Our families and some good friends braved the fog at Heathrow and joined us in London to celebrate the holidays. Our strict itinerary (chants of our mantra, "Don't be late; don't deviate!" rose up frequently from the intrepid travellers) included stops at the Harrods Food Hall (for a little last-minute truffle-hunting) and the Winter fair and skating rink on the grounds of the Natural History Museum (complete with honest-to-goodness open-fire-roasted chestnuts).After a Christmas eve carols service at Saint Paul's Cathedral, the gang sank a few pints at our local, the Crown & Sceptre, before crowding into our tiny flat for our first bona fide personal Christmas tradition, a meal of New Orleans-style barbecued shrimp, which we followed this year with a dessert of poached pears.
New Orleans-Style Barbecue Shrimp
1 pound shrimp (21-25/pound or larger), heads-on
1 stick butter or margarine, or 2 tablespoons olive oil
Pinch of crushed red pepper, cayenne pepper, salt, white pepper, and black pepper
6 cloves chopped garlic
Dash of Worcestershire sauce
3 lemons, sliced
4 ounces beer, optional
2 1/2 tablespoons paprika
Melt butter with crushed red pepper, cayenne pepper, salt, paprika, white pepper and black pepper. Add garlic and saute 1 minute. Add shrimp, Worcestershire sauce and lemons and beer, if using, and cover. Simmer 2-3 more minutes.
Serve over white rice and with French bread.
On Chrsitmas morning, we opened our stockings in Shepherd's Bush (oh yes, there were Christmas crackers, paper crowns and sherry) and the flock herded itself to Notting Hill for lunch at the oh-so-Dickensian Windsor Castle pub, where we enjoyed a menu of home-made sage and pumpkin soup; goats’ cheese and spinach tart with roast tomato chutney; turkey breast with Victoria plum stuffing and chipolata; roast corn fed chicken served on roast seasonal vegetables with redcurrant jus; whole roast trout with roast vegetables, fennel and artichoke; garlic and herb marinated lamb chops with redcurrant gravy; and chocolate puddle pudding (not, Casey was relieved to learn, chocolate poodle pudding); grilled brioche with mixed berries and vanilla ice cream; and rhubarb crumble for afters.
Although we did not, for obvious reasons, participate in the British tradition of bringing boxed presents to our servants on Boxing Day, the holiday did not go unmarked. Boxing Day dinner was a hearty meal of Irish stew following some shopping (tip for future visitors: don't attempt to hunt out bargains on Oxford Street on December 26th without some serious body armor) and a brave stroll along the Thames culminating in a thrilling carousel ride near Blackfriars Bridge.
Other highlights included an investigation of the impressive plunder of empire at the British Museum; a stop to admire the new Islamic gallery at the Victoria and Albert; the Royal Shakespeare Company's performance of Much Ado About Nothing, featuring a Latin Beatrice and Benedict whose witty banter played out against a background of militance and class conflict in 1950s Cuba; and numerous pub stops across the brightly lit city.
More pictures of our exciting adventure are available here: