Its the most wonderful time, of the year

Christmas just happened. Weeks of prep disappeared into one day. And I’m so glad its over.

I don’t know about you, but Christmas Eve for me involved 12 hours of prep and so many dirty dishes I lost count (we don’t have a dishwasher). Both fridges and freezers were jam packed, and by the time I went to bed at midnight I didn’t really care, my legs, feet and back ached and I wanted to curl up in bed forever.

Not an option though, we were up crazy early to get the pork, ham, and turkey into our BBQ. All 18kgs of meat. Looked very pretty, but stress levels were high. The turkey, bless the damn thing, was particularly difficult. Three days of defrosting and it was still partially frozen.

I had lots of willing helpers on the day, but of course, I discovered earlier this year that I’m a bit of a control freak, so I struggled to delegate (but a no-nonsense sister-in-law brave enough to remove a knife from my hands helped sort that out).

I used just about every dish and appliance I own, and did three loads of dishes on the day (and a bomb site was still awaiting me on Boxing Day). The general consensus by our 16 adults and 10 kids we hosted for? They all want to book in again for next year. Its with great relief that I can decline. We do a one year in Brisbane and one year with my folks up north, so I get at least a two year reprieve.

And its never over, Boxing Day I was pulling apart the turkey carcass and cleaning the kitchen. Yesterday I started making headway with my leftovers. I still have enough turkey left to make a curry, and ham for both Pea and Ham soup and as a pizza topping.

My freezer is just about full of reorganised leftovers and after endless endless loads of dishwashing I have a delightful rash to contend with. Turns out my skin had enough after Boxing Day. Hello disposable catering gloves and dermatitis cream.

Tomorrow I might tackle some leftover oranges and turn them into a cake. Maybe. But today, aside from rearranging my recipe books, I’m not doing anything.

What We Ate Christmas Day

  • Orange and Cranberry Breakfast Scrolls – SmittenKitchen
  • Chocolate Babkas – SmittenKitchen
  • Cranberry Relish – taste.com.au
  • Jamie Oliver’s Make Ahead Gravy – jamieoliver.co
  • Chipolatas wrapped in bacon – old family favourite
  • Sausage and Bacon stuffing – Margret Fultons Christmas Cookbook
  • Pork and Apple stuffing – Margret Fultons Christmas Cookbook
  • New Orleans Coleslaw – Nigella Express
  • Potato Salad – taste.com.au
  • Garden Salad – my sister-in-law Roslyn
  • Quiche – my other sister-in-law Blair
  • Roast Pork – BBQ’d by my hubby
  • Bundy Rum Glazed Ham – from the Bundy Rum facebook page, worked well on a 7kg ham
  • One amazing Turkey – 7kg, BBQ’d the way my mum and I worked out a few years ago
  • Strawberry Ice Cream – Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker recipe booklet
  • Nutella and Marscarpone Pavlova – Jamie Oliver Magazine
  • Rum Balls – Donna Hay
  • Gingerbread Biscotti – SmittenKitchen

 

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Easy like Sunday morning

Sunday was my birthday. A whole year has simply flown by and this one was pretty hectic. Most excitingly perhaps was the fact that we finally got married and had a simply amazing honeymoon.

With all the preparations we have coming up for Christmas I didn't get the opportunity to make a cake. Thankfully though I'm a twin, and my twin sister received a shiny watermelon Kitchenaid and she couldn't wait to make a cake with it.

We had a lazy family afternoon at Mon Komo with lunch and cocktails, then after a quick nap, hubby and I had dinner at Jamie's new Italian restaurant in Brisbane. Hubby's gift to me? A cuisine art ice cream maker, so be prepared for lots of ice cream and gelati as it continues to get hotter here.

Intense Chocolate Cake – from SmittenKitchen (her cookbook, not the blog)

This was quite a small cake, and too be honest, it looked sad. You had a slice because you felt bad. But, once sliced you could see it was almost a mousse cake, and moist, delicious and as the name suggests, intense. We ate it with a scoop of Black Forest ice cream, but cream or vanilla would be just as good.

Ingredients

  • 115g butter, plus more for pan
  • 115g dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa solids)
  • 3 large eggs, separated
  • 45g light brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine or flakey sea salt
  • Pinch of ground cinnamon (optional)

Method

Preheat your oven to 180C. Line a 15cm round springform tin with a circle of parchment paper. Generously butter sides of pan and parchment round.

In a small saucepan, melt your butter over a medium heat, stirring for even cooking. After the butter melts it will then hiss and splatter a bit as the water cooks off, and the. The fragrant brown bits will form at the bottom of the saucepan. The whole process will take about 3 minutes. Quickly remove from the heat and stir in the chocolate until it's melted and smooth. Cool the chocolate mixture to lukewarm.

