At a Christmas party last night a friend reminded me that the Irish word for ‘December’ and ‘Christmas’ are in fact the same – Nollaig. Although he was just remarking on the amount of events that happen over the festive season, his observation actually holds quite a lot of truth on how we actually celebrate this time of year in Ireland. It’s the sum of the annual bits and pieces over the four weeks that make up the season; a set of rituals, gatherings and groupings over the month which pull us closer to the big day, but yet which are special, significant and steadfast in their own way too.
The same goes for the food, which if we’re honest is not really all about the turkey and ham. It’s the novelty of the first mince pie, a little too early; the stirring of the pudding; the guiltily made jar of homemade mincemeat; the Christmas shopping coffee; the wedge of panettone; the gifts you make or receive; the post-work hot whiskey; the extra glass of prosecco; the special jar of homemade pâté from a neighbour down the road; the feed of boxty and the sliver of Christmas cake the night before; the special clementine on Christmas morning. After all, it’s all these little occasions (and the different people you enjoy them with) which make December Nollaig.
EARL GREY, PISTACHIO & CRANBERRY CHOCOLATE BARK
This beautiful Christmas bark takes only a few minutes to make and can be personalised every which way for all the people who play a big or small (but nonetheless important) part in your Christmas celebrations.
I used loose-leaf Earl Grey tea, orange zest, chopped pistachios and dried cranberries on top of a mix of equal parts dark and milk chocolate in mine, but the possibilities are endless – try dark chocolate with smashed crystallised ginger and toasted almond for example; or white chocolate with crushed candy cane and hazelnut – whatever takes your fancy.
Once you’ve made your selection (three ingredients works well), simply sprinkle the additions over a tray of melted (dark, milk or white) chocolate and leave it all to set. Once it’s completely hard, break it into shards and pack it into cellophane bags.