Never more than 6 months ’til Christmas

Now that was a proper Christmas Day – most of the way down a bottle wine by 12pm; a few hands of cribbage; a Christmas film. I even managed a bracing walk … whilst Mr Eleanor took one for the team and made sure the nap on the sofa after lunch was not neglected. He’s a good sort.

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And of course we also squeezed in a few calories 🙂 The menu worked out an absolute treat. We’ll definitely be doing more hot smoking after this.

unchristmas dinner

Roll on Christmas!

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Happy unChristmas

It’s only a week until the winter solstice. Actually it’s on Tuesday, 21 June 2016 at 8:34 AM AEST. Not that I’m counting or anything. And with the winter solstice comes CHRRRIIISSTMAAAASSSS! Oh no, wait! That’s the other side of the planet, isn’t it? Well, that never has and never will stop me having a hearty winter’s Christmas dinner

There is some celebration of the winter festival here – but it’s all ‘Christmas in July’* which I just can’t be doing with. It’s the mid-winter festival, for goodness sake. It should be in mid-winter. So we’ll be having this Christmas dinner on 25 June and this is what we’ll be eating.

unchristmas dinner
*My understanding of Christmas in July is that it’s a US construct and arose out of the American summer camps that parents send their children to when they just can’t bear the sight of them any more.

Can I stop eating yet?

Yep, ok, I over-catered. We all knew that was going to happen. My mum thinks that not having to cook for a week after the big day is one of the joys of Christmas. However, she does usually have a hoard of marauding family inspecting every tin, cupboard, fridge and freezer like a plague of locusts. There’s just me and Mr Eleanor here. And the leftovers are causing me a bit of angst.

They are groaning in the fridge, planning ways to kill me. So far they have come up with:

  1. Leap out of fridge and smite me over the head when I open the door
  2. Jump repeatedly into my mouth until heart disease ensues
  3. Develop their own microcosm

But there’s NO WAY I’m going to throw any of it away.

We’ve done a couple of days of reheated veggies with cold cuts. Now we’re moving into the realm of ‘that’s starting to look a bit sad, perhaps I can liquidise it.’ But actually the soup made from the leftover cauliflower and broccoli gratin with some extra blue cheese this evening was DELICIOUS. We had it with a side of sausage rolls. Like you do.

The sandwiches have been epic:

leftover sandwich

(Now put it in the sandwich press … oh, yes)

I have (of course!) put plenty in the freezer. We’ve got enough ham and turkey in there for most of January. There’s not as much mushroom and roast butternut squash tart left as I thought there might be. My sis-in-law declared it ‘oh-my-god-delicious’ and ate half of it. But she was a little bit hungover – ha ha ha! The roast potatoes didn’t make it past day one – my dad taught me how to eat cold roasties out of the fridge with a smear of mayo ;P

So we’ve nearly eaten everything – my waistline is testament to that. Salad season starts on … oh, well let’s call it Monday 🙂

Rock lobster 3 ways or barbecued peach pav?

Christmas Day is yet to really kick off in the US, but here in Melbourne I’m wondering if I can legitimately sneak off to bed. Well, I have been getting up with the sun all week …

We sweltered through a 35 degree scorcher. Not great weather for eating! Fret not – we soldiered on and managed to scoff our way through:

breakfast scrolls

Tallegio (well the Tassie equivalent) and Black Forest style ham, and fruit mince and marzipan breakfast scrolls

rock lobster 3 ways

Rock lobster toast cups, grilled chorizo and lobster brochette and chilled avo and cucumber soup with, you guessed it, rock lobster

bbq peach pav

Barbecued peach and drunken raspberry pavlova with toasted almonds and freeze dried peach chips

It was all pretty damn delicious! But it’s all over for another year. I’m going to pretend to Mr Eleanor that I’m just going to finish clearing up the kitchen (ha ha ha!) and sneak up to bed. For those who are yet to have it, have a wonderful day. For the rest of us, I hope you had a good one.

Let the eating festival commence!

I hadn’t realised that it’s been quite so long since I last posted – I do apologise! I’ve been working like a demon to reach 50,000 words on my novel (Novel?? Am I really writing a novel???!)

Well, that target was hit at 1:21pm yesterday. So let the mince pie eating commence!

I have been doing a little Christmas prep on the side so the cupboards, fridge and freezer are well stocked ahead of the year-end eating festival

Mr Eleanor finished up this afternoon.  We’ll be having beers and Union Square nuts this evening – I take no credit for these spicy, fragrant little bar snacks. Nigella has the good grace not to as well, but she has published the recipe

Union Square nuts

And in the event that we get a little more peckish, there are some cheese and onion pies waiting to be nibbled. A vegetarian version of the ubiquitous Australian ‘party pie,’ think hot water crust with caramelised onion, potato, cheddar, thyme and lemon zest. Nom nom nom!

cheese and onion party pies

So much food, so little time! Eat up people!

Gourmet nights gets festive

I miss the twinkling decorations in gloomy light, hunkering down in front of the fire with friends and family, and the deep, dark and pungent flavours of a British Christmas. But an Aussie Christmas does offer a whole new experience.

christmas beachNina Mathews Photography

Christmas dinner for Aussies is all about roast ham and potato salad. In the blazing summer sunshine, that sounds like a cracking idea. So when I hosted Christmas a couple of years ago, my offer came with the stipulation that the oven was NOT going to be switched on on Christmas Day – BBQ only. It was all about snacks and nibbles, salads and cool creamy deserts … with plenty of drinkies and a dip in the pool!

Some of the highlights were: pesto, cream cheese and semi-dried tomato stuffed mushrooms; roasted, filled onions; and (my personal favourite) lebkuchen-spiced macarons with ginger mascarpone cream.

lebkuchen macarons

It’s just a shame that the guests didn’t behave themselves. There were tears and recriminations; de rigeur for a family Christmas. I was so traumatised by the whole event that Mr Eleanor and I elected to spend the following Christmas by ourselves (bar 150 other guests) at the rather splendid Lake House.

Let’s hope that the Boxing Day family lunch this year goes a little better …

Gourmet Nights @ Christmas

I know I promised another Gourmet Nights, but what event is more about the food than CHRIIISSSTMAAAASSS!?

It’s just Mr Eleanor and I for Christmas Day this year – that’s ok, I get to eat what I want, with a few concessions to the carnivore in my life. It is Christmas for him too (she said, begrudgingly).

Aussie Christmas Day Menu

Then we’ve got some family coming over for Boxing Day lunch. They left the UK nearly 10 years ago but still hark back to a traditional Christmas lunch. Trying to get your hands on brussel sprouts in the middle of summer is a pain in the proverbial! Ok, ok, I’ll try to stop bitching about it …

British Style Christmas Lunch Menu

I have no doubt that a few more nibbles and dishes will work their way in because, well, I just can’t help myself 🙂

Free-from Christmas

The biggest eating event on the year’s calendar is fast approaching. Are you hosting this year? I’m on Boxing Day duties where all the English relos are coming over for a traditional British Christmas dinner. Not my favourite thing when it’s 30 degrees outside but, well, what can you do? It’s what they all want. They are stuck in the past. On the other side of the planet. At least I get to go Aussie style for the big day itself.

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Catering for a host of different food intolerances and choices might seem daunting but, because a Christmas lunch usually involves numerous dishes, with a little planning you can keep everyone happy without overloading yourself

Some tips and trips

  • Make the stuffing without gluten or nuts, and bake it separately, to broaden its audience – I’m planning a leek and apple stuffing
  • Miss out eggs and cheese to make your vegetarian option tick the vegan box too – what about a vegetable wellington?
  • Don’t forget that veggies like gravy too!
  • For a dairy free desert accompaniment , try cashew nut cream with your Christmas pud
  • Is there suet in your Christmas pudding? Don’t offer it to the veggies unless you know it was made with vegetarian suet!
  • Some folks have allergies to the sulphites used to preserve certain types of dried fruit so take care
  • Not everyone likes to get smashed on Christmas Day (?!), so offer a soft alternative
  • As best you can, try to cook each dish in a separate tray to reduce the risk of cross contamination

I’ll be sharing my menus for both Christmas Day and Boxing Day with you, so watch this space!

Nearly finished

chocolate pear gingerbread

I’ve been in a cooking frenzy this week in an effort to get my third cook book, DIG: Cooking with roots and tubers, finished for publishing by the weekend. So I have plenty to share with you: Mexican frittata, beetroot burgers, roast parsnip and pear salad. But having looked at my blog stats, I know you all are suckers for a little bit of chocolate, so for your culinary pleasure I am happy to present:

chocolate and pear gingerbread

Another dark, dense, super-moist cake from the kitchen of TheO – plenty of ground ginger gives it some bite, and the stem ginger releases little pockets of floral aromatics. AND it contains fruit and vegetable! I think this would be great one for Christmas.

Had that for my breakfast … the diet’s going brilliantly …

The flavour of Christmas

Home-made mincemeat

This, my friends, is not some weird-looking chutney. This is the very nectar of Christmas; the Yuletide ambrosia. This is:

home-made mincemeat.

It took an entire 24 hours to make but, of that, only 40 minutes of my time – it quietly soaked, melted and cooled all by itself.

Anyone wishing to make it themselves should go and visit Auntie Delia. My version used grated hard vegetable fat as both suet and vegetarian suet come kindly dusted in the flour of the devil. Also I went a bit heavy on the cinnamon. Because I wasn’t reading the recipe. No surprises there.

Now I have a small conundrum. There’s a little bit leftover from filling the jars. Do I:

a) Stuff and bake a couple of apples and serve with a little ice cream for a delightful dessert this evening?

b) Stuff my face using the stirring spoon that’s still in the bowl and deny everything to Mr Eleanor?

Answers on a postcard.