My Xmas calendar has been full during the last week. We have a bunch of Austrians staying at the moment so it's a delight to witness an Australian Xmas through their eyes – the father in the family remarked that this is the first time he has every mowed the lawn at Xmas time (their place is usually snowed in about now!) They watched Carols in the Domain where the two children were stunned to see Santa arriving over the Sydney Harbour Bridge on a sparkly Harley rather than a reindeer led sleigh, and the slightly more sophisticated and classical Melbourne-based Carols by Candlelight. In the Sydney-Melbourne rivalry I am sorry to say, this is one event where Melbourne consistently wins out!
It is tradition in my family for me to do all the cooking on Xmas day and on Boxing Day so I've been in the kitchen for nigh on three days. I kept the menus simple this year but simple for someone who loves cooking and entertaining still translates into swollen ankles and a vampire-white complexion from not venturing out of doors into the sunlight during those three days. Thankfully I had help and I also paced it. I cooked for 10 people at Xmas and 14 for Boxing Day. Here are my menus:
Cherry & ricotta pancake with cherry almond syrup
Terrine with cranberries & pistachios
Tomato tarte tatin with caramelised garlic (vegetarian option)
Ravioli salad with summer greens
Lime & chilli seafood sausages on green papaya salad
BBQ Chinese duck with fruit dipping sauce
Soft fruit & crushed meringue ice cream gateau
Lime passionfruit crush (non alcoholic)
Boxing Day Dinner Menu
Smoked salmon and caviar pasta
Chicken with rye bread, prune and chestnut stuffing
Eggplant timbale (vegetarian option)
Spiced pumpkin chutney
Mixed leaf salad with cranberry dressing
Xmas pudding & custard
Ruby grapefruit & lemon sorbet fizz (non-alocholic)
For any Americans who are reading this, please note that your use of the word "entré" is different to the Australian use – here an "entré" is your version of an appetizer.
The surprising hit of the entire two days menu turned out to be a drink which scored a resounding 5/5 on the family rating scale, so I've decided to publish the recipe for those of you who are interested.
Ruby Grapefruit & Lemon Sorbet Fizz
Pour 2 cups (500 ml/16 fl oz) chilled grapefruit juice and 1 cup (250 ml/8 fl oz) chilled soda water into a jug. Stir in 1 tablespoon of caster sugar, then pour into chilled glasses. Top with a scoop of lemon sorbet. Mix the sorbet in or serve with a parfait spoon. Serves 4.
(Source: Wendy Stephen [Series Editor], The Essential Christmas Cookbook, Murdoch Books, 2000)
Outside of that, I didn't know that this blog would serve as a default Xmas list for my friends. I happen to mention in a previous post that I had never seen the last season of Dawson's Creek and then, low and behold, it turned up in my Xmas stocking courtesy of my friend Phil and his wonderful daughter Meredith, who reads our blogspot. Thanks guys! Now all I have to mention is that I'd like a cruise on the Sea Princess, a home theatre system, tickets to the Moonlight Cinema in Sydney ... (oh, I got that last one too – thanks, Meredith!). Now can you arrange a publishing and feature film deal for Elf~Fin? Nope, okay ... we'll have to arrange that one ourselves.
I found four new feral kittens three days before Xmas, living in a drain on our property. I'll be covering their story on my TameFeralCats blog. My sister (bless her!) gave me a new HP PhotoSmart Fax/Printer/Scanner for my office. There's nothing wrong with my old printer, it's just that it costs $229 for a new toner cartridge which is simply outrageous – I had commented that you could buy a new printer for that price. My sister took notice and did. I was lost for words when I opened the big fat present.
My parents renewed my gym membership for me, which is brilliant – I will be making good use of it from Monday to shed the Xmas kilos (can't make it today or tomorrow although I have already done my stretching and toning exercises and have swum a kilometre. The only thing stopping me from going on a 40 minute walk now is the thunderstorm raging overhead). I also treated myself to two pieces of clothing I'd been eyeing off for months at QueensPark – a white blazer and a hot pink Indian style tunic top with creme embroidery down the middle (bought them both at 50% off prior to the big post-Xmas sales). I also received a gorgeous hanging mermaid figurine, a pair of gum boots with a holly design (the rest of the world calls them Wellington boots), some much sought-after music (Seal, Soul and Dido, Safe Trip Home), cook books, and several gift vouchers.
I'll post some pics in the next couple of days so you can eye off the gorgeous Christmas flower arrangement on the table and get a look at our tree. In the meantime, take it easy ...