Every year our Christmas ritual takes us past Shrewsbury to the village of Edgemond, for a huge family get together involving a rotating cast of children â€“ anywhere from 10 â€“ 15 under tens. They rampage about in the nicest possible way while we eat lunch, then they open presents amid much excitement and occasionally a little drama; â€œI like PINK not PURPLE. Honestly. Do you people know me at all?!â€
We walk around the village and then come home for cups of tea and entertainment â€“ a nativity play and a rousing rendition of Away in a Manger.
Thereâ€™s nothing like a child being a shepherd with a tea towel on his head to really bring home the spirit of the season.
Each year brings with it some kind of awesome nativity play treat:
The year when Joseph asked the inn-keeper whether there was room at the inn and he, in a controversial re-writing of the script, said yes, he thought there probably was.
The year when Arthur would not wear his King costume, and would only dress as a lion â€“ (apparently he wanted to be the Lion King)
The year when Nicolas wouldnâ€™t be a sheep, but would be the Nativity Tiger, a role which he took extremely seriously, curling his fingers under to make paws and growling if anyone came too close to the baby Jesus, played by Cousin Helenâ€™s very new baby Emily.
This makes it Christmas.
Pot roast beef with Shrewsbury Sauce (serves 4 â€“ 6)
This classic British stew is the perfect companion to a bowl of buttery mash potato.
3lb brisket 1 tbs olive oil 1 carrot 1 onion 3 sprigs thyme 1 bay leaf 2/3 bottle red wine (something youâ€™d drink, but nothing too fancy) Salt and pepper
For the sauce:4 tbsp redcurrant jelly (use cranberry jelly in a pinch, but donâ€™t tell Delia I said it was ok) 2 tbsp Worcester sauce 2 tbsp lemon juice (Clementine juice is also good) 1 tbsp butter 1 tbsp flour 1 tsp (heaped) English (Colemans) mustard powder Â
- Preheat the oven to 350f
- Quarter the carrots and onion, and put in a casserole dish
- Season the beef really well, then lay on top of the vegetables. Add the thyme and bay leaf, and pour in the wine
- Cover with foil and a tight fitting lid, then bake for three hours, turning the beef over every hour to ensure even cooking
- Take the beef out of the dish and wrap in foil to rest and keep warm while you move onto the sauce
- Strain the meat cooking liquid through a sieve, pressing down on the veg to get out all the flavor, then return the liquid to the pan and bring to a boil. Let it reduce for a few minutes
- Add the Worcester sauce and the jelly and whisk until they are incorporated
- In a little bowl, mash up the flour, mustard and butter (I use my fingers) to make a paste, then whisk in blobs of the paste so that the sauce thickens and turns glossy
- Add the lemon juice and season well, then simmer gently for 5 minutes
- Slice the beef, then spoon the sauce over, and serve some alongside in a jug for people to help themselves and pour into a cloud of mash potatoes
If You Can Make That You Can Make This
- Make a simpler beef stew by coating the beef in seasoned flour and proceeding as above, but serving the meat with the pan juice as is
- Or try a coq au vin