A Good Year
There's always the hope that there will be something different about a new year, or at least that things will be, well, good.
And trying to add your own bit of luck to bring this about can surely do no harm.
In China, the lead-up to their New Year is a time for cleaning and de-cluttering - sweeping away ill fortune and making way for good luck. New clothes, a new haircut and a tidy house brings order and the New Year can begin.
In Bali, the religious new year means a day of silence and contemplation - when working, vehicles, talking and apparently (yikes) eating is not allowed. Planes can't even fly into the airport. (The story goes that if the island was quiet, evil spirits would think it was deserted and so go away for another year).
A whole day of silence might do everyone some good, and a bit of tidying is always therapeutic, but I am much more drawn to the traditions of eating.
Many people will be vowing to eat healthily and drink less (or not at all) in January, but I am not an ascetic person and would rather embrace the philosophy of 'everything in moderation' throughout the year, and see January 1st as an opportunity to practice something more symbolic.
Lentils are a traditional part of a New Year's Day meal in Italy (the little pulses are thought to resemble coins and so will signal prosperity ahead) and it was lentils that I prepared for myself (for dinner last night with leftovers for tonight).
The slate-grey Puy variety would have made the meal more special, but I made do with red, having realised how cheap and versatile they were with the bolognese I made a while ago (I actually, bizarrely, saw some spilled on the street yesterday and so took it as a good omen).
This time I just smooshed them about with a shallot, some turmeric, chilli flakes and cooked with vegetable stock, serving with halloumi, sausages and bacon (with pork also thought to be lucky, I thought I might as well go all out).
But I couldn't ignore my sweet tooth. Round baked goods are also apparently a New Year tradition (I remember having delicious ollie bollen in Amsterdam this time last year) and so I rustled up some of Nigella's 'Granny Boyd's Biscuits' from How to Be a Domestic Goddess to bring to work- and to bring in a hopefully sweet 2015. Every little helps, right?
Granny Boyd's Biscuits
Prehat oven to 170℃
Sieve together 300g self-raising flour with 30g cocoa powder
Cream 250g soft butter with 125g caster sugar, then gradually add the flour and cocoa.
Bring together to form a dough (you may need a tiny splash of water to help)
Roll in to little balls, arranging on a couple of lined baking trays.
Press down on the biscuits lightly with a fork then bake for 5 minutes, then turn the oven down to 140℃ to bake for a further 10 - 15 minutes.
The biscuits will be firm - but not hard - when ready.
Allow to cool on a wire rack then, if you like, dust liberally with icing sugar