A wintery Christmas in July (or December)

by Forager on December 2, 2009

Christmas in July. No that’s not a misprint. I’m a little behind on my posts, and some lovely friends gently reminded me of this a few weekends ago.

We settle down with flutes of Veuve Clicquot and nibbles a
s other guests bustle in, faces flushed from the cold mountain air, armfuls of winter jackets being quickly replaced by steaming glasses of Kel’s delicious mulled wine.

We all congregate around the kitchen, the tantalising aromas that emanate every time someone opens the oven door to check on the baking within is deliriously good and we all gorge on the food with our greedy eyes, minds half heartedly engaged in conversation. Everyone is excited and curious about the feast to come and I love Kel’s initiative of writing up the blackboard specials.

Before long all the guests have arrived, the drinks are flowing and the final touches of the feast are completed and carried out to the buffet table in a flourish.

The ham arrives first – it’s specially sourced from the local butcher, Norm’s Village Butchery in Wentworth Falls. The ham is free range pork from Bundawarrah in Temora. Their butcher, Norm, smokes the ham using sawdust imported from Germany then pickles it. The ham is then glazed using a mixture of orange juice and zest, Dijon mustard and brown sugar, and cloves are pressed into the scored fat. The night before the dinner, Dave and Kel bake the ham for approx 40 mins, basting twice with extra glaze. It continues to marinate for the 24 hours before it’s served for the dinner party. As there are so many dishes demanding the oven on the night, the ham was served cold (and just delicious!) but if you wanted to serve it hot, simply heat for 10 – 15 minutes on low heat before serving.

The Co-pilot does the honours of carving the ham, all the while apologising for butchering the carving job.

The stuffed turkey arrives next – another item sourced from Norm, the local butcher. He debones the breast and then rolls it with a cranberry and walnut stuffing. To cook, the turkey is wrapped in muslin cloth that has been soaked in seasoned butter (with lemon, thyme, bay leaf) and then roasted for approx 2 hours.

The vegetarians in our group not only have a smorgasboard of vegetables to choose from, one of the other guests, Keris, makes a delectable, hearty vegetable lasagne specifically to cater for those of the non-carnivore persuasion. The lasagne is made with pureed roast pumpkin, chilli and sage, and layered with ricotta, egg and parmesan (instead of bechamel). To finish it is drizzled with melted butter & chopped walnuts, and garnished with flash fried sage leaves and shaved cheese.

There’s only a moment’s hesitation as we all coo over the delicious fare on offer before we descend on the table and each carry away large plates heaped high.

Needless to say, the food is delicious, hearty and warming. It’s perfect winter fare. And although it sounds cliched, it’s the little touches that make this event always so memorable. As though providing an excellent feast wasn’t enough – Dave and Kel always present all the guests with a little Kris Kringle gift! And combined with the flowing wine, fire roaring in the background, people laughing, bon bons being pulled, party poppers exploding dangerously close to heads and camera flashes going off all around, it’s as authentic a Christmas in July as I can imagine and it’s not difficult to imagine that it’s actually Christmas Eve and plump snowflakes are falling gently outside.

As experienced guests we gorge ourselves on the mains, but always leave room for dessert as there is always a range of things to tempt every sweet tooth. This year is no exception as there are three desserts.

The first is an almond croissant pudding. Almond crossiants are torn in chunks packed into a pan. A custard is made using eggs, milk, cream, vanilla bean, orange zest, brandy and poured over the croissants, allowing them to soak in the goodness for 1 hour. The pudding is then baked until golden on top. When cooled, it is topped with cranberries, and drizzled with creme anglaise (egg yolks, milk, cream, sugar, vanilla extract), chocolate sauce (cream, milk, dark choc, cocoa powder) before serving. The resulting croissant pudding is deliciously sweet, sticky and has a great gooey, chewy texture.

