of declaration that it’s over and never coming back. What the heck, it may be mumbo jumbo, but what have you got to lose? So. After toying with some habitual FOMO (by which I will be forever plagued, being the youngest of four children) – namely, should we be going out to a raucous party (who has raucous parties these days anyway?) or throwing a small dinner for 8-12), we decided to stay in and see the year in with a fire (for burning paper scraps); martinis, smoked fish and steak with béarnaise sauce. And after we ate that (the steak is only really to justify the béarnaise, I realised) at 11pm ish we wrote our unwanted happenings down (including FOMO, in my case) and burned them. And that is how we said goodbye to the old, and hello to 2015, which brings me to the other thing I heard about, which I like the sound of. On the one hand it may sound a bit like new-age crap, but on the other, it somehow tickles my fancy: over the next year, whenever something happens that you want to remember because it is so lovely, or joyful, or happy, or funny, write it down on a piece of paper, and put it in a jar, to be opened on New Year’s Eve 2015 (presumably before or after you have burned all the moments you want to forget or things will get in a bit of a tangle). Here is to a very happy 2015 – with many delicious snacks. Hurrah!
Obviously, this is not really a recipe; more of a suggestion. We ordered posh smoked salmon from Able and Cole and, I have to say, the difference between that (smoky, and sort of matt compared to emulsion) and the supermarket stuff you can buy in bulk for about 2.95 (which can be greasy and tasteless) was remarkable. It is well worth having it four times less frequently and spending four times as much. Also, I suggest serving it with a small ramekin of horseradish (The English Provender Co. make neat horseradish which you can mix with home-made mayo or yoghurt but I quite like it neat) and another of cornichons. I insist on serving salmon with toothpicks, due to a long-standing phobia of fishy light switches and fridge handles, the smell of which lingers for days after just a couple of careless fishy-fingered touches (shudder). Served with a martini this felt delicious and special – but not too filling.
Steak bearnaise (from How to Eat by Nigella Lawson)
After reading about meat farming it’s pretty obvious that, really, we’ve all got to become vegetarian. Until that happens, however, I resolve to try and eat organic meat that has been sustainably produced – just a lot less of it. So our steaks were organic Duchy ones. And Tom made the béarnaise, which consists of the following ingredients and an awful lot of whisking. This serves 4 but we made it all for the 2 of us and definitely ate more than half (Hello, festive layer. And woe!). We ate it with zesty green salad, white bean mash (of course) and spicy squash (also, of course).
1-2 shallots, chopped finely (to yield 1 tbs)
2 tbs fresh tarragon leaves, chopped, and their stalks, chopped roughly and bruised
1 tbs chervil, chopped
2 tbs wine or tarragon vinegar
2 tbs white wine
1 tsp peppercorns (preferably white), crushed or bruised
3 egg yolks
1 tbs water
200g soft unsalted butter, cut into 1cm dice
juice of 1/4 – 1/2 lemon
Put the shallots, tarragon stalks, 1 tablespoonful each of the chopped tarragon and chervil leaves, the vinegar, wine and peppercorns into a heavy-based saucepan and boil until reduced to about 1 tablespoon. Don’t move from the stove: this doesn’t take long. Equally you can use 4 tablespoonfuls of vinegar and omit the wine.
Press the reduced liquid through a sieve or tea strainer and leave to cool. Put egg yolks and water into a bowl. Set over a pan of water that has come to a simmer. Add the reduced and strained liquid and whisk well. Keep whisking as you add the butter, cube by cube until it is all absorbed. Taste, and season and add lemon juice as you wish. Treat it as hollandaise to keep it warm and avert curdling. Stir in the remaining tablespoon of fresh chopped tarragon as you’re about to serve it. Serve with steaks, fried in a hot pan for a short time, and green salad made bloody with the juices.