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Christmas in France It's not just an event but a feeling and a feast says Janine Marsh as she reminisces on a Christmas past from her book My Four Seasons in France In the little farmhouses of my village you generally open the front door and find yourself in the main room of the house, where everyone spends most time. At my neighbour Madame Bernadette’s, that’s a large kitchen, the warmest room in the house, heated by a huge wood oven. We were invited for a Christmas soiree. Coming in from the crisp night air in which bright stars sparkled alongside a full moon in a velvety dark sky and the ground twinkled as frost was already forming – it was sweltering. The wall of heat instantly misted up my glasses leaving me momentarily disorientated in the steamy haze. Madame Bernadette had the perfect answer to that – a chilled cocktail made with calvados. If you’ve never had calvados before, be warned - this apple brandy from Normandy, the region that neighbours mine, can blow your socks off. And, I have to tell you, we were all pretty much sockless after a couple of hours... Soft music played in the background, something very French with a male singer of gravelly voice, perhaps Charles Aznavour – he has never gone out of fashion here. People were talking and laughing, helping themselves to delicious little pastries and canapés that Madame Bernadette had prepared earlier in the day. Delicate little melt-in-your-mouth choux buns filled with fresh, tangy goats cheese from the Goat Lady’s farm. Mini tartelettes filled with smoky lardons and onion confit. Delicate golden gougères like crunchy balloons flavoured with salty and nutty Comté cheese from eastern France. Tender mini-croquettes with silky tomato coulis, saucisson and blue cheese. And cherry tomato lollipops, like miniature shiny crimson works of art. Madame Bernadette beamed as everyone licked their lips in appreciation of her cooking skills. For me Christmas in France is not just an event, it's a feeling and a feast, a time to share. So, I asked Madame Bernadette to share with us her some of her favourite party food recipes and of course, her Blow Your Socks off Calvados cocktail....
Madame Bernadette's trio of party canapés you can't go wrong with. They're really easy to make but pack loads of wow factor! Cherry tomato lollipops Ingredients 1 box of cherry tomatoes 5 tablespoons sugar Sesame seeds Dash of balsamic vinegar Toothpicks or aperitif picks Wash the cherry tomatoes in cold water and dry them. Make a liquid caramel by bringing the sugar to the boil with a little water and a dash of balsamic vinegar. Stick a toothpick in each tomato, poke it halfway into the caramel, then dip it in the sesame seeds, which stick to the caramel. Deliciously fresh and zingy!
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