Christmas

This Christmas is going to be very different, for lots of reasons. This is our first Christmas without my wonderful Ma, she passed away last spring. There are so many things I miss about her but most of all I miss her wicked,sometimes twisted sense of humour, she was so hilarious, even through the dark times she made me laugh. I mean throw your head back and really laugh so hard , your sides would hurt and tears would come and they would so quickly turn to such painful tears of sadness towards the end. I miss her so much.

So this year , we are throwing open our doors, so to speak and we will be thirteen sitting down to lunch(will have to find a teddy to make it 14). Truthfully, it will be a huge distraction from our collective sadness. Turkey and ham with all the trimmings was her all time favourite meal-so we're not going the traditional route. I'm a great believer in keeping things simple, so we're going to have smoked salmon, fillet of beef and a tiramisu .

Now fillet of beef is a luxury item but it doesn't have great flavour. So I'm going to ratchet up the taste by cooking a fabulous jus.

It's not a complicated process, or labourious, but I'm a great believer in doing things properly and economically if at all possible.

You will need to ask your butcher for some beef bones, chopped up.

Then all you need to do is toss them into a roasting dish along with some pieces of onion, carrot(no need to peel either of those), some celery and roast in a hot oven until nicely coloured.  Chuck everything into a large pot, add in some more of the same veg plus some garlic, herbs, peppercorns and tomatoes. Deglaze the roasting tray with some water, scraping up all of those lovely caramelly crispy bits and put into the large pot and top it up with cold water.

Bring it to the boil and reduce to a simmer. Every so often, skim off any scum from the top. I left mine to simmer all day , then passed it through a large sieve into a much smaller pot. At this stage, taste it, it still needs some work. All you have to do is reduce it, until it starts to taste really yummy. Then add maybe 1/2 bottle of red wine, or as I did, 1/4 red wine, 1/4 port, and continue to reduce, until you are left with what I can only describe as liquid gold. Pour into a measuring jug, allow to cool, cover and put it in the fridge. The next day you will see that the fat has solidified on top, just scrape it off and discard. The jus that's left in the jug has now become beef jelly, pop it into a freezer bag for the big day, bearing in mind, you can dilute it with all the fabulous resting juices from the beef. Believe me, it's well worth the effort.