I am currently waist-deep in Christmas Dinner preparation, and the cranberry levels are rising…
Let’s not analyze my handwriting too closely…does the fact that I can’t seem to commit to one particular way of writing the letter ‘f’ mean that I’m really, really deep and creative?
So, every year I host a Christmas dinner for our flatmates, (plus any significant others, hangers-on and plus ones) partly to celebrate my ability to insist upon cooking for large numbers of people but also to have some quality togetherness during this busy time. The day before is always a little full-on, but enjoyable, with the anticipation of feeding people and cooking vast quantities of stuff mixed in with the confusion of trying to follow my hopelessly non-linear list.
This is what the menu is shaping up like this time:
2 Roast Chickens
Pear and Cranberry Stuffing
Cornbread and Cranberry Stuffing
Ham in Coca Cola
Chocolate Pavlova with Raspberries (or maybe strawberries…whatever’s cheaper at the markets tomorrow morning really)
Ginger Crunch Ice Cream
Chocolate Coconut Ice Cream
Maybe some sugar-free jelly if we can find any packets kicking round the place. I had plantain ice cream planned but the plantains I had must have been a little old and tired, because it doesn’t quite taste right. I may panic at the last minute and make another pudding…it happens.
If you’re a long-time reader, you’ll see that I’ve repeated a couple of recipes from last year – for example, both the stuffings and the involtini. The involtini, a recipe from Nigella Bites of seared eggplant slices wrapped around nutty, herbed bulghur wheat and baked in a tomato sauce, is also a repeat from last year, minus the feta this time as a friend of ours is a dairy-free vegetarian. Nigella’s Ham in Coca Cola is already a proven winner but I’ve never done it at Christmas before. But the Coca Cola that the ham is simmered in is cheap as and if nothing else will provide a talking point should conversation run awkwardly dry.
Even though my list specified otherwise, I got started today with the cornbread stuffing. I had to hustle to get this shot – you can see that some of the cranberries have already released their juices in the heat of the pan while others are still clinging to their dusting of ice particles.
Sometimes I wonder if I have heritage arching back to the American south. Or at least, some storybook version of it. I’ve never actually been there but the cuisine considered generally to be from that region seriously appeals to me. I can eat cornbread till the cows come home. Despite having to actually make the cornbread and then humbly crumble it, this stuffing really doesn’t take long to make at all. While it’s mighty fine roasted in the cavity of a chicken, the excess is more than wonderful baked separately in a loaf tin.
You’re taking already golden, buttery cornbread, and then stirring it into cranberries and another 125g of melted butter. This is a concept that either makes sense to you or it doesn’t. Me, everything makes sense with more butter added. If it appeals to you also, please find the recipe HERE. It comes from Nigella Lawson’s book Feast. Like the Spice Girls, all five of whom I was fiercely loyal to as a youngster, I cannot and would not want to choose a favourite Nigella book. But if you fancy an introduction to La Lawson you could do worse than start here with this magnificent, all-encompassing cookbook.
Not quite as visually appealing but still excellent is the Pear and Cranberry stuffing from Nigella Christmas, a book that naturally comes into its own at this time of year. Its combination of fudgey, gritty dried pears, sharp cranberries, and rich pecans (I substituted almonds because that’s what I had) is particularly fantastic, with salt and chopped onion stopping the whole thing from becoming like another pudding.
Pear and Cranberry Stuffing
500g dried pears
175g fresh or defrosted frozen cranberries
100g breadcrumbs (preferably from bread that has gone stale than the dusty packet stuff)
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground ginger
zest and juice of 1 mandarin
1 onion, peeled and chopped
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon maldon sea salt or a light sprinkling of table salt.
Either soak the pears overnight or cover them with boiling water and leave for a couple of hours. Drain once the water is cool. Place all the ingredients together in a bowl and mix thoroughly – even though it may feel a little spooky, just wading in with your hands is probably the easiest way. Either stuff your bird and bake accordingly or place in a loaf tin and bake at 200 C for about 25 minutes or until golden. Note – dried pears are pretty expensive. I tend to half the pears and up the breadcrumbs, but you could also make up half the weight of the pears in dried apricots.
