Christmas in my family was always a bit of a non-event. They were never the type to make a big deal of it. No Christmas tree to decorate, or twinkling of pretty Christmas lights in the lounge room. No carols either. There wasn’t the anticipation of a midnight visit from Santa and his reindeers, thus there was no cookies and milk ritual. We also didn’t have your typical family gathering, or do the typical Christmas ham for lunch.
That’s not to say we didn’t celebrate. Mum bought me lots of little presents, and I would often con her into giving them to me early. And we did have a special lunch, it was just small. Although there was no ham, turkey, or prawns on the barbie, we did have our own special tradition. It was delicious, and was made all the more special because it only occurred on Christmas. It was zupetta, which is a chicken, cheese and stale bread kind of soup/bake thing, as well as my nonna’s homemade pizza. The pizza was super simple, and looking back now I guess it is more like a focaccia than a pizza. It was a thick bready base with only tomato. And that is all. I don’t know how, being so simple, but it was sublime. As the years rolled by and my grandparents grew rather old, these traditions have slowly disappeared, much like the annual passata day and the making of homemade vino. My mum attempted to carry on the Christmas zupetta tradition, however a few years later discovered she couldn’t eat gluten. Alas nobody makes it anymore, and hundreds of years worth of family tradition has stopped with us.
There is a part of me that feels a bit sad for the erosion of our family traditions. But I suppose I am as responsible as anybody else for keeping them alive. When my son was born I took a new interest in Christmas. Instead of being a day that seemed to only highlight how dysfunctional my family is, it became a day that I looked forward to more than any other. I began to build my own traditions. We bought a tree to drag out of storage on the 1st December each year. We decorate it and I take the annual photo of Clancy standing in front of it. We leave a carrot out for Rudolf and a beer for Santa. And there are piles of presents that get ripped open every Christmas morning while I still wipe sleep from my eyes. I also make a couple of raspberry + almond meringue roulades. It only happens once a year, and is extremely special. Whilst I may not be keeping alive the only real Christmas traditions from my family, I instead have created our own. One day my son will look back and have a bundle of reasons why Christmas is special. This roulade will be one of them.
Raspberry + Almond Meringue Roulade
Recipe adapted from Nigel Slater in Tender II
Serves 6 – 8
- 6 egg whites
- 280g caster sugar
- 1 Tbsp cornflour
- 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 large handful flaked almonds
- 300ml double cream
- 400g raspberries (I use a mix of fresh and frozen)
- Preheat oven to 200 degrees C and line a shallow baking dish with baking paper and little bit of oil.
- Whisk the egg whites until soft peaks form. With the electric mixer still running, gradually add the sugar, whisking well between each addition. The trick is to make sure there are no sugar granules left before adding in the next addition.
- Once completed, fold in the cornflour and vinegar.
- Using a spatula, spread the meringue mix evenly onto the baking paper.
- Sprinkle flaked almonds over the meringue then bake for 10 minutes. Decrease oven temperature to 180 degrees C and continue to bake for a further 10 minutes, or until lovely and golden.
- Remove from oven and turn out on a fresh sheet of baking paper, almond side down. Leave to cool.
- Once cool, use a spatula to spread double cream over the meringue. Evenly sprinkle the raspberries on top then begin to roll into a roulade. Turn meringue so the longest edge is at the bottom. Carefully roll, from the bottom up. Grab a small handful of sugar and sprinkle on top.
- Serve straight away, or refrigerate overnight (covered) and serve the next day.