Friday, December 30, 2011

Christmas 2011: Leftovers

Hello hello!  When there is Christmas feasting, there are also leftovers!  We've finally finished all the leftovers, and I think we're all a bit sick of turkey and ham around here!  Having watched endless episodes of Nigella, Jamie and Gordon's Christmas programs over the break, I was tempted to try my hand at all sorts of big fancy pies to use up the leftover meat, but I thought that would defeat the purpose by creating even more leftovers.  (And don't forget you can't reheat leftover food more than once).

Whilst I did make one batch of pasties, and one sandwich, this year I found that the best way to use up the leftover ham and turkey was to serve it in thin slices to add protein and bulk to a fresh, healthy salad.  Much more suitable for our warm weather, don't you think?

Ham & Leek Welsh Pasties

I made Nigella's ham and leek Welsh pasties again (Kitchen), to use up leftover ham and petits pois.  These have ham, leeks and white sauce on the inside and are encased in a shortcrust pastry.  Lovely with a nice cold cider as an accompaniment.

Turkey and Ham Sandwich

This monster of a sandwich consisted of thick slices of white bread, lettuce, tomatoes, ham, turkey, and a thick smear of crème fraîche mixed with chives.  The crème fraîche mixture, apart from providing a tasty chive flavour, prevents the sandwich from getting dry (especially as turkey can dry out in the fridge).

Fried Ham and Eggs; Broad Bean and Radish Salad with Green Tahini

This lunch was inspired by a recipe from Jamie's Family Christmas.  Did anyone else watch it over Christmas?  (It's actually from 2009, but I hadn't seen it until this year).  I absolutely loved the program, especially the segment where he made fried gammon with his nan - she was so cute!  In the original recipe he uses raw slices of ham (i.e. gammon, which needs to be cooked before eating) but I made a quick version with leftover slices of smoked ham.  All you need to do is dredge slices of ham in mustard powder, and fry them in a pan.  The mustard powder lightly caramelizes on the ham and is just so fabulous!

Even though we can't get gammon here in Australia, the idea of the mustard-powder coating would work well with ham steaks (it sounds so 70's and I don't care who knows it) or Kassler, especially as an indulgent weekend breakfast.  I had it with a poached egg and the incredibly delicious broad bean and radish salad from the Ottolenghi cookbook, and it was a great light lunch, after all the heavy, carb-based meals of the preceding few days!

Marinated Mushrooms with Walnut and Tahini Yogurt

I received a copy of Yotam Ottolenghi's book Plenty for Christmas, and these marinated mushrooms were the first recipe I made.  I found some cheap shimeji mushrooms at an Asian grocer on Victoria street, and off I went! You marinate the shimeji mushrooms with sliced chestnut mushrooms (I used "baby bella" brown-capped mushrooms from my local supermarket) in lemon juice and olive oil, and toss them with broad beans and toasted walnuts.  It's served with a punchy garlic/yoghurt/tahini sauce, and I served it with thin slices of turkey and ham.  The full recipe is here, in Yotam's column in The Guardian. Enjoy!

Mini Christmas Puddini Bonbons

I love these intensely flavoured little truffles! I also got holly-shaped sprinkles this year, so I didn't need to bother chopping up gummi bears like I did last year.  I served them as a little sweatmeet with coffee to finish a post-Christmas dinner party.  They turned out very soft this year, so I'm keeping them in the freezer.  Theoretically, this means I won't be tempted to eat them all at once - hah!


I couldn't help it.  In the fridge we had a turkey leg, and we had slices of bacon.  How could I not make one? In honour of my favourite TV character, Ron Swanson from the hiii-larious Parks and Recreation, I made "The Swanson" - quite simply, a turkey leg wrapped in bacon.
"The Swanson"

Ron Swanson - what a legend.
Photo source:

And on that note I conclude my Christmas posts for the year! Hope you all have enjoyed the festive season as much as I did this year!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas 2011: Christmas Dinner

And now we come to the main Christmas event - the turkey dinner! 

Christmas Dinner for 4

Char grilled Broccolini with Chilli and Garlic
Roast Potatoes
Red Cabbage
Bread Dumplings

Iced Rum Sauce

Can you believe that we had a white Christmas in some parts of Melbourne? There were storms, rain, and lots of hail! (See here for some photos of the incredible weather and its effects.)  We were very lucky to avoid the worst of the weather in our area, and just got a lot of rain.

