Quail: Over the past few years “medieval” three and even five bird roasts have become all the rage. I blame Huge Fuggly-Duckingstool – I seem to recall it being one of his Christmas Specials that set the whole trend off. That and the placenta pate my family now expect every Boxing Day.
Anyhoo – this year I’ve decided to go one, or even several, better. The quail isn’t the first bird in my roast or the last, but it does begin with Q and I’m writing Q today, so that’s good enough for me.
Anyhoo – my roast will start with a lark’s tongue, which I will stuff with a wild boar and white truffle duxelle before rolling and tying. This will then be inserted in a plucked and dressed Bee Hummingbird, which will then be inserted in a Weebill, which will then be inserted in a Goldcrest, which will then be inserted in a Pardolate, and so on and so forth until I get to Ostrich. Sadly the Madagascan Elephant Bird has been extinct for around a thousand years, but given recent breakthroughs in cloning techniques I hope one day to see one of these fine birds grace my table as the final tier of my three-hundred bird roast. God knows how I’m going to fit it in the oven.
Quality Street: When Cadbury’s phased out Lucky Numbers (see “O”) in 1969 my family were forced to jump Christmas sweetie ships (I wanted to work a Good Ship Lollipop pun in there but couldn’t quite pull it off) to find a one-size-fits-all Toffee and Chocolate solution. Quality Street fitted the bill perfectly, and, despite young-buck-Johnny-come-latelies like Celebrations and Heroes trying to steal their thunder, have continued to hold their own to this day. There was an advert in the 80’s that asked “Which is Your Favourite?” and it goes without saying that the answer could be different for every family member. In my own family this could actually lead to fistfights, especially if there were clashes over the last one in the tin.
The contents of the Quality Street tin have changed a few times through the decades, but here, for the record, is my chart rundown for the twelve current varieties:
- At 12 – Orange Crème: Meh. Vile. Almost bad enough to bin, but worth keeping for a rainy day in early January. Just. Or you might be able to swap it with an idiot for something worth eating. Tastes a bit like sick.
- At 11 – Strawberry Delight Crème: They’re having a larf, ain’t they? There is nothing delightful about this bugger. Not quite as vile as the Orange Crème but bloody close.
- At 10 – Orange Crunch. A bit like a Terry’s Chocolate Orange segment, but not as good. Not that a Chocolate Orange is much cop, but it’s better than this waste of valuable tin space.
- At 9 – Milk Chocolate Block: Mostly harmless.
- At 8 – Noisette Triangle: A contentious number 8 – many people rate it much higher. Many people are wrong.
- At 7 – Toffee Deluxe: a nice toffee with a good chocolate to toffee ratio, but not particularly aerodynamic and hard to get started on a cold day. The Ford Escort of the sweetie world.
- At 6 – Vanilla Fudge: Often mistaken for the Coconut Éclair at first bite, engendering a mild pang of disappointment, but it’s a nice little sweetie in its own right and well worth investing a couple of seconds savouring time on.
- At 5 – The Purple One: Another contentious choice here and for many this would hold the number one spot, but for my money the caramel centre is much too sweet (cloying?) and it seems a waste to squander a delicious hazelnut here that could be put to better use elsewhere. The caramel is extremely runny too, and manages to find its way into even the tiniest crevice of tooth decay. I usually eat this one on the left side of my mouth, as being a right-handed brusher I figure there’s less chance of triggering a hotspot there. It keeps position five mainly for the hazelnut – take that out of the equation and it’s a 7 or 8 at best….
And running neck and neck for that prime spot in the top three we have a joint entry…
- At 3 – Toffee Penny: The Filling Puller. Never has a creamier, smoother, tastier toffee graced our lips. It would be a sin to smother this baby in chocolate: it needs no adornment whatsoever. Rolled to the perfect thickness for rapid softening even in the coldest weather and shaped exquisitely to fit snugly in the pocket of the lower jaw where it can sit on the tongue and be slowly savoured.
- Also at 3 – Coconut Éclair: A real crowd pleaser, this, and thanks to the grainy desiccated coconut centre a chocolate gift that just keeps on giving. What joy, just when you think it’s all gone, to find a small coconut morsel wedged in a gap betwixt lower bicuspid and molar! Like a fine wine, the Coconut Éclair offers a wonderfully long finish, perhaps even lasting until breakfast the next morning if so pissed that oral hygiene is overlooked at bedtime.
- At 2 – Caramel Swirl: The chocolate to caramel ratio is vastly improved here over the saccharine travesty that is the Purple One. I mentioned earlier that the hazelnut in the Purple One could be utilised better elsewhere, and the caramel swirl, in my opinion, would be the perfect repository for it. Perhaps the PO could then be phased out completely, along with the vile Crèmes, and replaced with something more appealing like a Roses stylee Hazelnut Whirl.
- At 1 – The Chocolate Toffee Finger: Everything that’s wrong with the Toffee Deluxe is resolved in this perfectly engineered little chocolate/toffee combo. The toffee – every bit as good as that found in the Toffee Penny – is hammered into a solid ingot, which is then encased in just the right amount of deliciously smooth milk chocolate. It melts marvellously, masticates magnificently, and swallows sublimely. I have, dear reader (and apologies should I be guilty of offering too much information), achieved a massive and almost painful degree of tumescence just thinking about it. Hem hem…
Sadly, my love of Quality Street is tempered by the knowledge that I have the metabolism of a three-toed sloth. While Ben gobbles handfuls of the things over Christmas I will restrict myself to cautious nibbles of just one or two, adjusting the hang of my dressing gown accordingly for complete discretion.
Quiet One This Year, a: What a Billy/Bessie Nomates says they are having when you ask what they’re doing for Christmas.