9 NOVYes, opening the presents is fun – for all of 15 minutes – and the shopping can give you a high, until the credit card bill arrives. No, my favourite and most enduring memories of Christmas have always been cooking and giggling in the kitchen with my mum – a noted over-caterer and maker of the best ‘smashed’ potatoes on the planet (that’s crispy roast potatoes, heavy with olive oil, garlic and rosemary, broken up quite a bit from tossing them in the tray and roasted some more so there are lots of crispy bits – invented way before Jamie Oliver pulled out his masher to squash Christmas spuds!) My mother is now in her 70s and the mantle of cooking a vast Christmas feast has passed to me, but I still look forward to having her oversee my efforts while sitting at my kitchen table peeling carrots or making salad and reminiscing with me, my siblings and my kids! And like her, I’ve developed a bit of an experimental streak. There is always turkey and Christmas pud, because my mum loves them, which means we do too. But some years I’ve also made lemon and herb Greek lamb, veal in cream sauce, Spanish chicken with orange and chorizo, cold broccoli and almond salad… oh, I could go on. This year I think we’ll be visiting the Middle East with Ras al Hanout lamb https://bit.ly/1q0h892 with a mint and parsley yoghurt dressing studded with pomegranate seeds, mushrooms oven baked in olive oil and parsley, roast carrot and orange salad, and of course, smashed potatoes! After all, what’s Christmas without a little familiar tradition, eh?