Judging by the Tweets and Facebook messages in my feed yesterday, it was a big day of eating, and our house was no exception.

This year I changed up our usual Christmas meal a bit, having been inspired by a Gordon Ramsay Christmas Special I saw on TV the week before Christmas - he looked incredibly tense and joyless, but his meal looked fabulous!  The turkey, gravy, and stuffing recipe were all Gordon's.  As accompaniments, we served the usual roast potatoes, red cabbage and bread dumplings, with Ottolenghi's chargrilled broccoli as a vibrant green addition.

Gordon's turkey is smothered in a herby, lemony butter; stuffed with garlic, onions and lemon halves; and draped with slices of bacon to keep the breast juicy and moist (heh). 

I must say I wasn't too impressed with the pallid "standard" bacon I got at the Vic Market; I must look for a better brand and supplier!

Prior to watching the program, I hadn't planned on making stuffing, but the sage-covered roll of stuffing that Gordon made looked totally delicious. (And I'm obsessed with sage right now!)

The pork mince is mixed with grated apples, lemon zest and parsley, and studded with dried apricots and pistachios.  A spicy sausage is laid in the centre (the recipe asks for merguez or chorizo; I could only find chorizo), and rolled up tightly before being baked.

Here is the roasted turkey - it's not the most attractive, but hot-damn it smelled amazing!

The bacon blanket is removed from the turkey and cooked up with the pan juices for gravy.  All that bacon, the herbed butter drippings and the onion/lemon/garlic from the turkey cavity, make the most amazing pan juices!

Look at all that tasty goodness!
Gordon's recipe asks for cider in the gravy; I used beer (which I also used to baste the turkey).  There weren't a lot of pan juices, but they were very intense, and could take quite a bit of stock/beer to make it up to a decent amount.  This was easily the best gravy I have ever made - so tasty and deeply savoury.  Lovely stuff!

The roast potatoes were based on Nigella's perfect roast potatoes, but made with olive oil as I'd run out of goosefat (oops!).  I also took a tip from Jamie Oliver's Family Christmas program (do we see a theme here...?) and squished down the potatoes with a potato masher halfway through cooking to increase the crispy surface area.  I also added garlic cloves and rosemary leaves for extra aromatic deliciousness.

Because of the herbs stuffed under the skin and the bacon-blanket, this turkey wasn't as golden or crispy as my previous efforts. (I love how my niece described last year's turkey as being "covered in turkey crackling"!)  I wonder if this could be improved by removing the bacon for the last 20 minutes of cooking and / or using a maple syrup glaze?  Either way, the turkey was fabulous - it wasn't dry at all!

Here are the sides: roast potatoes, chargrilled broccolini and red cabbage.

Ottolenghi's way of cooking broccoli is great - you blanch the broccoli briefly (I used broccolini), then cook them on a hot griddle until they get some nice char marks. They're finished off with some fried garlic cloves and finely sliced chilli.  I loved the fresh, punchy colours and flavours against the otherwise brown and slightly heavy dishes. 

Carved pieces of turkey

Stuffing with gravy
Below is my plate.  You can (just) see a lone bread dumpling on the top-left side of the plate.  As there were only four of us eating we didn't make the bread dumplings from scratch, but just boiled up some individual dumplings from a packet.  (Labelled as Semmelknödel in delis or continental stores).

Haha, I love how the broccolini is at the bottom of the plate, trying to separate me from all the unhealthy food behind it!!

Phew - I was sooo full!  We took a little break after all that food to open presents.  Yay!!  (I got some great foodie gifts this year, and have posted pics on my Facebook page.)

Dessert was Christmas pudding, of course.  This year I tried my hand at Nigella's Ultimate Christmas Pudding, full of lusciously moist prunes and redolent with Pedro Ximénez sherry.  I made up the batter and did the first steaming a month ago, and simply steamed it again for 3 hours before we ate it.  (I actually doubled the recipe, and have 2 extra puddings at home. One has been frozen for next year, and I'm excited to be having the other one this week when we have friends over for a casual dinner. Yay for pudding!)

