The Aga has been working overtime this last couple of weeks, with various lunches and goodies to prepare, and for the most part it has been a very good Aga. However it did entail a major crisis and an intervention by Caroline who's been cooking on an Aga all her life. At one point on a Sunday morning, just before the book club girls and boy were due to arrive for our end of year lunch, as I was squatted down in front of the roasting oven, trying to cover the rapidly carbonising edges of a lemon tart with foil as it balanced precariously on the edge of the oven rack, its still liquid filling dripping over the edge and onto the hot base of the roasting oven, I thought " for &*%$'s sake, why couldn't I just be normal and have an ordinary oven, why do I always have to make life difficult for myself".
The lunch actually turned out very well, the second tart I baked was perfect, the Elizabeth David flourless chocolate cake well-received, the fresh bread duly admired. And it also turned out to be an epiphany of sorts: when I couldn't create an effective foil shield for the edge of my tart, I just covered the second one entirely with foil and lo and behold it worked perfectly - shielding the tart from the intense heat of the roasting oven and allowing it to cook slowly. When Caroline came to lunch she also took one look and feel of the Aga plates and said 'turn it down, it's running too hot - no wonder you've been burning things' . Well that was peculiarly liberating, I had been warned off playing with the controls and now felt free to adjust it.
So now I'm ready for the Christmas madness. And madness it is - here's a scan of page one of my 4 page Christmas menu, shopping list and timeline to prove it. I've never been big on Christmas, most of my family being in South Africa, but we nonetheless put on a relatively big and traditional-ish spread. As you can imagine it's my favourite part. This year I'm brining the turkey after reading so much about it on the NYTimes food pages at Thanksgiving. I'll let you know how it turns out.
Have a wonderful Christmas wherever you are,