Mention of the festive period should be banned until the start of Advent

The season of Advent starts tomorrow and signifies a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the nativity of Jesus at Christmas.

The term is a version of the Latin word meaning “coming” I’ve had lots of conversations about Christmas lately that involve cooking turkeys, the price of a new IPad and the best recipe for Christmas pudding.

We’re bombarded in supermarkets and by media from mid September about Christmas purely from a materialistic point of view that we’ve forgotten what it’s actually about. 

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If it was up to me there’d be a blanket ban on any mention of the festive period until the official start of advent. No family should be be in debt because of pressure to buy the right presents and display hysterical amounts of food on the table. I had the misfortune lately of eating a party sized sausage roll from a supermarket chain. Apparently they’re cheap, can be cooked from frozen but contained about 2g of meat.

I would rather have had one decent homemade sausage roll than a lifetime supply of these excuses for what should be a firm favourite. A good local butcher will supply you with locally sourced meat that will be cheaper than the mass produced kind and of infinitely better quality – plus you’re supporting the economy.

Have you noticed the smell from the vegetable section in a supermarket? Exactly – because there isn’t one. The produce is so tightly packaged and the loose vegetables chilled to within an inch of their lives. Walk into a green grocers and you can smell earth, fragrant holly, citrus fruits and verdant greens. It’s the rustic scent of growth, of life and the real thing. There are farm shops dotted around the country too selling locally grown vegetables. Galbraith’s Farm on the Boghill road in Coleraine have a hut in their farm yard. You drive in one way,  pick up your vegetables, drive past a big shed and drive out the other way. No frills, no hard sell with strategically placed products, just the best vegetables you’re likely to eat. Last week I got some muck caked parsnips from Magilligan from them,which were duly scrubbed, cut in half lengthwise, tossed in some Broighter Gold rapeseed oil and roasted with thyme until golden and soft. They were sweet as sugar and absolutely delicious.  vegetables like this are a reminder of childhood where flavours were king and looks irrelevant. They’ll have a stand at the upcoming Saturday Christmas markets in Coleraine ( for details.

The market is well worth the trip but the fact is every county has brilliant produce with farm shops, small shops and markets in many towns that we should support. 

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My first recipe is for proper sausage rolls, lightly spiced meat encased in crispy pastry. 

I use ready rolled – it’s convenient and stress free.

Anyone over a certain age will remember the Cadbury advent calendars where each window held a tiny bar of chocolate. Like now, I didn’t have the discipline then to hold out and most of the treats were eaten by the 3rd of December. Nowadays I prefer a couple of chocolate rich recipes to have over the Christmas period. My first is for a spiced chocolate cake - the cake has melted chocolate and cocoa in it with buttermilk lightening the whole thing. You can make this cake now and freeze it successfully for later. Chocolate truffles are the perfect way of making a little good chocolate go a long way. I’ve included a recipe for basic truffles and suggestions to add to them. Make a batch, eat a few yourself and the rest will make a lovely gift.

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