I served it with Nigella's iced rum sauce (from How to Eat), replacing the rum with more Pedro Ximénez.  I love this stuff, more so than brandy butter!  It tastes like a kind of smooth, rich sherry ice-cream.  Gorgeous.

The pudding was so wonderful!  It was definitely an improvement on both the Roux Brothers' very traditional pudding I made in 2008, and the gluten-free, vegetarian Christmas pudding I made at "Christmas in July" at The Langham last year.  Nigella's pudding was smooth and rich, with an appealingly moist puddingy texture.  The sherry was an inspired choice, matching and enhancing the sultanas contained within the pudding.

Best Christmas meal ever!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas 2011: A Luxurious Pre-Christmas Dinner

A Luxe Pre-Christmas Dinner for 5

Poires Belle Hélène

Merry pre-Christmas everybody! Is everyone ready for the big day tomorrow?  I still have a couple of gifts to wrap, but other than that everything is sorted and ready for Turkey Day!  I'm taking Christmas a little easier than usual - I've only made Christmas puddings and one batch of Vanillekipferl this year; no Christmas cake or mince pies - but we did have a super-duper deluxe blowout meal at my parents' house two nights ago.

You may remember I previously said I wanted to make my own version of the uninspiring New England Lobster Rolls I tried at Golden Fields earlier this year, and the menu was built up from that idea. (Granted, I've only tried a canapé version of their famous rolls, not their standard version which has so caught the interest of Melbourne's dining public).  I based my lobster rolls on this recipe from Gourmet Traveller, and baked my own brioche buns for it.  I'll be making them again next week for another dinner for friends, and will devote a whole blogpost to them soon!  Lest you think I've got money to burn on lobster, let me tell you about a sweet deal I've made with lots of my friends: if they agree to supply fresh lobster, I'll make us lobster rolls. Pretty cool, huh!

The rest of the menu continued the "luxury" theme with a beautiful leg ham from Andrew's Choice Butcher in Yarraville, which I glazed in gingerbread spices and served with a cherry relish (a recipe from Snowflakes and Schnapps).  The accompaniments were my favourite peas (a Nigella recipe), and Martha Stewart's scalloped potatoes with leeks, which we thought would make a good change from my usual ham-accompaniment of mac & cheese.

For dessert, I wanted to try my hand at making a dessert I tried at Il Fornaio last year: Phillipa Sibley's Poires Belle Hélène, from her new book PS Desserts.  I actually received a review copy of PS Desserts from the publishers, and I intended to post the recipe for Poires Belle Hélène here on my blog.  However, I encountered a few little kinks with the recipe, and don't think it's the most user friendly recipe to try at home. Once I've worked my way through the book a little more I'll find a better recipe to share with y'all!

Phew! I'm getting tired again just writing about the menu!  It was a lot of work - a two-person job spread over two days (thank-you Sandra for all the help!) - but worth it for such delicious results.

Let's start with the dessert, as this was the first thing we had to prepare - most of it was done the day before.  It was definitely the most difficult thing on the menu - there were pears to poach, vanilla ice-cream to churn, chocolate sauce to pipe and chocolate sponge to make!  If you've tried this dessert before, you'll know that the ice-cream is piped into the poached pears, and the chocolate sauce is frozen in logs, then baked inside the chocolate sponge, for two sweet surprises at the table.

Peeled and cored pears, ready for poaching

Vanilla scented custard, the base for the ice-cream

Scooping the chocolate sauce into a piping bag

Piping lines of chocolate sauce - don't laugh, I know what it looks like!

Various mixtures that go into the chocolate sponge. I whisked the egg whites by hand!

As I mentioned above, I had some issues with the recipe - the most important of which was that it made way too much chocolate sauce. With the quantities given, I got about 15 logs of chocolate sauce - and I only ended up needing two of them!  There's no mention anywhere in the recipe that it makes more sauce than you'll need, and looking at the quantities, they could easily be scaled down.

It did taste delicious though (especially straight out of the freezer!), so I'm keeping them for future snacking or for melting over ice-cream.

The other issue I had (which was my fault) was that the recipe asks you to bake the sponges 4.5cm in diameter, and I only had 8cm moulds, so I was only able to get four flat sponges out of the mixture rather than the six tall ones that the recipe says it will make.  (And there were five of us eating that night - d'oh!)  I know that baking is an exact science and that the recipe would have worked better if I'd used moulds in the correct dimensions. However, I must admit I found it a little frustrating that the chocolate sponge recipe was so precise, when the chocolate sauce recipe made so much more than required.  The puddings are quite rich though, so we were happy to share.