The chocolate pavlova comes via Forever Summer (with whipped cream on the side, instead of smothered over it this time). I’ve made it before about 2 years ago, and loved it. However something was working against me today because while it rose up promisingly in the oven, it deflated completely once cooled. But what it lacks in height it makes up for in enormity – it spread out heaps. So I’m staying chilled out on that front.
Speaking of chilled, you know I love my ice cream. I’m particularly proud of this one because it’s completely dairy free but also staggeringly good. I’m not implying the two are mutually exclusive, but it’s not always the most straightforward path to deliciousness when you’re restricting particular ingredients.
Chocolate Coconut Ice Cream
6 egg yolks
50g brown sugar
2 tins coconut milk (not low fat)
2 tablespoons good cocoa
200g dark, dark chocolate, chopped
Gently heat the coconut milk in a wide pan, while mixing the egg yolks and sugar together. Once the coconut milk is good and hot, but not in any danger of boiling, pour it over the bowl of egg yolks and sugar, stirring all the while. Wipe out the pan with a paper towel, then pour the egg-coconut milk mixture back into it and keep it on a gentle heat, stirring constantly. It takes a while – at least 10 to 20 minutes – and you need to keep stirring – but it will thicken up into a custard of sorts. Once it is sufficiently thickened, remove from the heat and stir in the cocoa and chocolate, allowing it to melt into the mixture. Let this cool then freeze. Makes around a litre, maybe a little more.
The unfrozen mixture is amazing – the thickest, lightest, softest chocolatey custard ever. Once frozen, it’s even more sublime. The coconut flavour isn’t actually overly noticeable to if you want to amp it up a bit, stir in some toasted dessicated coconut before freezing. This is magical stuff – don’t let the fact that you have to make a custard put you off. I’ve made custard-based ice creams a billion times before without them turning into scrambled eggs, and if laughably clumsy I can do it, trust me, so can you.
I was actually really dithery over this particular post as I am going to be in an article about this blog in the Sunday Star-Times on Sunday, and I had this feeling that whatever I write today might be kind of important. This is the first time this blog has got any proper media attention, and I’m pretty nervous about seeing myself in a national newspaper. What if I look awful? (I had to maintain this half-smile thing, I’m really more of a big-toothed grin person, probably from my years of having to smile convincingly at ballet examiners while trying not to cry at that failed pas de chat.) What if I come across as horribly self-absorbed? (I mean, I am a bit, but still). What if someone, fuelled by Tall Poppy Syndrome, punches me in the street? Although I should mention (did someone say self-absorbed?) that the lovely lovely food blogger Linda is also being featured in this article tomorrow. I’ve never actually met Linda properly but you don’t always need to be face to face with someone to know they’re a fantastic person – I look forward to sharing a page with her. I also must say, massive kudos to the Sunday Star-Times for picking up on the idea of food blogging as a viable story option. I’m not saying that my blog is the most important issue happening to the nation right now, but seriously. I’ve been waiting for this.
If you are new to this blog, led here by your own curiousity after reading the article – cheers! Hopefully this is something you want to read more of – if not, I’m afraid I’m basically like this all the time. Maybe check out this post where I made my own butter which should quickly give you a good idea of whether or not you’re going to want to come back here.
Title comes via: the resplendent Aretha Franklin and her absolutely stonking 1967 single Chain of Fools. If you’re new here: I tend to cut off straightforwardness to spite my own face when it comes to titles. But I’ll always explain them to you happily.
On Shuffle while I’m cooking:
– The Deal (No Deal) from the concert recording of Chess, featuring such luminous talent as Idina Menzel, Josh Groban, Adam Pascal, Kerry Ellis, and the marvelous Clarke Peters of The Wire. Maybe something about the mathmatical precision of the game they’re singing about helped me keep focussed today.
– Speaking of Idina and Adam…while I may have allowed one or two Christmas songs to infiltrate my listening, Christmas Bells from RENT is the seasonal song that works all year long, but is obviously particularly nice at this time of year. The million different storylines being moved forward in this song makes for a listening experience that’s little short of astonishing. You can hear it here but if it all makes no sense then this visual might help unpack that somewhat. I care about this stuff.
