We never do much for New Year’s Eve. Once the shops have closed, and the bars and clubs have opened, we’re already tucked in cosily, with a bottle of champagne for me (OK, this year it’s an un-drunk bottle of Cava from Boxing Day), and a few beers for him, and nothing more debauched than maybe a little midnight feast of Welsh rarebit ahead of us. To my shame, I am listening to Absolute 80s radio while writing this and sipping my cava, which also to my shame is pink Cava, because why not?
Our somewhat naff town, on the other hand, is celebrating with its usual combination of heroic binge drinking and blowing shit up. It has its charms, does this place, but they’re really not best in evidence on New Year’s Eve.
Still, once I’d made the last run to the shops, after a day of wretched, cold, rainy weather, I was happy enough to drift into the kitchen to make a dinner suitable for seeing 2015 out. Everything near its sell-by date in the shops that won’t be open tomorrow was going dead cheap, and I came home triumphantly bearing some decent minced lamb and a couple of 10p avocados. A rustle through the pantry netted me a tin of chickpeas, and a tube of tomato purée, the spice rack offered up a jar of ras el hanout paste, there was a tube of harissa, rapidly ageing bunches of herbs, and a jar of preserved lemons in the fridge, onions and garlic in abundance, and my trusty tins of smoked paprika. A tasty quickie tagine was the result, along with a nice salad, featuring one of the avocados, some leftover olives, and patiently-ripened tomatoes, and the bit of dressing from the Greek salad I made on Boxing Day. But this:
was the part I was really looking forward to eating. I baked a fresh loaf of the maple-pecan wholemeal bread I made for Boxing Day (the remainder of which has long since met its destiny as cheese on toast, and oh boy, do we have a lot of cheese left over…), a recipe I originally got from Nigella Lawson’s How to be a Domestic Goddess, and which I have been tinkering with ever since. Today’s innovation was to use 300mls of dry cider (once again. left over from Boxing Day, are you sensing a theme?) instead of water, and slightly more than the usual amount of maple syrup, and I always mess with my flour mixes. This bread is not noticeably sweet; Phil thinks it mostly tastes like an exceptionally good, multi-grain “hippie bread,” — his words, not mine, but somewhat apropos — and it is gorgeous with cheese. Toasts nicely, as well. I’m not sure the cider really added anything to it, but it didn’t do it any harm at all. I washed it with egg, beaten with about a teaspoon of (yes, left over…) double cream, which gave it a nice shiny crust. It’s a bit fresh for toasting, but what the hell; we want our Welsh rarebit.
…and so we had it, as Phil decided Snacking Hour had come. I made my rarebit with some Cornish Yarg that went mostly untouched on Boxing Day, as I suspect the grimy-looking nettle leaf rind put our guests off, which is a shame, as Yarg is a very good cheese. In retrospect, I think maybe it was a bit too gentle for the rarebit, but the good dash of dry English mustard and generous shake of Worcestershire sauce livened it up.
And, two glasses of Cava, and one snack down, I am wondering if I’m going to make it to midnight. 2015 was, in many respects, not a great year for me, but it had its moments, and when those moments came, they were some of the best. I’m not sorry to see it pass, and I’m going to try to approach 2016 with a bit of cautious hope that perhaps the great moments will outweigh the not-great ones when its turn to be the year slipping away near midnight comes.