Cotswolds Christmas in a Recession
PUBLISHED: 15:08 28 January 2010 | UPDATED: 15:38 20 February 2013
... and, according to the profligate Adam Edwards, done to excess it can cost a recession-busting £330,784.45
The season of goodwill is for gluttony. Christmas is the time to loosen the belt a notch or two; to gobble, gorge and guzzle for tomorrow we are back in recession.
And the apogee of our indulgence is on Christmas Day and in particular the Christmas meal. Even in these tough times the most impecunious of us can afford a slice of Turkey breast, find a trimming and go the extra Brussel.
Some, of course, will want to go much, much further. And for those devil-may-care souls in our hills who dismiss the economic situation as so much flimflam, we at Cotswold Life have drawn up a recession-busting lunch to help you party on.
The cornerstone of our extravagance is, however, still a local turkey, which remains the heart of a Christmas dinner according to Perry Meredith, manager of the exclusive Jesse Smith butchers in Cirencester. This year he will be selling a luxury free-range Copas bronze turkey that comes in its own box with a cooking thermometer and instruction booklet.
He can expect the dead fowl to fly out of his shop faster than Concorde for Jesse Smith customers do not want the ordinary, however parlous the economy.
And, obviously, if those discerning souls are prepared to invest in the finest poultry the Cotswolds has to offer then the rest of the feast must complement it.
The importance of the day must first be reflected in the table setting, which must be as grand as the grub. The bespoke table-cloth and napkins must be of the finest double damask. "The monogram should sit to the left of the person at the head of the table," said local resident Jane Sacchi, a specialist in antique and modern linens.
The finest cutlery available, according to Katie Adams the china, glass and cutlery expert at Cheltenham's Cavendish House department store, is the Malmaison range from Christofle. "It is truly luxurious," she says. It is customised with a shower of diamonds on the front and back of its sterling silver handles.
Plates and serving dishes for the dinner will be from the Hungarian porcelain maker Herend, the only china producer of note that makes a special hand-painted Christmas-themed dinner service, while a gargle of our local vintners suggested that the best glasses are the Excess range from Saint Louis Crystal, the oldest Cristallerie in France.
A traditional Christmas table centrepiece is a bowl of fruit and nuts decorated with holly. The bowl can be either humble or lofty, but on this occasion a one-off sterling silver bowl from the silversmith Hart in Chipping Camden is appropriate. They also make bespoke candlesticks.
When the guests arrive, each will be given a flute of Louis Roederer 1990 Salon Champagne (rather more exclusive than Louis Roederer Cristal, according to Master of Wine Mark Savage of Savage Selection in Northleach), which will be served with Iranian beluga caviar (from The Fish Shop in Cirencester), smoked salmon (from the Coln Valley Smokery) sour cream and Russian bellini pancakes.
A slice of fresh fois gras flown in from the Dordogne - "It doesn't keep and nobody in the UK produces it," says Adrian Valentine of the Quenington-based Dordogne Direct - is on a festive Herend plate waiting for the guests as they sit down at the table. A 1945 Sauternes from Chateau D'Yquem, is the perfect accompaniment.
And then it is time for the piece de resistance - the turkey and trimmings. Of course there are more luxurious main courses than the gobbler, but a Christmas turkey dinner requires a turkey. It is made even more exclusive by sliding slices of white truffle under its skin. The ham - and everybody likes a slice of ham with their turkey - must be Pata Negra from Spain, says David Herbert of Quayles delicatessen in Tetbury.
And accompanying the meat is the veg and, in particular because it wouldn't be Christmas without them, the Brussel sprouts. The role of the sprout is similar to that of the spark plug in a Bugatti Veyron. It is the vital ingredient, both spiritually and actually, of the sybaritic feast and it therefore must be the best on the planet. And farmer Alastair Findaly, who is Britain's only rare sprout breeder, has created that premier green. It has taken him 15 years to produce the MA Sprout, which will be on sale this year at the Cirencester farmer's market. "It is the most flavoursome hybrid I have bred," he says. "Even children come back for more."
