Friday, 2 January 2009
Christmas festive feast, and Happy New Year
This was drafted a week ago, but not posted until now, thus the ‘not-so-in-season’ factor about it.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you all. As it’s quite obvious that Christmas was weeks ago, these are greetings which should have been posted here sooner, but here it is anyway.
Festive napkins are hot in fashion this season (according to me, and not Gucci or Dior or anyone famous like that). While accessorizing the table with festive colours, they also absorb gravy and such, thus making them not only fashionable but practical for every table.
Here’s one tipped to be hot in the stores next season. Note the tartan scarf that matches so well with the windows.
Enough about fashion, let’s get back to the food.
This is a table, full of Christmas food. For Christmas, my boyfriend’s family were so generous and invited me along to spend Christmas with them (thus resulting in much less food for everyone else.) Most people who have had the experience of eating with me know by now that food gets cold while I’m snapping away. Thus, for this post, I decided to show pictures of food the moment they were cooked, before they were served.
Since a Christmas dinner consists of about 20 items on a plate, I also decided to write about each of the items individually, beginning with the little things that make up the meal, continuing on to the Super Stars of the meal, and ending with the other bits that make up the entire Christmas meal.
The Little Things That Make Up A Meal
Broccoli is cut to small pieces, and boiled in some salted water so that the green colour is retained (otherwise, you end up with slightly green cauliflower instead). Usually preferred al dante, it seems to work quite well being cooked slightly softer in a Christmas dinner, as the other things in the meal are quite soft, and soak up the gravy well.
Cauliflower, cooked in the same way as broccoli, although salt water is not necessary as there is no green colour to retain. Rather, some people actually cook cauliflower with beetroot to make it pinkish. Why? Why not.
Parsnips, peeled, cut in quarters and halves and then roasted on a baking tray till soft. This is one vegetable that I eat twice a year, both times during the Christmas season. Perhaps it’s because it’s seasonal, or because it doesn’t cook well with other things, it isn’t usually featured on any menu (sometimes you see parsnip soup).
It looks like a carrot, without the tan and smells woody, and slightly sweet. When roasted, the outside becomes crispy, and the inside becomes soft and mushy, rather like mash potato.
Here it is again, for no reason other than the fact that this picture looks quite nice.
Roast potatoes, spuds, roasties, whatever you call it. Traditionally roasted in goose fat, these days people usually just roast it in oil after it’s been boiled. On one of the cooking programmes that I watched, the chef on it said that in order to get fluffy roast potatoes, first, peel the potatoes (use the ones suitable for roasting to get a good texture). Then, half them and boil them until soft. Drain the potatoes in the pot, and when all the water is out, close the lid and just shake the potatoes up and down in the pot. The reason for doing this is so that the softer bits of the potatoes get all mooshed which makes them crispy when roasted. Put the potatoes in a pre-heated and oiled baking tray and roast in the oven on 200 degrees centigrade until brown and crispy.
Cumberland sausages. Since the main Super Star of the meal is usually the turkey or the beef, there isn’t much need for more meat on the plate. However, for added flavour, sometimes mini sausages are added in.
Stuffing, sage and onion flavour. Stuffing is traditionally cooked in the turkey, thus the name. This keeps the turkey moist and ensures that the bits which cooked quicker than the meatier bits weren’t dry. These days, most people cook the stuffing separately on a baking tray, which has the added benefit of producing a crispy layer on the top with a soft, slightly sticky layer underneath.
Bacon rolls, or sausages wrapped in bacon. You can buy sausage meat ready-prepared from supermarkets here. Essentially, this is just the sausage without the sausage skin, so it’s basically a meat patty mixture, which is rolled into little sausage-like rolls, and wrapped with bacon, then roasted.
Introducing Super Star number 1 – the turkey. Before I helped cook a Christmas dinner, I didn’t know that cooking a turkey took so long. I thought that you just put a turkey in the oven for an hour or so, and that was it. However, the full process actually goes like this:
1. Buy frozen turkey from supermarket. Each one weights approximately 10 pounds or so, like a bowling ball. If you’re really posh, you go to a turkey farm, select your turkey and go back to the farm a few days before Christmas to collect it.
2. Defrost turkey for about 2 days prior to cooking. Some people do this in the sink, some people leave it out to defrost. Whatever the method, this takes alot of time. If the turkey is not defrosted, you’re looking at some KFC buckets for the the main meal.
3. Marinate the turkey. Jamie Oliver suggests taking some rosemary-infused butter and rubbing it between the skin and the meat to ensure that the skin becomes crispy while cooking.
4. Cook the turkey, covered in foil for 3/4 of the recommended time. Take it out of the oven with about 1/4 of the cooking time remaining, open the foil and baste the turkey in its juices. This ensures that the turkey isn’t too dry. Put it back in the oven without the foil covering, as this allows the skin to crisp.
5. Test if it’s cooked by taking a fork and piercing the meatiest bit, if the juice runs clear, it’s cooked. Let the turkey stand for at least 10 minutes for better texture and flavour.
If one turkey is not enough, why not add a roast chicken and some ham into the picture.
Yum yum chicken, yum yum ham.
Introducing Super Star number 2 – the roasted chicken. The cooking method is the same for the chicken and the turkey, but with less time for the chicken due to the smaller size.
Gammon, or ham. Wikipedia says that Americans refer to this as ham, while the Brits refer to it as gammon. Same thing, tomato, tomato.
Store-bought, and boiled to cook it and to reduce the saltiness before cutting into slices. This also makes nice sandwiches if you’re wondering what chicken-turkey-ham-parsnips concoction to make the day after. Some restaurants cleverly turn these into soup, so if you’re in a restaurant after Christmas, and they’re serving broccoli and ham soup with a parsnip-cauliflower bake, you know why.
Vegetarian cheese and mixed vegetable parcels, made with filo pastry.
Vegetable lasagne for those who aren’t inclined towards turkey, chicken or ham.
The Christmas dinner extravaganza.
No matter how you try and do portion control, by taking only one of everything, it still ends up as quite alot when you’ve taken one of everything. Pour on some gravy and mustard, pull the Christmas crackers, read the hilarious (most of the time, not so much) jokes, assemble the toy that comes in the cracker, give up on that, and start to eat.
Because consuming a week’s worth of calories in one meal is just not enough, there is Christmas tea. This is usually taken during the leisurely time after the Christmas lunch dishes have been cleared and washed.
The pictures are in an attractive shade of brown as I didn’t set the white balance on the camera. I was too busy trying to get more food down.
Christmas cake from Marks and Spencer, decorated with Santa on a sleigh and trees. The traditional cake to have on Christmas day would be the fruit-filled version, but as that is quite an acquired taste, and not many people have acquired the taste, we decided to go with the non-fruit version. Notice how much icing is on this cake. This is why Marks and Spencer’s do such great cakes. They don’t scrimp on the icing.
Mince pies, and sultana and currant sponges. Mince pies are one of those things which seem like a great idea before you eat it, and not so great after you’ve eaten it. The filling is quite rich and gets slightly icky after a few mouthfuls, so what I usually do after warming it up in the microwave is start with the pastry, and work my way around the pie, leaving the filling untouched.
Panettone, the Italian Christmas bread I blogged about here. The one from Marks and Spencer costs £2.99, and is definitely worth every penny.
French fancies, not usually a traditional thing to have with Christmas tea, but makes for a nice colourful picture.
It was really cold during Christmas, but very sunny also. When indoors, it felt as though it was summer, with the bright sunshine lighting up every branch on the trees, not a snowflake in sight. Hope everyone had a nice and merry Christmas.