Entries Tagged 'Feasting' ↓

Christmas Food Open Thread – Hits and Misses at table

Eating at this time of year is often spoken of as if it’s some kind of naughty thing – in a world where high fructose corn syrup invades every aisle of the supermarket, some are eager to pile shame on centuries old traditions of festive indulgence.

Well, they’re idiots. Give me the life where a family celebrates each other’s company with day after day of endless deliciousness or where a group of vegan friends build their own traditions, blowing each other’s minds with tables laden with goodness, year after year.

In this spirit, contributor Anthony has suggested an open thread on Christmas food failures and successes – he’s going to tell us about curing his own ham, which I’m pretty excited to hear about as it’s something I’d love to do.

As for me, this year’s failure was the Coffin Bay Oysters, which were not fresh enough. Boo! My sister in law had bought them (opened) the day before, they’d been in the fridge the whole time (wrapped) but they smelt odd and had a weird black slick on the shells. That’s why the flesh is still there under the piles of crayfish, served with butter melted with a touch of their mustard – sublime, and all the sweeter for the oyster disaster.

Despite being a bit crook (nothing serious, don’t worry) I still managed to glaze the ham, but instead of leaving it to marinate for hours and hours I whipped up something in five minutes. Fortunately I reaped the benefits of years of consistent kitchen-pottering and pantry-filling, basing the glaze on a tart apricot sauce made from our own apricots. Sadly, the aged tree has since had to be cut down and the sauce will never be the same – your own apricots always make the best sauce.

This year’s real triumph however was a masterpiece of Christmas leftovers, the ham and prawn bahn xeo:

All the virtues of using up the leftovers, with lots and lots of crunchy fresh things and a zingy sour-and-hot sauce. Perfect Boxing Day fare. Rather than include chillies in the sauce, they were on the side and the kids loved them too. Based on this Ottolenghi recipe from Plenty.

Open thread, so at it – what did you get right and wrong this Christmas?

Eat.Drink.Blog – the washup

You know, I’ve never been to a conference where everyone stayed for all the sessions, all the presenters were uniformly interesting and no-one was bored for a minute. People I thought I would like I REALLY liked; and the people I wasn’t sure about I REALLY liked too. And I met some completely new people and – yes – REALLY liked them.

Part of the brief talk I gave was about blogging as a way of exploring and enjoying a community of interest, and it certainly seemed there was a real joy for all of us in being in a room full of people who “get” our passion because they share it.

I’m planning to write up my talk and post it soon, (you will be glad to hear that despite the fears of another attendee before the conference, it wasn’t too wanky ;) Gill of confessions of a food nazi has a post on some of her excellent talk here, and a plan to blog the rest. She’s encouraged the rest of us who participated in panels to do the same, and I think it would be great to link them all from the Eat.Drink.Blog site.

There were three (I think) attendees who weren’t on twitter, and less by the end of the day. The stream of the #eatdrinkblog hashtag appeared on the super-cool projected TweetWall – Lisa of unwakeable, Nola and Suzanne of essjayeff being the funny-girl stars of the day. Although I wish they had been less funny in the panel segment, sitting facing the audience cracking up at a tweet I couldn’t read!

I really appreciated that there wasn’t a push towards homogeneity amongst the group, in fact quite the reverse. I think the best session to demonstrate the point was the photography one, where Ellie from Kitchen Wench, Nola from Once a Waitress and Matt from Abstract Gourmet talked about their individual ways of going about making photos that worked the way they wanted them to, with a few tips and tricks thrown in. (Ellie’s tip – read the manual; Nola’s – think about using photographs as a means of communication; Matt’s – find a way to do it that works for you).

Claire from Melbourne Gastronome pulled off a real feat with her talk, managing to be legally precise and not dull. I really wasn’t expecting the sessions on SEO (by Michael of My Aching Head), “How to be social” (by Pennie of Jeroxie:addictive and consuming), geotagging (Brian of fitzroyalty) and the monetising sessions (by Jules of Stonesoup and Phil of The Last Appetite) to be interesting, but I found them fascinating because the presenters really knew their stuff – as @tummyrumbles (mellie) put it on the Tweetwall, they showed a “good balance of nerdy theory and feel good philosophy”.

