Joyeux Noël

One of our Christmas packages caused all sorts of questions.   The trouble and cost of sending several thousand little parcels to ex-military blind people was truly kind.   Although the card wasn’t accessible, I’m told it used an image of First World war men injured and blinded in the trenches, leading each other to safety.   It is a famously poignant statue of remembrance that conveys the pathos and spirit of men supporting each other during conflict.

But it does rather beg the question as to whether this is how we want to be seen over a century later.   Nowadays, the vast majority of blind ex-military people include both men and women who left the Services decades before losing their sight.   There is a much smaller proportion of us who were blinded by and during our time in uniform and, with 21st century attitudes, adaptations and accessibility, we are capable of so much more than was possible 100 years ago.   Enabling us to achieve fulfilling and rewarding lives, embark on new careers and fulfil our potential should surely be the key goal and more powerful image for all those who so generously offer us support.

The remainder of the package was just as thought-provoking: a sachet of hot chocolate drink and a shortbread biscuit!

Let me also share a perfect recipe for any mass entertaining you might be planning: Crème Noël.   This is my answer for advance mass production of desserts.   I was able to use my sous-vide water bath, but a bain marie in the oven should work just as well.

This quantity filled more than 24 small screw-top jars which provided an ample portion for each guest.


800 ml double cream.

400 ml milk.

16 egg yolks.

192g honey (or caster sugar).

4 heaped teaspoons mixed spice.

4 teaspoons vanilla extract.

mincemeat – 1 teaspoon per serving.

Preheat the water bath to 80°C.

Warm the milk and cream together in a small saucepan to 60°C

Whisk the remaining ingredients (except the mincemeat) together in a bowl.

Gradually whisk in the warm cream and milk.

Place a teaspoon of mincemeat in each jar and then fill with the whisked mixture.

Screw the jar lids in place tightly and submerge in the water bath for 60 minutes.

Remove and chill quickly.   Store in the fridge up to 2-3 days.

My Tips:

I used the homemade mincemeat and served with little star-shaped shortbread biscuits (recipes in the free recipe booklet

Simply divide all the quantities by 4 for just six servings.

If not using a sous-vide, fill a deep roasting tin with water and heat in the oven until the water reaches 80C.   Place the jars in the water and monitor the temperature during the cooking time.

I gave away 8 egg whites and am experimenting with freezing the remainder.


My next on-line cooking demo is at 1030 on Monday 10 January (details to follow) with roast vegetables as the focus for cutting, chopping and peeling when you can’t see.

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© 2024 - Penny Melville-Brown
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