With an electric beater, beat the egg yolks, brown sugar, and vanilla together until the mixture thickens and takes on a icky pale-yellow-brown colour. Slowly beat in the lukewarm chocolate mixture, and a pretty colour will return. The mixture will become very thick but will loosen significantly once we add the egg whites.

Wipe clean, wash, and dry your electric beater(s), beat egg whites and salt in a separate bowl until firm peaks form. Add a pinch of cinnamon, if desired. Stir one-third of egg-white mixture into chocolate mixture. Fold the remaining two-third of egg-white mixture into chocolate mixture. Fold the remaining two-thirds in gently, trying to keep the batter as light as possible. Pour into prepared pan, and bake in a preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, or until it is puffed with a lovely dome on top (don't get attached to it!) and a tester or skewer comes out clean or with just a couple of crumbs attached.

Let cool on rack for 10 minutes (it will sink in the middle) then run a knife around the cake to maker sure it's not stuck to the pan, and release the springform sides. Let it cool the rest of the way on its base. Once it's cool, flip out onto a plate or second rack, remove parchment round from the bottom and flip cake back onto a small plate. Cut, and serve with ice cream, or cream, or while hiding from everyone you know.

 

 

Gird Your Loins. Christmas is Coming.

The last few weeks have literally been about preparing for Christmas, which is just as well given we're hosting. Hubby has set forth turning our shed into a Christmas wonderland. Hello 4,000 assorted fairy lights.
 

Aside from Ham Wars, I've been much more focused on 1) presents and 2) food preparation (not necessarily in that order). In an attempt to be prepared I've been either trial running recipes or making ahead and freezing.

I have bacon wrapped chipolatas, and two different kinds of stuffing in my freezer. Today I added cheese puffs which were a bit of a disappointment. I've pre-diced cheese to skewer with cocktail onions on the day, and today I took the gingerbread dough out of the freezer ready to bake on Monday when its defrosted.

I made my first batch of gingerbread biscotti, which is almost gone, but definetly earned itself a spot on the rebake list, and be still my beating heart, orange and cranberry breakfast scrolls. I adored these, especially loving the second rise in the fridge over night, ready to bake on the day part. Hubby sadly wasn't taken with the flavour, so a chocolate version will also be made on Christmas Eve.

I have my final grocery list with the perishables, which I'll pick up Monday with my sister-in-law, and then I just need a final run sheet (which will be taped to the kitchen cupboards and ticked off meticulously) and this show is on.

I'm trying not to stress, despite adding five extras to the guest list today (3 of which are vivacious children). But what can you do. I'm just about as organised as I can be, although, regretting working Christmas Eve.

This is still my favourite recipe so far. I only hope you enjoy as much as I do.

Orange and Cranberry Breakfast Scrolls – from SmittenKitchen

I followed Debs recipe to the letter, thankfully she includes weights for those of us not using US cups.

Mine didn't really rise in the fridge, but 20mins in a just warm oven took care of that. I then left them in there while the oven got to the right temperature. Keep an eye on them, in case they get to brown and you need to add an aluminum hat to keep them from burning!

 

 

Ham Wars

This year, is the first year hubby and I are hosting Christmas at our house. Given that we've been co-habiting for the past 12 years, I think thats a bit of an accomplishment.

Last year, doing the cooking at my parents house for Christmas, my sisters husband combined forces with me to cook my first ever baked ham. This year, hubby and I are doing the same for his family when they descend on us. But, the glazing of the ham is some serious business, so on the last weekend of November, it was on.

We bought two 1kg hams, glazed them to our own preferences, and baked them in hubbys brand new gigantic hooded BBQ. There was lots of competitive positioning, but we were very fair, and made sure both hams, when we sliced them up to taste test, were delicious.

The winner for Christmas Day itself, was my ham, given that I made a Coca-Cola, orange, clove and cinnamon glaze, it tasted like Christmas. Hubbys Ham baked, infused, injected and basted in honey was also delicious, and as a Sunday roast type meal will be very very popular.

Cookies Cola Glazed Ham – adapted from Donna Hay, Issue 72, Pg 104 'Cheat's Glazed Ham'

Ingredients

  • 750ml orange juice (I used three oranges)
  • 250ml red wine vinegar
  • 8 whole cloves
  • 525 grams brown sugar
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • 16 sprigs thyme
  • 1 x 6-7kg ham (I know. I made this entire glaze and put it on a 1kg ham. I'm crazy and it was seriously intense)

Method

Place the juice, sugar, vinegar, cinnamon, cloves, thyme and cola in a medium saucepan over high heat. Stir until the sugar has disolved. Bring to the boil and cook for 30 mins or until reduced. Remove from the heat and strain into a jug, discarding the solids.