The second dessert is Kel’s incredibly creamy tiramisu. Her recipe is from an Italian cooking class she attended years ago. She mixes mascarpone with egg yolks and sugar, then folds in beaten egg whites. To make the biscuity layer, she gets savoiardi biscuits – half of which are soaked in espresso coffee, the other half in brandy diluted with water. To assemble, she lines a spring clip pan with the coffee soaked biscuits, spoons half of mascarpone mixture on top, then layers on the brandy soaked biscuits and the rest of mascarpone mix. To finish, cocoa powder is sifted over the top. The tiramisu is chilled for at least 2 hours, but Kel prefers to chill it overnight to ensure there is more time for the flavours to infuse. It must work as it’s just delicious, light, fluffy and creamy with just the right balance of chocolate, coffee and brandy liquer.

The final dessert is the most visually impressive dessert. The Christmas pudding is courtesy of Dave’s mother, Peta, who soaks fruit in rum for several days, before combining with cake mixture and baked in an oven. On the night, it was steamed for approx 1 hour to heat through, then with pomp and show, Dave poured over a cup of brandy and flambed the pudding.

I’m not normally a fan of Christmas or fruit puddings, but this pudding was so moist, chewy and fruity even I ate a good sized portion. Besides, it would’ve been a shame to let Dave’s pyrotechnic show go to waste.

Finally, with serves of creamy eggnog we retired to the games room.

The games room is a thinly disguised man-cave filled with testosterone delights like 2 full sized Sega Rally arcade racers, a pinball machine, a Heinekin bar fridge and Gran Turismo on a huge plasma screen complete with the Gran Turismo kit racing cockpit. But, it’s a man cave that’s quite female friendly as there is a Frogger tabletop arcade machine and the most popular entertainment for all – Singstar.

We crooned long (and loud) into the night and though the songs erred more towards the pop/rap/improv persuasion rather than traditional carols, the Christmas spirit was very much alive and well – authentic right down to the mildly competitive jostling for the spotlight, the spontaneous interpretative dance routines and craziness that makes the night memorable and gossip-worthy long after the guests have gone.

Though monumentally late for July, I hope this post contributed some bit of inspiration, however small for your Christmas preparations. If nothing else, may it remind us all that Christmas is yet again around the corner (I might be showing my age, but gee time flies these days!), there’s Christmas present shopping to be done and thankfully, a break from work is on the way.

Special thank you to Dave and Kel for putting on an excellent feast every year, for collating the feast preparation details for me and for their patient 5 month wait for this post.

Featured business:

Norm’s Village Butcher
6/38 Station Street, Wentworth Falls
Tel  (+612) 4757 1729

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{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Dave Bolton December 2, 2009 at 9:50 am

Great write-up! Almost feel like we were there…

2 Belle@OohLook December 2, 2009 at 10:53 am

This post actually has good timing, it really gets us in the mood for Christmas. Though I admire your recall ability – I have trouble remembering what happened last week, let alone months ago!

3 Simon December 2, 2009 at 11:23 am

I'm all for any excuse to feast but the concept of Christmas in July makes about as much sense as Thanksgiving in June.

The games room looks like it would be sooo much fun!

I agree with Belle. This was well time. Imagine if you'd posted this in March of next year? I wouldn't worry, you're not the only one with a backlog of posts :)

4 Lorraine @ Not Quite nNgella December 2, 2009 at 5:48 pm

Looks fantastic-all that food and like the tip about making the tiramisu more Christmassey by using brandy too! :)

hehe so this is the story you mentioned! I suppose July is quite a while ago but yes as Belle said it's just about Christmas so let's pretend it was meant to be now all along!

5 Conor @ Hold the Beef December 2, 2009 at 6:33 pm

Wow, what a magic night! Let me know if there's an opening next year 😉

Thanks for visiting my blog, I'm glad to have found yours too. And do not fear, the dreaded blog post backlog is a beast upon my shoulders too. I think I have a number of photos that may never see the light of day.

