I can hand on heart say that since the kids came along I have only been to two Christmas parties. That’s two in nearly 15 years. I know that probably makes me a billy-no-mates lamo but I’m quite at ease with my hermit-like status. Staying in means I don’t have to worry about what I’m going to wear, what the hell I’m going to talk about and how many piles of pavement vom I’m going to have to negotiate before boarding the last chunder express home. Despite this however, December remains for me, a month of excess.
I’m not talking about the full on debauchery of my 20s, when as a fledgling journo I (quite literally) stumbled from one PR’s Christmas party to the next getting all overexcited by the free champagne, with only an occasional cocktail sausage and Marlborough Light as sustenance. This kind of behaviour was, quite frankly, neither becoming, nor sustainable.
No nowadays December brings with it a more pernicious trickle of overindulgence. I don’t know whether it’s down to a fear of missing out, but my (loosely adhered to) rules of low weekday carbing and no weeknight boozing, fly completely out the window. It’s like having a Numskull (remember them? The Beezer, circa 1979) in my head who presses the ‘Oh Fuck It’ button every time temptation comes my way. Mince pie? OFI, why not? Prosecco madam? OFI, rude not to. Caramel Gingerbread Latte with Whipped Cream? OFI, it won’t be around for long. (I actually have never ordered the latter, but hey, the month is young).
Sadly now that I’m firmly entrenched in middle age I no longer have the ability of my 25 year old self to efficiently metabolise either calories or alcohol so this lack of self-control has only one inevitable conclusion. But what I also get now to accompany thick head and fat arse, which I didn’t in my carefree youth, are irrational levels of guilt and self-loathing. At any other time of year, these feelings can be swiftly knocked on the head by a few dry weeks, a couple of trips to the gym and a diet consisting mainly of kale. But this is December and that’s never going to happen, so my current strategy is a bit like the 5:2 diet with the dial cranked up. Weeks of blissful sin, interspersed with the odd day of self-imposed purgatory. I’m not talking calorie restriction here, just filling up with the good stuff to delude me into feeling better about myself (on really bad days, when self-flagellation and the subsequent need for cleansing is at its greatest, I might even change the bed sheets and clean the fridge too, all the while supping kale juice).
Cajun salmon with avocado salsa
I think the combination of citrus and spice is one of the best if you’re feeling sluggish, bloated or hungover. This recipe is light, tasty and ready in 10 minutes. My kids will eat this if pushed, but they prefer it if I use chicken (yawn) instead of fish.
For the salmon
- 2 skin-on salmon fillets (I use the lightly smoked ones as their flavour holds up well to the spice but ordinary salmon will do)
- olive oil
- cajun spice mix (I use Schwartz – the Barts one tastes a bit dusty)
- lime zest and juice
For the salsa
- 1/2 hass avocado diced
- 1/2 red pepper, finely diced
- 6 baby plum tomatoes finely diced
- 1/2 small red onion finely chopped
- 1/2-1 red chilli (depending on heat) finely chopped
- juice of 1 lime
- salt and pepper
- chopped coriander (optional)
- First make the salsa. Put the onion in a bowl with the lime juice and leave to macerate for about 10 mins (this takes the harshness out of the onion). Then gently stir in all the other ingredients and season to taste.
- Rub the salmon with a drizzle of oil then sprinkle over the cajun spice (probably about a tsp per fillet). If your spice mix doesn’t contain salt, then sprinkle a bit over too.
- Heat some oil in a frying pan over a medium heat and fry the fillets, skin side down for about 3 minutes until skin is crisp (I know it’s frying, but steaming and poaching and other hair shirtedness have no place in December).
- Carefully flip the fillets over and fry them for a further 2 minutes (timing will depend on the thickness of your fillets). They should be just cooked, so nice and pink in the middle – if white stuff starts leeching out it’s a sign you’ve overcooked them soz).
- Remove from pan, drain on kitchen paper, then squeeze over some lime juice and grate over a bit of zest. Serve with the salsa and your choice of carb if you’re allowing yourself such indulgences.