Shropshire Star

Mark Andrews: Never mind Dry January, tuck into your Christmas tree

How is Dry January going for you?

Christmas tree - or hipster meal?

I'll admit, I've been finding it a bit tough. The first few days weren't so bad, I love a 2013 Marlborough sauvignon blanc, and there are some pretty mean New World chardonnays doing the rounds these days. But then, last weekend, I discovered a delightful wine-tasting shop at a village in Warwickshire, and succumbed to a wonderful light pudding wine.

It was then suggested that I wasn't doing Dry January quite right. The idea wasn't about spending the month knocking back as much dry wine as possible, but about total abstinence. At which point I thought 'stuff that for a game of soldiers, I'll have two bottles of Commandaria St John, and a crate of Postman's Knock while I'm about it'.

Actually, I might have made some of that up. But if I really was going to do dry January, that is probably the way I would go about it. A bit like when I tried 'Veganuary' a few years ago. I found the easiest way to lay off anything that might be remotely meat, fish or dairy based was simply to give up eating altogether.

There is something terribly British about Dry January, it seems like a natural extension of our existing relationship with alcohol. While folk on the Cote d'Azure and the Basque region sit outside cafes with their families, sipping on small glasses of wine, sometimes adding water should it be so strong, it seems to be all-or-nothing for many Brits. Monday to Thursday, they'll be in bed by 10 o'clock, tucked up warm and snug after a hot cup of cocoa. Then come Friday night, it's 14 pints of Stella and let's smash up a phone box. It's all or nothing, no sense of moderation.

Which brings me to London-based baker Julia Georgallis, who I think might also be taking things a little bit to the extreme with her book How To Eat Your Christmas Tree. Now, I will concede to limited experience in this field, but I would have thought that calling your book How To Eat Your Christmas Tree is rather putting the cart before the horse. Surely, it would do better as a sequel to a first volume on why you would want to do such a ridiculous thing in the first place.

So how do you eat a Christmas tree? Now my initial thought was that it would be something along the lines of that episode of The Inbetweeners, where Will scoffed a bonsai tree for a dare. But I suppose if you paid £15 for a book, and it simply told you to shove it in your mouth and try not to vomit, you might feel a little short-changed.

So How To Eat Your Christmas Tree is actually a recipe book, suggesting more than 30 different ways to chow down your Norwegian spruce, or whatever.

Now I've never met Julia, and I know we shouldn't stereotype, but a quick glance at her CV suggests her tastes in food may be a little different to yours or mine. London-born millennial, spent eight years at universities in the capital, three of them studying furniture design. An exhibitor at the JJAM Curators Collective, and organiser of the Refugee Supper Club. After that she went on to open an artisan microbakery in a graffiti-strewn district of east London. All sounds just a little bit hipster-ish, doesn't it?

Anyhow, if you are interested, first make sure your tree is a fir, pine or spruce, all of which have edible needles and bark. Steer clear of cypress and cedar trees, and don't – whatever you do – try eating a yew tree. These are highly poisonous.

Don't worry about bulges of sap or dried buds, they are perfectly edible, but best to make sure the needles are cooked and chopped before tucking in. Uncooked needles are 'a bit like fishbones, and can be just as dangerous'.

Julia's book tells you how to make Christmas-tree cured fillets of fish, using a pound-and-a-half of pine needles, or 12oz from a spruce or fir, with grated lemons and beetroot to add a bit of pizazz. Or how about Julia's favourite recipe, Christmas tree and ginger ice cream?

Call me a bit of an old stick in the mud, but I don't think I will be following either of these recipes. And I can't really see them catching on with many people.

The only one that really makes any sense at all is the vodka or gin cocktail infused with two large handfuls of spruce, pine or fir, with the branches included.

I think that could really catch on as something with which to toast the new year. Because after a few sips of that, dry January suddenly sounds rather appealing.