As the festive season approaches, and chefs all over town glumly resign themselves to cooking for office parties, it is time for The Gannet to turn his beady eye away from restaurants and focus instead on the finest fare for the Christmas table.
To kick off the feast, nothing is better than a few sublime slices of pata negra jamón, and there is none finer than Cinco Jotas. The cured legs of exclusively pure-bred, acorn-fed, black-hoofed Iberian pigs, it is sensational stuff. Voluptuously silky and buttery, with a sweet, nutty flavour, it is one of the world’s great delicacies and needs no accompaniment other than a pretty plate.
Then for the bird: turkey or goose? Farmison & Co, the award-winning Yorkshire Dales-based online butcher, stocks both, but if – like me – you find a goose won’t quite stretch around the festive table, while a turkey tends to commandeer the fridge for days, there is a splendid alternative: a free-range cockerel. A perfect size to feed six hungry guests, its tender meat has superb depth of flavour – roast it with butter, thyme and lemon, and you will have plenty to crow about… unlike the poor old cockerel, of course.
You do not have to visit the pretty Cumbrian village of Cartmel and its Village Shop to purchase an exemplary Christmas pudding (or its famed sticky toffee pudding, should you prefer) – that can be done with the click of a mouse. But, should you be in the area, book a table and a berth at L’Enclume, Simon Rogan’s superb restaurant-with-rooms in the village, and pick up your pud the following morning. Don’t forget the brandy butter.
After the feast, perk your guests up with one of the world’s finest coffees. The Difference Coffee Company has come up with the ingenious idea of putting such exalted names as Wild Kopi Luwak, Hawaii Kona Champion and Jamaican Blue Mountain into capsules that fit a Nespresso machine. It pays top-dollar for award-winning beans, roasts and grinds them, then puts them in nitrogen-flushed capsules to keep the coffee fresh.
Difference coffee makes a damn fine espresso martini, too; but, at this point in proceedings, the Gannet will reach for something pleasingly peaty from the sideboard – in an ideal world, a dram of one of Port Ellen’s legendary bottlings, from Justerini & Brooks – and spark up a cigar. This year’s most sought-after stick is the Cohiba Talisman, the mighty new vitola (a Cañonazo Doble) from one of Havana’s finest brands, via Hunters & Frankau, and at least an hour of smooth, creamy, spicy bliss. Sold in boxes of 10, they would also make a perfect gift for the cheroot fancier in your life. The Gannet generally agrees with the adage that it is better to give than to receive, but he will happily make an exception for the Cohibas.