3 December 2007

"Bring Me Flesh And Bring Me Wine"

"lalalalalala....deep and crisp and even..." Thanks to Mum for the idea for the title by the way. And the donation - we would be eating bread dipped in water were it not for her kind, unexpected cash injection. And - just try and act surprised - this is a lengthy post, so don't read it if you have to be somewhere in the next hour.

SO, the Team Hadfield Annual Christmas Dinner is officially over. I am officially all kinds of shattered after Tim and I spent over an hour doing the dishes (I washed, he dried, I felt like the sorcerer's apprentice with the neverending plates appearing) but I can't really complain since I'm the reason all the dishes were there in the first place. The dinner was a massive success, so much fun, and left us all groaningly full. Here it is - no pictures of Beckham, no kittens, no music reviews. Just FOOD.

As you know from the previous post (that's if you actually read it and didn't just pause on the David Beckham picture) I had been making things in advance, and the same pattern continued on Sunday. Tim had work at Starbucks at 7.30am, so I was awake fairly early. That is, my body was awake, my brain was a little on the fuzzy side.

First thing I did was make the ice cream. Sound a little madcap, I know, but I thought the Lemon Prosset would look rather stingy in bowls on its own and this is the easiest ice cream recipe I know. Nigella (who else!) has variations of it in a few of her books, the version I used was the Bitter Orange Ice Cream from Nigella Bites. It defies everything one is taught about making ice cream and shouldn't work, but oh, how it does. Simply dissolve icing sugar - about 150g - in the juice of a couple of oranges, add 600mls cream, whisk till softly whipped and...freeze. You are supposed to add lime juice to this but I didn't have any, so I upped the orange hit with a teaspoon of my beloved Boyajian Orange Oil (Nigella actually namechecked it in her books!) which made it headily...you know it's difficult to find a synonym for "orange" so I'll stop talking about it.

Above: The Orange Blossom Special...I used a whisk, rather than the electric beaters, because I figured that any extra activity would be beneficial. Considering all the cream.

While the ice cream was a-freezing I got on with the Rugelach. Now, I'm not one to appropriate other cultures - she says - but I think that there is nothing wrong with enjoying the many foods that the world has to offer. I say this because of a photo I saw of Justin Timberlake poking out his tongue in imitation while receiving a powhiri - Maori welcome - on his recent visit to New Zealand. I'm not quite sure why this annoyed me, but I had a bit of a think and concluded that it was one thing for me to make Jewish food, but it would be another thing entirely to say, wear a yarmulke while doing so. Anyway, I was getting so philosophical you could call me Anne of Green Gables and I nearly forgot to actually make the blooming things. Luckily they are a doddle.

Above: Doesn't the sight of this make you want to convert...just a schmeer? Rugelach is pastry (which has butter, sour cream AND cream cheese in it, making it very sticky but easy to roll out) brushed with melted butter and, for artery thickening effect, rolled around chocolate and brown sugar. It is glutinous, but it was the only glutinous thing on the menu and frankly I'm not a miracle worker. This recipe comes from Nigella's Feast and is, she says, a Hannukah treat. Nigella herself is actually Jewish, although not a practising one, hence the fact that I used her recipe for ham as well!

My cousin Paul came over at this stage and I realised that (a) I needed more chocolate to dip the truffles in and (b) I really wanted a drink. Luckily I managed to juggle both without detrimental effect, but I will say this - vanilla Galliano is sickly. I tend to enjoy a drier drop. There was a funny limbo time in the afternoon, because I didn't want to get started on the meat and veges too soon, but of course everything would need quite a long time cooking.

The Fully Festive Ham, also from Feast, is a complete joy to make. It is worth pointing out that what I used was not what New Zealanders would know as ham - here we tend to get ours precooked, which we then just glaze and cook on Christmas day. The stuff Nigella uses - which is easier to find in England than here - is uncooked ham, called gammon, or here, pickled pork. Don't be put off by the 'pickled' bit, it's truly just uncooked ham. This means you can simmer it in whatever you want. Like coca cola. But that's another story...

Above: The ham, submerged in a litre each of apple and cranberry juice, plus onion, cinnamon sticks, pink peppercorns and a star anise. You are supposed to use allspice berries but I didn't have any. Anyhow I thought the star anise looked rather pretty bobbing round and the pink peppercorns would add the necessary earthiness. This simmers away for a couple of hours so it doesn't really require too much effort.

