Sometimes you just meet someone and you know. I met the lovely Cheryl at a book launch a couple of months ago. She's a writer of crime fiction and a fellow Accenteer. Anyways, talk turned to how we handled public readings and appearances....this is when Cheryl told me she practised in her front room, talking to a life-size cut out of Daryl Dixon. Who the hell is Daryl Dixon? Well, Google it...Daryl's only my TV husband! That's how I instantly knew she was a little bit cool. Very happy to welcome here today....
CHRISTMAS PUDDING AND BRANDY SAUCE
I grew up in a small village in Wales and the hub of my family home, like many others, was the kitchen. The room was dominated by a large Rayburn, this coal guzzling monster heated the water and cooked all our meals. It had two hot plates and two ovens giving lots of room to cook a family roast with the added bonus of a drying rack above.
In the winter my three sisters and I would come home from school, with hands numb from the cold, and stand in a row warming our backsides against the Rayburn until our mother shooed us away so she could cook diner.
In the run up to Christmas the kitchen would always be filled with mouth-watering aromas. The Christmas cake would be decorated and we would be given the left over marzipan. (My favourite bit of the cake.) Then there was the Christmas pudding. This alcohol and fruit steamed dish heralded the start of the Christmas countdown. A special bowl, cracked with age would be taken out and we would all wait patiently until the mixture was emptied and we could take a spoon and scrape the bowl. I’m not sure that the raw ingredients was good for us but it tasted delicious.
The house was always full at Christmas time, often loud and jolly with four excited girls and an array of guests. My father would invite people that he knew would be alone at Christmas. The day started with squeals of excitement as we opened our stockings then it would seem like an eternity until Christmas dinner was served. (We were not allowed to open our presents until after dinner!) Finally we would all sit around the table with paper hats and tell the appalling jokes in the crackers as the turkey was carved. When the main course was complete and we all felt like we couldn’t fit in another mouthful the Christmas pudding would be placed in the centre of the table. My father would stand, pour brandy over the pudding and light it. I loved to watch the blue flames dance around the pudding and was always amazed that it didn’t burn.
When the pudding was served a jug of brandy sauce was handed around. This was always my favourite part of the Christmas dinner. Usually I would smoother the pudding with this thick creamy sauce and would be so full that it was only the allure of the Christmas presents that would prevent me from curling up on the sofa and sleeping.
These Christmas memories are bitter sweet for me. I lost my father at a young age and still miss him lighting that Christmas pudding and handing out the gifts. Over the years I have lost the tradition of lighting the Christmas pudding but I still don’t open my presents until after dinner.
If you are having Christmas pudding this year here’s an easy recipe for the brandy sauce.
45g unsalted butter
45g Plain flour
45g caster sugar
285ml single cream
Melt butter in a saucepan, stir in the flour and cook for 1 minute over a low heat. Gradually add the milk and bring to the boil, continue to stir for 2 minutes. Let the mixture simmer for 5 minutes then add sugar, cream and brandy. Stir over heat for another two minutes but don’t allow to boil. Pour into a serving jug.
This sauce can be made the day before and reheated.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Cheryl Rees-Price was born in Cardiff and moved as a young child to a small ex-mining village on the edge of the Black Mountains, South Wales, where she still lives with her husband, daughters and two cats. After leaving school she worked as a legal clerk for several years before leaving to raise her two daughters.
Cheryl returned to education, studying philosophy, sociology and accountancy whilst working as a part time book keeper. She now works as a finance director for a company that delivers project management and accounting services.
In her spare time Cheryl indulges in her passion for writing, the success of writing plays for local performances gave her the confidence to write her first novel. Her other hobbies include walking and gardening which free her mind to develop plots and create colourful characters.
ABOUT FROZEN MINDS
When a man is found murdered at Bethesda House, a home for adults with learning difficulties, local people start to accuse the home's residents of being behind the killing. The victim was a manager at the home, and seemingly a respectable and well-liked family man. DI Winter Meadows knows there's more to the case than meets the eye. As he and his team investigate, Meadows discovers a culture of fear at the home - and some unscrupulous dealings going on between the staff. Does the answer to the case lie in the relationships between the staff and the residents - or is there something even more sinister afoot?