Friday 27 December 2013

Post Christmas

The day turned out to be perfect in the end. In fact, the nicest day in a while in Welly. The sun shone while a breeze gently washed our garden setting. The 'inside' Christmas table lay idle. Instead we made our way down to the deck in our garden and wiled away 5 hours of eating, drinking and enjoying (an often) lively conversation and each others company.
It was a seafood themed lunch and as part of the menu I made individual smoked salmon terrines. They were a triumph and definitely a dish to make again. I didn't pour the chilli sauce over the terrine, but served it to one side. (The recipe can be found here

The baked salmon was also fabulous! I took the 'salmon by its fins' and baked it to perfection in our kettle BBQ. The salmon stuffing ended up as a mixture from Jamie Oliver and a 'tried and true' recipe from my friend Deb. The lemon, herbs and thinly sliced fennel made a delicious side dish for the salmon, along with Oamaru Jersey Benny potatoes and fresh French beans.
Our guests made the desserts, a gorgeous berry terrine (by Delia Smith
It was a joy to photograph and eat - served with runny cream and yoghurt!

along with a wonderful nutty Christmas pudding, generously drizzled with runny cream.
This post is purposely full of adjectives. While we missed having our families with us, we all agreed it really was, 'one out of the box'. One of those magic summer days we will always remember!

Sunday 22 December 2013

Chicken and leek terrine

Over the festive season I want to continue my theme of having a go at trying completely new things (refer to my chocolate roulade).  At the moment there is so much magnificent produce around, it is not difficult to find inspiration.
I have a foodie friend (and her American guest) coming to lunch at the end of the week and I was looking to make something that I can prepare beforehand. Something light but tasty, using a recipe I've not tried before. Looking for ideas, I spotted this terrine by Gordon Ramsay. It had all the right elements I wanted and thought it was definitely worth a try.
Many terrine recipes use pork but this one is made with chicken.  A small down side was the price of the four leeks, they seemed ridiculously expensive! But the combination of leeks and mushrooms in the terrine is really lovely so its worth that extra little cost.
I enjoyed making it. It was so satisfying and simple and the result was just delicious. For my 'try out' I halved the recipe and used a small loaf tin. It still made a decent sized terrine ( using the full 300ml of stock). Along with a nice piece of crusty bread, it was a real treat for two for dinner then lunch over quite a few days!
For my friend's lunch I plan to use the full recipe and my larger terrine dish.
Served with a small salad, hopefully using one of my (current) little lettuces growing in my garden, it will make the perfect main for our luncheon.
Now for the dessert ideas ......

Prosciutto wrapped chicken and leek terrine - Gordon Ramsay

4 leeks, sliced
4tbsp olive oil, plus extra for greasing
400g mixed wild mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
2 whole garlic cloves
few thyme sprigs
4 gelatine leaves ( I used 3 tsp gelatine powder but you may need more for the full recipe)
300ml strong chicken stock ( cook the chicken covered with water, with a carrot, a celery stick, a spring onion and a sprig of thyme, when cooked remove chicken and reduce stock to about 300ml)
10 slices prosciutto
800g cooked skinless chicken (I used thigh meat)
2 handfuls of a mix of flat-leafed parsley, chervil and tarragon leaves, chopped
It is best to have all the ingredients ready at once in order to assemble your terrine. 
Gently cook the leeks for 15mins in 2tbsp oil until soft. Cool
In remaining oil cook mushrooms with garlic and thyme for 2 mins. Cool
Soak the gelatine in cold water, then heat the stock, dissolve the gelatine in stock, season and set aside.
Line a terrine dish in cling film. Line with slices of prosciutto so they overlap to cover the base and sides, and overhang the edges.
Wet the bottom of the dish with a drizzle of stock. Arrange a single layer of chicken so that it is even, then pour over a little of the stock.
Scatter over a layer of mushrooms (discarding the thyme and garlic). Season with salt and pepper, then moisten again with a little more stock.
Add more chicken followed by a layer of leeks, then a layer of chicken, then the herbs. Drizzle stock between every layer and season as you go.
Repeat until all the ingredients are used up or the terrine is full. Finish with a final scattering of herbs and a ladle full of stock. Tap the dish a few times to ensure the stock gets into the gaps.
Fold the prosciutto over to encase the terrine.
Fold the cling film over and press down gently. Sit the terrine in a dish to catch any juices. Lay a tray on top and weigh it down with a can (I used a full sealed litre of milk) and chill overnight.
20 minutes before serving remove the weight and tray. Put the terrine in the freezer to firm. Just before serving, lift it out of the dish/tin.
Wrap it tightly in more cling film.
Carefully slice the terrine still wrapped in cling film, remove film as you serve on plate. ( I didn't worry about the last 2 steps, just used an electric knife to slice the terrine straight out of the tin). 