I found some things quite surprising throughout the day – that so many of us who’d been blogging for a few years had blogged on other subjects (like me, mostly politics) before coming to focus on food; the immediacy of our ease in each other’s company; how generous everyone was with their expertise and how true-to-life some people’s blogging identities are. For instance The Healthy Party Girl left in the afternoon to go to cheerleader practice and came back to bum a fag and piss on in the laneway!

Once the strictly social part of the day kicked in, we started to talk about the next Eat.Drink.Blog. What made it possible this year was the organisation work (by Ed of Tomatom, Reem of I am obsessed with food… (who have a beautiful talk on why she blogs, including starting because she needed somewhere to talk about her love life!) Mellie of Tummyrumbles, , April of My Food Trail, Jess of That Jess Ho, who hung the photo exhibit, and Tammi of Tammi Tasting Terroir who moderated – thank you all).

There was also significant sponsorship from the organisations listed at the end of this post. Certainly for interstate visitors it made it much more affordable to not have to pay to register and to be treated to lovely drinks and food, and not having to handle monetary exchanges meant we don’t need to formalise an organisational structure and the further administrative load that entails. I think it’s really important that more people have the opportunity to go, but I’m eager to find a way for that to happen without losing the lovely sense of intimacy that permeated the day. On the third hand, having organising multiple streams during the day means we can really go into detail and cover a lot more ground.

There is a full list of bloggers who attended (thanks to Mellie), and I’ve set up a twitter list here. I’m conscious that I haven’t mentioned everyone; I encourage you to check out the full list.

The conference was sponsored by Daylesford and Hepburn Water, Der Raum, Prentice Wine, Red Hill Brewery, SBS Food, StreetSmart – Helping the Homeless, St Ali and The Essential Ingredient.

NB – this post is brought to you by an absence of blurry iphone photos. Not that there aren’t any, but they’re not mine – my phone’s from Aldi.

In which I go to Wheeo

Dinner outside

There’s something about the sound of that name “Wheeo”, doncha think? It came to mind today, watching my elder son hurtle down the slide at the waterpark – it’s a sound of exhilaration and anticipation, but there’s a delicious thrill of risk to it, too. At least the first time around, you don’t know how cold it’s going to be when all of a sudden you’re immersed.

It can be a little daunting when Twitter comes to life, but like splashing down on a hot day it’s relieving and exciting all at once. I first met Tammi of Tammi Tasting Terroir (and @tammois) when she’d come to Canberra for a conference related to her PhD (yeah, it’s about food). We’d planned to go out for a drink but the combination of my small children and her tight schedule made it too hard. Instead, she came to my house, the morning after the conference had finished.

We share a lot as it turns out. We are Serious Home Cooks, both completely obsessed with food and feeding people, and we both love reading and writing about food. We hit it off, and Tammi and her family recently invited us to spend New Year’s Eve at the country house of their friends Antonia and Mark, a couple of hours drive from here. Owen was in Melbourne with an old friend for NYE itself, but joined us after a couple of days.

Hillview

The house itself was beautiful, the only drawback the sincerely expressed and repeated warnings about brown snakes. I’m not too thingy about snakes as a rule, but that’s because I live in the suburbs and never see any. So the idea of my rather silly 18 kilo toddler being bitten in a place which is out of mobile range, has no landline and is a good hour’s drive away from a hospital made me a big angsty. Fortunately Snake Education 101 from the four larger children seemed effective. The one snake that was spotted (yep, a brown one) was terrified off by Tammi’s husband Stuart’s desperate desire to kill it, by his stashing of sharp threatening spades near the scene of the spotting and by his general air of manly readiness.

clothesline

For fear of brown snakes, no clothes were washed.

I mentioned that the house was beautiful, but it was also full of beautiful things – indigenous and contemporary art, wonderful books, rooms crammed with beautiful Turkish carpets, interesting found things, such as the beautiful bowl of nests which brought Gay Bilson to mind, and linen cupboards stuffed with super-soft old white damask sheets.

bedroom view

From the bedroom we stayed in.

