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Monday, July 25, 2011

Christmas in July Dinner 2011

Even though we just returned from Fiji on Thursday, I could not give up the chance to do a Christmas in July dinner with some good friends...some meaning 24 adults and 8 children/babies!!!!  Who knew I could ever cram so many people into our little apartment, but somehow I did it!  We thought this dinner would be a good chance to have one last shindig before we farewell our Dover St. apartment and move next week.

The plane touched down on Thursday night, I started prepping on Friday and spent all of Saturday & Sunday cooking, cleaning, decorating and rearranging the furniture so all the guests would fit.  We had a table of 12 in the kitchen/dining room and another table in the lounge room and not to mention a few mothers in the hallway juggling their plate's along with the bubs.  It was a fabulous evening, I was so delighted to have our little home filled with so many beloved friends and for them all to enjoy a tablenosh dinner.

Once again I was humbled in my cooking...I cooked the Turkey on the barbecue for the first time and thought 'it sure is a lopsided looking bird', well when I went to cut it I realized I had cooked the darn thing upside down!!!! No wonder it looked so funny! So, yes I was humbled again and reminded I am still learning every day and making mistakes along the way.

The party kicked off at 4pm with a few appetizers and some winter warm-ups.  Warm Spiced Cider and mulled wine were a good way to warm up the afternoon, along side baked brie with fig jam & walnuts, salmon canapes, smoked ham with honey mustard and a few other things to nibble on before dinner.

This was the dinner menu: Herb Roasted Turkey, Sage Roasted Pork Belly, Cornbread Stuffing, Roasted Butternut, Corn & Leek Wild Rice, Aunt Isa's Mac n' Cheese, Pan Fried Green Beans, Sweet Potato Souffle Crumble,  Roasted Beetroot & Baby Spinach Salad and Sourdough bread.  (Sadly I totally forgot to put out my cranberry apple chutney!!)

It was pretty hilarious trying to get everyone seated along with getting them a plate, cutlery and food!  It felt like a family affair indeed.  We ended up with a mixture of buffet and some food on the table.  It was nice and squishy but I think everyone eventually found a seat and a plate.  I shared a seat and my husband who was carving the Turkey (last to be served) ended up eating his dinner out of a bowl!

After dinner we did a 'kris kringle' gift exchange, everyone piled into the lounge room, drew numbers and the fun began.  It really got crazy once people starting stealing and swapping, I think the wine glasses were the most wanted, it was all good fun and a nice pause before dessert.  I was very pleased with the berry balsamic vinegar I ended up with and fortunately no one tried to steal it off me.

I decided to do four desserts and had hoped to have a beautiful maple cinnamon ice cream to compliment everything, unfortunately it did not quite work as planned and was a bit more like semi-freddo (the taste was still good).  There was pumpkin cheesecake with a gingerbread crust and fresh cream, a dutch style apple pie, a chocolate-pecan tart and gingerbread cake w/ caramelized apples and warm caramel sauce.

The pumpkin cheesecake is always a hit and I was surprised at how many people loved the semi-freddo, I think it was the the pure maple syrup and hint of cinnamon, such a good combination.

By the time dessert was over, I was so overwhelmed by the site of my kitchen I thought I might skip offering tea and coffee!  Let's just say it is over 24 hours later and I think my kitchen is finally back in order.  It was well worth it, what a great night and a great feast.
There were piles of dishes everywhere!!!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Bula Fiji

Every year Pete heads over to Fiji for a month for work and I get to join him for 2 weeks.  This year we spent 5 nights in a local village!!!  Talk about a different way of life and a different way of COOKING!
Lanianna - my beautiful 'homestay' mother and cooking companion.
I had the delight of spending some time in the kitchen with these beautiful Fijian women laughing and sharing together.  Let me explain this is no traditional kitchen, we are talking a small gas burner and a small convection oven (only some people have these), no counter space and no refrigerator (some people have them but not everyone).  It was great fun, we sat on a simple mat in the very simple kitchen with no measuring cups or spoons, just eye balling everything!  I was taught how to make a Fijian style pumpkin pie (very different to the tradional American pumpkin pie I am uses to) it was a pretty interesting recipe with more of a cake like base and then pumpkin that we boiled and then mashed spread over it and then topped with condensed milk mixed with lime juice.

The next day I taught them how to make peanut butter cookies, a good old classic, I think peanut butter was a bit of a luxury because it can be expensive to buy.  The cookies seemed to be a hit, I wrote down the recipe for them. 

It was so interesting spending this time with these women, who have probably never even looked at a cook book but they are just passing on recipes verbally and doing what they have been taught from the generation before them.  I can't really imagine life with no cookbooks!  So when I get back to Australia I am going to send these ladies a little care package for the kitchen with some measuring cups, chocolate chips and a cookbook.