Christmas Cooking

Chocolate Gum or Rose Leaves

Rose leaves (minus fungicide or pesticide or aphids, or gum leaves, long and perfect, and remember to remove the Christmas beetles, because chocolate-coated Christmas beetles don't taste good, and a coating of chocolate upsets a beetle's centre of gravity and Christmas beetles have a hard enough time staying upright through the Christmas season anyway)

 

Cooking chocolate

 

Any useful flavourings that happen to be around in unlocked cupboards like a few drops of Cointreau or a few drops of peppermint essence

Melt the chocolate in the microwave, stir in a few drops of flavouring and press the gum leaf into chocolate to coat it thickly on one side. Leave to set, peel off the leaf... and you have a chocolate gum leaf.

 

NB Do not eat the gum leaf itself unless you are a koala.

Frozen Fruit Salad

1 small pineapple, peeled, cored and chopped

1 banana, ditto

½ a rock melon, ditto

½ cup caster sugar

juice of one lemon

         

Mix well until sugar dissolves. Place in plastic cups or ice-block moulds. Stick in a teaspoon or an ice cream stick. Freeze. Run the tap over the mould till the ice block pops out. Eat when life is hot or you can’t face another slice of Christmas cake.

The No Longer Secret Fruit Cake

 

(Very rich, very moist and very good. Even confirmed ‘I don’t like fruit cake’ eaters have had a second slice of this. And a third)

           

A good Christmas cake should still be moist and delicious in mid-winter.  It is a most excellent thing to have in the larder; you only need small pieces and you always have something extremely good to serve to guests.  Even better, Christmas cakes leave a detritus  detritus every time you cut them; this of course is the prerogative of the cook.  (Only intact slices of Christmas cake contain calories; crumbs and left-overs are calorie free.)

           

Mix

1 cup rum

1 cup whisky

5 cup of mixed chopped crystalized apricots, pineapple, glace ginger if you like ginger, sultanas, currants, crystalized cherries: your choice and proportion

1.2 cup home made lime cordial or zest of 4 lemon and 1 cup lemon juice or 1.2 cup excellent marmalade (But the acid home made cordial does it)

Cover Leave for at least 2 days.

Add about 2 cup of orange juice, and simmer till reduced by ½ and the fruit even more softened. It should have absorbed the alcohol by now.

Cool

Add:

1.5 cup golden syrup

1 cup brown sugar

250 gm butter

1 tb mixed spice

1 tb powdered ginger

2 tb freshly ground cinnamon (makes an incredible difference if it is fresh)

5 large eggs

6tb melted couverture dark chocolate

1 ½ cups plain flour

 

 

           

Place in a deep cake tin.  I line the edges with 3 sheets of baking paper.

Place on a tray covered with thick newspaper, well soaked. Bake at 150C for 3-4 hours. Lay alfoil over for the first 2 hours of cooking. Remove when the top is just firm. If the cake seems to be browning too fast turn the heat down.

Long slow cooking is what turns this dark, bi still soft and irresistible. A fast cooked fruit cake is a dry one.

Drizzle on extra um if you wish when it is jut out of the oven. The amount is up to you-  1-20 tbs.  Alternately, brush with apricot jam while hot; or cool, and then ice.

Cool in tin before turning out. Wrap in alfoil and keep for up two a year in a cool place.

           

Note: if you make many small cakes instead they make excellent Christmas presents.  In this case cooking time will be  less.  You'll have to sniff, poke and see i.e. as soon as the cake has been filling the house with good spicy fragrance for about half an hour, dip a skewer or even a knife in and see if it comes out clean, or if the top springs back when you press it lightly with your finger.

Frozen plum pudding

This could be said to be a cheat's plum pudding - no cooking, no steam and it takes about ten minutes to make. 'Cheat's' however implies it doesn't taste as good as the real thing - well, it does. But don't try it with cheap ice-cream made with artificial vanilla though - it's just a waste of the other decent ingredients.

1 litre good vanilla ice-cream

6 tbsps rum

2 tbsps sultanas

2 tbsps glacé pineapple, chopped

2 tbsps glacé ginger, chopped (optional)

2 tbsps glacé cherries, chopped

4 tbsps macadamias, chopped

quarter tsp mixed spice

To decorate: fresh cherries, halved and stoned, or chopped glacé pineapple and chopped macadamias with a little grated dark chocolate.

            Marinate the fruit, nuts and spice in the grog overnight; keep the bowl covered so the rum doesn't evaporate. A few hours before serving scoop out the centre of the ice-cream, insert the fruit mix in the hole and plug the hole with the removed ice-cream

To Serve: Turn it out pudding like on a chilled plate, quickly scatter on the decoration.  Serve in slices, so the filling oozes out at the end of each slice. Have a bowl extra whipped cream for those who haven't yet been overstuffed. .

Totally secret frozen fruit salad

 

This was possibly the first recipe I ever invented on my own; I was about seven, I think, and I'd been bunging mulberries and strawberries and bananas in the freezer for years.

           

In those days ice-cream was a definite treat.  The local shop didn't sell it, except in small cups. But the ice-cream man used to drive round in his ute on Sunday afternoons, with great canvas bags of dry ice and in the centre were either Have-a-hearts - ice-cream with a choc coating, or rectangular cardboard wrapped 'family blocks' - and that's what Mum bought.

 

Towards the end of their life, before plastic tubs were introduced and suddenly supermarkets had swallowed corner shops and had great freezers full of them, the cardboard rectangles had zippers down the side; you pulled the zipper and, behold, your cardboard container was open. (The ice-cream used to cling in a particularly delicious way to the cardboard and Mum used to rip it into four pieces so each kid could get one to lick. I think Fred used to chew his too, but then he liked odd things like handfuls of butter and the suds off the washing up.)

Red Christmas Cordial

If you want a really bright red cordial, get yourself about 250–350 g of blueberries – frozen if absolutely necessary, or cranberries or raspberries or home-grown mulberries, or even lilly pillies if you were sensible enough to plant a lilly pilly tree about five years ago. Lilly pillies make wonderful cordial. Pick them just before they are fully coloured, as when very ripe they can taste a bit like turpentine.

 

3 cups sugar

1 cup lime or lemon juice

6 cups water

2 tsp tartaric acid

2 tsp citric acid

Boil the sugar, water and fruit for 10 minutes. Take off the heat, squish well with a spoon, strain, add the tartaric acid, bottle, and store in the fridge for up to two weeks. Actually, I keep home-made cordial for a lot longer than two weeks this way but if your family, friends and neighbours all drop dead from drinking it you can't blame me. If it starts to bubble, change colour or grow interesting fungi, it's only useful as a kid's biology project.

Makes about three bottles of cordial.

Christmas biscuits

(crisp and very good)

 

125 gm  butter

1 cup brown sugar

2 tsps rum, rum essence or vanilla

1 large egg

1 and three quarters of a cup of plain flour

1 tsp baking powder

half a cup chopped macadamias or pecans

half a cup chopped crystallized cherries

half a cup choc chips

I also add half a cup chopped crystallized apricots, but that's because I'm stuck on crystallized  at the moment - it's good but you can leave it out!

 

Cream butter and sugar, mix in the egg and essence and fold in other ingredients.  Bake at 200 C for about 10 minutes or till pale gold.

Dark and fruity Christmas pudding

 

A Christmas pud is a lovely thing - dark and fragrant so you can smell it all over the house, and you only need a small bit because it's so rich.    

I can never understand those who sling off at a pud as being unsuitable for Australian summers. You don't HAVE to have it hot and flaming do you? Actually we have ours cold and flaming, and I do all the boiling at night after the house has cooled down - and when the kitchen will cool down again by morning.

 

Christmas pud is also easily prepared several days before Christmas Day, so if you're having it cold there's no last minute hassle.  Added to which a good pud is a great big gorgeous thing, in other words, there'll be plenty of left-overs to see you to New Year. Like a turkey, Christmas pud is destined for one day’s feast and many day’s nibbling at the crumbs.

 

Added to which, Christmas pud – a good fruity dark one - is one of the best accompaniments to ice-cream  that I know. (As you may have guessed, I do like my pud.)

 Most families have pud recipes passed own from Grandma, though usually they’re changed a bit with each generation. This is my Grandma's, but changed every generation.

Make the mix above, but instead  use half breadcrumbs instead of flour..

I place ours in a click down steamer then in two baking envelopes, tied up firmly. , or in t plastic lunch boxes with the lids taped in place with duct tape, and then in the envelopes.

Bring a giant pot half full of water to the boil. Add puds when boiling; add more boiling water. If it goes off the boil too soon they may be heavy. Boil 3 hours.

I usually made 1 large and several small, and can post the ones in plastic.

 

Boil again for 3 hours a week or a few days later. It is this second boiling that makes them dark and delicious.

Reheat by boiling or in the microwave, or don’t bother: light a cup of whisky, pour over, take a quick pic while it is flaming and try not to burn down the kitchen. Eat with much extremely good vanilla ice-cream.

 

Don't bother if a bit is slightly damp - puds are so rich that this will hardly be noticed!  Fill a large dessertspoon with some high alcohol substance - I use rum or whisky. Hold it over the heat of the stove till it sends up an almost invisible cloud of alcohol.  It's now warm enough to light, so hold a match to it (do beware of singing eyebrows and hands at this point: I should advise wearing leather gloves, goggles, protective clothing and a flame-proof mat, but of course no one will, so let me just repeat, this can be exceedingly dangerous and if the house catches alight (especially if you've been imbibing) or you receive second degree burns don't bother complaining. BECAUSE I WARNED YOU.

 

When it catches alight (and hopefully nothing else), pour over pud and carry in in triumph.  Cold pud is even better than hot pud. Keep covered in the fridge and it'll last for weeks.

Christmas Fruit Jelly 

Looks stunning - wonderfully wobbly.  a light alternative to christmas pudding.

 

1 packet frozen blueberries or raspberries, or 2 cups of each fresh

1 cup fresh strawberries, sliced

1 cup fresh peaches, sliced

1 cup white wine

1 cup caster sugar

juice of two lemons

half cup water

2 sachets gelatine

           

Use a no stick cake tin or line a cake tin with plastic wrap. Place sliced strawberries in the bottom and empty in the blueberries.

           

Heat all other ingredients except the gelatine till nearly boiling, take off the heat and add gelatine.  (Mix a little with some of the liquid first so you don't get lumps.) Pour liquid into the cake tin. Leave till set - it will take several hours.

           

Turn it out onto a plate.  If it won't come out easily dip the base of the tin in hot water in the sink for about 30 seconds - make sure no liquid gets into the tin though!  This will loosen the jelly enough for it to slide out.

           

Serve slices with cream or ice-cream.

 

Note: if that amount of gelatine doesn't form a well-set jelly, the whole thing can be slightly warmed and more gelatine (mixed with a little of the warmed liquid first) can be added. For some reason sometimes more is needed - possibly this depends on the ripeness and juiciness of the berries.

Magnificent Passionfruit Sorbet

4 cans passionfruit,  most of the seeds strained out

1/3 cup lemon cordial

Mix. Freeze. Blend. Freeze again. Blend again. Freeze. Eat.

Raspberry Sorbet

This glows. Glorious. Add a mint leaf on top for Christmas red and green.

6 cups raspberries, pushed through a strainer to remove the seeds

1/3 cup lemon cordial.

Mix. Freeze. Blend. Freeze again. Blend again. Freeze. Eat.

Quick and Delectable and Ridiculously Easy Banana and Coconut Ice-cream

1 cup mashed banana

1 cup coconut cream

1/3 cup lemon cordial.

Mix. Freeze. Blend. Freeze again. Blend again. Freeze. Eat.

Extremely Good Pineapple Sorbet

6 cups chopped pineapple

½ cup lemon cordial

Blend. Freeze. Repeat. Eat.

