Happy New Year 2016!
I realise that we are well into January, and it seems like a blur since the end of the year festivities. I hope you all had a fabulous time for Christmas and New Year with loved ones, near and far, young and old, on land or at sea…and since 2016 will last for another 11 ½ months, I don’t think it is too late for me to wish you all a very Happy New Year!!
We had a fantastic Christmas starting at our house on Christmas Eve with family, continuing at our friend’s Denzel and Peppy on Christmas Day for a repeat of last year’s feast, including the traditional left over lunch on Boxing Day! For tradition is what it is all about, and by popular request the format and menu hardly ever changes: seafood, duck and chocolate log for Christmas Eve; turkey, ham and pudding for Christmas dinner; leftover and salads for Boxing Day. Add a couple of extra meals for birthdays ( we celebrate 3 in as many days!) and the window of opportunity for a breather before New Year’s Eve is indeed very small.
3 days is what we had to recover from our food coma, load the boat and sail to the Sydney harbour for the New Year’s Eve celebration. This is another tradition of ours, it would be unthinkable to find ourselves in Sydney on a boat and NOT watch the fireworks on December 31. So off we took, anchored in our favourite spot Athol Bay, overlooking the Opera House, the harbour bridge and the city skyline and waited for guests to come and join us for the show.
The catering was supposed to be simple. As requested by Terry, I brought most of the food and drinks from the house (sausages, smoked salmon, bread rolls, cheese… even lettuce and herbs from the garden!) But in a typical aussie fashion, our guests asked to contribute and bring a plate, so we ended up with a ham, more than 5 kilos of prawns, fresh tuna and extra fruits and bread!! As it turned out, it provided plenty for a massive New Year’s Day lunch the next day. My heartfelt thanks to Danielle, Malcolm, Shelley and Jai for carrying all these victuals by public transport on a stinking hot day (train, ferry, taxi, then dinghy ride…the things you do for a party on the Harbour!)
As always, the fireworks were spectacular and I never cease to be amazed at the thousands of boats squeezing in for a spot, the (reported) million people ashore braving the crowds (lucky public transports are free that night). It is one of these nights where everyone is happy and it feels like all is good with the world…
Fast forward a couple of days, and our last feast was at Danielle and Malcolm’s house for a belated Christmas gathering which doubled as a New Year’s BBQ. You guessed it, more food and drinks, some traditional Christmas fare (ham and turkey roll, chocolate log again!) but also more typical summer dishes ( Caesar salad, BBQ prawns, smoked brisket). By the end of the evening, I lost count of how much champagne, wine and beer was drunk, food coma was looming yet again…stuffed and happy, as the saying goes.
Chocolate Log (Buche de Noel)
If you live in France, there is no need for a recipe for Buche de Noel, they can be bought everywhere during the festive season. Overseas, it is a different story and I have made my own Buche for the past 25 Christmases (except when visiting Paris!). I have experimented with a few recipes (some use more butter, others more flour, always chocolate filling though) and this is the latest I adapted from a recipe in Stephane Reynaud’s 365 Good reasons to sit down to eat. The sponge is very light and simple to make, so is the chocolate filling which is a bit like a ganache. This was my last dessert of 2015, we enjoyed it so much it was also my first dessert in 2016!
Serves 8-12 as dessert
For the sponge
4 eggs separated
125g caster sugar
2 teaspoon vanilla essence
125g plain flour, sifted
For the filling
200g dark chocolate
80 unsalted butter
200ml thickened cream
1. Preheat the oven to 200C.
2. For the sponge: whisk the egg yolks with the caster sugar and vanilla essence until pale and frothy. Add the sifted flour and beat until combined. Beat the egg whites to very stiff peaks and gently fold them into the yolk mixture.
3. Line a shallow rectangular biscuit tin (37x25cm) with baking paper. Spread the mixture into the tin. Bake in the oven for 7-8 minutes ( watch that you don’t bake it any longer, as the cake mixture becomes too dry and can’t be rolled properly!)
4. Turn the cake out onto a damp cloth (it helps with the rolling), remove the baking paper and roll up in the cloth in a log shape immediately. Set aside and let it cool.
5. For the filling: melt the chocolate with butter in a double boiler, add the thickened cream and stir until all smoothly incorporated. Let the mixture cool for a few minutes (not too long otherwise it is too thick to spread) and spread over the cooled cake (which you will need to unroll of course!). Roll up, cover with grated chocolate and icing sugar, if desired and chill in the fridge.
6. Remove and leave at room temperature approx. 10 minutes before eating. Serve on its own or with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Enjoy!!!