Today is the Feast of St. Nicholas. Father Christmas, or Santa Claus, is partly derived from this saint. In Holland and other parts of Europe, children put out a boot for Saint Nick on the night of the 5th December to get presents. St. Nicholas has, I think, a creepy assistant called "Black Peter" who gives naughty kiddiwinks a lump of coal.
For me, the run-up to Christmas really starts about now. I was in a Black Cab with a friend a few nights ago, and as we sped through Sloane Square on the way back to the mean streets of Battersea, the Christmas lights looked fantastic. Bond Street is also currently looking pretty amazing.
Anyway, as I'm now in that sort of mood, I thought it might be a good plan to have a look at Gingerbread. As a ginger fanatic, I can't get enough of the stuff. Here is a recipe to make Gingerbread Men (I'm rebelling against the latest politically correct trend to call them Gingerbread People. The world is mad enough as it is).
I've adapted this recipe from the internet. First you need to pre-heat your oven to 170 C. Line a baking tray with baking parchment to stop the Gingerbread sticking. Melt 125g of unsalted butter, 100g dark muscavado sugar, and 4 tablespoons of golden syrup (that's the stuff in those picturesque old-fashioned tins). Sieve 325g flour, a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda, and two teaspoons of ground ginger into a bowl, and then stir in the melted ingredientsto form a dough. Use your hands!
Turn the dough out on to a lightly floured board, and using a rolling pin, roll it out to a reasonable thickeness. I like them quite thick.
Now for the fun bit. You can use a Gingerbread Man cutter thing (available from cookshops) to make Gingerbread Men, or if you prefer other shapes, you can make stars, and biscuits, and goodies like that. Place them on the tray, shove in the oven, and cook them for about nine to ten minutes. When they're cooked properly, you can decorate them with icing. Frankly, I can't be bothered, and they're long gone before then. Patience is a virtue- and it ain't found in me.