Trish Deseine meets French women with serious style …
As Parisians ease in to their new flexible working lifestyles between the city and the Perche countryside, there is a renewed creative energy in the air – and on Instagram! Everyone is going the extra mile this year, it seems, to make their homes and tables beautiful, to bring the outside in, and create a little extra magic during les fêtes. I asked three of my most stylish girlfriends how they spend those special days between Christmas and New Year, when time stands still.
Author and magazine editor, Sharon Santoni and her husband Eric, love to gather their four children together at Christmas. Sharon makes her stunning Normandy home even more welcoming and enticing as usual. “Our holidays begin in earnest on Christmas Eve — le Réveillon de Noël. A wonderful dinner in front of the fire with several courses, several bottles of Champagne and that pleasant feeling that the next day will be just as happy and festive. Christmas Day starts off around the tree, where everyone gathers to open their stockings. The dogs are generally the first to sniff out their gifts and quickly disappear into the garden with various squeaky toys.”
“The hours that follow is a happy blur of eating, opening presents, calling far-away family members and playing silly games. From the 26th onwards — while the inclination to take to the sofa and leftovers in one’s pyjamas is overwhelming — I throw myself into hostess mode and keep the energy up. For me, a social house is a merry one. Invites are sent out and received, and it is fun to try to fit everything in. The majority of the year is so busy with work, so it’s nice to put that on the backburner and just take the time to catch up with loved ones.”
“I make sure the fridge is always stocked: wine ready at the right temperature and canapés made in advance, just in case anyone stops by. And when the meals are too many and belts are bursting, we walk it off in the forest with the dogs — everyone content in the knowledge that there is a warm fire awaiting our return.”
Poached pears for a versatile holiday dessert
I love to cook poached pears at this time of year. Pears are such a delicious winter fruit, and this simple recipe can be adapted to the mood of the day.
For four people use one ripe pear per person. Peel and core without damaging the overall shape of the fruit.
Stand or lay in a pan and cover with a bold red wine. Add lemon and orange zest, 230g sugar, some grated nutmeg and a cinnamon stick.
If you love a spicy flavour, add some allspice and a star anise.
Bring to the boil slowly and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until cooked and a knife can be inserted easily. Your kitchen will smell divine!
Remove the pears from the pan, and leave to cool on a plate, then turn up the heat and simmer the wine until it is reduced by half.
Before serving, allow the syrup to cool, in fact this recipe can be made the day before.
If you are looking for a richer dessert, you can serve each pear with a rich chocolate sauce which is simply made. Pop 200g good quality dark chocolate into a bowl with 15cl cream, 50g butter, 50g sugar and a generous pinch of cinnamon. Heat in a bain marie until the chocolate is completely melted. If using the chocolate sauce, it is better to serve less of the wine sauce with each pear.
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