London luxury comes to our Mallorcan Christmas

One Christmas, early in our time on Mallorca, a courier’s van arrived outside our gates. We assumed the driver was lost and trying to find a property somewhere in the valley. Much to our surprise, the parcel he had to deliver was for us. We weren’t expecting anything – and certainly not something from the company whose name was emblazoned on the side of the box: Fortnum & Mason.

Having established that the large box was indeed addressed to us, we waved goodbye to the driver and rushed indoors to find out who had sent us such a superb parcel.

Gourmet goodies

It turned out to be from our lovely friends Duncan and Kristina, who live in Oxford. They have been coming to stay with us for a holiday or two every year since we’ve lived here and seem to love Mallorca and the finca nearly as much as we do. Their generous gifts from Fortnum & Mason have continued each Christmas and their carefully chosen selection always adds some gourmet luxury to our Mallorcan festivities.

The DHL driver no longer drives out to the valley to deliver to us. Instead, he rings us at the finca and arranges a time and venue for a meet with The Boss. In a car park in Manacor, the latter exchanges his signature for whatever parcel is being delivered. When the driver rang today, saying that he had a parcel for us, I fixed up the rendezvous and was just about to tell him what type of car to look out for, when he stopped me and said he knew. One thing we’ve discovered about the Mallorcans – certainly in our area – is that they have incredible memories for details like this.

Our unexpected parcel turned out to be another generous gift from our friends. Aren’t we lucky to have such great friends – and such delicious treats to add a touch of luxury to our Christmas in rural Mallorca?

Fortnum & Mason: Fabulous & Moreish!

Fortnum & Mason: Fabulous & Moreish!

 

Christmas in rural Mallorca

Our artificial Christmas tree - bought in Oxfordshire before we moved, but still going strong.

Our artificial Christmas tree – bought in Oxfordshire before we moved, but still going strong.

This is our 10th Christmas spent at our finca in rural Mallorca and, thankfully, it’s a very different Christmas to the first one we spent here. For a start, we’d only had electricity for a couple of weeks – and it still felt like something of a novelty. I still remember the joy of unpacking the electrical kitchen gadgets that hadn’t seen the light of day since we’d moved into the property at the end of April 2004. I also remember how cold and damp the house was: our traditional Mallorcan fireplace was our only source of heat, although it didn’t give off much of it, despite consuming logs at the rate of a child let loose in a sweet shop.

Cold turkey

On Christmas morning we prepared the turkey between us and stuffed it into the oven with a feeling of satisfaction. While the turkey was cooking we decided to phone family and friends back in the UK. We didn’t have a landline telephone back then – it took nearly three years for us to get a phone installed from Telefonica – so we had to use a mobile phone. Sadly there was no network coverage in the house (and there still isn’t), so we had to go outside and stand in the one spot in the garden where we manage to get reception. Unfortunately that spot requires us to stand on a low wall. Perhaps wobble would be a better verb than stand.

Despite the wobbling and the occasional loss of coverage (which required us to re-dial) we spent almost an hour outside catching up with our loved ones.  Returning indoors we expected to be greeted by the delicious aroma of roasting turkey, but nada. During our time outside, the butano in the gas bottle had run out and the oven was, by then, barely warm. Needless to say, Christmas lunch became Christmas dinner. And we’ve never since cooked a Christmas turkey without checking that there’s plenty of gas first. We live and learn . . .

However and wherever you spend this festive season, may it be a time of peace, relaxation and realization of what’s really important in life. Merry Christmas.

 

 

Cooking up the Christmas spirit in Mallorca

We think that we’ve embraced the Mallorcan way of life rather well, but some things from home cannot be forgotten at Christmas. So, in the past few days, I’ve baked the traditional Christmas cake. After it’s been iced, nobody will notice that it’s rather darker than it should be.  For yet another year, the combined efforts of Delia Smith (the recipe) and myself (the hard graft) have been thwarted by our rather useless Italian oven.  With its smart brass fittings and matte finish, it really looks the business – but then so do many Italian things. The problem is that the thermostat has never worked properly, (the grill packed up ages ago), and the temperature goes up and down (but mainly up) like a bride’s nightie. It’s been suggested that it’s because the oven is powered by butano gas . . . ?

Spice girl

At least my homemade mincemeat looks and tastes rather fabulous (and I’ve had to taste it a few times to make sure). And so it should, with that much brandy and spiced rum in it. I even bought a small piece of festive fabric from a haberdashery shop in Manacor so that I could make kitsch little covers for the jar lids.  Sorry . . .  were you just dazzled by the sun reflecting off my halo?

Here I must confess that the oven gets the better of me when it comes to making pastry. Thankfully, I’ve found a local shop that sells a natty little line in ready-made pastry cases: I fill them with my home-made mincemeat, top them with my special crumble mix, and – venga – delicious mince pies. The Boss is ever-so-slightly addicted to these little packages of Christmas spicy loveliness, so I’ll be on production line duty for the next few weeks.

Service with a smile

One thing we do miss is the Ecumenical Christmas service which used to be held in Palma’s magnificent cathedral in early December. It was the perfect warm-up for the festive season: singing a few carols, listening to the cathedral choir, Els Vermells de la Seu, and the wide-eyed children of the Centre Stage Junior Chorus. Some of the verses of traditional carols were translated into castellano or mallorquín and, in some cases, it seemed that there were more words than available tune!

The service also included the 10th century chant known as the Sibil-la, traditionally sung before or during Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve – and Mallorca is now the only place where it’s performed. The story of Judgement Day, it’s sung unaccompanied by a lone chorister clad in oriental robes and holding aloft a rather heavy-looking sword.  Between each verse there’s a heart-stopping burst of music from the cathedral’s booming organ. I’d sum it all up as hauntingly beautiful . . .  and a bit long (plenty of time to reflect on one’s own misdemeanours, I suppose).

One year we were there, the length of the service proved to be too much for one little person, sitting close by. Just as the opening bars of “A Holly Jolly Christmas” were being played, an indignant voice (aged around three) piped up loudly from a nearby pew: “Not another one!” The little boy’s parents’ faces were as red as the Centre Stage Juniors’ sweaters, but the rest of us who heard it enjoyed a muffled giggle behind our order of service sheets.

Ah, fond memories. But I must go, Delia’s calling – Spiced Apricot and Orange Chutney, I think . . .