– Mis-shapes from Pulp’s obviously amazing Different Class. Tim and I were lucky enough to see ex-Pulper Jarvis Cocker live at the Town Hall on Thursday night, he was utterly utterly wonderful, running through the cream of his solo material before blasting out an unexpectedly perfect cover of Black Sabbath’s Paranoid in honour of Ozzy’s birthday. But after all that I felt a bit of a need to hear some Pulp tunes, like this particularly urgent track.
Next time: Well, if I haven’t made it onto the Listener’s list of the most influential and powerful New Zealanders for 2009, then it has been a failure of a week. Oh my gosh, I’m just kidding…and that list has already been published. Next time there may well be a recap of the Christmas Dinner and everything that happened. Look out for it – there’s nothing like an exhausted person who has eaten too much trying to make a sparkling, witty blog post.
23 thoughts on “chain of yules”
oooh the chocolate coconut icecream looks delicious! Congratulations on the media coverage. I read you before you were famous…
Love that list! I am constantly writing food lists/timetables like that too heheheheh.
You know, for some reason I've never had any success with Nigella's stuffings (or any stuffing for that matter). Not sure why! This year I'm going stuffing free.
p.s. Jarvis RULES!
You make me want to start liking cranberries! I'm often wary of them. Very nice.
I love Nigella so much – and your menu sounds incredible! 🙂
Congratulations! How exciting. I'm just about to make a special trip into town to buy the SST.
Hope your Christmas Dinner goes well. Fa la la la la la la la la.
Ooooooh I've just heard the SST advertised on the radio and heard the words.”…food bloggers….”
This comment has been removed by the author.
Foodycat: Thanks! Am all a flutter.
Sarah: The cornbread one has never failed me. I guess you would have covered several of hers in your How To Eat project though, I've always wondered about that chessnut one. (also YAY JARVIS!)
Sadako: Nigella has that effect on you. Never bought cranberries in my life before I started getting into her…
Chef Aimee: Me too, and thanks 🙂
I squealed with excitement when I picked up the SUNDAY magazine – not a great thing on a Sunday morning but WOW!! You look amazing – weren't your parents clever to make you! I did have a “what about Laura ?” moment when I saw “Julie and Julia” but I think your story is so much better. Now for the Living channel – then the world!! Great to see you folliwng your passion – go girl!!
Read about your blog in Sunday… surprisingly 🙂 I really enjoyed this post, with the nice Christmassy ideas – would love to give the Chocolate Coconut Ice Cream a go.
Was really impressed by the article, and by your style of writing – I love to cook, and if I wasn't so lazy about writing, I'd probably consider my own foodie blog. But alas, I'd probably write in it three times before forgetting about it. I'll have to settle, and read yours instead.
This comment has been removed by the author.
Congrats on being in the paper! YAY!
That chocolate coconut icecream sounds divine! And like something I might be able to try my hand at! I have coconut milk and chocolate and eggs etc in the house, maybe I'll make that this afternoon? I wonder how it would be with white chocolate (minus the cocoa), might have to give that a go!
I love cornbread too! I had never thought of using it in stuffing though. I even have Nigella's Feast, and I can't remember that recipe! I have to go back and look to see what other things I've forgotten from the book now. Which book is Nigella's coco-cola ham from? I think I need to reacquaint myself with the goodness that is Nigella!
I think it's great that you do a Christmas party. I normally feel so blah at Christmas, and so overwhelmed with all the social things I'm supposed to go to that I feel like a bit of a scrooge. This year I'm more excited though, not excited enough to hold my own Christmas party, but I'll happily make things for other parties I'm attending. Thanks for spreading some Christmas cheer.
Read about you in the paper, I'm so obsessed with Rent too! Ahhh, this is probably on of my fav OBC videos http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YnjMMguo9Zc
I also got to see a musical of Rent a couple of years ago in Christchurch, amazing. That started my love!
Loving the blog too, great to see other food bloggers out there, I'm more of a health/weight loss blogger but love food blogs! Keep up the great work 🙂
YAY YAY YAY!! You look SO cute, and the cover girl too! Good on you, I know your follower numbers will take another great leap now, no pressure though 😉 Keep on doing what ya do baybee.