Christmas Fruit Jelly

(looks stunning; wonderfully wobbly)

A light alternative to Christmas Pudding

 

1 packet frozen blueberries or raspberries, or 2 cups of each fresh

1 cup fresh strawberries, sliced

1 cup fresh peaches, sliced

1 cup white wine

1 cup caster sugar

juice of two lemons

half cup water

2 sachets gelatine

     

Use a no stick cake tin or line a cake tin with plastic wrap. Place sliced strawberries in the bottom and empty in the blueberries.

      Heat all other ingredients except the gelatine till nearly boiling, take off the heat and add gelatine.  (Mix a little with some of the liquid first so you don't get lumps.) Pour liquid into the cake tin. Leave till set - it will take several hours.

      Turn it out onto a plate.  If it won't come out easily dip the base of the tin in hot water in the sink for about 30 seconds - make sure no liquid gets into the tin though!  This will loosen the jelly enough for it to slide out.

      Serve slices with cream or ice-cream.

 

Note: if that amount of gelatine doesn't form a well-set jelly, the whole thing can be slightly warmed and more gelatine (mixed with a little of the warmed liquid first) can be added. For some reason sometimes more is needed - possibly this depends on the ripeness and juiciness of the berries.

Spectacular Vegetarian Christmas Timbale

1 very large or 2 or 3 small eggplants, sliced

3 large red capsicums, quartered and seeded

6 fresh largish bococcini cheeses

6 small zucchini, thinly sliced

1 fat orange sweet potato, very thinly sliced

1 large bunch silver beet

1 large red onion, peeled and chopped

10 tbsps. olive oil

1 tbsp. pine nuts

4 cloves garlic, chopped finely

6 semi-dried tomatoes

1 tbsp. finely chopped parsley or coriander leaves

juice of 1 lime or lemon

salt

 

Sprinkle the eggplant slices with salt; leave for two hours, then wash in cold water.  This reduces bitterness and makes then more supple. Brush each slice with olive oil. Grill, chargrill or fry on each side till cooked - about 5 minutes.

Brush zucchini slices with olive oil; fry, grill or chargrill them.

 

Brush sweet potato slices with olive oil; fry, grill or chargrill them. (Make sure they are cooked – you might have to try a small sample as you go!)

 

Grill the capsicum till the skin is black and blistered. Place in a plastic bag till cool, then rub the skin off. Brush the capsicum with olive oil.

Leave everything to cool.

     

Sauté the onion and garlic in 4 tbsps. of the olive oil till the onion is soft; add the silver beet, chopped or torn into small pieces (the stems can also be added but must be very finely chopped). When the silver beet is soft, take it all off the heat and add the pine nuts.

Slice the bococcini thinly.

 

To assemble:

Place four slices of bococcini side by side on a plate, so they form a largish sort of circle. Now add a layer of eggplant, capsicum, sweet potato, zucchini, then cheese, eggplant, capsicum, zucchini till it's all used up. Place the dried tomato on top. Surround the circle with the chopped silver beet and pine nuts.

     

Combine the remaining olive oil and lemon or lime juice. Add a touch of salt or pepper if you like. Pour it over the mound, then sprinkle on the parsley.

     

Serve.

     

(This also makes delicious leftovers; it's worth making far more than you think everyone will eat).

Baked Fish with Fruit Salsa

1 whole salmon or tuna or other firm fish

alfoil or grape leaves, free of beetles and dipped in boiling water for 10 seconds

olive oil

lemon or lime juice

 

Salsa

 half a cup chopped coriander (yes, parsley will do at a pinch)

1 avocado, peeled and chopped

half a cup paw paw or mango, peeled and chopped

2 tbsps. Spanish or red onion, peeled and chopped

4 tbsps. olive oil

1 tbsp. lemon or lime juice

2 cloves garlic, crushed

2 tbsps. chopped red chilli or red capsicum

 

Day before:

       Liberally oil the fish. Sprinkle with lemon or lime juice, wrap in alfoil or cover well with grape leaves and place on a bed of grape leaves. (Bake for 30 minutes at 20 C.  Check it’s cooked all the way through but don't overcook - it’s a good idea to check half way through as the cooking time depends on the size of the fish - the bigger it is, the longer it will need.  Remove from oven.  Cool and place in fridge.