Half-filled sponges with chocolate sauce inside
So, the sponges went in the freezer, and the custard and pears went in the fridge, ready to be finished off just before eating.

The other thing I did in advance was to bake the brioche rolls, using this incredibly easy recipe

Brioche rolls
Everything else we prepared in the afternoon before the dinner!

raw ham
And then finally... everything was done and we could crack open the champagne and eat!  Cheers!

Champagne supplied by my dad

Lobster roll with champagne

Mmm... so much lobster.

One tail made more than enough filling for us, which I suppose makes it an economical way to enjoy lobster??  Hehe.

And now the main course...

Ham, cherry relish, petits pois
The ham was gorgeous - and I'd expect nothing less from Andrew's Choice!  We've got quite a bit of ham left... yay leftovers!  I daresay I like the spicy, sticky cherry relish even better than Nigella's spiced peaches, which used to be my usual accompaniment for ham.

Scalloped potatoes with leeks - potatoes sliced by hand (thank-you Sandra!)
The scalloped potatoes were amazing! Somehow they tasted light, with no feeling of stodginess or heaviness. A great recipe from Martha Stewart!  I must confess that scalloped potatoes are one of my favourite foods ever.  When I was a kid, whenever we'd go to buffets, I'd always make a beeline for the scalloped potatoes, while everyone else was getting stuck into the more expensive oysters and prawns.  I even liked them made with the MSG and salt-laden flavour packets you can get at the supermarket!

Haha, check out my potato-to-ham ratio:

As I mentioned above, there was still a little work to do for the dessert: about 20 minutes before we wanted to eat (and after all that food, we definitely needed a little break in between courses!), we churned the ice-cream, popped the puddings in the oven, then piped the ice-cream into the pears.


My puddings didn't look quite like Philippa's perfect towering version, but I was proud of them nonetheless!  It was so nice to hear my mum exclaim: "Oh wow, there's something inside the pear!"  I totally understand it when Philippa writes "I love surprising people".

Mmm... melty ice-cream...

You'll see that I created a much bigger cavity in my pears than in the ones at Il Fornaio - more room for ice-cream!

Mmm... melty chocolate sauce...
Oozy chocolate pudding

Yum yum yum! My favourite part of this dessert was the pear - perhaps for an easier version in future I'll make the ice-cream-stuffed pears and just drizzle them with the chocolate sauce.

Merry Christmas everybody!!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Christmas 2011: Adrian's Pre-Christmas Dinner

Hi everyone! Can you believe it's less than a week until Christmas? I hope everyone's enjoying the festive season, and I'm super-excited to see what everyone's got planned for the big day! I've got a few big Christmas meals coming up (well, three actually!) for family and friends over the next week or so, which I'll be blogging just as soon as I can.  But for today, I'd like to share with you the most epic pre-Christmas meal I enjoyed at my friend Adrian's house last week. Adrian, (different from Food-Rehab Adrian, but just as nice), has previously worked as a chef in London and Paris, and last weekend cooked an amazing Christmas meal for 14 lucky guests. There were two geese, a ham, two gravies, stuffing, four separate side dishes and an insane amount of brandy butter. Woah! Let's take a look:

The Table

Geese - 2 roast geese with Cumberland sausage / prune / armagnac stuffing

Cherry Gravy - I loved the sweet cherries against the dark goose meat

Glazed ham served with pineapple gravy

Potato salad - whole boiled unpeeled potatoes with mayonnaise, grated hard boiled eggs, crisp bacon pieces, chives, onions

Greens - asparagus, peas and broad beans cooked in stock

Red cabbage

Roast vegetables - Goose-fat roasted carrots and parsnips with chestnuts

My gift from the Christmas cracker - cute measuring spoons!

There was so much delicious food, and I was so full! But of course I was powerless in the face of dessert...

Flambéed Christmas Cake

Brandy Butter. Ahem.

Vanillekipferl - My contribution to the evening 

Vanillekipferl and brandy butter - a surprisingly good combination

Thanks to Adrian for an absolutely incredible meal! What a treat!

What are y'all cooking and eating for Christmas?