Sunday, December 26, 2010

Pre-Christmas Christmas

On Christmas Eve, I spent the morning madly running around getting the house clean.  Shortly before midday, I had the place looking respectable enough that I could turn my attention to the food.

I'd spent a lot of time trying to sort out a menu for my dinner. I wanted (of course) to use as many Edmonds recipes as possible, and make it decadent enough to be Christmassy, but I also needed to keep things reasonably low-key and, since we were heading to Blenheim the following morning, I wanted to avoid leftovers as far as possible.

It was with the 'minimal leftovers' concept in mind that I chose to make the essential Christmas dessert, sherry trifle (p205) in individual portions. I sandwiched the twin halves of yesterday's sad sponge with jam, cut the sandwich into small cubes and used them to line four dessert glasses. Then I drizzled the sherry over the sponge and spooned fruit and juice on top. Topped with custard and cream, the trifle was complete.

I'd whipped up a bottle of cream for the trifle, but hadn't used much of it. The rest went into two different bowls: in one I added mixed berries to make a filling for my brandy baskets, the other was used to create yoghurt cream (p214) to go with my meringues. I'd decided that a pav would make for unnecessary leftovers, so substituted the meringues. Admittedly, my yoghurt cream contained more cream than the two tablespoons in the recipe, and I'd used Greek yoghurt instead of plain, but the essentials of the recipe were there.

Dessert done, I turned my attention to the mains. The only thing I could really prepare in advance was the orange and rosemary stuffing (p135). I dragged out the food processor and whizzed up some bread to make crumbs, then adding onion; rosemary; orange zest and sage with some egg and melted butter to bind.

I had just finished drying the dishes created by these preparatory activities when Mum and Dad returned from picking up Nana. I'd laid out a reasonable spread of that excessive pre-Christmas baking of mine (once again shattering chunks of Christmas cake icing all over the kitchen), and we sat down to open presents and demolish our afternoon tea.

Once the gifts were open, and the afternoon tea plates looking impressively empty (I hadn't expected so much would get eaten, but I'd underestimated the Christmas 'nibble on things that are in front of you, even if you aren't hungry' tendency), I started looking at preparing the dinner.

I stuffed the chicken and got it in the oven (utilising a roasting bag, that marvellous invention that prevents fatty chickeney splatters all over the inside of your oven), while Mum, my willing kitchenhand, dealt with preparing the vegetables.

With the chicken we were having the usual new potatoes with a tomato salad (p179) and some carrots from Mum's garden turned into orange and ginger carrots (p161). The tomato salad was easy to make - it's just slices of tomato topped with parsley, spring onions and a fairly standard vinaigrette. The carrots were also easy - merely simmered in a small amount of orange juice, brown sugar and ginger.

Meanwhile, Dad was setting up the table. I don't have a dining table in my little flat, so Mum and Dad had brought up a picnic table for use in my courtyard. Unfortunately, the weather turned from gale-force Nor'wester in the morning to cool Southerly in late afternoon, so we abandoned that idea and set up the table in the middle of my lounge.

I got the 'breads and spreads' starter on the table just as the chicken came out of the oven. I was a bit worried that the hummus would be too bland and the salmon pâté fishy to the point of being inedible. I was wrong about that though - both were well received, and while there was far too much pate and hummus for four people to eat, the bread platter was soon empty. The pita crisps weren't perhaps the best match - they're so thin and crispy that they just broke if you tried to put a spread on them. They were tasty though, so it didn't really matter.

The starters were soon followed by the roast chicken, stuffing and vegetables. The chicken was lovely and moist, and the veges and salad very nice. I was not impressed with the stuffing: I'd stupidly forgotten to season it, so it was really quite bland. My own fault of course, but even had I remembered the seasoning, I think it would have been unremarkable in flavour.

After a suitable break for digestion, we moved on to dessert. The trifles were very tasty, though I think I should have put in slightly more juice - the sponge was not quite as soaked through as you expect in a trifle. I have no complaints about the brandy baskets - the cream and fruit filling worked so well I was glad I made baskets instead of traditional brandy snaps. Finally, there were the meringues. Topped with yoghurt cream and passionfruit pulp, they were quite delicious. Only Nana resisted a second helping - the rest of us had to have just one more!

That finished off our Christmas Eve dinner. I think I did a reasonable job of creating a Christmassy spread - and almost all out of the Edmonds book. Certainly the over-full sleepiness that set in after the meal was a typical Christmas feeling - and the next day, we headed to Blenheim to do it all over again!

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