Tuesday 17 December 2013

My seaside themed Christmas

I have been having some fun over the past few days as I put my beach themed Christmas together. Although we can see a lot of the ocean from our house, we live on a hill some distance from an actual beach. Don't get me wrong, I love our view and never tire looking at it but it would be nice to own a place right by the sea.
I have always fancied myself having a beach house, a place to escape to over the summer, where I could invite all my family and friends to visit and where I could chill out while my man goes fishing every day to catch our dinner. Mmmmmm.....
I do have quite a few lovely memories of visiting such places. Not at the house right on the beach but a place close to the beach with the sound of the sea gently washing onto the shore (in Fiji). And one lovely holiday at a typical elderly Kiwi bach very close to a lake, in fact about 10 paces from the water's edge. I slept in what was the converted boat shed complete with big soft bed enveloped by a much needed mosquito net. A truly magic, quiet, relaxing holiday near Rotorua. In more recent years, a lovely weekend away to a beach house on the Kapiti Coast (mostly spent inside due to the inclement weather), idly away the time reading, playing board games sipping on some superb wines.
As of today I have not achieved the dream of actually owning a beach house but I can certainly keep on dreaming!
To help with my beach themed Christmas, I decided to make some decorations, to (hopefully) help create the right ambience for our Christmas day seafood lunch.
I searched the internet for ideas and made up a few myself. A trip down to the beach at Owhiro Bay later, you can see the results. A good friend of mine helped (in a huge way - thank you Julia!) by lending me her Christmas beach themed decorations. Have a look at what else they can offer at Christmas Treesy Peasy.
I should probably go and buy a proper 'live' Christmas tree, but my little retro (1970's) tree has so many memories for me I couldn't really leave it in its box!
Looking at the final result, my general feeling was that I needed my much more talented artistic daughter Becky to help me!
But every time I look at my efforts I have a little chuckle..... it's the small things that can make us happy....
Made by Becky
Made by Becky
Made by Becky
Have a merry Christmas everyone!


Wednesday 11 December 2013

The children's animal party

While recently in Christchurch I was enlisted to help with my grandson T's 5th birthday party. The party had an animal theme and it was so well done I felt compelled to write a blog about the experience. T's Mum (my daughter) does it all, she is so clever and I am very proud of her.
During the year, for each birthday (thank goodness they only have two children!) she spends hours planning the day for them. (Backed up on the day, by a very helpful and understanding hubby). I have told her she should go into the event planning business as she has built such a reputation for wonderful children's parties.
The invites, themed food, table decorations and themed surroundings (complete with a monkey on a swing), the dress up outfits and the small favour bags - all done with such amazing thought and detail and on a very tight budget!
From the paper 'animal nose' cups to the strawberry mice and alligators in a jelly swamp - she creates such a wonderful experience for the children (and adults!).
I especially loved making the snail scones. A simple scone dough rolled out, smeared with Marmite and grated cheese, rolled up, baked and when cooled - a couple of pretzels added for their antennae. Such fun and they were really tasty!
She also made the party activities - pin the tail on the giraffe, pass the parcel, and a Pinata in the shape of a Red Eyed Tree Frog!?? Oh boy did the little guests love giving that a whack, especially when it gave up the goodies inside!
Throughout the afternoon the weather threatened to spoil the day. And almost on cue (at the end) the heavens opened up and the festivities were topped off by a sudden down pour - we had to take refuge in the gazebos but it didn't seem to matter - it was all part of the jungle experience!
I am not sure who enjoyed the party more, the children or the adults. Roll on the next one!

Christmas time - what it means to me

I have been trying to feel a little more 'Christmassy' and having just returned from a week in Christchurch - I think the feeling has finally kicked in.
In more recent years I have thought of the Christmas season as more of a time for sharing, a time to feel grateful and a time to reflect. This week was no different, as I had the opportunity to spend time with my southern family and friends. And, yes often this time was spent over fabulous food and a glass of wine or two.
One such friend gave me a beautiful Christmas note about our lasting friendship, a friendship that has not been dulled by distance or time. We met over thirty five years ago. Over that time we have each experienced times of great stress, sadness and change (some of it our own making!). And now, over lunch (with that behind us), updating each other and sharing news on how proud we are of our families, our past and current achievements (in work, study and the community) and our current contentment in our homes and life in general.
I think as you get older 'things' don't seem to mean so much to you. Don't get me wrong - I like nice baubles and receiving presents (and quaffing great wine) - but I would give them away in a blink of an eye if I had to chose between 'things' and my relationships with family and friends.
Actually I think I am becoming a bit of a bore with Christmas shopping. I don't really enjoy it as much as I used to. For me it just seems so jolly commercial and the malls so over whelming.
Recently my daughter came up with a new way for the grandchildren to receive a family gift in 2014. A special voucher for one on one 'date' with an Aunt or Uncle to do something fun and inexpensive like making a tree hut, spending time in the garden, or exploring the sea shore for treasures or making a dress up outfit for a special occasion. I really like that idea, it should be encouraged.
Where I can, I would much prefer to make my own gifts. Which is what I have done again this year... grapefruit marmalade, Christmas cakes, a Ginger Loaf and Christmas mince pies. (A thought -  next year I might even have a go at making my own Christmas mince).
My sewing machine has also been kept busy making little girls dresses, swimming bags and the latest grandchild received his special Nana Santa sack.
In the past I made mini Pecan pies and Christmas mince pies too, using short crust pastry. But last week I decided to bake them in my sponge kisses tin using puff pastry. A nice change and a huge hit. I just have to remember to grease the tins a bit more - the failed ones were 'dug out', quickly cooled and eaten by moi!
There is one little luxury I adore at Christmas. The season is short but they are sure to get me in a Christmassy mood. And they always remind me of my mother who also adored them. Cherries! They have to be those big fat dark, dark, juicy crimson ones. It just so happened we found them this week in a cherry orchard stall while travelling back from Christchurch. Only half of them made it home to Welly! Popped in the fridge, they are nicely chilled and the perfect snack to enjoy on a warm summers day. A kilogram just about does it for me until next year!
help yourself straight out of the tin
Marlborough cherries - yum!