Nectarines, prosciutto, mozzarella and mint

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I’ve been thinking a lot over the last week or so about what to feed my family this Christmas time, experimenting with ideas and recipes old and new. We need joyful, bright food this year, to counter the almost savage sadness of another empty place at the table. My sister-in-law Lesley died quite suddenly in August of this year, of melanoma, and the intensity of the loss is still fresh for all of us. She was brave and bright and funny, and fought hard to overcome numerous struggles with her health until cancer finally defeated her. She loved her family and especially loved Christmas, and it is hard to imagine the day without her. Somehow, doing things a little differently seems to be the best way to begin a new chapter for our family, while still honouring the traditions of our past. So this year there may not be her favourite pudding and no Earl Grey tea, but we will hang her ornaments, and carefully save one piece of Christmas wrap to be used over and over. We will be  gentle and comforting to each other, and know deeply that although there is sadness now, joy will come again.

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I came home from work today to an unusually quiet house, which gave me time to put this salad together for dinner and trial it for a Christmas dish. It could be aptly named “Christmas on a plate”, both because of the flavours embodied in it and its jewel-like colours.The sweet, juicy nectarines, salty prosciutto and creamy fresh mozzarella, topped with piquant mint are a combination that really works well, and as an added bonus, it took no more than 5 minutes to make. I can see it as part of our Christmas Eve dinner, where we gather to eat the best of summer produce, drink champagne and play board games. We’ll remember Lesley as she was when well, be thankful she was part of our lives, and aspire to live with something of her enthusiasm and passion.

Serves 4

4 ripe and juicy nectarines, sliced into wedges
8 very thin slices of prosciutto (ask at the deli for it to be sliced super thin)
150g of fresh mozzarella, torn into pieces
handful of fresh mint leaves
finely sliced zest of 1/2 lemon

Arrange the nectarines, mozzarella and prosciutto on a serving platter and then scatter over the mint and lemon zest. Serve straight away with fresh bread, grilled meat or chicken, or just enjoy before dinner with a glass of sauvignon blanc, good friends and music. (I recommend The Idea of North Christmas album for this time of year)

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