Oh the weather outside is frightful
But the fire is so delightful
And since we’ve no place to go
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow
Said no one in Wellington ever.
This is what I’m having to put up with.
For a summery, sunny city, however, there are surprising number of wintery scenes. Christmas cards show picturesque snowy landscapes, Santa in a flurry of snowflakes, or even some holly and a robin. A neighbour’s front window is bedecked with reindeer moss, tartan bows and even an old fashioned street lamp like in Narnia. Inside it’s a winter wonderland, while outside the sun blazes and everyone wears shorts. Hallmark have successfully trademarked Christmas.
Aside from a freak storm with the full works – thunder, lightening and torrential rain – the weather has been boiling here. The turquoise sea sparkles and beguilingly beckons everyone to the beach. I practically run there, stripping off my clothes as I go. There I received my first ever burn of the Christmas season, now sporting what looks like a pair of hot pink socks. Always apply sun cream to your calves, kids.
This isn’t my first Christmas away from home. One year my family and I were in Morocco and on Christmas Day we ate lamb tagine and clementines on top of a mountain then descended on the back of a donkey, which we christened Jesus. Another year in South Africa we ate a bizarre lunch at a restaurant while a scrawny Santa sat in the corner, mattering darkly.
This will be my first Christmas away from my family, however. Usually, the four of us start the Bucks Fizz in the morning, maybe nibble some canapes as we open presents, devour an enormous lunch then crawl to the sofa for the Queen’s speech, Christmas telly and a snooze. The build-up is half the excitement – the twinkling lights in town, buying presents, Christmas carols and decorating the tree – so this year, without my family, the layers of thick winter clothing and stodgy food, I haven’t felt the Christmas spirit. Instead, it is a summer holiday of sorts with good food and a different family of travellers.
Like the Kiwis themselves, a Kiwi Christmas is relaxed. There’s no right or wrong way to celebrate. At work, the phone rings with a chirpy rendition of ‘We Wish You A Merry Christmas’ and, no this wasn’t a seasonal choice; it’s been the ringtone since September. Turkey usually doesn’t make an appearance, thank goodness, as can you imagine trying to cook one on the barbecue? Salmon, lamb, fresh salads and sides with all the plentiful vegetables available this season are the norm. Dessert is a light, fluffy pile of pavlova, cream and seasonal berries, and Kiwis don’t really know what a Christmas pudding actually is. Mince pies are ‘fruit mince tarts’ in case you get them muddled with lamb or beef mince. The other day my colleague said that strawberries and blueberries always reminds her of Christmas and I simply stared at her, incredulous. A Christmas tipple is Pimm’s or sangria. So now you can understand my lack of Christmas cheer. It feels like June and Wimbledon should be on TV.
What with the sun, the sea, the fruit, the sangria, my Christmas will be different. I’m excited for something new, after all this is the first December I’ve eaten sweet, ripe strawberries and juicy apricots. I roasted the fruit in brown sugar and the kitchen smelled of caramel as they cooked and oozed juice then served them alongside a Christmas breakfast – thick slices of chocolate chip panettone with Christmas cake ice cream. Yes, ice cream at Christmas. The world has gone crazy.
Panettone with Christmas cake ice cream and roasted fruit
- 500 g vanilla ice cream
- 250 g Christmas cake without the icing and marzipan
- 1 chocolate chip panettone sliced into 6 thick slices
- 5 apricots
- A heaped handful of strawberries
- 1 tbsp brown sugar
- Icing sugar to sprinkle
- First, make the ice cream. Stir the vanilla ice cream to soften it, crumble the cake and mix them together. Dollop into a freezable container and freeze until firm.
- Preheat the oven to 200°C/200°C fan/400°F. Line a baking tray with baking paper and sprinkle with brown sugar. Sice the apricots and strawberries in half and place them cut side down into the sugar. Turn them cut side up and slide the tray into the oven. Roast the fruit for 15 minutes until the sugar melts and bubbles and the fruit is soft.
- When preparing to serve, lightly toast the panettone. Stack in bowls and top with scoops of ice cream, roasted fruit and a little icing sugar.