We had a few friends around for a drink before Christmas and my friend Chris (an ex-chef) asked laughingly while she enjoyed a Rhubarb Fizz made by one of the other guests whether my friendships were self-selecting around food. I suppose it’s no stranger than others who share a common interest coming together; probably less so because food is so social. And while it’s true that most of my friends care about food and cooking, to most of them it’s not so deeply embedded as it is with Tammi and me. We could talk about food all day, interrupting that only to read about, make or eat food. And we both left Wheoo with new treasures jotted in our little notebooks – for me in particular, Tammi’s basil and garlic hollandaise which is so good that it has returned hollandaise to my inner list of Things Worth Eating.

The books I took for my holiday reading were Richard Olney’s Simple French Food, Alice Waters’ Chez Panisse Menu Cookbook, and Julian Barnes’ The Pedant in the Kitchen. I didn’t open any of them, as it happened, although Stuart read some of the Olney. Tammi had brought her own stash of books, so I read Lauren Schenone’s The Lost Ravioli Recipes of Hoboken and some of Barbara Santich’s Looking for Flavour instead. The owners of the house are also food nerds, and in addition to the supremely well-stocked kitchen, there was a bookcase of food and wine books. Whenever it wasn’t stuffed with food, the table looked like this:

I don’t always cook well with others (sounds like it should be on my school report), particularly in my own kitchen, but Tammi and I quickly settled into a rhythm of each preparing parts of the meal. The exception was my introduction to ravioli making, and there I was very much the student. In the week I’ve been home I’ve broken my pasta machine, bought a new one and read quite a bit of Marcella Hazan.

Despite the thousands of recipes in the house, mostly we both cook improvisationally. One of us would suggest a dish, the other come up with something sympatico to accompany it. Tammi’s described some of the yummies (with pictures) at On Cooking and Feasting, Merrily.

Here were some of the highlights that occurred before my poor little camera died:

Tammi's bread proving

Tammi embraced breadmaking at Wheeo. It meant we could stay in the house and not have to go anywhere and still eat proper bread. WIN

Really Very Large T-Bones

Pasture fed Columbooka T-Bones from my sister-in-law’s farm in Southern NSW. We shall not mention the little incident with the brazier. Stuart made a giant bowl of horseradish sauce so delicious we ate it all. That would have been at least half a cup each, but in our defence it was made with yoghurt rather than cream.

Stuffed tomatoes

Tammi and I share a predisposition to frugality and a hatred of stingyness. The tomatoes were stuffed with crumbs made from one of Tammi’s loaves, herbs from the garden, olive oil and about 18 cloves of minced garlic.

Spuds

We had no cream so Tammi infused some milk with herbs from the garden to make a delicious potato gratin to eat with the pork. Stuart’s home-cured olives were what really made it sing.

Prepared pork

I unrolled a rolled boned forequarter of Wessex Saddleback Pork from Mountain Creek Farm and found some nice things to go with it. I love fennel with pork, so made Owen pull over on the way back from picking him up to join us. If you are going to pick herbs from the roadside, there are a few things to keep in mind – the less traffic the better, wash the spiders off (there were two) and if you’re in an unfamiliar place, check the goddam garden first. There’s no point foraging if it’s there to harvest.

Pork Cooked

We cooked the pork on horseradish leaves from the garden, and they became so deliciously luscious what with the pork fat, lemon, fennel and wine that we ended up slicing them finely to eat with the pork. I brought some horseradish home and planted it, so hopefully there’ll be a lot more of this in the future.

Rhubarb Fizz

There were a great deal more veggies and salads that it may seem here, and considerably more wine, as it happened. This wasn’t wine, however, but the Rhubarb Fizz made by my friend Jem. It was supersweet, but a nip of gin balanced it up nicely.

It struck me thinking about it afterwards that Tammi and I cook together like musicians jamming – confident, mature, communicating with a glance, riffing off each other and then getting to feast too. Neither setting out to impress the other, but to make something that is impressive, something coherent, satisfying and enriching to the people we care about.

Since coming home I’ve finished the Julian Barnes book I took away and neglected (hmmm, in my best Marge Simpson voice. Despite long experience of sophisticated cooking he has remained a bloody kitchen pedant, and I’m no friend of them) and I’ve started the Olney (a proper book, with long complicated sentences).

