There are few more pleasant sights than that of your spouse lugging a Christmas tree home, slung confidently over a sturdy shoulder. It’s the rugged manliness coupled with a sensitivity to tradition. It leaves little room for you to do anything other than chirp up with with things like ‘watch out for the black ice darling!’ and plan for the evening’s feast.
This year our tree trimming was going to be special.
For one, it was a good day.
Last year we bought our tree from a discount fruit shop in Redfern. The weather in Sydney was sticky and the tree shredded green needles all over the car like verdant dandruff. We decorated it in a funk, taking occasional sips from warmish champagne and a gut-full of frustration.
The day we decorated our tree was the day we discovered the five week trial we’d just been ground through had returned the first of two hung juries.
This year, we awoke to good news.
There will be no more trials. No further waste of public purse. It feels like a dark shadow has left the family and a weight has been lifted. The lights are peeking through- and it’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas.
To trim this year’s tree we were joined by our cobbled-together-clan in London, each bearing gifts.
There was a home made garland of amaretti biscuits and chocolates, linked with red wool. There were two robins which I’m pretending are love birds, perching on the top two branches. And there are knitted initials of T and A that help brand the tree as ours.
There was Tattinger which cooled in a snow drift on the balcony. There was carol singing and well wishing.
And to start the feast there was this Christmas carpaccio.
The colours were festive, the flavours sprightly. The Scandinavian hints of horseradish and dill kept us on our toes and reminded us of which season sat outside the window.
I could prepare most of it hours earlier and pull the fridge-flattened- fish out for quick decoration while the others art directed our tree.
It’s also something I could imagine putting on the table at home in Sydney.
So as the evening swirled on and we said goodbye to something that has clung to three years of our Christmas past, we also said hello to a dish that I think will become part of our Christmas future.
It was a good night.
70 grams of firm fleshed white fish per person ( I chose cod, because it was freshest on the day, but kingfish would be fabulous. To slice it thinly, it helps if it’s very cold).
NB, the fish is going to be served raw, so it has to be exceptionally fresh and well refrigerated. The fish should also be skinned and pin-boned.
1 bunch of dill
A tablespoon of freshly ground horseradish (or if you can’t get any, then horseradish in a jar)
Seeds of half a pomegranate
3 tablespoons of creme fraiche
Good quality olive oil.
An entree sized plate per person, baking paper and something heavy (like cans of tomatoes) to weigh the plates down.
Here’s how we roll
1. Use a very sharp knife to carve thin slivers of the fish. It will help if the fish is very cold.
2. Arrange about six or seven thin sashimi style slices around each plate.
3. Cover each plate with a square of baking paper and layer the plates on top of each other.
4. Put the stacked fish and baking paper layered plates in the fridge, with the top one weighted on top of the baking paper with a collection of cans. You want something heavy. Fish carpaccio can never be too rich or too thin.
5. Make a horseradish cream by combining the horseradish and creme fraiche. Thin it slightly with olive oil and a splash of water. You want it to be the thickness of double cream.
6. To serve remove the baking paper and decorate each plate with sprigs of dill, pomegranate seeds and dribbles of the horseradish cream. Add a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of good quality sea salt.
7. Enjoy with rye bread and some shockingly yellow organic butter.