Saturday 26 November 2016

Avon Books Week Day Six: The Bookshop on Rosemary Lane by Ellen Berry

I can't believe it is Day Six already of Avon Books Week! Today Ellen Berry or better known as Fiona Gibson, author of The Bookshop on Rosemary Lane is sharing her '12 Eats of Christmas' and it's got me feeling very very hungry! Don't forget there's a chance to win the book at the end of the post.


Christmas. I love it all - even the weeks of preparation - but what I love most is the eating part. And I always have. In fact, the delicious things Ive scoffed whilst wearing a flimsy paper crown evoke the most vivid festive memories. Here are my 12 favourite nibbles of Christmasses past

1. Mince pies
Grandma May - my paternal gran - and I had a real bond. Being her only grandchild, I guess I was spoiled a little, not in the material sense but in terms of her being happy to spend lots of time with me. She was the one to take me to see Santa every year at Busbys department store in Bradford - and her home-made mince pies were legendary. Juicy interiors encased in crumbly short pastry (made with both butter and Trex, if memory serves), liberally dusted with icing sugar and stored in an enormous tin no shop-bought offering can ever come close.

2. Roasties 
Is anything more heavenly than a perfectly roasted spud? Theyre the highlight of Christmas dinner, IMO, and cooking them in duck fat seems to be the key. Also: they shouldnt be too large and unwieldy, or the crispy crust/gooey interior ratio just wont be right. 

3. Sprouts
Not my greatest love as a child, as they were boiled to mush. If only wed had Nigel Slater on hand (sadly, he hadnt been invented then) to insist theyre braised slowly in a pan on the hob, with butter. Cooked this way, theyre deliciously nutty while still retaining some bite. In fact, they now vie with the roasties for prime position in the Christmas dinner popularity stakes.

4. Bread sauce
My Christmasses as a child were mainly spent at Grandmas, and Im pretty sure she made her bread sauce from scratch, as I do (using the recipe from Nigella Lawsons Christmas cookbook). Sauce made from bread doesnt make sense really - Im sure the clean eating brigade would sob into their kale pesto - but its so deliciously, naughtily good.

5. Pigs in blankets
When Jimmy and I became parents, we started to host Christmas day at our house. It seemed like the proper, grown-up thing to do, and meant that we didnt have to worry about relatives precious cut glass collection being smashed to bits. Family members would descend at our place, with high hopes of a calmly-prepared feast, even when wed just moved into a ramshackle Victorian house with an oven so tiny, its door had to be wedged shut with a kitchen chair. Fortunately, once our daughter was about three years old, shed already become a willing helper in the kitchen - and wrapping bacon around chipolatas to make pigs in blankets was always her job. She is now 16 and a committed vegan so I imagine she will be a little less keen.

6. Christmas pud
So rich, dense and unthinkable at any other time of year. My teens are appalled that my grandma used to hide money (a thrupenny bit) in it.

7. Terrys Chocolate Orange
Although I dont have a sweet tooth, I do have a soft spot for a Chocolate Orange which Id find in my Christmas stocking every year as a child. In fact, when my three children were little I had a thing about taking them to a chocolate factory (we were all entranced by the wonderful stories of Roald Dahl). On a holiday to York, I had the brilliant idea of taking them to the Terrys factory - but alas, by then it was no longer Terrys of York. A little research revealed that Chocolate Oranges were now manufactured near a town called Jankowice in Poland which, sadly, wasnt quite as convenient for a day out.

8. Nuts in their shells
So fiddly and impractical, sending shards of shell pinging everywhere - but its so fun to be let loose with the nut cracker as a kid. And walnuts look like tiny brains.

9. Chocolate liqueurs shaped like bottles
Another exception in the not-particularly-loving-chocolate arena. With their boozy centres, they seemed so glamorous and louche whenever I was allowed one as a child. These remain the only occasions when I have knowingly consumed Grand Marnier or cherry brandy.

10. Christmas cake
While I have never got it together to make my own - my teenagers dont particularly like it anyway - helping Grandma to stir in all the ingredients was one of those rituals Ill always remember. My own family finds my habit of eating fruitcake with a slab of cheese completely weird; its actually a Yorkshire tradition. In a similar vein, apple pie with cheese is miles better than pie and custard. Yes, really.

11. Cheese
Which brings me neatly to the pinnacle of festive feasting - the cheese part. In seventies Yorkshire, cheese basically meant Cheddar or sliced processed stuff. Now, of course, a zillion varieties are available - although I still favour a crumbly Wensleydale which, as it too comes from Yorkshire, makes the much-mocked cheese/fruitcake pairing feel just right.

12. Leftovers
Leaving the best until last well, they are the best bit, arent they? While our Christmas day is usually a family affair, on the 26th of December our friends arrive to make short work of a fridge crammed with leftovers - and they bring theirs too. Turkey, stuffing, cheese and all the accompaniments - its a glorious boxing day feast and I cant wait.

Ellen Berrys novel, The Bookshop on Rosemary lane, is published by Avon 

Enter for a chance to win one paperback copy of The Bookshop on Rosemary Lane by Ellen Berry. (UK Only, ends 3.12.16)


  1. mince pies are definitely my number one!! looks like a great book.

  2. Would love to read this. Thank you for the opportunity.