6 Anna December 2, 2009 at 9:15 pm

The ham was from bundawarrah??  Then it wasnt free range …..

7 Betty December 3, 2009 at 8:59 am

Now that's a feast!! The  flaming pudding looks so cool :) I love dinner theatrics, unless they go wrong.. then that's kind of bad! I love your friend's gentle reminder, kinda sound like my friends! haha. Btw, I want to pass on an award to you, please pick it up at my blog :)

8 Forager December 3, 2009 at 9:37 am

Hey Dave – Thanks! It's as though you come down with the flu at all the most inappropriate times..

Hey Belle – I learnt my lesson the hard way so now I carry a small moleskin with me everywhere to take notes. And I had great help from my Xmas party hosts!

Hey Simon – Oh, the games room was a riot of fun. Wish I had one like that!And yes, I know, all of us bloggers are plagued by the burden of posts to be written..

Hey Lorraine – Hehe, yes, this is it. I love your attitude! Of COURSE I meant to post this 5 months late for Christmas.

Hey Conor – Yes, the backlog of posts haunts us all. I guess without the prompting perhaps this post might never have made the light of day either. Thanks for visiting my blog too!

Hey Anna – It isn't? Hmm.. A quick Google search yielded the official site that suggests it is actually free range pork: http://www.bundawarrah.com.au/productrange/free_range_pork/

But having recently read The Omnivore's Dilemma, do you mean there are certain categories of "free range" and although Bundawarrah's pork fits the Australian standards of free range pork it is contested by other groups?

Hey Betty – Haha, yes, if the theatrics went wrong it could've been a very different night. Oh thanks so much Betty! You're so generous!

9 Tangled Noodle December 3, 2009 at 2:43 pm

Take you time posting if the end result is a recap of a wonderful get-together like this! How I would love that flambéed pudding but the entire feast looks fantastic.

10 Maria@TheGourmetChallenge December 3, 2009 at 3:06 pm

oh my that tiramisu looks like a dream. I want to dive into it mouth first! Oh yum! I'm really craving it now! GREAT!

11 Forager December 3, 2009 at 4:43 pm

Hey Tangled Noodle – Yes, the <span>flambéed </span>pudding was Dave's pride and joy! Had a lot of fun eating it too!

Hey Maria – Trust me the tiramisu was just divine! So creamy and lush!

12 Arwen from Hoglet K December 3, 2009 at 7:37 pm

That looks like such a feast, and such a variety of dishes!  Definitely better late than never with this post.

13 Anita December 3, 2009 at 9:53 pm

What an awesome spread of food!!! I have a backlog too – but I can't stop making more things to be posted!!

14 chinesechic December 4, 2009 at 8:50 am

wow, christmas in july, well i guess the australian seasons suit that!

15 Gourmantic December 4, 2009 at 9:55 am

<span>We can pretend to be in Europe and this review becomes very apt! :) That flaming pudding photo looks amazing.  
Thank you for the kind comment on my site. I’m also glad to discover yours and have added you to my RSS reader.  </span>

16 Forager December 4, 2009 at 4:30 pm

Hey Arwen – Yep, I think that's what my friends were suggesting when they reminded me about this post. Better late than never..

Hey Anita – I know! I find I'm trying to limit the new places I try now to try and stop the tide of new posts!

Hey chinesechic – Yes, it's a bit of a strange Australian tradition that I believe might have started up in the colder climate of the Blue Mountains – and you're right, in July the wintery weather is perfect for a white Christmas. Thanks for visiting!

Hey Gourmantic – My friend Dave will be so pleased so many people thought his "flaming pudding" was impressive! Thanks for visiting my site too!

17 Reemski December 6, 2009 at 2:50 pm

I'm so glad I'm not the only one behind on posts!!! Looks like a wonderful feast, and the Xmas pudding! On Fire!

18 Forager December 7, 2009 at 10:14 am

Hey Reemski – I think I'll always be behind on posts, so you'll always have a buddy who's late with you!

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