The night before Christmas, the whole salmon arrived. I’d asked for one big enough to feed ten people. Did they add a zero to that number? The salmon was enormous, about four feet long. There was no way I was going to get this beautiful creature into the oven.
“It’ll end up covered in pastry anyway” said my mum “you can put it together again”.
Mums are people who have done several Christmas dinners and Sunday roasts. They’ve been there, got their battle scars, earned their bravery stripes when faced with a large piece of flesh and a zillion vegetables and can offer valuable support. Christmas dinner is a nightmarish meal to create, even for myself who is used to cooking for large numbers of people.
“Just imagine” my mum comforted me” there are thousands of people all over the country who have got back from the pub having had a few drinks and forget to take the turkey out of the freezer. Christmas morning, they remember, and spend hours trying to defrost it in the bath, with hair driers, anything they can think of…”
Mum explained.”They put the gas pressure up on Christmas day. Imagine they normally have, say, a million dinners being cooked on an average day. On Christmas Day, everyone is going to be using their ovens, they will have several million dinners cooking…so they increase the pressure”
“Never mind” said mum ” you can cover it with cream, no one will know”.
“I think we need to leave it to dry out for a while”
But first we had to get the leaky fish off the kitchen surface onto a baking tray. This is impossible to do on a normal tray without the fish breaking up. I had an idea. The Aga comes with a cool shelf, a flat tin shelf that can be used to regulate the temperature, to prevent things burning on top.
“Lets use the cool shelf” I said “maybe we can slide it underneath the fish.”
Various solutions were offered…cover the shelf with tin foil…no let’s grease it…um shall five of us put a spatula underneath and lift it on…no… Finally my dad took over…lets just flip it over onto the shelf which is wedged underneath the edge of the salmon.
It’s more or less there. A bit of repacking needed. Quite a bit more kitchen towel to soak up the juices. The puff pastry is soggy and not enough to seal the enormous fish. Dad and the Teen go off in the car, cruising down the Kilburn High Rd, looking for more puff pastry in the ethnic shops which remain open on Christmas Day. The Teen returned with three packets of filo pastry.
“That’s not puff” I said
She looked crest fallen. Dad and the Teen set off again. Finally they bring three packs of frozen puff pastry. I put the packs on the Aga to defrost.
- Two Spaniards who booked last minute for they weren’t sure about transport from Spain. Actually they weren’t Spanish, but lived in Barcelona, one was Italian and the other Taiwanese.
- A friend of a friend who is allergic to Wifi to the point that she’s had her bedroom lined with tin foil (she was then named Tin Hat as shorthand) and her parents. I had to turn off the Wifi for the day.
- A gorgeous blonde Estonian lesbian or ‘Esto Lesbo’ as my sister called her, who lives nearby. My dad got merry and started to flirt with her, futiley. My sister claimed that she had her hand on my sister’s knee through out the meal and that she reckoned she’d pulled! In fact my whole family seemed to be competing with each other about who Esto Lesbo fancied more…even my Teen announced she was in with a chance…
- A lovely lady who had booked off wegottickets who I never really got a chance to chat to.
- My family which included The Teen, my parents and my sister.
- Just as the main course was about to be served, Fat Les of Bellaphon fame turned up, having walked for an hour from Marble Arch. Generous as ever, he’d bought two bottles of very good wine.
“the gruesome twosome”. (Bastard. Just because my sister and I are funny, extrovert and not thin and bland)
My dad said “I’ve heard their brother call them worse…”
I tried to joke: “Well as you are all away from your dysfunctional families for the day, it must be nice to join mine”.
“People want Christmas pudding. The foreigners want to try it”.
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