Elizabeth David's Christmas
Compiled by Jill Norman


Elizabeth David is one of my favourite food writers, not so much for her recipes (which, to be truthful, I've never tried), but for her writing, which is so evocative of the time and the places she lived in. Born in England just before the first world war, she lived in France, Germany, Greece and Egypt, among other countries, before returning, after the second world war.

Whether or not David intended the food featured in the book to be eaten only at Christmas, most of it is appropriate for the season. She started compiling her essays well before her death, in 1992, but the collection was published posthumously.

Her recipes are as celebratory as you might expect, but they also show David's wide-ranging influences. Besides very English dishes such as potted fish and beef, there are French ones such as cassoulet of turkey; la poule au riz a la crème; and goose rillettes.

While offering up recipes for luxurious holiday feasts, David herself liked simplicity. Her editor writes that while "Elizabeth was very familiar with the need to provide enough food to see a large family through several days' meals and snacks, and found solutions to simplify and reduce the amount of preparation and cooking … [her] choice of smoked salmon, home-made bread, butter, and lovely cold white Alsace wine was 'a glorious way to celebrate Christmas'."