My favourite food of all to make is a composed salad, a meal on a plate, heavy on the veg. It was the first food I made for Tammi, and I can’t think of a more perfect example of food guided by experience and taste rather than recipes. It is the joy of food that is never the same twice, the ingredients, company, location, mood, season, changing but never losing the heart-joy of placing on the table something that you are hopeful – and confident – will be enjoyed. Richard Olney is speaking here on the subject of such salads, and their endless variation, but I hope that his words are as true of these friendships born in front of the computer screen and cemented at the table –

… One could go on forever, and, in practice, one does.
Richard Olney Simple French Food

Tammi

Tammi in the kitchen.

Emica’s Northern Christmas: a few of my favourite things

Although I am risking not being let back in the country, I have to admit (just quietly) that I do prefer the cold northern Christmas to the rather warmer celebrations in Aus. Don’t get me wrong, I love my family’s traditions, which have evolved to deal with the fact that it’s usually 39 degrees by 7am with an easterly blowing that could strip paint, but roast turkey and a steamed pud just don’t make sense at the edge of the desert. We cook everything the day before and serve a cold buffet of the glazed ham and turkey with lots of salads, so that the oven’s not adding to the oven-like temperature of the house already and, depending on whose house we’re at, we head to the beach for a Christmas morning post-stocking, pre-tree pressie swim and fruit salad. Come to think of it, we’ve made the salad selection “traditional” with some, like mum’s carrot, cashew and coriander salad only getting a run on that one day.

But Christmas is a car crash of northern hemispherical merry-making history, with the celebration of the birth of Christ piled on top of older Pagan habits, and the traditions make more sense on their home turf than transplanted Down Under. Herewith a few of my favourite northern Christmas things.

One of my totally favourite things about a London Christmas is the twinkly lights. People go mad for them and because it’s dark early, you get to appreciate their starry magic from, oh, about 3.30pm. There’s a bit of totally OTT flashing neon Santa-action, but mostly there seems to be some unwritten rule that you deliberately leave your front room curtains open to let passers by admire your tastefully twinkly Christmas tree which has been strategically placed in the front window (nb: I do live next to [not in!] super-chic Barnsbury. Might not be quite so tasteful on the local estates).

Another is Christmas wreaths. Oh how I love them! I have a real – yes real- holly wreath on my front door with berries and everything. I have had it up there since December 1; the earliest day I could get away with, but I’d already scoped the wreath situation the week previous and picked one up from the farmer’s market for a fiver. I L.O.V.E it. Wreathing it up seems to be a genuine tradition, with the vast majority of doors decked with trad ones- involving evergreen, holly berries, ribbons and cinnamon sticks- or silver sprayed modernist confections dusted with glitter.

In a symbiotic relationship with twinkly lights and wreath hanging, for the entire Advent season it becomes not just permissible but practically required to stroll and sticky beak into other people’s houses. Indeed, me and The Man went for a long walk this afternoon, making the most of freezing (it’s really properly freezing- we have icicles) but crisply clear day which offered prime noseying opportunities. And on each of my three London Christmases, we have had a post-lunch pre-pud walk, wrapped up and with a glass of something warming in hand. Last year I had to be prised away from the railings of one particularly fine Georgian townhouse, my nose pressed up against the window admiring their gold-and-red themed tree and Christmas table set in the window, silverware and crystal glasses glinting, waiting either for the residents to return for lunch or for the stylists from Vogue Entertaining to turn up.

doors

But my favourite thing is the food. For my first Christmas here, my parents and sister visited and mum did a proper roast turkey with goose fat roast spuds and I think little chipolatas. I did the brussels sprouts (having only just found out they’re traditional) and we made cranberry sauce because we’d never been able to get fresh cranberries before. Last weekend I made Nigella’s apple and cranberry chutney; almost equal parts cranberry and apple, those little red sour bombs are so amazing, like northern lillipillies! A toast to that fine meal was made and mum cried and took pictures because it looked so darn picturesque and story book, all of us gathered round a laden table and it so dark and cold outside.

This year it’s just me and The Man, so I’m not doing a whole turkey, which I have in the past and which cause a bit of, um, blue language on the day of the birth of Our Lord because of my dodgy, diddly little oven. Turned out great though, and I even made the gravy to go with it while trying to make sure the visiting vegetarians had enough to eat. This year I’m doing a stuffed, rolled turkey breast from the posh butchers. I’m also doing hot glazed ham. I know! Hot ham, who would of thought eh? Sprouts are a given because a) they’re easy but especially b) I love them.

