Happy New Year (and very belated Christmas wishes!)
Well, 2016 is over and as we are entering 2017, I want to wish all of you, dear readers, a very Happy New Year, hoping it is as kind and generous to you as 2016 has been to us. New boat, new business, much socialising and entertaining have made for a hectic year and while I am far from complaining (life is good after all) I admit it all impacted on our health somehow in the end. Nothing life threatening, but both Terry and I found ourselves exhausted last week, and after a 2-day marathon Christmas celebrations and one last ladies lunch hosted by yours truly we “shut down the shop” and retired to the quietness of home, in an effort to recharge and relax.
In previous years we would have jumped on the boat and cruised to the Harbour for the NYE fireworks, but this time we didn’t feel like dealing with crowds, either on land or on the water. Uncharacteristically, I was in no mood to cook, so we opted for a movie and dinner in Cronulla instead. We saw Allied, which was great as far as love stories go, average though for an action flick, but Brad Pitt made it all worthwhile…Dinner was late at Squires Loft, a steakhouse which serves plates big enough to serve 3 people! As I wasn’t feeling a 100% my memory of the night is probably subjective ( I only had 1 glass of sparkling wine then drank water, how boring for a NYE!) but all I remember is the large pieces of steaks, massive servings of french fries and enough salads and vegetables to feed twice as many people. This is the kind of place you need to arrive hungry for, definitely not after slurping some frozen coca cola and eating a a bucket of popcorn ( I am talking about Anne, not me!)
Since there was no NYE party to speak of, let me share our Christmas feasts instead.
As usual, we started with Christmas Eve at our house. This time, with 26 of us ( Terry’s side of the family), I asked guests to bring a plate of starters to nibble on, while I would take care of the main course, side salads and desserts. I read somewhere recently that it takes some dictatorial person to organise a dinner where everyone brings a dish. Well, I don’t consider myself dictatorial, however I do provide hints and make notes of who is cooking what so that we don’t end up with too many pies or 3 cheese platters! In the end I, like everybody else, look forward to tasting other’s signature dishes and this Christmas Eve didn’t disappoint.
Craig put together a lovely platter of olives, feta, baby tomatoes and prosciutto. Shelley and Tania made a delicious smoked trout pate
, Carolyn could not decide which dip to bring so she made two: a spinach dip served in a cob shell and a mexican layered dip with corn chips
I know that’s a lot of dips, but they were all delicious each in their own ways. Danielle made these fantastic salmon parcels, stuffed with creamy cheese and prawns.
Maliney provided chicken tulips, Vida baked some chicken wings, and Leanne cooked meat balls. All hot dishes were so popular I didn’t have the time to take a picture before it was too late!
The main course never changes, it is always duck magrets (breasts). Terry and the kids expect it on the Christmas menu every year, as do the others i suspect. The same goes for the accompaniment of potatoes roasted in duck fat. There is more leeway with the salads however, and I always like to do something different every year. This time I decided to base them on a couple of seasonal fruits I had picked up at the markets: a box of mangoes and a packet of cranberries. I paired the mangoes with some shredded white cabbage and an asian dressing, while the cranberries went in with green beans and walnuts. They both went beautifully well with the magrets. And yes, I cooked 26 individual duck breasts and baked 6 kilos of potatoes!
I always like to make a chocolate log for Christmas dessert, but I could not get my head around altering the recipe for 26. So I made my usual size one, that could still serve 12, and ordered a Croquembouche from my favourite Sydney patissier, Looma. His is specially made for Christmas and the choux are filled with vanilla custard, coated with thick dark chocolate, and painstakingly piled up and decorated with Christmas figurines. Delivered on the day, it took pride of place on the sideboard and was a huge hit with adults and kids alike.
Talking about the kids, I should mention the ritual of exchanging gifts, which occurs before dinner is served. We usually try to nominate an adult and a child in charge of handing out the presents in some sort of orderly fashion, but it always ends up messy and this year was complete mayhem with 26 of us as several kids (including mine) lost patience and dove in. Hopefully all gifts were handed to their intended recipients… Ahhhh, families!
The next day was round 2, Christmas dinner. In the past Maliney or her friend Peppy used to host the meal for 25 or so people. This year, with Peppy overseas, and Maliney visiting from Melbourne, I offered to host the dinner at our house with Maliney and the girls in charge of the cooking. This was to be a small gathering of only 12. Not wanting to make a fuss, Maliney suggested to keep the meal simple eschewing the hot vegetables and the turkey while only cooking a ham. That was counting without the kids (young and old) who look forward to turkey once a year, particularly the stuffing! So turkey we had, along with the marmalade glazed ham,Tania’s famous caesar salad and Carolyn’s spinach and orange salads.
Shelley didn’t want to feel left out and brought oyster and king prawns as well!
As most of the guests had already eaten breakfast and lunch somewhere else ( there is always the other families to visit on Christmas…) I didn’t stress about appetisers, and only offered neatly revamped leftovers. We also didn’t bother with the hot vegetables. Besides, we all had to make room for Maliney’s traditional fruit cake and the brownie cake for Shelley’s birthday.
By then, my sides were hurting with all the food. We were told by Shelley it was poor form to sit back and proclaim ourselves “stuffed”, declaring instead we had done very well (some wisdom she picked up from one of her in-laws). So, as I struggled to even take a sip of water, I acknowledged that indeed we did extremely well to put together 2 massive feasts in as many days.
I knew we would have an insane amount of leftovers, so had bought plastic take away containers in anticipation, and sure enough, everyone got a decent share of turkey, stuffing, ham, fruit cake, brownie cake. I froze mine, waiting for an occasion when I will stop feeling bloated…
Maliney and the girls were the perfect guests, clearing the dishes as we went, while the others found more to drink and eat…I just hovered, grateful to know that beside a hangover and food coma, at least the kitchen would be clean!
I’d like to take the opportunity to thank you all for visiting my blog and following me in my ramblings. Here is hoping you are having a relaxing holiday (in Australia anyway, I know readers in the Northern hemisphere will be going back to work or school soon…) and looking for more food stories in 2017.