After removing the skin of the ham and cross-hatching, place the ham, top side down into a tight-fitting, deep-sided baking dish and wrap the hock with non-stick baking paper and aluminium foil. Pour the glaze over the ham and roast for 40 minuts at 220C.

Remove from the oven and reduce the temperature to 200C. Turn the ham over and baste with glaze. Return to oven and roast for a further 20-25 minutes or until golden.

Remove the ham from the baking dish and place on a serving platter. Spoon over remaining glaze. Slice and serve. Try to accept winning graciously.

 

Pumpkin Friands Are Not For Friends

After making the squash and spinach pasta rotolo, I still had some leftover mashed squash, and in my freezer, some frozen egg whites. So while in November everyone was going crazy about pumpkin based treats, I made these.

Friands, that both hubby and I adored, and disappeared within a few hours of being baked.

We didn't share.

Pumpkin Friands – from All That's Left Are The Crumbs

Ingredients

  • 1 cup almond meal
  • 1 2/3 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, sifted
  • 5 egg whites
  • 4 1/2 oz butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
  • powdered sugar to sift over the top

To make

Preheat the oven to 180C and grease 10 friand molds. Place the almond meal, powdered sugar, flour, and baking powder in a bowl and whisk to combine.

Place egg whites in a bowl and whisk until slightly frothy. Add butter and pumpkin and whisk to combine. Add the liquid to the dry ingredients and beat until combined.

Spoon the mixture into prepared pans and bake for 20-25 minutes or until the friands are golden and cooked through.

Remove from the friand tins immediately, and allow to cool on a wire rack before serving.

This is where you would dust with powdered sugar, but ours were eaten before that happened.

 

 

A visiting vegetarian and a slow roasted squash….pumpkin….whatever…

Very shortly I'll start inundating you with Christmas food. Don't worry, I have a backlog. But first I wanted to share a vegetarian recipe I made for a friend who did an overnight stay with us.

My husband isn't a vegetarian – by Supbringing, he's a meat and three vege kinda guy, but he's getting a lot better at expanding his palette. I'll give anything a go, generally, and after seeing Jamie Oliver bang this one together I was really keen to try it.

Because anyone who runs an oven for a long time in a Queensland summer is either a fool or has ducted airconditioning…..I didn't do that to prepare my roast butternut pumpkin (or squash depending on where you're from). I wrapped mine, whole, in foil, and left it all day in the slow cooker, plugged in outside where it wouldn't heat up my little hot box of a house. And that, my friends, worked perfectly.

The other hot tip, which came from the man himself was to soak the lasagna sheets in warm water before attempting to roll them up. This stopped them ripping during the rolling process and gave me lovely little wraps.

The nice thing though, about a Jamie Oliver recipe, is it gives you a good base to start from. I made this as per the book, but next time…ah….more garlic? CHILLI! If its Hubby and I, then maybe a slice of prossicutto in each roll, or some diced bacon in with the spinach……the options are *almost* endless……

Squash & Spinach Pasta Rotolo – from Save with Jamie, pg 34

Ingredients

  • 1 butternut pumpkin (squash) about 1.2kg – roasted either in the oven or slow cooker
  • 1 red onion
  • olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 500g frozen spinach
  • 1 whole nutmeg, for grating
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1 x 700ml jar of passata
  • 6 large fresh pasta sheets (roughly 15cm x 20cm each)
  • 50g feta cheese
  • 20g Parmesan cheese

To make

Peel and chop the onion, roughly, and put in a medium pan, on a medium-low heat with a lug of oil, the thyme, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the frozen spinach, cover with a lid and allow to slowly cook for another 15 minutes, or until the liquid has evaporated, then remove from the heat.

Cut the squash in half, discard the seeds and skin, then mash up with a fork. Keeping them separate, season both the squash and the spinach with salt, pepper and a grating of nutmeg.

Peel and finely slice the garlic, then put into a shallow 28cm casserole pan on a medium heat with a splash of oil and fry for a couple of minutes, or until lightly golden. Pour in the passata, then add a splash of water to the empty jar, swirl it around and pour it into the pan. Bring to the boil, simmer for just 3 minutes then season to perfection.

On a clean work surface, lay out the pasta sheets facing lengthways away from you. Working quickly so your pasta doesn't dry out, brush them with water (you don't need to do this if you've been soaking them in water!), then evenly divide and spread the squash over the sheets. Sprinkle over the cooked spinach and crumble over the feta. Roll up the sheets and cut each one into 4 chunks, then place side by side in the tomato sauce.

Finely grate over the Parmesan, then pick the sage leaves (if using), toss in a little oil and scatter over the top. Bake for 35-40 minutes at the bottom of the oven until golden and crisp.