On Christmas Eve my granddad Remigio and my grandmother Margherita would put my mum and my aunt to bed, closing behind them their bedroom door. In the living room they would prepare in secret and with the utter silence the Christmas tree. They chose every year a small juniper tree which would fill the house with its balsamic smell. They decorated it with simplicity.
This memory of my mother, which has now become also mine, influenced my idea of the magic of Christmas, which I felt very strong since childhood: simplicity, wonder, spontaneity.
I got here gradually, slowly removing everything that felt fake, artificial or imposed.
Our Christmas tree is definitely our own: it doesn’t many decorations, it does not follow a colour palette, but it is the story of a journey we made together. There are some of my baubles and some of Tommaso’s ones, along with those decorations that we bought together during our trips. There is tiny carved log that we bought in Trentino, there are peppermint candy canes and in the middle stands a yellow Snoopy bauble that we found a few months ago in Berlin. This tree would not fit an interior design magazine, but it is certainly ours and it fits our life.
We start working on our edible gifts since summer: we cram the pantry with jams and liqueurs, from the traditional walnut liqueur to limoncello, then we pair them with some typical Sienese Christmas treats, as cavallucci, ricciarelli or panforte bites.
Living Christmas spontaneously makes me appreciate it even more, as I do not have to face the anxiety of appearing perfect, the cooking marathons and the endless meals.
This year we will spend Christmas Eve with Tommaso’s relatives and Christmas Day with my family. It is not up to me, then, to decide the menu, even if, in the best extended family style, everyone will contribute with something to the festive meals.
There will be everything that I consider part of my ideal Christmas: the family, the pleasure to wrap gifts with care, a few candles at home, kisses under the mistletoe and those recipes that can immediately recreate the right festive atmosphere.
This is the Christmas that I look forward to for twelve months. It is the excitement that I feel on Christmas morning right from under the blankets, when the sleep vanishes into sheer joy, when for once in a year I’m not craving more sleep, but I can’t wait to get up, put on my warm wool robe and run to see what Santa has left in the stockings by the fireplace or under the tree.
Rice pudding with roast quinces
Bookmark this rice pudding with roast quinces as a festive afternoon snack. It is a recipe I developed for Lagostina and its new Ingenio set. The Ingenio removable handle means that you can easily stack saucepan, wok, pot and pan. This also allows you to use the same pan on the stovetop, in the oven, in the fridge, and directly on the table, as you would do during a family meal.
You can prepare the rice pudding and the roast quinces in advance and store them in the fridge for a few days.
They will be ready for a sudden mid-afternoon craving or when your friends show up unexpected to exchange Christmas gifts. Take out the rice pudding and the roast qinces from the fridge, reheat them for a few minutes on the stove top and serve them into small bowls: a spoonful of creamy rice, a few wedges of roast quinces on top and a drizzle of spicy syrup. You can call it a Christmas miracle.
- 150 g of pudding rice
- 1 pinch of salt
- 500 ml of fresh cream
- 500 ml of fresh milk
- 1 vanilla pod
- 4 tablespoons of sugar
- 2 tablespoons of sugar
- 300 ml of water
- 3 cloves
- 3 star anises
- 1 cinnamon stick
- ½ vanilla pod
- 2 quinces
- ½ lemon
- 2 tablespoons of honey
Bring to a boil a pot of water. Add a pinch of salt and pour in the rice. Cook according to the packaging instructions. In my case it took about 15 minutes.
Drain the rice and transfer it again into the pot. Pour in the cream and whole milk, put it back on the stove and bring back to a simmer. Cook for about 30 minutes on low flame, stirring often, or until the rice is creamy, but not too dry.
If you are not going to serve the rice immediately, use some milk to reheat it until smooth and creamy.
Put sugar and water in a saucepan, spice the water with cloves, vanilla, cinnamon and star anise. Carefully peel the quinces, it will require a good dose of patience, cut them in half lengthwise and rub with half a lemon to prevent them from browning. Add the quinces, cut into wedges, into the saucepan and simmer over low heat until soft. Twenty-five minutes may be enough or it may take a little longer, it all depends on their size and ripeness.
Meanwhile, heat the oven to 180°C. When quinces are tender to the point of a knife, they are ready. Add the honey and stir to dissolve it. Roast quinces for about 40 minutes in the oven until soft and caramelized.
Serve the roast quinces with a spoonful of rice pudding draped with their spiced syrup.
The video recipe
As Christmas is approaching, we also have a surprise for you, a new video recipe to slowly and softly enter into the festive atmosphere.
- My friend Regula has a new recipe on her blog for quince cheese. I had it for breakfast a few weeks ago and I can assure you it was a masterpiece! She has also a recipe for quince ratafia, an infused alcool similar to amaretto.
- This is the inspiring Nigel Slater‘s post that last year made me try roast quinces for the first time.
- Diana Henry has two interesting recipes as well: a quince and star anise jelly and pickled quinces.