Another favourite thing is the big shut down. We were caught out for our first Christmas, never expecting all public transport to shut down on Christmas day and for much of Boxing Day as well. Yes, a darn nuisance if you don’t know and also a cash cow for all the non-Christian mini cab drivers, but it does mean you actually can’t go anywhere. Gosh, such a relief. Last year I spent all day in front of the fire, with snack breaks, reading my new present – Nigella’s Christmas. This is apropos of telling you that this year I will be experimenting with red cabbage from her Christmas lunch menu. I’ve never done it before, but I reackon it’s time to give it a whirl. Also, at a time of year when all I do is leak money, cabbage is so good and yet so cheap.

So, to the finale: sweet treats and pudding. I have just spent more than is wise on The Best Christmas cake but it’s The Best so what can I do? I’ve also just swooped on Carluccio’s for soft Italian almond biscuits, as well as smallgoods for The Man. I’m slightly nervous to admit this and incur the wrath of Dr Sister Outlaw following her sterling instructions on Christmas puddings, but this year it’ll be bought. It’ll be a posh one, but it’s still bought. And bought custard. I don’t think Christmas is the time for a novice custard maker to start meddling with curdled eggs.

But most of all, it’ll be eaten piping hot, after a brisk, crisp walk to make a corner of room in our overstuffed bellies for yet more wintery, festive, seasonal goodies. Merry Christmas.

xmas lunch

My name is Dr Sister Outlaw and I admit I am a pudding addict

There has been a fair bit of twittering and emailing going on between those of us who have made Christmas puddings this year using my tried and tested recipe.

There has also been more than a little fiddling. My Brother Outlaw added cumquats to his, and Zoe has added port and figs and various other things. I could, if I was that way inclined, get annoyed at the traducing of the recipe, and suffer a fit of pique at the failure of my friends and family to, you know, fall into line and follow my directions. But a brief survey of my relationship history would reveal that I am not myself the sort of girl who likes to do the same old thing year in and year out and, in any case, I am outrageously competitive.

Which brings me to another point. In the Sydney Morning Herald’s Good Living mag this week there was a story about some chick called Kirsty who invites all these women around to make puddings, according to her recipe. Apparently she’s been doing it for years and years. Obviously she is much better at getting her friends and family to fall into line and maybe serving them alcohol helps, but probably she associates with timid wilting types who would never experiment with a recipe and are happy to be told what to do. Like sheep, or members of the NSW ALP Right Caucus.

Well, I’d like to remind readers that here at PDP we value free speech, free expression, and opportunities to spread pudding goodness far and wide. We’ve had our very own virtual and real life pudding competitions. The results were inconclusive, but the eating was very good indeed (as was the drinking and company).

And so, in that spirit, I launch this open thread, where we can share pudding tips and recipes (it really isn’t too late to make one, trust me), and share our thoughts as to the results. I know that, as I type this, Zoe is cooking hers. I cooked mine this week as well. Traditionally, I add 900 grammes of fruit, which is mostly currants and raisins (360g each) plus a mixture of peel/ginger/glace cherries (adding up to 180g). I also add some hazelnuts. This year I did 300g currants, 300g figs and a combo of dates, cranberries, ginger and peel (to get up to 900g). Kind of Middle East meets Northern Europe, and, as I add brandy and hazelnuts (Central Europe) and Vodka (Eastern Europe), my pud is gonna be totally Continental.

What have you done? (And Zoe, what’s in yours?)

(Zoe adds – if you’d like to include an image in your comment, post a link to an online version or email a jpg about 380 wide and we’ll magic it up.)

Emica is celebrating Slava

I have the good fortune to have married into a Balkan family – Montenegrin and Serbian, to be precise. One of the many great things about getting to know another culture intimately is the extra excuses for excessive eating. It was my in-laws’ Slava today, which, traditionally speaking, now makes it my Slava too. Slava is part of the Orthodox tradition and is a family’s saint day. Every family has a different saint day, although there are more families than saints so there’s a fair bit of cross over. Back in the day, Slava was a serious religious occasion, celebrated with a visit to church and the priest calling on the family and giving them a blessing. Traditionally, a bread decorated with the sign of the cross and other religious symbols was served along with “koljivo”, which is boiled wheat with nuts and spices.

