I have always loved christmas and really start getting excited about it in September to be honest, I just wait for Holloween to be over with so I can start making plans.
It's a time for making new memories for the little people in your life. My own memories from Christmas growing up in a family of five were mostly of the fun of creeping out on Christmas morning with my brothers to see what had been delivered in the night. As in most Irish homes, the day itself revolved around the turkey which had been dangling upside-down in the cool basement with its head, wings and innards still intact. After my mother had dealt with it, the wings would be used to brush out the bottom oven of the range or fireplace for a while, while the innards would add a deep, rich flavor to the Christmas dinner gravy - but to this day I don't know what became of the head!
Dessert was always a choice of a trifle, fruit salad or yule log as standard, along with the traditional Christmas cake and pudding that had been made at the end of October. Not forgetting the mince pies in big (or so they seemed) glass jars in the corner cupboard. All very excellent Christmas Day fare.
Now I am the 'mammy' and though tastes have changed there's still a great sense of tradition-making that I've inherited. I still make a cake and a pudding and maybe some mincemeat as well - but the demand for these types of heavily spiced confections seems to be over, and having never really liked them myself I can't miss them too much, but there's always room for invention in cooking!
So, for the last few Christmases I have made this ice-creamy dessert for after the meal itself. It uses all the things that mean Christmas to me - ginger bread, nougat, and the red cherries (that I tell the children are reindeer noses). All of these ingredients are easily replaced by other Christmas flavors, use crumbled Christmas cake or pudding in place of the ginger cake, put handfuls of nuts and dried fruits in as well. This dessert is one that can grow with the changing tastes of your family, and the big bonus is that mine is already made and waiting in my freezer for its time to shine, leaving me plenty of time to fuss over my dinner and still look like a effortless hostess presenting my dessert with a charming flourish!
When I use cream I really like to use the double cream (which my American readers call heavy cream). It's nice to work with, more stable and far more easy to find than even a couple of years ago, when I had to go to 5 different shops to find enough of the small purple Avonmore cartons to make my dessert.
It's light, rich and tasty and even if you think you can't manage another morsel of food, you can easily eat a slice of this and maybe check your neighbors plate to see if there might be a little piece extra left over there…
Christmas Ice-cream slice
This ice-cream will keep for up to 3 months in the freezer
180g caster sugar
6 medium egg yolks
750ml Avonmore double cream
200g ginger cake crumbled, homemade or bought
75g glacé cherries
100g good quality nougat
Decoration can be edible silver balls, plastic Santas, small robins or whatever your heart desires!
Line a 1.5 litre loaf tin with cling film, leaving a large overlap to cover it later.
Put the sugar and 4 tablespoons of cold water in a saucepan over a low heat to dissolve your sugar.
Increase the heat, bring to the boil and cook for about 3 mins without stirring until syrupy. (If you have a sugar thermometer this is will read just below soft boil) Take the pan from the heat, beat the eggs with a electric whisk until pale and thickened. Add the hot sugar syrup very gradually, whisking all the while so that the eggs don't curdle, until you have a thick mixture. Keep whisking until it has cooled.
In another bowl whisk the cream into soft peaks. Fold half of the cream into the egg mixture and the into the other half add your crumbled cake of choice. Fold the two halves in together with your cherries and nougat. Spoon into your prepared tin, level the top and fold over the cling film. Freeze for 6 hours or over night. Turn out onto a pretty plate - discarding the cling film, decorate to your liking and cut into slices with a knife heated in a jug of hot water.