Christmas Stocking

Like many of you, no doubt, we’ve been stocking up on the necessary goods to tide us over the Christmas period.  

However, Rose tested positive for Covid yesterday, so our most important stocks now look like this:

A collection of lateral flow tests

Rose isn’t suffering much, and we were planning a fairly quiet Christmas anyway, so it’s not a bad time for it to happen!

I’m still showing negative, so am being sent out promptly to do any shopping before that dreaded second pink line appears on my tests too. And that means that I am in full control of the purchasing of the brandy cream which you might have spotted in the top right of my picture. Ho ho ho!

Now, I’ve always liked to consider myself something of a connoisseur of mince pies, and, in the absence of proper home-made ones, I have to say that those carrying Heston Blumenthal’s brand in Waitrose have been consistently good over the years. This year is no exception.  I wouldn’t know Herr Blumenthal (or any other celebrity chef) if I bumped into him in the street, but his pies, this year coming in a larger-than-usual format with a ‘lemon twist’ are decidedly tasty.  And they have an important characteristic for those who, like me, are the sole consumer in the household: they stand up rather well to being microwaved.  Herr B might be shocked at the suggestion, but you really can’t heat up an oven just to warm an individual mince pie.  Not two or three times per day. No, 15-20 secs on 600W is the only viable solution, unless, I guess, you have an always-on Aga.  Mmm.  I always thought there must be a raison-d’être for those, even in the modern age…  Perhaps for next Christmas…

Anyway, mince pies can, of course, be improved even further with a topping of brandy cream, and here too, Waitrose has come up trumps this year with their Courvoisier-infused extra-thick variety.  I’ve always considered brandy cream superior to brandy butter and I’m discovering that even their smallest pot is still sufficient to extend to a variety of other uses after the mince pies have been exhausted.  Porridge, for example, will certainly benefit from a dollop of it, alongside the brown sugar and blueberries.

But the thing that made me seriously consider starting a petition to Waitrose, asking them to stock it all year round and not just at Christmas, was a couple of evenings ago when I first tried it with hot chocolate. Oh my word! (as they would say down under).

Make yourself a proper hot chocolate (which means using hot milk – none of this water-based nonsense).  Use an electric blender or whisk to dissolve the chocolate beans, flakes or whatever — these are rather good — and then finish it off with a decent-sized floating island of extra thick brandy cream, before putting your feet up in front of Crooks Anonymous or Where Eagles Dare, and you can be sure of a jolly good evening.

Even if you do have Covid.

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© Copyright Quentin Stafford-Fraser