Christmas Eve Fare.

Christmas for me is about making time to get together with family and friends and celebrating how much we value having them in our lives. When I was little it was all about presents, although we were never as focussed on that as many families I knew. Usually just one or 2 special items and a couple of fillers.  I remember fondly the Christmas day gatherings of my family and my country cousins if they happened to be visiting for the season. I remember when sixpences were put in the pudding and there was a competition to see who accumulated the most value. I remember cherry spitting competitions and dangling pairs of cherries on your ears as earrings. I remember water fights and running under the sprinkler if it was hot. I remember mum stressing and chucking a wobbly the day dad threw out the pudding cloth. I remember being mesmerised by the beautiful tree lights, sitting or lying under them and just watching them sparkle. I still do this, I love sparkly Christmas tree lights!

Christmas tree lights We once again hosted a gathering on Christmas Eve for our friends and it was a great night. The aim of the night is to be very relaxed, to enjoy each others company and I like the opportunity to make a few treats for us to eat. A few of the dishes we had this year were,

Dumplings! Ever since I read Celia’s post about dumplings that led me to the Dumpling Sisters site, I now regularly make dumplings from scratch. They are so easy to make, a little time-consuming but easy and they taste so much better than the bought ones. I’ve posted about these a few times but I can’t help myself, they are so good and were a big hit on Christmas eve.

Dumplings
Dumplings with ginger soy dipping sauce
Dumplings
Dumplings, my pleating isn’t too bad considering.

Another dish I made was Midye dolma or stuffed mussels. I tasted these when we went to Turkey and have wanted to have a go at recreating them ever since we returned. You can find street food sellers right along the waterfront in Turkey and they sell thousands of them. The mussels are stuffed with a mixture made from rice, currants and spices then cooked and served with a squeeze of lemon juice. I used the recipe from Ozlems Turkish Table and they were a hit. I have to add though, it is no mean feat cleaning and opening 60 odd mussels to stuff with dodgy hands, I have a whole new level of respect for the vendors in Turkey! My hands are still suffering and sadly don’t think these will be a regular item.

Midye dolma-Anatolian stuffed mussels
Midye dolma-Anatolian stuffed mussels

I made some mini sourdough croissants and filled them with ham and cheese and served them warmed through, very nice and definitely a repeat again item. I used the sourdough croissant recipe from Shipton Mill and reduced the cut croissant size to 7-8 cm by 15 cm and they were just right for finger food size.

Mini sourdough croissantsI also made some mini sourdough ‘baklavants’, croissants with a baklava style filling and a honey and rosewater glaze but they didn’t make it out and are now in the freezer for another time. We did have a few on Christmas Day with breaky.baklavantOf course there was a couple of platters of general nibbles, marinated mushrooms, oven roasted cherry tomatoes, focaccia and other assorted sourdough bread (oops, no pics apart from the tiny snippet front right below).img_0538 And of course our favourite Indian Pakora made using the recipe from Annabel Langbein’s Free Range Cook Book. These would have to be one of the best vegetarian party foods you can present. I served them with a yogurt and mint sauce made simply by blending yogurt and mint together. These are now a much loved tradition every year and it is always a hit.

Pakora
Pakora

It was a delightful Christmas Eve, our little fella decided he loves spicy stuffed mussels (and everything else really). Very clever of him to work out you can use a mussel shell as a spoon too!img_0560 img_0571We thoroughly enjoyed the night and were very well behaved which meant we were able to enjoy Christmas Day as well! I’ll do a short post on that next. Unfortunately we didn’t get to catch up with everyone we had hoped to but that will be addressed in the New Year. I hope everyone else has had the pleasure of having such a relaxed and enjoyable Christmas, it’s been lovely having a kitchen to work in!

Farewell to My Sunbeam Toy Oven-Pizza Bake N Grill Winner!

When we moved into this “new old house” in January 2013, it meant we didn’t have a real kitchen and had no idea it would take almost 4 years before we would  For all this time I have managed to create some pretty amazing dishes thanks to the little 19 litre capacity $80 or so Sunbeam Pizza Bank N Grill Oven which I affectionately have referred to in my posts as my ‘Toy Oven’.Sunbeam pizza bake and grill ovenI decided to buy this just in case it took a little longer than anticipated to do our renovations, I would have been burnt at the stake as a witch in mediaeval times, it took so much longer than anticipated. This little oven along with 2 butane gas camping stoves, our hooded BBQ  (Sunbeam as well as it turns out), a larger gas ring for big jobs like preserving and tomato passata, 2 slow cookers and we haven’t missed out on anything, even making our own sourdough bread very week.

