My mother gave me the recipe for her sausagemeat and apple stuffing a few weeks ago when we were in the car on the way back from my grandmother's funeral.
I scrabbled in the depths of my bag and the glove box to find a scrap of paper and a pen. The recipe was without quantities; nothing more than a vague method and my memories of the Christmas days of my childhood.
I will always be grateful that I grew up enjoying large family celebrations at Christmas. It was, without doubt, my very favourite day of the year. My brother and I would wait with fevered anticipation in the front room, our noses pressed to the glass, for the first family members to arrive on Christmas morning.
'Do Grandma and Grandpa still have a red car?' I'd shout to my parents, busy in the kitchen with last minute preparations, 'Because I think they're here'.
And my brother and I would race out the door and down the front path, heedless of the need for shoes or coats, to greet them.
Never mind the presents and the champagne and games that were a feature of our Christmases; the main business of the day was lunch. We'd sit down to eat in the early afternoon and not leave the dining room until it was dark. Sometimes lunch would segue into supper and bowls of Christmas pudding and brandy cream would be replaced with platters of cold meats, cheese and bread.
For lunch, we would have some ridiculous concoction of various birds stuffed inside each other, more suited to a banquet in the Roman Empire than a middle class Christmas in the London suburbs. Pounds of potatoes and mountains of carrots would fill every available saucepan and serving dish. There was cranberry sauce and bread sauce and gravy and anything else you could want.
But, Christmas was not really Christmas without the stuffing. In our house, these are rarely baked inside the bird(s) but prepared separately in an army of loaf tins several weeks in advance. Sometimes, my mother would experiment with a new flavour but we always had to have a couple of family favourites - a classic sage and onion stuffing and this sausagemeat and apple stuffing.
Unlike a lot of stuffing recipes, it doesn't contain any bread (presuming that none has sneaked its way into your sausages). The sausagemeat is browned with some onion and garlic before being mushed (that's a technical term) together with some grated apple and an egg. It's a job that I often used to help with when I was a child, relishing getting my hands dirty and sneaking bites of the cooked sausage when I thought nobody was watching.
Christmas is different now. There won't be as many people around the table this year. My parents have moved and I divide my time between their flat and my boyfriend's family home. Some of our traditions have fallen by the wayside, left, as they probably should be, in the memories of our youth. But when I made this stuffing, the day after my grandmother's funeral, I was instantly transported back to my childhood home. The first nibble, as I stole little brown chunks from the side, tasted like every Christmas I'd ever had.
To find the recipe, head over to the brand new Holiday 2012 issue of Foodie Crush. I was honoured to be asked to share one my holiday food traditions alongside some of my very favourite food bloggers. Big thanks to Sarah for putting together the feature and Heidi for yet another brilliant and inspirational magazine.