It’s December and time to see how many of our Christmas decorations have survived being shoved at the bottom of the hall cupboard for a year.
How many bulbs have broken, where the reindeer’s antlers have gone, have you seen the other half of the It’s a Wonderful Life DVD and why is The Night Before Christmas missing its cover? are games we love to play every December. Often there is a sock I’ve been missing for 12 months wrapped around something and the door wreath always needs parts re-glueing.
It will be a monumental task this year getting the place ready. The decorator is still there like a paint splattered Yuletide elf, the kitchen is scattered through various rooms and I’m still using the dishwasher as storage against the dust,
Being able to open a cupboard and make a snack, or put the kettle on is something we take for granted. Even going for a pee is a treacherous obstacle course in the middle of the night, made only slightly easier now as for some reason the bathroom light is permanently on as half the wires and fittings dangle like a broken and fizzing dystopian New York Jazz bar sign.
Until it is finished, simple snacks like this Parmesan crisp bring a smile to our faces on the bleakest of evenings as we perch on our bed with no home to go to even though we’re in it.
Seven minutes in a dust-covered oven is all this takes, although it may be quicker without the debris. You can add all kinds of seasonings if you’re able to find any of your spices under the broken jars and cracked picture frames. Fennel seeds, cumin, rosemary and so on would all be a good addition. And if you can find a box to store them in, they will keep for two or three days.
You can also do what I did with them the other night. Boil some spaghetti in heavily salted water until al dente, drain it, keeping a little of the starchy cooking water and crush in a couple of anchovies* — perhaps it was four — a good tablespoon of butter and a heavy hand with some chilli olive oil. An extra sprinkle of grated Parmesan and a little salt and pepper made an excellent meal that took no longer to cook than the time it takes to order a new, working set of Christmas lights on the internet.
*salty black olives would work if you can’t bear anchovies.
Half a standard supermarket block of Parmesan or Grana Padano
A small handful of chopped, fresh parsley
2tbsp of finely chopped peanuts (pulse in the processor if you like)
1tbsp dried garlic flakes (or 1tsp chopped fresh garlic)
1tbsp desiccated coconut
Salt and black pepper to season
Wipe off the dust from everything.
Heat the oven to 180c and line a baking tray with parchment.
Grate the cheese in an even layer all over the parchment and sprinkle the remaining ingredients over.
Bake in the oven for 6-8 minutes, making sure the cheese is golden yellow and not burnt. Keep an eye on it, the edges brown quicker than the centre. Turn the tray around halfway through if you feel you need to.
Leave to cool and harden before breaking up, which isn’t hard to do, and serve as an apéro or store in an airtight box for up to two days.