Sunday, 15 January 2012

The rest of our Christmas dinner feast

Believe it or not, we had even more food at our table on Christmas Day. Although, I should clarify by explaining that we had both Christmas lunch and dinner. Dinner was a more grand affair, but we still had to eat at lunchtime.

Lunch was more on the healthy side.

Marinated prawn skewers with two types of marinade - sweet chilli and lime; and satay. We also continued the seafood theme with two lip-smackingly good crayfish.

We also had a giant slab of beef. 2.5kg of delicious rump steak. We seared it on the bbq and then cooked it with the hood down and served it with mustard. Yum.

All up, lunch was pretty tasty!

On to dinner. We have already seen the turkey and accompaniments. Yum. But there was so much more!

I made a tasty kumara salad. Boil 2cm chunks of kumara until just cooked (don't over cook it, or you will have mushy salad). To the drained kumara add unsweetened yoghurt, orange juice, chopped orange, salt and pepper. Sprinkle over toasted pumpkin seeds just before serving. This salad is also super tasty with fried bacon.

We didn't need bacon in the kumara salad as we had a giant leg of beautiful free-range ham. I have never had hot ham at Christmas (we always serve cold ham), but hot ham was requested so hot it was! We peeled off the layer of skin and scored the fat. We covered the scored ham with maple syrup and brown sugar and studded it with cloves. We cooked it for an hour at about 150 degrees.

Finally we had the dish which I am most proud of.

Yup, those are our beautiful home-grown potatoes.

Boiled with mint and served with butter. Pure, delicious simplicity.

What a delicious feast!

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Christmas treats

Christmas time always means lots of delicious treats. I had so much fun creating these Christmas treats.

First up I made a boiled Christmas pudding and a Christmas Cake. I'll blog about those later, the cake especially was amazing. The recipe was given to me by a friend, and I think it's totally worth sharing (i'm sure she won't mind).

Anyway, I made mini Christmas cakes, and I had way too many so I decided to make some little Christmas truffles.

I made a couple of batches of these truffles. For both I whizzed up the cake as my base. For the first lot I added coconut, melted chocolate and a good slosh of rum (brandy or sherry would also be tasty) and rolled them into balls. For the second lot I added the coconut and rum, but dipped them in melted chocolate rather than adding it to the mixture. I topped both with some melted white chocolate and red and green decorations. (I used chopped up jet plane lollies).

Next on my list of treats was mini fruit mince pies. I made my own fruit mince by whizzing up mixed fruit, sultanas and currants. (I generally use whatever I have. Prunes and raisins also work well.) To this I added a grated apple, a little brown sugar, orange rind and juice, and lots of spices - ground cloves, cinnamon, mixed spice, and whizzed it up some more. Lastly add lots of brandy. Enough to make it a good moist consistency. If you are going to store it (it keeps for months in the fridge) you can be really generous with the booze as the fruit will soak it all up. If you want alcohol-free fruit mince, just use orange juice and omit the sugar.

A pastry star and a sprinkling of icing sugar on the top of my pies made them all very festive!

Sharing the plate with my fruit mince pies are Nigella's Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups. These are seriously so good, and so easy to prepare. Whiz everything up, press them into tiny cases and top with melted chocolate. Yummo! I dusted mine with edible giltter to make them all sparkly.

I also made some festive cookies.

These were really fun to make. I used a cookie recipe from my German Christmas Cookies recipe book. Mix together 300g flour, 250g softened butter, 100g sugar, 100g ground almonds, 1tsp cinnamon, 1tsp cocoa, 1 dessert spoon ground cloves. Chill this in the fridge and then roll out and cut into shapes. I wasn't a huge fan of these cookies, but I took them to work and they disappeared within minutes! One of my workmates commented that they resembled Dutch spice cookies.

Friday, 6 January 2012

Left over turkey

Now that I had cooked my beautiful turkeys, what was I supposed to do with all the left overs? And there were a lot of leftovers!

For the left over Christmas turkey I had seen Jamie Oliver make a delicious-looking Asian-inspired turkey salad on one of his Christmas shows. When my partner's sister mentioned someone had recommended this particular salad, we decided we had better try it.

We were reasonably true to the recipe, except where we didn't have ingredients, specifically sesame oil and mint. We also swapped the clementine for a couple of mandarins.

This salad was delicious! You should totally try it. Really easy to make too. Give it a go.

Next up was the leftover turkey from New Year.

I had a bit of a craving for pasta, so decided to see what I could do with my turkey. I also wanted something quick and easy and filling as we had some visitors.

I boiled up some plain penne pasta. While that was on the go, I put the turkey into a dry frypan. I let that heat up and sloshed in some white wine. I probably put about half to three quarters of a cup of wine in. I let that simmer down for a while to let the wine flavour soak into the turkey. I then added some frozen peas, and a slosh of cream, probably about the same amount as the wine. I let this all simmer down and thicken slightly. I mixed this all in with the pasta and some grated cheese and put it in a dish. I scattered the top with a packet of slivered almonds and some breadcrumbs for some crunch.

I baked it in the oven until it was golden and lovely. It was delicious! I served it up with a yummy green salad. Dinner done!

Monday, 2 January 2012

Turkey accompaniments

For our Christmas dinner I made a number of sides to accompany my delicious turkey.

Firstly, I made Jamie Oliver's get-ahead gravy. I saw Jamie making this gravy on his Christmas Special show and decided it looked like a great idea. I made my own stock in my crockpot to use instead of water. I used a chicken carcass, celery, carrots, bay leaves, thyme and garlic.

The make-ahead gravy was delicious, and such a good idea. It made for one less thing to do on Christmas Day.

