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Essentially England News - Christmas Edition
December 05, 2016

The Christmas Edition

It's December! I have no idea where this year has gone, but it was fast. December is when everybody talks about Christmas and when Essentially England has a birthday. It's the ninth this year… and yes, I had to work that one out! I remember putting up the homepage on December 14th, in my lunch break, and I was nervous about everything from the pictures I'd chosen to my tone of voice. In that first half-month of December, the site had 38 visitors and 152 page views… and I was pleased as punch!

From that first, lonely homepage, the site has grown to hundreds of pages of history, food and places to visit. These days we have over a quarter of a million visitors a year and over a million page views…. Thank you so much for that!

Essentially England is nine years old! Thank you!

Now let's move on to what a large number of people think of when they hear "December"… fabulous foods and present-shopping.

If you'd lived in England in the Middle Ages, then Christmas shopping wouldn't have been part of your to-do list. We did celebrate Christmas, of course, and many English kings held lavish Christmas Courts and "crown wearings" filled with much food and even more entertainment, but gift giving was a custom reserved for New Year. Christmas was all about company and celebration.

Things have changed a little since then, and while we're here, I'd love to give a bit of a shout out to a part of the England site that only ever gets busy at this time of year… the Christmas section! And if I can give you a few ideas for your gift shopping, then so much the better.

Delicious Christmas Food |

© PublicDomainPictures

There's food. Of course there's delicious food. There's also music, a little meander around English Christmas traditions, a section on Christmas stockings and even ideas how to fill them.

As for the gifts ideas, I've split those into suggestions that will suit England lovers, history lovers, and food lovers. And there are plenty more turning up every day on the Essentially England Twitter feed.

That's quite enough to keep you going, I'm sure, and you might like to take a break from all the shopping and catch up with William, duke of Normandy.

950 Years Ago...

No two ways about it, 1066 was an eventful year for England. William won England's crown in battle in October and then had to make sure that he kept it. He did that most decisively and was finally crowned King of England by Ealdred, the Archbishop of York at Westminster Abbey on Christmas Day 1066.

William, who was by all accounts a very pious man, had a lot to give thanks for. But his coronation almost ended in bloodshed! The English crowned their kings by proclamation, which means that everyone in the abbey started to yell the new king's name at the top of their lungs. Since nobody had told the nobles and guests waiting outside, they could be excused for thinking that William was being attacked inside the abbey… so they tried to storm it and rescue their king.

Another even that I'd love to have seen. From a safe distance, as some historical accounts say that parts of the abbey were set on fire…

Lemon Cream... A Lighter End to your Christmas Feast

Christmas pudding is, of course, the traditional end to a Christmas meal, but if you love your turkey with all the trimmings and love to feast on roast potatoes and chipolatas, then you might want something a little lighter to end your meal.

Lemon Cream Recipe | image: tappancs

So if you're looking for a pudding that's both festive and uplifting, then I suggest you give this one a try. Found - as others before - in Michael Barry's Old English Recipes, this tasty treat was written down in 1843. And along with the recipe you also learn that the English have always loved lemons. Sometimes, we even paid a steep price for them. In 1290, someone apparently paid £1 … the price of 240 chickens! … for a basket of 39 lemons. And lemon lover that I am, I can think of a lot of tasty things to do with that much citrus.

One of which could easily be this lemon cream for which you'll only need one of the coveted fruit along with

  • 12 oz / 350ml double (heavy) cream
  • 3 oz / 75g sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cornflour
  • 6 sponge fingers
  • 2 tablespoons candied lemon peel
  • 3 tablespoons orange juice or lemon liqeur

Start by grating the lemon rind or using a zester. You want as much of the tasty peel as you can get and none of the bitter white pith. Add the lemon zest to the cream and heat very gently. Add the sugar to the cream and let it dissolve. Your cream should now be sweet and lemon-scented.

Squeeze your lemon and mix the juice with the cornflour. Whisk the mix into the cream, making sure it's well blended. Then simmer the cream / lemon mix for another 2-3 minutes. Take off the heat and leave to cool while you find 6 wine glasses and break up the sponge fingers.

Divide the sponge fingers and candied lemon peel between the wine glasses and moisten with the orange juice or lemon liqueur. Then pour the cream mix on top and chill for at least 2 hours. Decorate with a few slivers of lemon peel and a mint leaf or two.

And Next Month …

That's it from us for the moment! Thank you so much for your company over the last nine years. We hope you enjoyed reading Essentially England as much as we loved creating it and we look forward to seeing you all in January with more history, great places to explore and a lot more wonderful food!

We wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year!

And why not join us on Twitter or Instagram and LIKE us on Facebook? I'll be very happy to see you!

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