The MA sprout must be cooked in a pot worthy of its status. And fortunately the German cookware manufacturer Fissler has produced a stainless steel 28cm diameter saucepan with solid gold handles on its lid and sides that are studded with more than 200 diamonds. "It is the most precious cooking pot in the world," claim its makers. Therefore it is the right dish to cook and hold the sprouts. Only the most precious wine will complement this spread - a 1961 Petrus.
After mains (and some fresh water to cleanse the palate) comes Christmas pudding (with real silver sixpences), mince pies and a bespoke cake with gold leaf trimmings and hand-made model of Father Christmas from the Sugar Box in Cirencester, which for years has baked cakes for the great and good and the royal of Gloucestershire.
For those who might still be hungry there will be cheese (a Daylesford wheel of Stichelton using unpasturised milk and made to a traditional Stilton recipe) and nuts, which can be cracked with a 24-carat gold plated hand-made Father Christmas wooden nutcracker. The feast will be rounded off with cigars and port and freshly ground coffee from Keith's in Cirencester's Black Jack Street. The limited edition chocolates are from the Sir Hans Sloane chocolate house in a hand-crafted box by David Linley.
And, as one wanders off from the table picking one's teeth and leaving the celebrity chef to clear up (Leith's hire out name chefs), one might wonder what the whole kit and caboodle cost. The price for such a festive banquet is, give or take a silver sixpence or two, 330,784.45.
It may sound profligate in these hard times but one must remember that Christmas only comes but once a year.
The cost of a recession-busting slap-up Cotswold Christmas Turkey Dinner for ten (with a little help from London suppliers)
Fissler Diamond Cooking Pot (for sprouts) 100,000
Christofle Malmaison diamond cutlery 96,000
Ten Cristal St Louis champagne flutes, plus 20 wine glasses, plus 10 port glasses (all 200 each) 8,000
Hand-painted Herend china Christmas table setting for 10 8,330
Jane Saachi Bespoke Double Damask
tablecloth and napkins 1,100
Pair of Hart's bespoke sterling silver candlesticks 10,000
Box of gold tapered Venetian candles 50
Tiffany candle snuffer 170
David Linley walnut handle sterling
silver stilton scoop 175
Sterling Silver/Mother of Pearl Caviar Server 450
Sterling silver Corkscrew 145
Custom made Christmas bowl centrepiece 20,000
KWO Gold leaf limited Edition Nutcracker 28,699
500 gms BelugaXXL Prize Reserved Iranian
Caviar (345 for 50gms) 3,450
Hand sliced side of wild smoked salmon 60
1kg Fresh Fois Gras 100
Jesse Smith Turkey (10kg) 50
Two packets of chestnuts (for stuffing) 10
MA Brussel Sprouts 2
5gms of White truffle (50 a gram) 250
7kg Pata Negra Ham 200
Wheel of organic Stilton 200
Sugar Box bespoke Christmas Cake 150
Mince Pies (3 for 4) 16
Fortnum & Mason Christmas pudding (14.95)
Plus 10 real silver Victorian sixpences
(35 each) 364.95
Three bottles Louis Roederer 1990 Salon
Champagne (300 each) 900
Asprey Stirling Silver champagne cooler 3,300
Three bottles 1945 Chateau Yquem (1,500) 4,500
Three bottles 1961 Bordeaux Petrus (8,000) 24,000
Bottle of 1963 Quinta do Noval Nacional Port 1,800
Bottle of Louis XIII de Remy Martin cognac 749.50
Five Cohiba Piramides Limited Edition Maduro Havana Cigars (22.90 each) 114.50
Box of Bill MacCarrick chocolates 10,000
Twelve Harrods `Russian' crackers (999
a box of six) 1,998
Celebrity cook 4,000
10 silver toothpicks (145 each) 1,450
Zantac indigestion pills (48) 10.50
Herend China: www.chinashop.co.uk
Christmas Cake: www.thesugarbox.co.uk
saucepan Fissler www.fissler.net
Fois Gras: www.dddirect.co.uk
Mince Pies: www.mincepieclub.co.uk