I love the bare, crystalline mornings, edged with frost and sharp with ice, when the blue sky is so clear as a bell you want to dive in between the bare branches as the birds do and fly up and up. I got frostbite one morning on the bottoms of my feet from crunching barefoot across the white grass between the ice-crowned thistles.
These cold mornings the cats glare beside the doorways, inside and out, and the water troughs steam as they fill between the noisy ducks and geese. Calcifer sends up cheery plumes of smoke that hang between the trees in the forest, puffing like a silent steam-engine, as if the kitchen a steam-boat about to float away.
The frosty quiet settles over everything, broken only by the sounds of “It’s a Holly Jolly Christmas – It’s a Holly – It’s a- It’s a Holly Jolly – It’s a Holly Jolly Christmas -” from Clothilde’s singing Christmas card that my brother gave her in a clear act of sibling revenge.
One of the escaped meat chickens from the spring hatched out eight little chicks on the Solstice. She is keeping them bundled under her wings, and every morning there are eight little peeping chickies, all different colors, darting around her stocky feet, despite the cold. The last egg to hatch got left behind, and the little chick was very chilled and cold to the touch when we found it. I put it in a bowl with a towel, and set it on the warming shelf on top of the stove, and soon it was fluffing up and peeping. We put it back in with the mama hen once it was trying to hop out of the bowl, and she scooped it under her wings. The next day it was running around with the other ones.
The garden has suffered quite a lot this year with the hard frosts, but the Korean mint I planted years ago is growing tall and green still. This chutney goes very well with holiday leftovers, and the mint is a bit of a digestive tonic after lots of rich food:
MINT AND PECAN CHUTNEY
1 cup packed mint leaves
1 cup pecans, soaked overnight in salty water
A knob of ginger, about 1 inch long, grated
6-8 pitted dates
1 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon (about) of dried tamarind paste, soaked in warm water for 10 minutes
- Soak the pecans in about 2 cups of water with a teaspoon of salt over night (in case you didn’t catch that in the ingredients list). Drain them and let them air-dry for a bit before the rest of the recipe.
- Put the soaked, drained pecans in a food processor with the rest of the ingredients and pulse until the pecans are finely ground. Add a little extra water if it is too sticky to process.
I hope you had a lovely holiday!