Steed contemplates the joy of a 1960’s Christmas, “Too Many Christmas Trees”, The Avengers, 1965.
Fed up with Christmas? Had enough? Can’t wait to return to the Blacking Factory? Does the Counting House call? Funnily enough, I’m rather fond of this time of year, the ‘in-between’ bit, I mean. The raw, midwinter weather of Boxing Day, with its sporting traditions: hunting, shooting, betting, and the racing on Channel Four. And then the run-up to the New Year; when the Christmas tree’s still up (just!), social media shuts down and your email feed collapses into a meaningless trickle. And you’re left alone. With a fabulous wife and a shoe-munching whippet; a bottle of Veuve yellow label and an old black and white movie.
London becomes a ghost town: London for Londoners; the deserted streets remind me of old black and white episodes from The Avengers. How I used to love that series! My all-time favourite episode has to be Too Many Christmas Trees, in which Steed and Mrs Peel spend Christmas at the Gothick country house of a nutcase obsessed with Dickens and Mrs Peel dresses up as a cheeky Oliver Twist.
Driven by the great god Mammon which everybody, these days, seems to worship without question, the modern focus is on the run-up to Christmas: decorations appear in the London shops while the verdant leaves still cling to the branches of the great planes trees in Berkeley Square.
Historically, of course, the twelve days of Christmas starts on Christmas Day and ends on January 5th, the Epiphany (January 6th), or even quite possibly, on January 7th, which as the erudite readership of the Spoon knows, is the date of the Russian Orthodox Christmas. I’ve never worked out in my head which is the right day (I’m counting aloud on my fingers as I type) so please feel free to put me right, those of you prepared to confess to a pedantic streak.
Food at this time of year is also a good thing. After all that turkey, all that goose, the soggy Christmas pudding, the migraine-inducing mulled wine and the sulphurous brussel sprout, Something light is the order of the day.
I’ve cooked my usual cider and honey glazed Christmas Ham (tweaking a recipe issued by the wonder that is Sarah Raven), and once I’ve finished this post, will start making a traditional Germanic Herring Salad. Mrs Aitch has also discovered Forman’s Smoked Salmon pate on the shelves of our local Waitrose in Nine Elms; outstandingly delicious. I cannot stress how addicitive this stuff is.
Tamasin Day-Lewis wrote a fascinating article in the Telegraph about H. Forman & Son, the only surviving East End smokery. The tradition of smoking salmon was brought to London by Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe in the late 19th century. Scottish smoked salmon only took off later, following developments in fish farming.
But, sorry Scotland, if you want the Real McCoy, Forman’s smokery is the place to go. Known for its “London Cure”, Forman’s uses dry salt rather than chemical brine and stretches the fish to improve the texture with a drip-dry effect.
And so to their Smoked Salmon Pate: it’s amazingly creamy in texture and has a lovely, savoury taste. I see that they make it with Mascapone cheese, which, I think adds to the creamy taste. Their superior concoction also includes unsalted butter, natural yoghurt, dill and shallots.
Tamasin Day-Lewis gives a recipe to create something similar for yourself, but to be honest, I am such a fan of Forman’s smoked salmon pate, it might be a good plan to hurry along to your local supermarket (both Waitrose and Sainsbury’s stock it) and bag a tub or two for yourself. While stocks last.