I may be tempting fate but at the moment everything for Christmas is under control. However over the next few days is when all those things that were ordered weeks ago start to get delivered, and the serious work begins. It’s also the time when all the things you’ve forgotten start to surface (memo: clear the freezer, find the crib set, cut down some holly – and where is that stand we put the tree on?) Time was when we used to get away from it all and go to Barbados for Christmas, but we did miss the traditional English Christmas with the festival of carols, log fires and a nip in the air. Michael says he also missed the predictability of it all, like knowing at ten o’clock on Christmas morning he would be peeling Brussels sprouts. He finds that very comforting.I see the Daily Telegraph this week recommends Delia Online for all its Christmas coverage, which is very kind of them. But it’s true that many years of sweating through the festive season have been distilled into these pages, so I know what you’re going through and I hope you can find all the answers you need here – and that you have a very happy and peaceful Christmas.For my final recipe before Christmas I have chosen scallops a) because December is the best month for them, and b) they make a good starter for Christmas Eve or New Year’s Eve. And next week there will be a recipe for using leftovers – and you may like to know in advance it uses leftover roast parsnips and Stilton.
Serves 4 as a starter
Begin by slicing the white parts of the scallops into rounds and putting the corals on one side for later. Then poach the sliced scallops and the grapes in the wine and vermouth – gently and for only one minute. After that strain everything and reserve the liquid.
Next melt the butter in a saucepan then stir in the flour till smooth. Now add the scallop liquid a little at a time, stirring the whole time till you have a smooth sauce. Season with salt and pepper and continue to cook very gently for another five minutes or so. Pre-heat the grill at this point, at its highest setting, for ten minutes. Take the pan off the heat then add the whites and the corals, along with the cream. Give it a stir then bring back to heat, being careful not to let it boil. Divide the mixture between the scallop shells or gratin dishes, then pop them under the grill (four inches from the source of the heat)for 2-3 minutes till browned and bubbling. to brown a little.
Serve garnished with watercress and some good bread to mop up the juices. Note: if you want to make this in advance, that’s fine. In which case, to serve them, once you have the grill really hot, position them six inches from the heat and grill them for about five minutes until as above.