Tuesday, 8 January 2013

This time of year

Happy New Year friends! I'm having real trouble getting started today. They say you should never start a post saying sorry that you haven't posted for a while, so I won't do that, but perhaps you could just read in between the lines? It's been a tough few weeks. In my upside down life the best times become the worst times, and getting through Christmas was a challenge. You will be proud of me though, we put up the Christmas tree and I bought presents for all. I even finished making those Christmas stockings that bring back memories of this time last year. And yes, I made some food for Christmas Day...

In our family we share out the meal preparations. Everyone brings a dish or two, but with much consultation to ensure we have everything properly covered. And - important perhaps only to me - to ensure that it all matches. As with most families in New Zealand we've developed our own food traditions over the years, a combination of the classic British traditions and our own suitable-for-warm-weather favourites (It was 29 degress here in Welly, the hottest Christmas Day since Nineteen Thirty Something).

Balmy Wellington, and proof that I do domestics other than cooking.

I have to say I like it this way. Our traditions are a roast chicken, a cold ham, new potatoes, salad, freshly podded peas and/or asparagus, Christmas pudding (always made, so far, by my English mother-in law) and another cold pudding. This year the salad was red capsicum and feta (as it often is) with the peas in the salad and asparagus on the side. The cold pudding was chocolate mousse and strawberries. I usually make a platter of bite-sized food to eat during the morning present-opening session and whenever anyone finds a space to fill during the day.

My line up at Gran's Christmas table (actually, they weren't ALL mine)
A more recent tradition I am keen to nurture is ham sandwiches for tea (supper/dinner) - and with this year's fresh homemade rolls and ham from just down the road that won NZ's best ham of 2012, along with the salad leftovers, it couldn't have been better. It being so hard to squeeze all your favourite christmas food in to one belly in one day, I am also happy to have it at other times instead. I had fruit mince pies in the weeks leading up to Christmas, and my mother usually makes a cake that gets divided up amongst the family to be chomped through over January. Cherries always feature somewhere too, of course.

I like the flexibility of our traditions, and the way that if anything takes your fancy you can fit it on to the menu. Sometimes the potatoes are roasted, other times we have boiled new ones. Beans straight out of the garden are another favourite, especially for my Dad. We have a done a turkey before, and one year I was really keen on trying salmon, and we had a magnificent, huge salmon instead of chicken and ham - fantastic!

I'd rather like to be able to slip a bit of salmon in to the day every year if possible actually. This year I bought a few slices of smoked salmon, sliced it finely, and mixed it with creme fraiche and lemon juice and served on small rice crackers. Besides some feta and brie, our other nibbles were sweet:

Biscuit truffles - One packet of flavoured chocolate biscuits - mint or berry flavoured Tim Tams, or Mint Slices, blitzed to crumbs (or rolled with a rolling pin to crush), mixed with one pot of cream cheese and rolled in to balls. Dip in to melted chocolate to coat, and refrigerate.

Hedgehog slice/Refrigerator slice - Chopped plain biscuits mixed with butter, sugar, coconut, vanilla, sultanas and egg. Press in to slice tin, ice with chocolate icing and put in fridge to set. Soak the sultanas in alcohol first if that makes you feel more christmassy. More details here.

I'd love to hear about what you had for Christmas, and how you feel about traditional foods vs mixing it up a bit.

I'm looking forward to talking with you a bit more about sugar, and actually, will be asking soon how your sugar reduction is going. I'll just give you a few more days to recover from Christmas and get back on track before you have to share! You'll be pleased to know I have plenty of things in mind to learn about this year, and will even post a new recipe tomorrow to make up for the quiet over the last few weeks.

I've added a new page to The Cook's Sponge - you'll see a tab at the top called Recipes. This will help you (and me) get quick access to anything you've seen here. I look forward to hearing about your experimenting. And don't be a sneaky reader, let me know you're out there, remember bloggers LOVE comments.

See you tomorrow. X

No I didn't teach her that.


  1. Yay, welcome back! Well done for doing more than surviving the silly season.
    The family traditioin that has evolved for us during my adulthood has been a whole salmon. It's so quick and easy and is fantastic in the hot sun. We have a bunch of other stuff as well, including Oamaru new potatoes (of course). Grandma buys a mutton ham every year from the same butcher in Dunedin and it makes an appearance at other meals (Christmas Eve, Boxing Day etc) - it's serously delish. Christmas dinner always includes trifle and pav for dessert, usually with a whole bunch of other things. There's nothing like leftover pud for breakfast on Boxing Day! There is always an abundance of strawberries and cherries throughout.
    I can't say sugar reduction has even entered my mind in the last few weeks! xxx

  2. Welcome back, and happy new year.
    We've recently added salmon to our day by making it a new tradition to have a Christmas breakfast of scrambled egg and smoked salmon. We are very fortunate that my parents now live in the Hebrides, and have made it a new tradition of theirs to send us some smoked salmon by post in time for the big day. Yum!
    I was relieved and gratified that my Romanian visitors this year enjoyed our very traditional (British) Christmas dinner - we have chicken, not turkey, but all the other bits were as you might expect. They even enjoyed the bread sauce, despite its unpromising sounding ingredients!
    We're still experimenting with Christmas Eve traditions food-wise. Last year I put a lot of effort into making traditional Romanian stuffed cabbage leaves, and this year went English with a boiled gammon. The gammon was yummy, conveniently provided some complementary leftovers for the poultry (and was much less work) so is currently the more likely contender for future years!

  3. It all sounds delicious Ang! My sugar intake soared over Christmas - but for me the bikkies and truffles and desserts are what I like to prepare, and it makes me happy. So over the weeks prior to Christmas I made cranberry and almond biscotti, macarons, and four types of other biscuit; truffles decorated like mini Christmas puds and delicious, but slightly too oily, cheese straws (these scream Christmas to me - not the over oiliness, that was my unwanted addition!)For Christmas Day Michael (yes!) cooked chicken, roast potatoes, brocolli, peas and carrots. It was all really good. Desserts (for a Boxing day party too, I hasten to add!) were Buche de Noel, Raspberry and White chocolate meringue roulade, Key Lime Pie and fruit salad. We were so full that we could hardly manage any of them though so they lasted a week! For the BD party I also made meatballs in a cranberry sauce with rice and a chicken, cranberry and brie tart.

    1. Oh, and mince pies of course! I gave lots of the bikies away as gifts but we were still eating them for weeks!


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