I stuffed the chickens, which was about as undesirable a job as I remember it to be (and the cavities are strangely cold.) I scrapped the idea of challah, and bought some bread rolls, as well as a gluten-free loaf instead - didn't have the psychological space in my head for dealing with more dough - so luckily I didn't have to worry about faffing about with oven temperatures.

The potatoes went in the oven and the kumara and parsnips were chopped up to go in Tim's electric frypan that he got for his 21st. It is worth knowing that you can quite effectively "roast" vegetables in this machine, if you are feeding a crowd. I made a quick salad, to offer crisp contrast, out of a packet of fancy salad mix and half a block of feta. Ooooh I love feta. I made a quick dressing out of balsamic vinegar and olive oil, and that was it - simple is best sometimes (ha!)

Above: The ensalada. The "green stuff" that saved our arteries from all the chicken and ham and chocolate...

As we were setting the table, Emma said "weren't you going to do some peas?" Bugger! Quickly biffed them in the microwave, and then thought, heck, I might as well make some gravy too. So I poured the chicken roasting juices into a pot, with a spoonful of the cranberry sauce that I used to glaze the ham (which was in the oven at this point) and even though it ultimately makes things gluggy, a spoonful of gluten-free cornflour. While this was boiling up I added a slosh of Marsala, quarter of a porcini stock cube and a cup or so of water and let it bubble away.

Above: "They call it riding the gravy train..." I'm something of a gravy novice, and gluten-free is probably not the best way to start, but it was pretty good stuff. Behind you can see the remainder of the stuffing which I cooked in my silicone muffin tray for people.

And then, it was time to eat.

Above: The groaning board (which handily extends out.) Far left is the ham, then the chickens, and the salad on the right. Of course the chickens were free range, they taste so much better, and as the ham came from our delightful local butchers I was reassured it was a happy pig in life.

Above: Tim's plateful. I'm full just looking at it.

Mercifully, everyone liked it. The stuffing was very well received, the ham was unbelievably tender (hey, it's a good recipe) and we all just ate and ate and ate and ate. We had a brief pause between courses, just enough to try and locate a nook into which pudding could fit.

Above: Psychocandy - from front to back, the Rugelach, the Crunchie Bar Slice, and the Chocolate Truffles. For some reason I never got a photo of the ice cream or the Lemon Prosset, but here - one looks pale and slightly orange, the other looks pale and slightly yellow. As Jack White opined, "Sugar never tasted so good." I'm so glad I decided to do heaps of things- I honestly can't decide which I like more. By the way, the sweeties above are resting in none other than my Nigella Lawson Living Kitchen platter, which is ENORMOUS. I got it ridiculously cheap on Trademe and didn't realise how huge it was when I bought it. It is gorgeous though and the perfect vessel for the dessert. Again, a giant "phew" that everyone loved the desserts. I knew the Lemon Prosset wouldn't fail me!

Now that I have been cooking for two days, washing up for over an hour and typing for two hours...well I don't know how to finish that sentence but my brain is tired and I'm not looking forward to work tomorrow. It was a seriously rewarding weekend (not least because of all the eating) and I had such a great time cooking up The Feast and feeding people who are important to me. It doesn't feel that long ago that we had ours last year, and I who knows where we will be this time next year...

By the way if anyone is here at this point -thanks for reading so far and sorry if it is a little uninspired...but to be fair, my sinuses are packed with ham and my lungs are filled with truffle mixture which may have contributed to the syntactical errors and glaring ommissions above...To finish, it has to be said that the only thing that is better than having an enormous Christmas dinner...is roast potatoes for breakfast the next day. Note to self - rekindle your relationship with Pontious Pilates.


  1. What a legend Laura, you have outdone yourself, your flatmates must surely worship you!!!!! I am inspired to cook the ham, have never bothered before but your efforts have made me think again!
    Awesome effort!

  2. You will be well-practised for the actual Christmas Day - I'll "bring thee flesh and bring thee wine" and you can cook it. A dribblingly well-written account - you're right, leave the sports writing to those who know the difference between the ref and the players. (Clue - the ref has a whistle).
    You will no doubt be living on left overs for a while. By the way - does Nigella do camp cooking i.e. under canvas , under the stars .....