Wednesday, December 27, 2006

A Christmas feast for two

Indeed, this was a Christmas feast for just the two of us. We hardly even got through a third of it - though we did have a good go. From left to right - not including the magnificent goosey gander we had: my homemade fruit mince pies, creamed brussel sprouts,roasted parsnips, roasted potatoes, sage and onion stuffing and a couple of yorkie puds. The parsnips, potatoes and yorkies were all cooked in goose fat which achieved crisp, tasty results. The goose itself, was, and still is, intensly rich and flavoursome. Tonight we're having goose hash. I bet Mum wishes she was here.

Over Christmas, I've had a bit of time to reflect on what my blog is about. Hopefully, in the new year I'm planning to push my boundaries a little bit further and attempt dishes and flavours that I haven't perhaps tried before. I want to visit different cuisines and techniques and explore my own personal tastes.

With that in mind, I'm going to take a bit of time off, not only to recover from my illness but to spend more time searching and thinking about where I want my blog to go. I'll start posting again from about the 12th of January and I look forward to seeing everyone on the other side. I hope everyone has had a feastful Christmas and I wish everyone a wonderful and joyous New Year.

Without further ado, my much anticipated Christmas pudding.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

In preparation: The Gingerbread House

Drugged up to my eyeballs, quarantined in bed, I am thankful for wireless and laptops. I've got posts to catch up on. Here are some more of my Christmas preparations.

Last Sunday, before the little virus took a hold, I had a bit of fun building and decorating our Gingerbread House. A few years of graphical drawing at school helped when I drew and cut the templates. A simple royal icing acted as the mortar. Sweets from the sweet stall at the market. Dan's mother's gingerbread men recipe. Couldn't ask for better.

We held off for one day before Dan ceremoniously bit off the chimney - the roof soon followed. By yesterday - with most of the sweets devoured we decided to throw the majority of the walls away. I didn't feel guilty about it, it's done its job. It brought a sweet scent to the room that smelled like Christmas for the leading up to the big event. In its place, the Christmas cake, all ready to go.


Enough for the house above plus a little left over.

460g plain flour
220g brown sugar
120g butter
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 1/2 teaspoons ginger
1 1/2 tablespoons golden syrup
1 egg
Pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 190° Celsius. Sift the flour into a mixing bowl. Mix in the rest of the dry ingredients and create a well in the centre.

Place the butter and golden syrup into a saucepand and heat on low. When the lard is fully melted, pour into the centre of the dry ingredients. Add the egg and mix well. Add more flour as required until a dough resembling soft clay is formed.

Place on a heavily floured work surface and roll out to approximately 5mm thick. Place the sheet of dough onto a nonstick baking tray. Bake for about 15 - 20 minutes or until browning slightly. Allow to cool slightly before moving onto a wire rack. Once cool, use templates to cut out the shapes and glue together with royal icing using a piping bag. Decorate and have fun!
Royal Icing

1 egg white
150g icing sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice

Whisk all the ingredients together to form a smooth paste. Use quickly before the icing sets.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

A menu for hope and cookie swaps

As I sit down to write, a mug of hot Assam tea at my side, I finally find myself with a chance to breath admist a hectic schedual of shopping, partying, drinking, working, baking and planning. I'm also stopping to think about the less fortunate than I and I know exactly how I can give to them. Pim's tireless efforts for organising this year's Menu For Hope has most definitely not been in vain. At time of post the total raised so far is in excess of $US20,000 and it's still counting.

There are some wonderful prizes this year and although I haven't had the chance to donate a gift, I'm going to head over to the donation page right now and participate in a different way.

Secretly, I'm hoping to win Jeanne's and Johanna's canapé party because I'm going to invite some food bloggers from the UK to the join in on the fun. It would be kinda like the cookie swap that we had a few weeks ago... pictures of which are after the jump.

From left to right, we were Johanna the hostest with the mostest and the ever Passionate Cook, Sarah the fabulous non-blogger foodie, Laura the cheese from Chalk & Cheese, Bill who bakes well from Bill, please, Jeanne the canapé queen from Cook Sister!, Xochitl the maker of the best Mexican cookies this side of Mexico from Xochitl Cooks and finally, the affianced Jenni from Pertelote.

The delightful delicacies that were on offer.

... and finally because I had to take the picture of the above, here's one of me that I prepared earlier.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

In Preparation: The Pudding

I remember my mother, every Christmas, boiling a pudding in a cloth to take to our old fisherman neighbour. His wife refused to make one for him due to the length of time and hassle it took to cook. I understand what she feels.

One Christmas Dan and I made the same pudding about 10 times in two different batches to give away as gifts. The puddings had to be boiled for a good 5 hours and then hung up to dry before being re-wrapped, then kept for a further two months. On Christmas day the pudding then had to be reboiled for a further 2 or so hours before serving.

But there is something stoic about the Christmas pudding. Something in me tells me to hold up this tradition proudly and make each pudding with love and patience every year. My Granny sent me this recipe, made easier by steaming in a bowl which gives the pudding more of a lightness that the boiled pudding doesn't have. We give the pudding a grand send of by setting it aflame before taking it to the table.

Christmas Plum Pudding

250g currants
250g raisins
250g sultanas
60g almonds, chopped
60g cherries
120g mixed peel
1 lemon, zested and juiced
180g bread crumbs
90g flour
250g demerara sugar
250g suet
½ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1 heaped teaspoon allspice
4 large eggs, beaten
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon milk
150ml brandy

In a large bowl soak the dried fruit and nuts with half the brandy overnight.

Next day combine all of the dry ingredients together with the lemon zest and juice. Make a well in the centre and add the eggs. Combine thoroughly. Dissolve the baking soda in the milk and add to the batter along with the rest of the brandy. Fold in the soaked fruit until evenly distributed throughout the batter.

In a large saucepan, place 3 ramekins or mugs facing up which will act as a stand. Fill the saucepan with water until the water is level with the top of the stands. Spoon the batter into a pudding dish. Cover the top with a round of baking paper, wrap the top with calico or a tea towel and secure with string. Lower the pudding onto the stands in saucepan. Cover with a secure fitting lid. Bring to the boil then simmer on a low heat for 5 hours. Check the water level at least once an hour and top up if required.

To store, remove the old paper and cover in new baking paper and wrap in a clean cloth. This will prevent mould. When ready to serve, steam for a further 2 hours or microwave on medium for 10 ? 15 minutes. Turn the pudding out onto a serving plate. Douse with brandy and light immediately before taking it to the table. Serve with either custard, brandy custard or brandy butter.

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