We settle down with flutes of Veuve Clicquot and nibbles as 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 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.
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.
Norm’s Village Butcher
6/38 Station Street, Wentworth Falls
Tel (+612) 4757 1729