Every Tuesday during our Christmas Countdown, Le Cordon Bleu London’s accomplished alumni will be sharing their Christmas stories, to give you a bit of festive inspiration and a unique insight into potential career prospects after acquiring a qualification from the world leading culinary arts, wine and management school!
Kicking off the series in style is Amanda Thomson, CEO and founder of Thomson & Scott wines, who graduated from our Paris school with a Diploma in Wine.
As the daughter of divorced parents I always had two Christmases, but as it was sold to me in a wholly positive way, I considered myself to be quite lucky. I would celebrate Christmas Day on the 25th and then do it all over again on Boxing Day, which has to be every child’s dream. And although Father Christmas visiting twice was always a little confusing, I was smart enough not to question this too much in case he stopped visiting at all!
When I was growing up, my family weren’t very religious so Christmas time was more focussed on family and fun, which makes my memories of the season warm and enjoyable ones. We would play board games like Scrabble and Monopoly, which is perhaps where I honed my competitive streak, and Christmas Top of the Pops was another necessity, with dancing around the living room being what I remember loving the most. I was a big Duran Duran fan and one of those children who had bags of energy and was always asking lots of questions – exhausting to my parents I’m sure.
My mother was a health food entrepreneur and somewhat of a quirky cook, so the one thing that I could count on for Christmas lunch was a nut roast of some description and a mountain of veg, which is a tradition that I still try and uphold today (although my children do groan about it). Also, in order to spread the Christmas spirit, my mother would invite those who would have otherwise spent the day alone to our house, so there would often be a lonely neighbour over for a mince pie after lunch. Surprisingly given my recent business venture, my parents didn’t drink much alcohol, but I clearly remember being seduced by the romance of Champagne in my teenage years at other grown-ups parties.
The fondest Christmas memory that I can recall was when I was about five years old. I got up super early to see what was in my stocking, and decided to feed Suzy, my Yorkshire terrier raw eggs all over the kitchen floor! I thought she would like an omelette for her Christmas breakfast – at least that was my artistic take on it, although perhaps not my mother’s fondest memory.
Christmas food and traditions
There are a few Christmas traditions that I just have to uphold every year, such as going to the panto with the kids, however bad, and not lighting the fire on Christmas Eve in case Father Christmas gets his bottom burnt. I still have decorations from my childhood and we tend to have a family tree decorating session, but of course I have to neaten it all up when the kids are in bed. I tend to be pretty strict with my children’s diets throughout the year, but as with my childhood, I see Christmas as the time to let loose and hit the stocking chocolates for breakfast, if that’s what they want to do.
My Christmases still consist of a full vegetarian dinner in a cosy kitchen with my family, and the brilliant thing about vegetarian food is that the leftovers go on forever! We always light the Christmas pudding to great excitement and while I usually eat a lot of vegan food, a Christmas cheese board is definitely my weakness. I also save special bottles of wine that I have acquired from wonderful producers throughout the year, and they’re the ones that we can’t wait to open on Christmas. And not forgetting a glass of Skinny Champagne mid-morning, which always puts me in the perfect mood for the day ahead.
I also try and use the festive season to catch up with my oldest friends, especially those who I may not have spent much time with during the rest of the year. I love to give them a wine or food-focused gift for Christmas. Something like a special bottle chosen because it was made somewhere the recipient goes on holiday, or is from a vintage year with relevance for them, such as an anniversary or a birthday. I’m also a fan of giving olive oil and honey, the best dark chocolate money can buy and maybe a Diptyque candle.
Christmas this year
This year on Christmas Eve we are going to Christingle at our village church with the kids and then perhaps out for drinks with friends afterwards, although that has been known to go on longer than is sensible. And of course, there will be plenty of Skinny Champagne flowing and hopefully some snow in Winchester as my 8-year-old son is already focused on that (the snow, not the Champagne!). For Christmas, we will be going out for lunch in Winchester which should be relaxing, and it really is a gorgeous city for the festive season – there’s the Christmas market and ice-skating in the cathedral grounds, which can’t fail to put you in the right festive spirit. This will be followed by mulled wine although as someone who’s almost sugar-free, the energy hit is sure to be palpable.
But overall, the most important thing about Christmas for me is getting to hang out with my husband and two children, preferably in our village home in Hampshire. I love a hot climate and get itchy feet if I’m in the same place for too long, but I do also enjoy a classic English country picture-book Christmas. We light the fire, open the red wine, and go on frosty walks. Saying that, one of my most memorable Christmases was in Argentina so I’m not adverse to a long-haul sunny celebration either. Contrast is the beauty of life in my eyes.
Christmas Cocktail recipe
Dalloway Terrace at The Bloomsbury, have created a Skinny Prosecco cocktail, the Skinny Plum Smash, which is a lovely pick me up and is perfect for wowing your guests during the festive season.
Ingredients (serves 2)
- 1 plum
- 4 thyme sprigs
- 1 lemon
- 2 tbsp agave thyme syrup (½ cup agave syrup, ½ cup of water)
- 1 bottle of Thomson & Scott Skinny Prosecco
- Peel and thinly slice the plum
- Make your agave thyme syrup by bringing ½ cup of agave syrup and ½ cup of water to boil. Remove from the heat once slightly syrupy and add thyme sprigs.Chill until ready to use.
- Pour the cooled syrup over ice in two glasses
- Top with Skinny Prosecco and garnish with plum slices and thyme