Beyond the Score: Enjoying the Holidays With Good Food and Drink

By Lisa Thomas

While most professional tennis players take a break for the Holidays, few really let themselves go all out with the festivities because the hard truth is that the Australian Open is lurking just around the corner.  No doubt they indulge a little as we all do, but being professional athletes means year-round discipline.

The good news is they don’t have to give it all up.  Nor do we for that matter.  Roger Federer admits to enjoying some Moët & Chandon to celebrate and Andy Murray’s family sits down to a traditional lunch of turkey, chipolata and bacon.


We all want to enjoy the Holidays and for most of us that means celebrating around food and drink and although we don’t have the Aussie Open a few weeks away we still want to get out on the court and not feel like we’ve lost an edge.

At this time of year it is nice to be able to enjoy everything so the key has to be moderation and where possible go for whole foods that have not been processed or handled too much.

So here are some fun recipes to help with the celebrations that when consumed in moderation will not weigh us down — too much anyway.

To drink: Raspberry and Elderflower Cooler

8 thyme sprigs

1/2 cup of elderflower cordial (available at Ikea)

1 1/2 cups of cold soda water

3 cups of a Proseco or Sparkling wine or a non-alcoholic sparkling apple juice

1/2 cup of thawed frozen or fresh raspberries

Mint to serve

Place the thyme sprigs, half the berries and cordial in a large pitcher.  Muddle them together to release the aroma and flavor of the thyme.  Set aside at room temperature to allow flavors to combine.  Top off with the soda, sparkling wine or apple juice and raspberries.

To Nibble: Baked Brie

So baked cheese can be on the heavy side but it is also very delicious and rich enough that you won’t want to go back for more too often, well at least let’s hope.

This is very easy and flavorful.

Buy a large slice or small full round of brie or camembert.  They often come whole in small wooden boxes and if that is how you bought it, remove the plastic wrap and put the cheese back in the box for baking.  If you don’t have the wooden box then remove the cheese from the packaging and place in an oven proof dish just larger than the piece of cheese.

You can simply bake the cheese as is for about 10 to 15 minutes, depending on the size of the cheese.  I like to add more to the cheese to make a bit more of a statement.  A small spoon of pesto and sun-dried tomatoes on top makes a delicious combination or you can make small cuts in the cheese and insert slivers of garlic and small sprigs of thyme.

Serve warm with hot baguette, some radishes and olives and you have a delicious dish that is not fussy and requires only whole food and real ingredients.

Delicious Side Dish: Tomato Salad with Crispy Kale and Capers

This makes a tasty side that is fresh and light but it has the added depth of the roasted kale and capers.  Good as a side for about eight people.

2 cups of kale with the stems removed

1/4 cup of large capers rinse and dry with a paper towel

1/2 cup of parmesan cheese

1/4 cup of olive oil

About 6 – 8 large fresh tomatoes

Small handful of fresh basil if available

2 tablespoons of sherry vinegar and a dash more of olive oil for dressing

Sea salt and ground pepper

Heat your oven to medium, around 325 degrees Fahrenheit.  Mix the kale, capers, parmesan cheese and olive oil together in a large mixing bowl.  Place on a large baking tray and flatten out so there is little to no overlay of the kale.  Bake on the middle rack in your heated oven for about 12 – 15 minutes.  Half way through the cooking time pull out the tray and move the kale around, continue cooking until crisp.  Set aside while you prepare the tomatoes.

Slice the tomatoes and arrange on a large platter. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with the sherry vinegar and olive oil.  Crumble the kale and capers over the dressed tomatoes then rip the basil leaves over the top to finish it off.

For Dessert: Pear Clafoutis

A clafoutis is easy to make and is warm and delicious to finish off a special meal.  It is not too rich and heavy and can be made with any type of fruit you have on hand.  Cherries are very yummy in it but pear works well for this time of year.  I use milk over heavy cream to keep it lighter.  This can serve up to eight people.

1 tablespoon of unsalted butter at room temp

1 tablespoon of sugar

2 to 3 firm but ripe pears

To make the batter:

3 large eggs at room temperature

6 tablespoons of all-purpose flour

1 1/2 cups of milk

Another 1/3 cup of sugar

1 teaspoons of vanilla extract

1 teaspoon of lemon zest

Powdered sugar for dusting

Ice cream to serve with warm clafoutis

Heat your oven to around 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Mix your batter ingredients together in a blender or food processor until smooth.  Set aside for 20 minutes.

When you are ready to bake grease your baking dish and sprinkle with the 1 tablespoon of sugar.  Peel, core and slice the pears then fan them out around the base of your baking dish.  Pour your batter over the fanned out pears and bake in the oven until the custard is firm and the top puffy and golden brown.  This should take about 35 minutes.

Remove from the oven, dust with powdered sugar and serve warm or at room temperature.

Enjoy the season and all the fun things that comes with it.  Balanced with exercise and good rest, the celebrations don’t have to take a toll and better yet we have more options than Murray’s chipolatas.


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