Monday , 23 April 2018

Kyra’s Kitchen: A Dickens of a Christmas

“I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all year”

Cedric Charles Dickens, who visited Dallas in 1981, related that his Great Grandfather Charles Dickens believed that the world would a better place if we kept that pledge the whole year.

“Charles Dickens loved all people and loved Christmas since, as he said ‘ everyone opens their hearts at Christmas time.’”

While in Dallas, Cedric Dickens was interviewed by the Dallas Morning News and described a typical Christmas Eve dinner  – which was the highlight of a Victorian Christmas – when the family would gather to exchange personal gifts. [Father Christmas would not make his ‘deliveries’ until Christmas morning.!]

A typical dinner might include Celery Soup, Roast Goose with Walnut /Prune  Stuffing ,Plum Pudding, Mince Pies and Trifle

To finish, the men would retire to the drawing room and enjoy Stilton Cheese, apples and glasses of Port – and the ladies would repair to the boudoir to nosh on crystallized ginger, chocolates and sugared almonds

To celebrate McKinney’s Dickens of a Christmas, why not re-create some of Charles Dickens’ Christmas Dinner by preparing Trifle and Mincemeat ‘pyes’.

And if you want to be absolutely authentic, don’t forget to order the ‘gentlemen’ into the ‘drawing room for Stilton and Port – while we ladies nibble on crystallized ginger and chocolates!

3 packages ladyfingers
½ cup raspberry jam
1 x15oz can peaches
¼ cup sweet sherry
3 tablespoons brandy
1 recipe Crème Anglais [see recipe] 3 macaroons, crumbled
2 cups whipping cream, whipped to stiff peaks with ½ cup sugar
Crystallized violets – cherries – almonds for garnish

Make the Custard ahead….

Crème Anglais [or Pouring Custard] 4 egg yolks – or 2 eggs
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch salt
1 ½ cups half and half

Whisk all the ingredients in the top of a double boiler and set over simmering water.
Allow the custard to thicken, stirring constantly until the custard coats the back of a spoon [it is ready when you can draw a wide track along the back of the spoon with your finger].

Remove from heat and allow to cool. If you prepare it some hours before using – refrigerate.

To prepare the Trifle:
Spread the ladyfingers with the jam and arrange on the bottom of a glass bowl and around the sides.
Drain the peaches and sprinkle the ladyfingers with ¼ cup of the syrup together with the sherry and brandy.  Let stand for about an hour
Arrange the peaches on the ladyfingers and pour the custard on top.
Cover with saran wrap directly on top of the custard so it does not form a skin.
Remove the saran….
Whip the cream with the sugar until stiff.
Sprinkle macaroon crumbs on top of the custard then top with whipped cream.
Decorate with red and green cherries or crystallized violets and slivered almonds.

Dessert may be prepared up to a day ahead.  Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.

1 jar mincemeat with brandy
2 apples – peeled, cored, coarsely chopped
½ cup currants
½ cup raisins
½ cup chopped almonds – or walnuts
¼ cup brandy
Juice and rind of ½ lemon
24 pastry/tart shells bought or made

Combine the ingredients for the filling  (*see note).
Preheat oven to 375.
Fill shells to top with filling, and if desired, place a circle of pastry on top.
Brush with water and sprinkle some sugar on top.

Bake on the lowest rung of the oven for about 25 minutes or until the pastries are nicely browned.
Serve warm or at room temperature. Sift a little confectioner’s sugar over the tarts before serving.

*Note:  You can prepare the filling up to one month ahead and keep refrigerated – ‘maturing’ improves the flavor immensely.

P.S. Christmas Plum Puddings, [which is actually boiled fruitcake], are generally available around this time at specialty food stores.  The tradition was to hide coins of various denominations in the pudding – to be found with shrieks of joy by the diners.  It is MY opinion that that is the only way they could get them to EAT the pudding!

About the Author
McKinney resident Kyra Effren is a contributing writer for’s “Food” section.  She is a retired food stylist and contributing writer for the “Food” section of Dallas Morning News. In 1975, Effren opened Cours de Cuisine Cooking School in Dallas and in 1978, she was awarded The Commanderie des Cordon Bleu in France for her contributions to French cooking.   She has edited multiple cookbooks and served as recipe tester for a number of cookbooks including both of the Mansion on Turtle Creek cookbooks by Dean Fearing and baking books by Nick Malgieri.

Kyra welcomes any and all reader comments and suggestions.  What would you like to have for dinner?

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