Impromptu pizza brunch two days after Christmas. Traditionally we wander up to the Hopewell family early evening Christmas Day. Couldn’t do it this year so a couple of days later we dragged them down for a pizzafest.

photo ‘alfinched from Richard Hopewell

This was total improv based on what we had in the house. Fortunately this included dough in the fridge even if it was Campagne and not one of my usual pizza doughs.

From bottom to top: (sort of) Margherita, Blue Cheese & Walnut, Garlic Lovers’ Italian Sausage, Spicy Amatriciana – all long-fermented, deep pan pizzas, the last three heavily based on the Peter Reinhart book. The Margherita was a just-in-case afterthought, fortuitous because the lot got scoffed together with a salad and a fabulous pud of grape filled mini pavlovas provided by Sue.

The Blue Cheese & Walnut included a caramelized onion & balsamic marmalade; the sausages weren’t Italian; the Amatriciana wasn’t spicy but the lardons have their own story.

Before Christmas I did a bit of a promotion locally for my bread courses. Did OK – six lucky people got course vouchers for Christmas. One of them is the 18 year old son of Glenn who has been raising free-range pigs and geese. So Glenn proposes a bit of barter for a course voucher – a goose (oven-ready) and a joint of pork, the remainder in cash. This idea pleases me greatly and it worked out really well – except I’m not entirely sure what to do with a 4K and a nearly 3K joints of pork – or even if I can get the 4K piece out again without defrosting the freezer.

Anyway, the bonus was a bag of lardons – coarse, chunky, fatty lardons, not the pale, dainty things prepacked from the supermarket. These were the star of the Amatriciana. Going to be hard to repeat.

Lots of hearty eating and drinking, jolly conversation, eclectic mix of music playing – you know how it works. But, as evening was approaching, Bryn, the youngest of the party, politely raised the subject of cocktails purely from an educational perspective you understand. No one else was interested so I thought I’d keep him company with a Negroni. I believe cocktails should be strong and smack you in the mouth and I make a Negroni with dry vermouth rather than sweet. It turned out no one had ever had a Negroni – can you believe it? – so everyone wanted a taste. They all found it too bitter. But now their interest had been aroused.

So we moved on to an Old Fashioned, about the only sweet(ish) cocktail I like, by which time everyone was in the mood so we had a classic Dry Martini – the one where the gin just gets a sniff of the vermouth. By then I’m running out of imagination (and spirits). Finished off with a Ti’ Ponche – just rum, simple syrup, a wedge of lime and a teaspoon to prod the lime with. The rum was 55 proof Martinique. The correct way to serve Ti’ Ponche is to put glasses and the bottles on a table under a parasol together with a bowl of limes and a jug of water (no ice), start a conversation and let everyone serve themselves.

Think I’d class that brunch as pretty successful all round.

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