Christmas 2010

27 12 2010

The Christmas holidays is a time of year that is inextricably linked with the cooking (yay!) and then eating (hurrah!) of food.  This year I was fortunate enough to be able to travel back to the land of All Blacks and Hobbits where I celebrated the festive season with my kiwi family and friends.  Unlike Christmas 2009 I wasn’t responsible for a full multi-course meal, however I did spend some time in the kitchen cooking.

The cooking started at my friend Cat‘s house with a group of us and an all day Bake-a-Rama. The goal was to create a treasure chest of treats that could be brought out when required for visitors during the Christmas holidays.  After the measuring, sifting, mixing and baking Cat’s kitchen table was flooded with dozens (and dozens and dozens) of cookies. Clockwise from the top we created the following:

Gingerbread Cookies
White Chocolate and Strawberry Cookies
Dark Chocolate and Apricot Cookies
Mexican Hot Chocolate Snickerdoodles
Passionfruit Melting Moments (still to be iced)
Cathedral Cookies
Iced Spice Cookies
Iced Sugar Cookies


A Caramel Fruit Cake was then also added to the booty of culinary treasures:

Needless to say, visitors to Cat’s house have had a selection of baked goodness to choose from while having their cuppa tea.

More time was spent in the kitchen on Christmas Day where I cooked breakfast and then dinner for my brother and his young family.  Since I was spending Christmas with small children I knew that the big day would start early…which meant that I had to start even earlier.  I set my alarm on Christmas Eve and by 0630 on Christmas Day I was up and about cooking the pancakes, moving around the kitchen extremely quietly so as to not wake the smaller members of the household.  I finished the double batch of batter just before the small ones invaded the lounge and the carnage that is a children’s Christmas started.

Once the carnage had ended and the little ones were out visiting the Grandparents I started on a batch of Delia Smith’s Vegetarian ‘Sausage’ Rolls (the same recipe that I used last year) and the Christmas dinner.  As I mentioned in the Christmas 2009 post, a roast Christmas dinner is a tradition in our family.  This year I opted to not do a full roast and instead settled on a smaller cut of cow for the family which I served with roasties, fresh peas, maple-glazed baby carrots and onion and mushroom gravy.  I reckon the peas and carrots were the best bit, especially the peas.  I love fresh peas, I even love shelling them, bizarre but true.

Being able to spend this festive season with family and friends that I haven’t seen for over two years has made Christmas 2010 just that little bit more special.  I hope that this festive season was just as enjoyable for you as well.

See you in the new year,




Christmas 2009: The Aftermath

29 12 2009

In my previous post I wrote about how I would be cooking this year’s family Christmas lunch.  This was an ambitious task.  Not only for the reasons I had outlined earlier, but also because this was the first time I had attempted these particular recipes (except for the roasties, these I’ve made often!).  This situation possessed an inherent danger – a slippery banana skin – if there were any nuances to a dish that weren’t obvious until one had actually made it. Unfortunately, this time I did end up head-over-feet and banana-skin-in-the-air over a couple of dishes. 

It was decided that this year we’d have a four-course meal, plus some nibbles that could be consumed over the Christmas period.  Not large quantities of each dish, just enough to ensure a celebration of Christmassy food – and so that no one had to cook for the next few days.  In the end this was the menu that was settled on:

Chestnut Soup with Thyme Croutons

Roast Turkey with Ham & Walnut Stuffing


Wild Mushroom Filo Parcels


Roasted Potatoes

Glazed Carrots & Parsnips

Brussels Sprouts with Chestnuts

Puree of Potato & Celeriac with Garlic

Courgette Ribbons

Chestnut Truffle Terrine

Old English Port Wine Jelly


“Sausage” Rolls

Sweet & Salty Nuts

Cranberry Studded Mince Pies

But was it a success?  After close to eight hours of cooking I have concluded that yes, it was.  Except for maybe the desert, which didn’t look as sexy as it could have (although it was mighty mighty yummy).  Oh, and the jelly, which was drinkable (d’oh).  But by that time of the evening I didn’t care – and neither did anyone else, possibly an effect of the amount of booze in it.  Both these dishes had fallen victim to the aforementioned banana-skin-of-doom, which had been compounded by cooking at the same time as Santa was doing his annual rounds (both dishes had to be made the night before).  While I had hoped to get home about 2130, in the end I arrived home at 2230.  By 2330 the jelly had been started and I was peeling a kilo of roasted chestnuts in front of the telly.  By 0100 the terrine had been started and by 0200 I had crashed, leaving the rest of it for the next day later that morning. 

However, I am pleased to say that the rest of the menu went extremely well.  The final result was a happy table of Christmas delights and everyone with a satisfyingly full puku.  Despite the experience with the terrine and jelly, I’m rather glad that I took the plunge and tried these new dishes.  I can see a couple of them being made again in the future.  Some photographic evidence of our meal (well, mostly the preparation of it) can be found here on my flickr account.

Christmas 2009

23 12 2009

I grew up in New Zealand – generalised by many I meet overseas as being the land of All Blacks and Hobbits. A rather misguided judgement I feel (although my penchant for going barefoot doesn’t help dispel the latter assumption). As a Kiwi, the Christmas season for me conjures up thoughts of summer holidays: beaches, cricket and long, warm nights. Since arriving in the UK, one of the biggest changes I’ve had to adjust to is that the seasons are back-to-front, at least from what I’m used to. However, in one regard at least, the reality of a wintery Christmas isn’t too foreign: the food. Despite the occasionally sweltering summer temperatures, my Mum would still cook a traditional British Christmas roast every Christmas Eve when I was a youngster – adjusting it where necessary to fit in with Southern Hemisphere seasonality. Now that I’m living in the Northern Hemisphere this tradition is even more welcomed and fits hand-in-glove with the weather & dark, cold nights.

This year, I’ve decided to take over the reins at cooking our family dinner. This will be on Christmas Day (not Christmas Eve, apparently this is how they do it here) and before Dr Who (naturally). Actually, I’m not taking over all of it as Mum will still be cooking the turkey and the pig. But the rest of it (all four courses) is my domain. This isn’t the first Christmas meal I’ve cooked, but it will be the first that I will have cooked for my Mum. As far as I’m concerned she is the mistress of such ceremonies, so I have much to live up to.

As Christmas looms, I’ve realised that this is might be an ambitious task. Not at least because I won’t be arriving at my parents’ (where I’ll be spending Christmas) till 2130 hours on Christmas Eve. I envisage a late night cooking and a very early start on Christmas Day, also cooking. Hopefully I’ll also get a chance to wrap my presents in between all my culinary efforts. But I do feel that it will be worth the effort. I also feel rather lucky that I get to spend Christmas this way: with family, food and a warm house. The only thing that could make it better was if my Kiwi whānau were able to be a part of it. Maybe I’ll send them some mince pies.

Anyway, over the last few days, I’ve been planning how to best attack this task. I reckon I’ve got it sussed. Tune in after Christmas to see if I got it right. Right now I’m also rather glad that in a moment of wondrous foresight I made the mince pies two weeks ago. Six dozen of them. They’re now safely frozen till their appointed hour of stardom (well, except for the ones that were eaten before the rest were frozen…eaten mostly by me). I also made a dozen “sausage” rolls (sans pig) while I was at it, these too are also sitting in the freezer. Two items crossed off the list. Another dozen to go…

However, I can’t write this post without the really important part which is wishing you all a very merry and safe Christmas – however, wherever and with whomever you may be spending it.