Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Nigella's Christmas Kitchen - Salzburg!

Oh MY GOD! We're in Salzburg, land of Mozart and the Von Trapps. The Salzburg Christmas market looks like a postcard and winter really agrees with Nigella as she's in a comfy white trenchcoat and is happily declaring her love of Christmas and its twinkling lights. OH! The Nigella Christmas Kitchen lights! Oh how I love them! Cut to yet another market shot, this time with candied apples. And then linzer cookies! Next Nigella's on a balcony overlooking the market talking about the aroma of mulled wine. This episode she will make Christmas cake (fruitcake), ham, and spiced hard cider.

Dear god I want to hop a plane right now to do to Salzburg. It's so quaint and pretty. (And it really is that way). Nigella comes home with her suitcase and waxes on about the aromas of Christmas at home. Her first dish is mulled hard cider. To show I'm a lightweight, I spent my year in England drinking pints and pints of hard cider as I still couldn't appreciate a good lager (I still can't). Nigella points out she's doing cider instead of wine because wine can get a cough syrup thing going on. I completely agree. One time J and I bought this bottle of organic cherry juice form Trader Joe's and it was like drinking cough syrup. BLECH! Anyway, into the pot goes cinnamon sticks, cardamom (Scandinavian and Middle Eastern at the same time), brown sugar, clementines with cloves stuck into them, bay leaves (?), and ginger and apple tea and finally a splosh of rum. She lets the mixture simmer for 10 minutes and ladles a cup for herself. I love that she admits she cracks cardamom with her teeth. Oooh! Bumper with the Christmas lights!

Bumper back to the show, we get Nigella slicing a ham and then a happy scene of people eating around a Christmas tree. At the kitchen, Nigella says that until recently she's cooked her hams the way her mother does, which is to say immersing them in simmering water to leech out the saltiness. Nigella says that the new hams aren't as salty so that method isn't relevant. In the bottom of her couscous steamer, Nigella puts the ham (snugly!) and red wine. Nigella wins me over even more by expressing her disdain fr highfalutin wine writers that talk about blackberry scents and new car smells (hee!). She does, however, appreciate the aromatic flavor of wine. Into the pot goes fennel, an onion, garlic, fennel seeds, peppercorns, and star anise. She then adds enough water to over the ham. The ham will cook for three hours to infuse with the winy juices. Oh more Salzburg!

After Salzburg, Nigella makes a glaze with red currant jelly, smoked paprika, cinnamon, and red wine vinegar. While the jelly melts, Nigella takes the rind and a little of the fat off the ham and cuts a diamond pattern into the remaining fat and inserts cloves into the diamond pattern. She puts the glazed ham in a hot oven to cook the outside for 15 minutes. A typical entertaining Nigella meal scene. Lots of conversation around the giant Dr. Seussian ham.

I feel a kinship to Nigella because she's telling us how she prefers winter holidays in the snow to tropical vacations. As someone who honeymooned in Toronto in January, I heartily agree. She does this in front of a gorgeous ski slope. At home, Nigella makes cookies with her kids. This time they actually cook with her, measuring the flour, butter, sugar, baking powder and cinnamon and black pepper (to keep the children from eating them all). To the mixture she adds an egg, beaten with honey. What I love is that the ids are doing the cooking. I can't wait to see her daughter Cosima all grown up because right now she has those interesting, slightly awkward features that say "supermodel in five years." The kids roll out the cookies and bake (making sure to cut out a hole to turn them into ornaments). To decorate they use white icing and silver dragees.

Nigela then narrates the cookie decorating from the ski slopes. Her kids genuinely look like they are having fun decorating. Nigella's last dish is a fruitcake! Yay! I love fruitcake. It was something my grandmother loved and it just brings back Proustian memories. If only they would leave out those bizarre green things. Anyway into a pot, Nigella throws raisins, currants, and chopped prunes (which she describes as wrinkled up teddy bear noses). As she chops, she talks about the horror of bad fruitcake but says fruitcake is necessary. Her version is to put everything into a saucepan. Into the fruit she throws in Tia Maria coffee liquer, butter, pumpkin spices, dark brown sugar, and honey. To the thick mond of liquid she puts in the zest and juice of an orange. Finally she adds a few tablespoons to chocolate to give a ghost of chocolate flavor. She lines the cake time with a crown of reusable baking parchment. Into the fruit and stuff, she adds the cake ingredients of eggs, flour, and baking soda. The cake goes into a low oven for two hours.

When the cake comes out she decorates it with chocolate covered espresso beans and edible glitter (to choirs of angels singing) along with edible gold stars and another round of silver dragees. What is up with her thing with dragees? Is she trying to break a tooth? Ah another Nigella entertaining scene with kids decorating the tree and people eating fruitcake. We end with Nigella diving into a huge piece of fruitcake as a late night snack and having a nip of Tia Maria.


ScottE. said...

I've been dying to do a big fat ham since seeing this episode. Mmmm. Pepper in cookies...last year I made pfeffernusse...pepper cookies...they were great...going to make them again in a few days...great holiday cookies.

Lula de Montes said...


I've prepared the mulled wine yesterday since I'd run out of hot cocoa and really needed a warm drink. My SO, who hails from Cape Cod, USA, edged nearer and neared and then requested a sip, declaring it as good as anything ever had at Fancy's Farm Stand. I'll take that as a compliment.

But the ham: we prepped it tonight, since we had guests over for dinner.
Aside from the delicious aromas, wafting through the house, and the taste (oh, the taste), I was left asking myself: isn't it a bit dry? Could this be because we used a smoked ham? Frankly, this was the first time ever that we prepared a ham in this house.

Charlotte Welcher said...

God's gifts put man's best dreams to shame. ~Elizabeth Barrett Browning Nice comment!

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