December 26, 2011

The Gift of Time- Xmas 2011

It has been a tough year and I really didn't feel much in the xmas spirit. My husband and I did put up our xmas lights, the wreath on the door and our silly kinder creche set as decorations. But perhaps not having kids, it is not such a big deal. We give ourselves gifts during the year, mostly time spent together visiting new places. Memories.

Here is the results of my xmas lunch.

The best part was that I put into practice one of the recipes we learned in Sicily, rolling my own couscous. Yes, you can make your own, it was lighter than the boxed version and very special, all you really need is time! That precious gift that you can only give yourself.

Years ago, I bought this lovely Sicilian plate at an antique shop in Florence near the Ponte Vecchio. I had no idea what it was for until I started going to Trapani. The regional specialty is cuscus with fish sauce. Being so close to Tunisia, it is easy to see how they adopted the recipe as their own.

Paula Wolfert told me the hardest part is to find the fresh semola,  not something that has been sitting on the shelf for ages. I am  lucky as we have a large arab community now in Tuscany and I went and bought my semola from a Halal butcher.

The semola is made into cous cous by slowly adding water to the grains and working with your fingers, in a circular motion. A sort of a zen-like movement. Very soothing. I made the couscous the day before and started steaming it over a pot of vegetable broth. It must be stirred occasionally.

I started the lamb earlier in the week as it was on the bone and I wanted to remove the bones and the excess fat before serving. Taking my time. Xmas day I reheated the lamb with its pan juices and added more spices, dried prunes and apricots. I put the cuscus back on to steam  and made some hummus, topped with toasted pine nuts and chili infused oil.

The red onion- cilantro garnish was a nice fresh touch on the stew. Next time though I will leave out the pomegranate arils as I really don't enjoy eating the seeds. They are pretty though, looking like little jewels.

In Italy, the day after xmas is also a holiday, Santo Stefano. Next we have La Befana, which is the Epiphany, when Italian children get their stockings with gifts. In recent years the whole crazy xmas frenzy with gifts has hit Italy too. But I still prefer La Befana, in my village, the local firemen have the Befana "fly" down into the piazza from a building across the road! Quite acrobatical!

I am so happy to not have had the normal xmas food orgy although I am sugared out from tasting all the sweets I made to give to my vendors! Today is a simple brunch, some nice home fries for a late breakfast and then some simple tagliatelle with butter and 3 year old parmesan cheese for dinner!

That is the real Alfredo sauce. Just butter and cheese!

Will post that tomorrow for you as my gift!

My xmas gift to us-- a platter from Cassandra's shop in San Gimignano, I adore the pomegranate and her use of gold on the dish. Normally she only does paintings, but has a small selection of ceramics now in her shop.


  1. Thank you for encouraging me to try out fresh couscous. All the Tunisians and Moroccans I met couldn't help singing the praises of the home made version, while simultaneously not being able to remember when the last time was that they had enjoyed it! Your description sounds easy if time consuming. An approximate amount of water and time would really help. Thanks!

  2. Making our own couscous is something that needs to be tried in 2012.

  3. great it is a best thing to look forward making my own couscous. thanks

  4. This sounds like a great challenge for 2012. I'm sorry to hear that you've had a hard year, you would never know it by the cheer and inspiration you bring to the world through this blog. Thank you so much for sharing and may 2012 bring you joy.

  5. Time is perhaps the best gift of all. And using time - to create all fresh - from scratch and share the meal with someone you love is what brings joy.

  6. Lovely post udy - I agree, the gift of time is precious and one we rarely give ourselves!!!

    Your Christmas lunch looks lovely - I ha dno idea that one could make their own couscous - now if only I can find some fresh semolina.

    Your gift to yourself is beautiful - a piece of art you can dmire every time you put it on the tble.

  7. I love couscous but never seem to get around to making it. Not sure why, it's really delicious. I guess it was never part of my culinary upbringing.

    I had a tough year, too, by the way, although nothing as terrible as losing a loved one. Best wishes for a much better 2012!

  8. What a lovely lunch! I had no idea that one could make their own couscous! Sounds delicious. Have a wonderful New year.

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