I loved this book, which I think could almost be better titled "A Gorgeous Christmas Season". That's because, unlike many other Christmas cookbooks, this could be used from the beginning of November to cook ordinary dinners, as well as covering the big day itself thoroughly. For example, although the book begins with a plethora of canapés that actually look sufficiently unfiddly for me to imagine I could make them, that chapter is followed by one on pies which you could imagine using every day. Yes, of course you'll only get round to that wonderfully adult duck and pistachio terrine once a year, but the beef, brandy and chestnut pie, and venison carbonade, would make gorgeous dishes for a winter dinner party.
She also gives a few recipes I've wanted my whole life - since I was a little girl, I have had a mouthwatering memory of a restaurant in Cornwall where they served a salmon en croute. She has the actual recipe, flavouring the salmon with currants, tarragon, ginger and shallots. If you have a pescatarian Christmas coming up, this dish is to die for. And finally we get to see how French people cook their Christmas day Turbot!!
The bird recipes are all very tempting with some nice stuffings, the ham is glazed with Earl Grey (mmmmm) or sherry and quince jelly (mmmmmmmm). I'm not totally in love with her vegetarian suggestion, a squash containing veg, but that's only because I have a personal bugbear against veggie recipes that contain too many starchy veg and stop you filling up on roasties and stuffing. There is also a "homage to nut roast" made of spinach, almonds and goat's cheese, I will have to try making.
Apart from these essentials, the trimmings are all in the book too, from cranberry sauce to giblet gravy. And there's pages of devious ways with the leftovers like Coronation Turkey and ham hash. Amongst the puddings there are classics, and then some totally new things which make you think twice about opting for tradition - a white chocolate cheesecake, a cranberry and orange parfait (so posh), and a lovely cranberry jelly too. The cakes are good too, with some excellent decorating suggestions, and again, because I'm a bit of a Francophile, it's great to have a recipe for Galette du Roi, the French cake for the 6th Jan which helps you string Christmas out that little bit longer. If you are a total obsessive such as myself.
All in all a lovely book and I hope I've given some sense of the general flavour of it, the range of it. I haven't tried any recipes yet as it only arrived yesterday, but Annie Bell's reputation as an utterly reliable food writer does precede her and I wouldn't worry about trusting any of these. I think this is a very down-to-earth Christmas book with things you can actually imagine making, rather than just staring at the pictures wistfully. I thought it was very grown-up, in fact, catering for those who imagine a slightly more sophisticated Christmas, and I really hope it becomes an Xmas favourite.