Cyprus Mail
Christmas time Lifestyle

‘There’s no right way for Christmas to look’


By Ella Walker

Kate Young undoubtedly loves Christmas. Loves, loves, loves it. So much so that the Australian-born food writer has put together a collection of Yuletide recipes – 30 new, 20 swiped from her previous Little Library cookbooks – all cloth-bound in festive red, like a Dickensian classic, and interwoven with Christmas themed essays.

Undated Handout Photo of The Little Library Christmas by Kate Young. See PA Feature FOOD Library Christmas. Picture credit should read: Lean Timms/PA. WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature FOOD Library Christmas

Drawing on food from fiction – like the Turkish delight Edmund gorges on in The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe; roasted nuts inspired by The Mill On The Floss, and Moomin-style eggnog – as well as her own Christmases, including many a Swedish Christmas Eve feast, The Little Library Christmas is full of festive cheer. It’s also very sensitive to the fact not all Christmases are equal, let alone easy.

“I really love Christmas, but I totally appreciate that for a lot of people, it’s incredibly stressful,” says Young, noting the annual flux in complicated family dynamics and at the other extreme, loneliness during a season where togetherness is seemingly mandatory. “It’s never as simple as ‘Christmas is always great’.

“I think it’s going to be a weird one. I’ve talked to friends who are making a decision like, ‘We’re just gonna pretend it’s not happening’. But I love it, and I can’t pretend it’s not happening. So I’m going to find ways to make it good.”

Food is one such way – an excellent one at that.

“There is joy to be had in making an incredible Christmas dinner, but if that is not something you’re going to find joyful, it does feel quite intense to have that pushed upon you. There’s always a chance to do it another way; there’s no right way for Christmas to look.”


Recipes2Cyprus (Turkish) delight

“During Edmund’s first visit to Narnia, he finds himself wrapped in furs on the White Witch’s sleigh. At this point in the story, of course, it is still always winter, but never Christmas.

“Yet, in spite of this, that image of the snow and the sleigh means that the squidgy pink squares of Turkish delight that she plies him with make most sense to me as a festive treat,” says food writer Kate Young.

Makes around 30 squares

450g cups granulated sugar

1tbsp lemon juice

475ml water

90g cornflour/cornstarch

½tsp cream of tartar

1tbsp rosewater

Pink food colouring (ideally paste)

To decorate

40g cornflour/cornstarch

40g icing/confectioners’ sugar

Edible glitter (optional)

Place the sugar and lemon juice in a small saucepan with 175ml of the water. Put the pan over a medium-low heat and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Once the liquid is clear, stop stirring and heat until the sugar syrup reaches 118C (around 15 minutes).

Line the baking pan with plastic wrap, smoothing the base and sides as much as possible. Sift the cornflour and cream of tartar into a saucepan, along with the remaining 300ml of water. Place over a low heat and stir continuously. The mixture will start to thicken. Keep cooking it until it resembles hair gel – thick and gloopy.

Stirring constantly, slowly pour in the hot sugar syrup. Continue to stir over a low heat for around an hour. The mixture will look strange (and separated) at first, but it will come together. When it’s done, it will have taken on a golden tinge and be very thick and difficult to stir. I know this is a long time to keep stirring, but I find it soothing – it’s something you can do with a Christmas film playing.

Remove from the heat and beat in the rosewater and food colouring. Scoop into the lined baking pan – this will be messy. Smooth the top with a wet spatula and push down. Cover with a tea towel and allow it to set overnight in a cool room.

The next day, turn out of the pan and peel off the plastic wrap. Wet a knife with hot water and slice into squares. To decorate, sift the cornflour and icing sugar into a shallow bowl (along with the edible glitter if you’re using it). Drop the squares into the bowl and toss to coat each piece. Store in a cool, dry place, with greaseproof/wax paper between the layers.


Crisp Brussels Sprouts

“In The Green Road [by Anne Enright], the sprouts burn on Christmas Day, and Rosaleen reassures everyone that it doesn’t really matter, as no one likes them anyway,” recalls food writer Kate Young. “For me, that couldn’t be less true – they’re one of my favourite things on the Christmas table. In terms of cooking, I have to say, better a little burnt than over-boiled.

Serves 8

800g Brussels sprouts

2tbsp sesame oil

2tbsp soy sauce

1tbsp fish sauce

1tbsp rice vinegar

1tbsp sesame seeds

Handful of parsley leaves

1 red chilli, deseeded and finely sliced

Clean the Brussels sprouts, pull off any grim outer leaves, and trim the stem. Slice in half through the base. Warm a large frying pan over a moderate heat. Pour in the sesame oil and, once hot, add the sprouts. Cook for six to eight minutes (depending on their size) until the sprouts are tender on the inside, and crisp and charred in places on the outside.

Meanwhile, mix the soy sauce, fish sauce and vinegar together in a bowl. Take the sprouts off the heat, add the dressing and toss. Top with the sesame seeds, parsley and chilli and serve immediately.


The Little Library Christmas by Kate Young is available now


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