It’s been a while since I wrote a Christmas post, mainly because the past couple of years have been hectic leading up to the holidays. While busy, this year, has been a little quieter, allowing more time for planning and now writing.
As always Christmas celebrations stretched over 2 days, courtesy of our dual nationalities. I insist on the French tradition of Le Reveillon, Christmas Eve dinner, which for me makes it the biggest cooking day of the year. The family comes over, we exchange gifts and celebrates then they go home before midnight to cook their Aussie Christmas the next day. My Christmas day is then quite relaxed. We have a casual breakfast with the kids and bar a couple of hours dish washing and cleaning the mess from the night before, the rest of the day is spent lazing around ( a.k.a napping ) until it is time to go to Christmas dinner at Shelley’s place.
This year’s Christmas Eve menu featured the traditional entrees of seafood trio of oysters, prawns and smoked salmon.
The main course never changes, and it seems that everyone expect duck breasts and potatoes roasted in duck fat. I normally order duck magrets from our local butcher in Burraneer, but this year a new butcher, Farmgate to Plate, took over and initially told me that he wasn’t sure what he would be able to get in for me. Weeks went by, I spotted some frozen magrets from a gourmet bulk store, which I bought as a back up. Then I checked with Nathan, the butcher, a week before Christmas, just in case, and saw he had these magnificent plump free-range duck breasts. Of course it was too late to put in an order for 14 people, so I grabbed what was in stock ( enough for 6 ). Luckily, Farmgate to Plate has two outlets in the Shire, so my strategy was to race to their Miranda shop and purchase more magrets there. Except there were none left, but I was offered marylands instead. There was enough for 14…I promptly hatched a plan B and grabbed them, figuring slow cooked duck legs could be just as festive a dish as duck breasts. Still, I could not help myself, and checked back into the Burraneer store the day before Christmas. The lovely Sarah greeted me with a huge smile and said “ I have fresh duck breasts delivered this morning, do you still want some? “ What do you think happened? So, in a very circumvolluted way, we ended up with duck magrets AND slow cooked duck legs. There was plenty of duck fat to roast 4 kilos of potatoes, served along carrots braised in the duck stock and a salad of baby spinach leaves, nectarines and fresh mozzarella.
As for the desserts, they were a mix of experiments and tradition.
A friend posted a picture of a Yule log made out of artisan salt and caramel ice cream, covered with chocolate ganache on a bed of almond biscuit. As I am always on the lookout for a new version of a Christmas log, I thought it intriguing and proceeded to make my own ice cream log. I cheated by using store bought vanilla and salted caramel ice cream, shaping it in a log mould. Still I made my own dacquoise and chocolate ganache, and decorated the whole thing courtesy of my ever growing collection of cake decorations. While it looked gorgeous and tasted delicious, the log took over 3 days to cook, freeze, assemble and refreeze. All this in 35C heat, this is an exercise I am not keen to repeat.
My second dessert experiment yielded a much better result. Inspired by a recipe from Alice Zaslavsky, on ABC’s News Breakfast, I made this Moscato and Cherry Jelly. It was a resounding success, refreshing, light and perfect to end a heavy meal. I include the recipe below.
Tradition was in the shape of chocolate truffles, to serve with coffee or port ( or both ).
The next day ( Christmas Day ) was very quiet until the evening, when we drove to Shelley’s in the city for dinner.
Her Mum, Maliney, always cooks a traditional Christmas fare of glazed ham, turkey “stuffed both ways”, roasted potatoes, cheesy cauliflower and green beans with lot of sauce and gravy to smother on the plate.
Guests were the usual group of our extended family and old friends, who contributed to the entrees, bringing a plate of cheese, canapes, and the ever present oysters and prawns.
Probably as eagerly anticipated as the turkey and ham, are the desserts. While Christmas Pudding is always on the menu, the second cake changes every year.
Doubling up as a birthday cake for Shelley, born on Christmas Day, this year’s was a Pavlova, crowned with whipped cream and a blanket of berries and currants. It was a beauty, praised as “the best Pav’ ever” by these lucky enough to taste it, and it is now my culinary goal to recreate this at home!
I hope you all had a great Christmas, surrounded by loved ones and I take this opportunity to wish you all the very best for the Festive Season, from our family to yours. Next stop: 2020!!
Moscato and Cherry Jelly
Adapted from Alice Zaslavsky
There is something fun and weirdly satisfying about jellied dishes, and I love cooking with wine! To keep with the festive theme, I used a Christmas tree mould you would normally use for cakes. Any jelly mould would do however, and I would think it is a perfect dessert to make for New Year’s Eve with the addition of some glittery leaves through the mix.
Serves 10-12 as a dessert
Unsweetened almond oil ( to line the mould and make it easy to unmould )
750ml bottle of pink moscato ( or any other sparkling wine, even champagne if you feel decadent )
100g raw sugar
250g halved, pitted cherries ( white or dark, doesn’t matter )
7 leaves of gelatine
75ml cold water
- Pour moscato over the cherries and allow them to soak for 15 minutes or so
- Drain the liquid thru a sieve into a saucepan, add in the sugar and heat until the sugar is fully dissolved and the liquid is just coming to the boil. Turn off the heat and allow to cool a little.
- In the meantime, soften the gelatine by placing the leaves into a bowl and pouring the cold water over the top. Let them soften for about 5 minutes.
- Grease the jelly mould with the almond oil and place on a baking tray.
- Squeeze out the excess water from the gelatine leaves, pour a ladleful of the moscato mix into the bowl. Stir.
- Pour the moscato-gelatine mix back into the saucepan and stir well to combine.
- Arrange the cherries in the mould, then laddle the moscato and jelly mix over them. leave a couple of centimeters from the top, to fill in later.
- Place the mould carrying tray into the fridge and ladle the rest of the liquid on the top carefully.
- Allow to set for at least 4 hours, ideally overnight.
- Serve with a good splash of thickened cream and fresh cherries on the side.