Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Christmas Fare

Happy New Year Everyone!

We had a wonderful family Christmas, with 18 people staying here in the homestead. A bit of planning goes in to catering for that number of people over  four days, especially when the nearest shop is 100km away.  I have to say that we ate very well, and I am very grateful to have a coolroom! Fortunately all the girls in the family are  very capable and enthusiastic cooks.....we have to keep reminding each other  to 'keep it simple' as there is a bit of tendency to get carried away with the gourmet creations!

It's a given that it will be hot here at Christmas so lighting the oven is definitely not a good idea. For lunch on Christmas Day we shared a homegrown turkey roasted in the normal BBQ and a leg of our own pork, roasted in the Webber kettle BBQ. Both were magnificent. I'm afraid I don't 'do' traditional stuffing for the turkey. I prefer to jam fistfuls of fresh herbs, cloves of garlic  and  halves of lemon in the cavity of the bird, all of which impart lovely flavour and, importantly with turkey, moisture. This bird took about 2 hours to cook at a pretty high temperature, and half an hour to rest. The skin, which I rubbed with a cut lemon, rubbed with olive oil and sprinkled liberally with salt, was crispy and delicious and the meat was tender and juicy. I know a lot of people think turkey is a dry meat, and maybe factory farmed turkey is, but homegrown and cooked well it is superb.

I'm sure some of the boys in the family would have been happy just to eat pork and turkey for lunch but we did also have some yummy salads.
The one in the foreground of the photo is made with freekeh, which is cracked green wheat, roasted. It is a delicious and interesting alternative to rice or pasta and can be used hot or cold, plain or mixed with other ingredients. We made a salad with herbs and cherry tomatoes from my garden, cucumber from my step mum's garden and red cabbage from a friend's garden as well as chickpeas and a few other ingredients.  We also had a fresh garden salad, a spinach, roast pumpkin and feta salad and a simple but delicious potato salad made with steamed kipfler potatoes, hard boiled eggs, parsley and homemade aioli.

Our Christmas dessert is usually centred around ice-cream and this year it was Pina Colada flavoured (think coconut, pineapple and rum) and rolled in a toasted coconut crumb, served with a pineapple salsa and a mango and homegrown passionfruit salad. Very tropical and a perfect ending to lunch on a hot day. See the (very easy) recipe at the end of this post.

My sister in law Pam, adding rice to the
paella, cooked in the giant wok on
 the back lawn. I'm stirring.
On Boxing Day we enjoyed cooking and eating Paella (a Spanish seafood and rice dish) on the back lawn. Years ago my Dad made the best outdoor cooking contraption I've ever used....he's pretty clever my Dad. Many years before  I had given Dad a giant wok to sit on his Webber BBQ but, due to the effort of having to light heat beads and so on, he had used it only rarely, so he went about making a gas burner for it. The body of it is custom made from rolled iron and the circumference is the same as a Webber. The flame comes from a standard four ring gas burner bought at a camping supplies store. The base is flat steel.  Of course you can also use pots, frying pans and even camp ovens on the burner, all of which I have done. I reckon I would use this burner about 3 times a week on average and it is brilliant for outdoor entertaining. Our paella, cooked in the wok, fed twenty people with leftovers, but it  can be used to do a stir-fry for two if you wish to.

Pina Colada Ice-Cream - From ABC's delicious. magazine Dec 2013/Jan 2014

3  cups (720g) sour cream
2 1/2 cups (375g ) pure icing sugar, sifted * (300g for the ice-cream and 75g for the coconut crumb)
440g can crushed pineapple, drained
125ml coconut cream
100ml Malibu or other coconut liqueur
2 1/2 cups (245g) shredded coconut, toasted
1 tsp cinnamon *
Mint leaves, to garnish

*I used 200g of icing sugar (150g for the ice-cream and 50g for the crumb) and it was sweet enough for our taste. I omitted the cinnamon as I felt it didn't really fit the flavour profile.

Pineapple Salsa

1 lemongrass stalk (inner core only) bruised (if you don't have lemongrass use a couple of strips of lemon peel)
10cm piece (50g) ginger, peeled and chopped
150g caster sugar
4 kaffir lime leaves
1/2 a fresh pineapple, peeled cored and thinly sliced

To make the ice-cream whiz the sour cream, 2 cups (300g) of icing sugar, crushed pineapple, coconut cream and Malibu in a food processor to a smooth puree. Transfer to an ice-cream machine and churn. (Alternatively, pour into a shallow container and freeze for 2 hours, or until frozen at the edges. Remove from freezer and beat with electric beaters. Return to freezer. Repeat 2 or 3 times)  Transfer to a 1.75 L terrine (or load tin) lined with plastic wrap and freeze overnight or until firm.

For the pineapple salsa, place lemongrass, ginger, caster sugar, kaffir lime leaves and 1 cup (250ml) of water in a saucepan over low heat. Cook, stirring, for about 2-3 minute until the sugar dissolves. Add pineapple and cook for 5 minutes or until tender. Remove pineapple with a slotted spoon and set aside. Return pan to heat and cook syrup for a further 5-6 minuted until reduced by half. Discard solids and pour over the pineapple and chill until ready to serve.

To make the crumb, place coconut, cinnamon (if using) and remaining icing sugar in a food processor and pulse to combine.

Remove ice-cream from freezer 5 minutes before serving. Uncover and invert onto a plate, gently pulling on the plastic wrap to remove ice-cream from pan. Slice into thick slices, then roll the thin edges of each slice in the crumb. If too fiddley just sprinkle on top of the slice.

Serve immediately with pineapple salsa and garnish with mint leaves.  (We actually folded finely chopped mint through the pineapple salsa) The mango and passionfruit salad was our own extra addition.

And just for your enjoyment here are some photos of a couple of visitors to the garden.

The Splendid Fairy Wren lives in the garden with his harem of ladies, regularly flitting under the sprinklers to cool off.

And one of several Monitor lizards, or Bungarras as we call them,  that amble around like small dinosaurs. They can get very quiet  and quite cheeky, coming inside to steal the cat food if they get a chance. However, they are quite effective at keeping snakes away which is a good reason to encourage them!

Thanks to my nephew Douglas for all the photos!

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