Celebrating Slava was not generally encouraged in socialist Yugoslavia, although many people did still observe it. These days Slava seems to be celebrated as an occasion to get the family together and eat pork. I am very enthusiastic about both family get togethers and roast pig, so today I did sticky pork ribs with rum glaze (thanks Nigella) and homemade coleslaw, plus smashed potatoes (thanks Jill Dupleix) and rye bread – minus the family bit, seeing as we’re on the other side of the world. I have to admit, it was a bit off piste with the rum glaze – a whole pig on a spit would probably have been more authentic – but it was in keeping with the two Balkan mainstays of pork and cabbage. And, anyway, the other thing I’ve learnt about Balkan culture is that they really know how to have a good time and these ribs were really, really finger licking good.

slava

Live blogging the after-party party

[By Ampersand Duck] Aloha from chez PDP, where Jethro is mushing up tinned tomatoes in the tin with a bread & butter knife whilst yelling like a ninja, Zoe is explaining how hard the Bhutanese neighbours can party to my lovely brother-in-law (S) who has been to Bhutan and loves it, all the other kids are battling at deafness level in the loungeroom, Best Beloved and Dr Sista Outlaw are quietly and tired-ly drinking their way through some of the Studio Warming leftover booze, and Owen is supervising the Pudding-Off boiling on a couple of gas burners in the front yard.

We are all high from a great afternoon, where I did not much more than stand and talk to most of the guests (I missed some, or pretty much anyone who didn’t push in and make themselves known)and take lots of kind and gushy compliments — but I was only able to do this because of this fabulous bunch of people. They cooked, chopped, plated (!), laid out glasses, poured, cleaned, washed and picked up. I’ve never been in the position to need that sort of back-up, and I can see how it could be pretty addictive [Naomi, aka Dr Sista Outlaw, requested that I mention that Underground Lovers are on in the background. Wow, so they are. The layers of sound in this room are amazing.]; I’m jealous of people who have agents and managers.

We are going to celebrate a successful celebration by eating. My initial thought was to go to a restaurant, since I thought everyone would be sick of kitchenwork, but generous Zoe wants to feed us all, so she’s whipping up a quick bacon & tomato pasta for the kids, and we’re having a mushroom and truffle risotto (she made me smell fresh truffle at the markets this morning… OMG). But we can’t eat too much because we have not one, not two but THREE full-size Christmas puddings to taste and discuss… three versions of the same pudding, cooked by BB, Naomi and Zoe, and the differences and quality will be taken very seriously.

Continue reading →

Andra ponders the demise of the food fetish in children’s books

five

Kids these days just aren’t hungry enough. Wedges of fruitcake, ginger beer, fresh butter and eggs, jam sandwiches, sausages – none of these stir the reader the way they used to in the heyday of The Famous Five.

I think one of the successes of Harry Potter is the nostalgic updating of boarding school type food treats.

My children are cooking these holidays. They’ve been told that if they want to eat something, they’re going to have to cook it themselves. I used to cook sweets and puddings and pies and slices. As a child, I made jam and toffee and fudge and ices.

We’ve had a couple of experiments, some choc chip cookies, sorbet and shepherds’ pie and they’re bored. They can buy better and they’re prepared to wait me out.

I believe this trend has been reflected in modern children’s literature. Harry Potter is the only series I’ve read recently that gave me a full feeling in my stomach. Where are the endless dishes of mushrooms and cider from The Hobbit? The picnics and fry-ups from The Wind in the Willows? The tea parties of Alice and Wonderland?

potter feast


This post originally appeared at andragy.


Warning: include(screenshot.php) [function.include]: failed to open stream: No such file or directory in /home/crazybravezoe/progressivedinnerparty.net/wp-content/themes/copyblogger/footer.php on line 6

Warning: include() [function.include]: Failed opening 'screenshot.php' for inclusion (include_path='.:/usr/local/lib/php:/usr/local/php5/lib/pear') in /home/crazybravezoe/progressivedinnerparty.net/wp-content/themes/copyblogger/footer.php on line 6