      Unwrap fish carefully. Nibble any bits left clinging to the alfoil. Place fish on platter.

      Mix all other ingredients. Pour over fish.

Iced Tea

2 teaspoons green tea

1 tsp fresh peppermint, apple mint, lemon mint, or eau-de-cologne mint leaves (not culinary mint)

sugar to taste

lemon slices (optional)

1 litre boiling water

 a large jug

 a lot of ice

Place the tea and the mint into the jug. Pour in the boiling water; leave for three minutes. Strain off liquid and chill.

Serve chilled with sugar to taste, ice,  and a slice of lemon.

Makes about 4- 5 tall glasses of iced tea.

Veronica's Mum's Iced Honeydew Punch

(Definitely alcoholic)

1 honeydew melon, seeds and skin removed, cut into small chunks semi frozen

white rum

optional: one or two mint leaves, preferably apple mint or eau de cologne mint

Blend the melon; add white rum to taste (but be cautious of tasting TOO often). Drink well chilled, in small glasses.

Note: if melon isn't very sweet, boil half cup sugar with half a cup of water for five minutes. Cool. Add a little of this syrup as you blend the melon- more or less depending how sweet you want the drink to be.

Excellent Fruit Punch

a generous handful of eau-de-cologne mint, chopped or roughly torn (though with this recipe you can also use peppermint or even common mint at a pinch, though it's not as good as eau de cologne mint)

1 bottle ginger ale (can be lo-cal)

1 litre pineapple juice (unsweetened)

1 orange, very thinly sliced, with peel still on

3 lemons or limes, very thinly sliced, with peel still on

 at least 6 cups of ice

two passionfruit, still warm from the vine (optional)

         

Place the fruit and mint in the bottom of a large bowl. Add the pineapple juice, and leave for at least an hour for the flavours to mingle. Just before serving add the ginger ale and ice.

Makes  about 15 cups punch.

Frozen Plum Pudding

This could be said to be a cheat's plum pudding - no cooking, no steam and it takes about ten minutes to make. 'Cheat's' however implies it doesn't taste as good as the real thing - well, it does. But don't try it with cheap ice-cream made with artificial vanilla though - it's just a waste of the other decent ingredients.

1 litre good vanilla ice-cream

6 tbsps. rum

2 tbsps. sultanas

2 tbsps. glacé pineapple, chopped

2 tbsps. glacé ginger, chopped (optional)

2 tbsps. glacé cherries, chopped

4 tbsps. macadamias, chopped

quarter tsp mixed spice

To decorate: fresh cherries, halved and stoned, or chopped glacé pineapple and chopped macadamias with a little grated dark chocolate.

Marinate the fruit, nuts and spice in the grog overnight; keep the bowl covered so the rum doesn't evaporate. A few hours before serving scoop out the centre of the ice-cream, insert the fruit mix in the hole and plug the hole with the removed ice-cream.

To Serve: Turn it out pudding like on a chilled plate, quickly scatter on the decoration.  Serve in slices, so the filling oozes out at the end of each slice. Have a bowl extra whipped cream for those who haven't yet been overstuffed. .

Grilled mushrooms

Choose great big flattish ones, as dark and fragrant as possible.

Mix lots of garlic and black pepper and chopped parsley into melted butter or margarine (or even olive oil).   Pour a generous amount into the cap of each mushroom. Grill the mushrooms top downwards until the stems look cooked or until the mushrooms look like they might soon collapse or burn.  Eat hot.

Lemon and Garlic Butter Corn Cobs

Melt half a cup of butter with four crushed cloves of garlic.  Take off the heat.  Add a good grating of black pepper and the juice of a lemon.  Soak eight cobs of corn, papery wrapping and all, in water for twenty minutes.  Then unwrap them carefully - don't tear the wrapping. Pour a little of the slightly cooled and thickened melted butter mix onto each cob.  Rub in well with your fingers or a pastry brush.

