This book was put together after Elizabeth David's death by her long-time editor, Jill Norman, although they had first discussed the project back in the 1970's. The book collects together recipes drawn from Elizabeth David's books, themselves drawing on earlier books, & notes and her many years of journalism.
It is perhaps somewhat surprising to learn that Elizabeth would have preferred an omelette and cold ham with a glass of Alsace for lunch on Christmas Day and a smoked salmon sandwich with champagne for supper. I think she speaks for many of us when she writes: "The grisly orgy of spending and cooking and anxiety has to be faced."
This collection is presented in the usual Elizabeth David style so don't expect a list of ingredients followed by the method/recipe. Hers is a more narrative style, often with historical information about where the recipe derived from, remembrances of earlier Christmases (an amusing story of Christmas lunch in war-time Egypt). It is interesting too that in some recipes (for example for a white chicken cream, a kind of mousseline), the advent of modern kitchen equipment makes what were once very time consuming recipes much quicker and easier to prepare. As she says: "Pounding and sieving the chicken meat took so long that I made the dish only for very special occasions. Food choppers and processors have now changed all that, making it feasible to experiment often and with any amount of variations."
There are lots of traditional recipes not often seen these days, and ideas for using leftovers. For example, there is potted spiced beef, lots of pates & terrines, a small number of soups including potato, tomato & celery; mushroom cream; pumpkin & celery. As you would expect in a Christmas cook book, the turkey appears alongside goose, capon, pheasant, chicken & duck. There is a number of interesting stuffing suggestions - pork & mushroom, an Italian style stuffing with sausagemeat & chestnut puree, pork & chestnut puree. Other meat suggestions for the festive period are spiced beef, baked fillet of beef with tomato fondue (my plan for a quiet Christmas after travelling to stay with family for the day itself), cold baked salted silverside, suckling pig. There is an excellent chapter on vegetable accompaniments - cream of parsnip with ginger & eggs (lovely & warming), jerusalem artichokes with either cream or tomatoes & herbs, pumpkin & tomato gratin, followed by good selection of salads to accompany cold meats & terrines. Then follow sauces & pickles including all the usual Christmas sauces - cranberry, cumberland, bread sauce, apple sauce plus some more unusual things such as Sweet-sour tomato & orange pickle & spiced quinces amongst others. Then there is a raft of puddings & cakes - plus recipes for mincemeat, mincepies (lemon or orange mince pies from a recipe book published in 1834). You could try Chestnut & chocolate cake, apple & almond cake, or orange & almond cake, or maybe apricot ice-cream, or frosted tangerines filled with tangerine ice.
As with most, if not all, of Elizabeth David's books, this is as much a book to curl up with on the sofa as it is a cookery book. It would also make a lovely gift for a foodie friend.