How exciting for you to be a cover girl. I've been blogging since 2006 (not food though) and loved the Julie and Julia movie. Julie's book got me blogging in the first place. I'd never even heard of it before that. I found out about you, like many others, from your fabulous photo on the cover of Sunday this morning. Great story too. Tim is lucky in many ways. I too adore Nigella and consider her to be the perfect domestic goddess. If I was ever famous enough for Rove to interview me on his (now defunct) tv show, I was all ready to answer that it would be Nigella that I would turn gay for. For those not “in the know” Rove is an Aussie who just finished his hilariously funny show and one question he used to ask his guests was “who would you turn gay for?”. So that's the connection. Anyway, loved finding out about your food blog Laura and will visit again. All the best.
Saw your pic on the cover of Sunday and shrieked, “Is that Hungry and Frozen?” much to the surprise of my mum, who had just read the whole thing (rare, she often sniffs that Sunday is too young for her but in this case she loved the story!) Dad was v excited when I explained that a) I'd been following your blog for about a year and b) you were the goddess that had introduced the recipe for White Choc Cheesecake cookies into our lives. Love your blog, loved the Sunday story. As a former sub-editor, I also have to tell you that your headlines are GENIUS and please, don't ever change 🙂
Needless worrying Laura – your photos in the Sunday magazine are gorgeous! Love your kitchen too. Glad to have found your blog. Oh, and I'm a big Nigella fan too!
Hooray! Congrats on the article, I didn't make it out of the house today (whoops! too many chores) but will have to go hunt down a copy tomorrow!! How exciting. And food lists/cooking plans are definitely the way forward, especially for big feasts! (Heck, I do it even for normal weeknight dinners…)
Cornbread stuffing is a-mazing. But I haven't tried it with cranberries. Hmm.. need an excuse to make some. I may just have to copy you and hold a flat Christmas dinner as well?
So fab to see you in the Sunday papers!!! You are a cover girl OMG!!!!! Your pic is lovely and as usual you provided plenty of quote worthy material. I am so pleased you r blog is getting some media, I have always so loved reading it, your turn of phrase never fails to make me chuckle (oh, and the food is pretty darned good too!!!)
Thanks to all for your lovely lovely comments 😀
Justine: Yay, nice to hear from you – glad you like this blog o mine 🙂
Jacey: Let me know if you try the Chocolate Coconut ice cream and how it goes- this is only my second or third time doing it so hopefully it works out for you 🙂
Hayley: White chocolate in that ice cream would probably be amazing…you know I love my white chocolate. Let me know if you try it 🙂 The Ham in Coca Cola is in both How to Eat and Nigella Bites, the Nigella Bites recipe is more straightforward. It's easy to feel blah around Christmas but this has defo perked me up!
Kate: Awesome, so great to hear from another RENT fan 😀 will have to check out your blog for sure.
JenniS: Aw, thanks for your nice feedback! Hopefully if the numbers jump up they stay up 😉
WordImp: Thanks for your kind words…Nigella would definitely be an idea answer to that question. Thanks for stopping by 😀
Emma C: Thanks for the LOVELY comment, also yay for sub-editors. Did a little subediting at the uni newspaper a few years back and loved it. The original source for the white chocolate cheesecake cookies was HayleyB, bless her, aren't they amazing?
Fiona: Thanks so much – and always glad to hear about another Nigella fan 🙂
Millie: Thanks!! I'm not very good with lists but something like this definitely requires it. Feel free to copy the flat Christmas dinner concept- it's great fun 😀
Linda: THANKS, OMG indeed 😀 you looked smashing too, your photo came up beautifully. Aren't we awesome?
“cripes I'm hungry and it's 7.30pm! Why did I spend all that time looking at Tony Award performances on youtube instead of making dinner? Now I have to cobble together something incoherent from what's in the cupboard!”
This quote has proven that we are internet twins. For real. I read about your blog in Sunday and love the combo of food, music, musicals and Wellington! Definately adding it to my RSS feed.
Yummy and delicious:)
Ooooh I love your choice of music as much as the menu! That recording of chess sounds wonderful 🙂
So, question. How often do you stir the ice cream when it's in the freezer, freezing?