Where Christmas Eve was appropriated with chicken soup (and surely Mary would have supped some of the good stuff before birthing her infant, Jesus), my mother marks Christmas Day with a gargantuan kosher turkey and all the trimmings, as any self-respecting, assimilated Jewish Nana would. This year, I’m ashamed to say, my favourite part of the meal were the pigs (or rather cows) without blankets: a platter of heavily salted, kosher beef cocktail sausages that, when dipped in Nana’s deeply-spiced bread sauce, I seemed to snort up like a rabid stock broker on a trip to Bogotá.
The meal – as with all meals that followed that week at my mother’s house – was brought to a coma-inducing close by an enormous bowl of Christmas pudding, courtesy of the commercial copulation of Waitrose and Heston Blumenthal. Thankfully, I had been prepared – my mother had announced this to me in the late summer when she purchased ten of these puddings from said supermarket as, she explained, they had sold out the previous year before she could buy one. (Or one hundred.) And so I broke my vow to never eat sugar or dairy for the one week of the year where, frankly, I’d have had to go into protective custody to escape the stalking sugar-coatedness of the final throes of the festive season.
So, all-in-all, I spent most of the last week of 2012 at my mother’s house doing a great deal of face-stuffing, and very little moving. This meant that on our return home, and during the first week of the new year, I could be seen hauling myself away from the mother-in-law’s kitchen, panting and salivating and eye-balling the biscuit tin, with a deranged toddler clinging to my leg doing much the same as her mother and mouthing, “eyescreeeeem, beeeesciiit, lollllipopppp”. It was time for the family to do away with the microwaveable desserts.
Therefore, in the vain hope that I would enliven our palettes with something fresh and relatively healthful, I decided to cook up a dish of empanadillas that I have been making since November, when some dear friends sent me a copy of Claudia Roden’s magnificent tome, ‘The Food of Spain’.