Friday, December 14, 2007
Posted by Dharm
I love Christmas, don't get me wrong. However, it can be a very tiring time. What with putting up the tree, testing all the old Christmas tree lights and finding out some sets don't work which means going out to buy new Christmas lights. Then digging out the decorations and dressing the tree. Whew. I'm already tired thinking about it. Fortunately, our tree is already decorated.
Then there's still the shopping for presents and wrapping them! I haven't even gotten to the part about baking the cakes and cookies. And don't forget the preparation of the Christmas Eve Dinner and maybe even Christmas Lunch the next day. All extremely tiring stuff.
The problem is, just when you think it's all over and you can put your feet up and relax, the realisation that New Year is just around the corner hits you like a ton of bricks. WHAM!
I have many fond memories of New Year celebrations ranging from when I was a young boy through to my teenage years and now as a father.
As a child, New Year was always celebrated with lunch at my grandmother's house. She used to make the most exquisite ham, roast potatoes and even tongue! Surprisingly, the tongue was tender and very, very tasty. We weren't told it was tongue of course until AFTER we had eaten it!
In addition to the cold cuts, there were always curried dishes as well, usually Mutton Curry and Chicken Curry. Sometimes, instead of rice, one of the aunts
would order loads of string-hoppers.
For dessert, my Grandma would make her famous Caramel Custard while my Aunty Julie would make her wonderful, wonderful desserts - Chocolate Biscuit Pudding, Frozen
Sponge with Choc Sauce and so many others. She was the Dessert Queen! New Years lunch at Grandma's was certainly a treat.
As I grew into a rebellious teenager and attained legal age, New Year's Eve was spent partying at some night spot with many friends. No matter how tired (or hungover!) I was from the previous night though, lunch at my Grandmother's house was not to be missed. Church could be skipped but not lunch at Grandma's!
After I got married, New Years would alternate between lunch at my grandmother's or lunch at one of my wife's uncles' houses. The crowd at my Grandmother's had also dwindled with a lot of the grandchildren married and having obligations of their own. Two of my Aunts (including the Dessert Queen) have moved overseas as well.
My Grandmother is still alive, (Yes! She recently celebrated her 100th Birthday!) and although she doesn't cook anymore, we still meet at her house for a Pot Luck lunch on New Years Day. Each family brings a dish and since my Aunt Julie is overseas, I have taken over the mantle of Dessert King.
A Pot Luck is fine when you have a large family, but if you are just cooking for your own family and maybe a few friends, why not throw together something simple
yet worthy of a New Years meal?
I'd like to suggest taking the route of lots of light dishes or tapas. Serve it all at once or bring them out dish by dish. No real recipes are needed for these dishes as they are simple enough and you can play around with the flavours and ingredients as you see fit.
I love the taste of mushrooms and you can experiment with different stuffing's. I love to stuff Portobello Mushrooms and usually fry some garlic together with the chopped mushroom stems, a little chopped red chillies, pine nuts and breadcrumbs. Then stuff this back into the mushroom caps and bake for about 20 minutes. Simply delicious.
Garlic Prawns on Leek
Shell and devein the prawns. lightly sautee some garlic and black pepper to taste and then toss the prawns in. Cook quickly on high heat till the prawns turn pink. Serve on a bed of boiled leek. Simple yet so tasty.
Meatballs or Sausages
Marinate ground beef/chicken/lamb/pork or a mix of these meats with some ground onion, garlic, ginger, salt, pepper and tomato sauce. Roll into balls or sausage shapes.
Bake for about 30 mins in a 190C oven. The meatballs/sausages will hold their shape and this is something the kids will love. Serve it on its own or with some tomato sauce or maybe mustard or even barbecue sauce. If you want something more substantial, make some Bolognese sauce or maybe even Meatball Curry. So many choices!
Pasta with Chilli Flakes
For a difference and to spice things up a little, why not toss some pasta in olive oil and chilli flakes. You can use whatever chilli you like depending on the 'hotness' factor you want.
This is always a favourite with the kids. Hard boil some eggs, and then cut them in half. Scoop out the yolks and 'devil' them anyway you like. Perhaps some mustard, or curry powder; maybe just some Worcestershire sauce and mayonnaise. Or perhaps a combination of everything! Spice it up even more with some Tabasco sauce.
And of course, finish off with dessert. To welcome in the new year, why not have something very simple to make and yet so tasty. The kids love this and it was indeed one of my favourite desserts harking back to my childhood. The original recipe comes from my Aunty Julie but over the years I have modified it to what it is now.
Chocolate Biscuit Pudding
1/2 Cup Butter
3/4 Cup Castor Sugar
350ml Unsweetened Cream
2 Eggs (separated)
150gm Dark Chocolate
2 Tablespoons Cocoa
1/2 - 1 cup Chopped Cashews (or Almonds)
1 packet Marie Biscuits
1 cup milk
Brandy or Rum (I use liberal amounts - 4 to 6 tablespoons!!)
Melt chocolate with 1/2 the cream over slow fire. Ensure cream does not boil. Leave to cool. Separate eggs, ensuring that egg whites have no yolk. Whisk egg whites till they peak. Cream butter and sugar then beat in egg yolks.
Add Rum (dependent on your alcoholic tendencies!)
Stir in sifted cocoa then stir in cream followed by the chocolate mixture.
Fold in egg whites and Stir in 75% of nuts.
Dip Marie Biscuits into milk (to soften slightly) and line a tray with one layer of biscuits.
Cover biscuits with layer of mixture. Alternate with layers of biscuits and mixture (with final layer being mixture).
Sprinkle remaining nuts on top (this just makes it look good)
Chill for 2 - 3 hours
All in all I think this makes a lovely menu for New Year's Tiffin. Or maybe do it for New Year's Eve to welcome in 2008 or just throw it all together for whatever you are celebrating! Best of all, I think it is something that both adults and kids alike will enjoy.
Happy New Year Everyone!
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This Post was written by Dharm from Dad ~ Baker & Chef