I also made two (yes, two!) different cranberry sauces to go with the turkey. A raw sauce and a cooked sauce. The raw sauce a friend made for a Thanksgiving Dinner she hosted, and it was amazing! So, I had to ask for that recipe! It's so simple - one cup of cranberries (you can buy them frozen at Moore Wilsons in Wellington), one cup of sugar and one whole orange (just remove the white pith in the centre of the orange). Blitz this all up in the food processor until you have a smooth-ish consistency. A little texture is nice, you don't want complete mush.

For the cooked sauce I used the same ingredients and quantities, and simply put the cranberries, sugar and copped (peeled) orange into a saucepan and boiled it up, as though I was making a jam.

The raw sauce was very sharp and fresh, the cooked sauce was much more deep and intense. It's hard to say which one I liked better, and there seemed to be no consensus on Christmas Day either, so I would say that either is a winner!

I also made stuffing to go with the turkey.

Firstly I finely chopped a carrot and celery and fried this slowly in butter. I took the very small amount of left-over turkey stuffing and some bacon and added this, continuing to fry gently. After removing from the heat I added dried cranberries, thyme, parsley, breadcrumbs, orange zest and orange juice. The mixture was quite soggy.

I greased and lined a loaf tin with tinfoil, leaving it overhanging the tin. I put the stuffing in and covered it with the overhanging foil. I cooked the stuffing in the oven for about an hour. It was delicious!

Christmas Turkey

Well, I have been very slack over the past few weeks with my blogging. I have been cooking up a storm, but no blogging! I apologise to all my loyal supporters. To make it up to you, I promise the coming days will provide you with a blogging frenzy.

Christmas was awesome, brilliantly awesome. I love Christmas. What better time of the year to cook and cook and cook. I have lots of Christmas stories to regale you with, so bear with me. They will all come in handy next year (or, in my case, when we have our mid-winter Christmas dinner).

I’ll start with my turkey. Why? Because I cooked two. Why? Because I had two :-)

We have a flock of wild turkeys on our family farm and my wonderful Dad shot two and escorted them to Wellington for me (well, technically he didn’t come down only to bring the turkeys - he and my Mum came to visit my sister and I, but still). How lucky am I? Two beautiful, free-range wild turkeys hand-delivered for Christmas.

The only problem I encountered? Where on earth do you find room to store two massive turkeys in the freezer while you wait for Christmas to arrive? My solution? Pull everything out of my tiny freezer, including the shelf, and either eat or give away as much as possible and then jam one turkey in, packing the remaining frozen goods around it, slam the door and pledge not to open it until it’s time to defrost. One down, one to go. I surveyed our work freezer, nope right full. My sister’s freezer? Nope. (Dad also kindly bought with him some mince, steak and sausages from a recently butchered home-kill beast, so they had to find a temporary home in my sister’s freezer, no room in mine!) Hmmm, need a plan. Luckily my sister’s flatmate’s aunty (how many degrees of separation is that, haha) has a giant chest freezer and she was happy to provide a temporary home to my turkey. Yay!

Wild turkeys are different to farmed turkeys in a number of ways. Firstly they have a lovely gamey taste. Second, they have very little fat on them and therefore require careful cooking. My turkeys also came with another special addition, (animal lovers close your ears) a few shotgun pellets... Only one family member found one in her dinner, luckily before she bit down on it!

So, what did I do with these turkeys?

The first one I cooked for Christmas Day. I had been reading up about brining. Naturally, I had also been watching Nigella Lawson Christmas (as an aside, I am now the proud owner of Nigella's Christmas cookbook - what a great present!) From my reading and from Nigella’s advice, I was convinced that my turkey would benefit from a brining before cooking. According to my research, a brine should make the turkey much more tender and juicy.

I followed Nigella’s brining instructions, kind of. I mixed water, salt, maple syrup, honey, pepper corns, black mustard seeds, bay leaves, crushed ginger and garlic, a couple of oranges, cloves, and a couple of cinnamon sticks. I soaked the defrosted turkey (I defrosted it overnight in the fridge and for half a day in the kitchen) in the brine for 24 hours. I used a giant plastic bin, the ones you get from the Warehouse. Usually this bin houses my winter bedding; it found a temporary home in the spare room. I have read that you can also use a giant bucket or basin. I’m pretty sure my Mum has used the laundry tub in the past. Because it’s summer, I also had to make sure my turkey remained chilled to ensure I didn’t give everyone food poisoning. I did this by adding a bag of ice every 12 hours to the brine. This seemed to work.

I made a stuffing of free-range pork sausage meat, breadcrumbs, thyme and orange juice. I stuffed this between the skin and meat of my turkey breast to try and ensure the breast meat remained lovely and moist. I also tossed a little loosely in the cavity of the turkey for extra flavour.

I put half an orange in the turkey cavity to add flavour. Before cooking I smothered the turkey in butter to add more fat. This was kind of fun in a gross kind of way.

I cooked the Christmas turkey in an oven bag. Interesting logistics getting the turkey into the bag...

I cooked the turkey for six hours at 150 degrees. I think this was about half an hour too long. But, the result was still delicious!

As I was carving the turkey and plating it for serving, my partner was pouring over the turkey cooking juices that accumulated in the oven bag. The cooked turkey was just slurping up those juices and the result was the most delicious moist turkey meat.

The second turkey I cooked on December 31 as a New Year's Eve treat. This time I brined it as before, but cooked it without the oven bag. I covered the turkey in a bottle of apple cider, about a cup of orange juice and about 200g of melted butter. I used this liquid to baste the turkey every half an hour throughout the five hours of cooking at 150 degrees. The result was equally delicious and tender. This was a much more labour-intensive method compared with Christmas when we just put the turkey in the oven and forgot about it, but considering it was bucketing down outside this wasn't a problem!

I'll blog soon about the sides I served with my turkey.