Grill until cooked through - at least twenty minutes or half an hour, turning several times.

You can also try this with alfoil instead of the natural corn packaging; but it's not nearly as good.

 

NB Don't buy corn wrapped in plastic.  It tastes like plastic.

Christmas Relish

I love the word relish. It gets the taste buds going almost as much as the word 'chocolate'.

A relish is what you add to make boring things taste good i.e. cold spuds, cold meat and most aren't bad on cheese on toast, especially if you liven it up with half way decent bread and good cheese and call it focaccia instead.

 

Most relishes will last for months if not years in the back of the cupboard waiting to be hauled out in case the meteor falls and life on earth - or at least the supermarket part of it - is extinguished.

 

This relish needs to be kept in the fridge and eaten within a few weeks, as it contains less vinegar, less sugar and more fruit than the ordinary variety. This is also means that this one tastes better.

 

Ingredients

3 cups fresh mango, paw paw, or pineapple, chopped

half a cup raw sugar

half a cup good white wine vinegar

2 large red onions, finely chopped

4 cloves garlic, crushed

2 tbsps. olive oil

1 red chili, chopped, optional

2 whole cloves

      Sauté onion and garlic in the oil till the onion is soft and totally transparent. (If it isn't the acid in the relish will make it go hard a d rubbery).

      Add the rest of the ingredients; simmer till thick (about 10 -15 minutes).

      Place in a sealed container in the fridge. Keep for three days to mature before using. Good with turkey, ham, or fish or baked potatoes.

Stuffed eggs

1 dozen eggs

half a cup mayonnaise – commercial at this time of year as the preservatives are needed in the heat.

1 tsp each ground cumin, coriander seed, turmeric and cardamom fried for three minutes in 1 tbsp. oil OR good curry paste or powder if you really must, to taste

paprika

    Simmer the eggs for 15 minutes, stirring now and then so the yolks set in the centre of the egg.  Take off the stove, run cold water into the saucepan till the eggs feel cool. This helps stop the black ring around the yolks.

    Peel the eggs (if they won't peel easily they may be too fresh – not a problem with supermarket eggs, but if you have your own chooks try to use week old eggs).

    Cut them in half long ways, remove the yolks and throw away a third of them.

    Mash yolks, mayonnaise and curry. Replace in the eggs using a teaspoon; sprinkle with paprika.

    These eggs will keep for a few hours covered in the fridge, but eggs and mayonnaise make a lovely breeding ground for bacteria, so while a few left over from pre-dinner nibbles may be okay for breakfast, by and large you should eat them the same day.

Lemon Cordial

This is lemony and not too sweet. There may seem to be a lot of sugar but this will make about 6 bottles of cordial- an excellent gift.

1 cup lemon juice

6 cups sugar

12 cups water

3 tb citric acid

3 tb tartaric acid

Boil. Bottle hot. Keep in the fridge for up to 2 months. An excellent ingredient in sorbet recipes below.

Best ever turkey stuffing

You'll need:

1 cup fresh bread, cut into small cubes (or a third of a  cup of  fresh breadcrumbs, but this is by far second best, or packet dry breadcrumbs, which is third best)
1 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup apple, chopped
1 large onion, chopped finely
6 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
1 tsp fresh sage leaves, chopped
1 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
dash of Tabasco sauce, optional
1 cup cooked cashews, pistachios, or macadamias
juice of 1 large lemon

 

Method:

Preheat oven to 200C.

Place bread cubes on a greased tray in the oven, bake till pale but not dark gold. Remove from the oven.

These will give a crunch to the stuffing and ensure it isn't too heavy (not like that iron weight muck you often find in commercial cooked chooks, so heavy and closely packed it weights down your stomach for three hours!).

Sauté the onion and garlic in the butter till the onion is transparent.

Mix everything else and stuff into the turkey, or add two  eggs and bake for 1 hour or till lightly browned on top.

© Jackie French