Cooking without interruptions, Christmas music on the stereo, making food for friends and making - at least in my head - plans for the year that is only a few weeks away. I just love this time of the year when it gets dark early and I feel like I'm in the cocoon of my own little world. I don't really know whether I want to come out of it or not, it's like I'm just a little in two minds about it. The other day I was lamenting the fact that being a freelancer means no Christmas party with colleagues - not that they're generally that great - and that everybody is out there is having a ball apart from me. Then I settled down for a perfectly cosy evening, candle light and some wine and thought that the lack of a party isn't actually a bad thing and that I'm perfectly content with the way things are.
Yes, I do sometimes wonder what has happened to the party animal I used to (pretend to?) be, the person who could literally dance through three nights and emerge fairly unscathed on a Monday morning. Then I wonder whether I actually really did enjoy it or whether it was just one of those things that everybody did and I simply got carried away with the crowds. Deep down, I've always been a homely person, trying to create my own little world and pretty happy to stay in it. I've always enjoyed having people round more than going out, so I guess the clues were there a long time ago...
Anyway, back to this weekend and the food. I could have posted the Boeuf Bourguignon I made, but, quite frankly, there are already enough recipes online for that one. Instead, here's the dessert. I wanted to make one that wouldn't be too heavy after a main course but would still be indulgent and sweet. Since clementines are very much in season, it seemed like the perfect fruit to use. So, I decided to simmer the whole fruits in a heavily fragranced syrup. Now, it has to be said that this might not be to everybody's taste. The candied clementines are super sweet yet very bitter at the same time which could be overwhelming for some palates. However, the vanilla ice cream I served them with provides a smooth and soothing contrast to the sharpness of the fruit and works really well. The vanilla and star anise give them a lovely additional fragrance.
You will need:
- 9 clementines
- 700g caster sugar
- 500ml water
- 2 whole vanilla pods
- 3 star anise
And here's how it's done:
- pierce the clementines all over with a toothpick - around 15 times should do
- put the clementines into a deep pan
- add the sugar, water, vanilla pods and star anise
- bring to a simmer
- cover and simmer for two hours - do not boil
- leave to cool slightly and serve