New gas cookerWell, now that I have my beautiful new Falcon double oven with 5 gas burners, I can bid my ‘Toy Oven’ a fond farewell. I haven’t yet decided whether or not to keep it to take when we go camping (if there is power supply) or to piff it but that seems wasteful when it still works (and oh so well!). Unfortunately the poor thing is in such a preloved state that it isn’t up to scratch to offer to someone or donate to charity. It may even become the mud pie oven for when kids are in the back yard.

I cannot believe how well this little oven has performed over these few years, my only negative comment is that I could only make a couple of things at a time, so large quantities when required of biscuits, muffins, party foods like sausage rolls and mini quiche had to be made at my daughters place or at work. Luckily those times were few and far apart so not too much of an issue.

Thought I’d honour this little ‘Toy Oven’ recapping and revisiting some of the food it has churned out for us over the last few years.

My first bake in the oven was spinach and ricotta muffins, tick.Spinach ricotta muffinsSome mini pavlovas served with brandy snaps and fruit. See, only 6 at a time can be cooked.Mini pavlova Mini Pavs in tin

Many small roasts and meals where the meat was cooked in the slow cooker and the veggies roasted in the little oven have been made. This was Dorper lamb we bought in South Australia cooked in the slow cooker and veg in the ‘toy oven’.Roast Dorper Lamb I even sterilised some jars prior to preserving food. These were used for bottling some Christmas Puddings, very successful!Sunbeam Pizza Bake N GrillMany batches of potato, kale and feta rolls.Kale, Potato and Feta rollsThe most amazing slow cooked quince I have ever tasted, this was delicious!Slow Roasted Quince Quince RecipeSometimes fitting cookware in was a challenge. This slice tin was made to fit with the aid of a spanner or such.Making tin fitand you couldn’t quite fit the Dutch Oven in with the lid on.Dutch Oven in Toy OvenSometimes I had to split cooking methods, like here where the meat was done in the ‘Toy oven’ and the veg in the BBQ.Roast lamb Jamie OliverSome more meringues but I was getting better at fitting in more than 6 in a muffin tray. I got  7 in by using the pizza tray.Nigel Slater cinnamon meringueI still managed to bake the pieces that I use to assemble my Christmas gingerbread house in.Gingerbread house 2014 Gingerbread house piecesMany different varieties of foccacia.Peter Reinhart foccaciaTarts, this is a blood plum tart.Blood Plum Tartand my all time favourite, lemon tart. alice-medrich-lemon-tartPies or in this case, piesties.Piestiesand of course my passion, sourdough bread.Barbecue breadEven with only having had this little ‘toy oven’ I managed to turn out 2-3 loaves, sometimes more, of sourdough bread every week. I would not have believed this unit was capable of being such a great unit until I tried it. There has been white, wholemeal, rye, fruit, grainy, pumpernickel, hot cross buns, baguette, pizzas, bread sticks, flat breads and more. The only way I could bake in this toy oven was to use a Dutch Oven, this reduced the exposure of the dough to the heating elements thus reducing the likelihood of it becoming toast before it was even cooked. I also faced the challenge that the lid didn’t fit in because the handle/knob just made the unit too large for the baking chamber. I remedied this by removing the knob and filling the hole with some bread dough. Every now and again I would replace the dough and it worked extremely well.

Dough plug Dutch OvenThere are so many more great things that have been churned out by this little oven and I have really enjoyed revisiting the relevant posts. I am so appreciative of the beautiful space and equipment I have now, it is hard to understand how I managed to create anything really.

There were a few times when I was taking bread to a party or we were entertaining here that I needed to resort to using the Sunbeam barbecue for baking bread. I got the method pretty well down pat after a few attempts and would happily bake this way again if necessary. I will admit though, it has knocked the poor old barbecue hot plates and grill around. I might end up keeping this unit just for bread. We’ll see.Sunbeam BBQ Bread Sunbeam BBQ BreadWell, the poor little old ‘toy oven’ is nowhere near as pretty as she was a few years ago but by goodness, what a run she has had! I don’t think these units were designed to get quite the workout that this one has had. I think the price is now up around the $120.00 mark but if you need a unit that is versatile, reliable and fun to use I can’t recommend this highly enough. Thanks, my little ‘toy oven’, it been fun.

sunbeam-pizza-bake-n-grill

In My Kitchen December.

Well the month started with a landmark birthday for me so to celebrate we headed to Echuca on the Murray River to take charge of a houseboat for 7 nights. Myself, Mr ATMT, my 3 sisters, brother-in-law, our 2 closest friends and our 2 sons (interchanged throughout the week) spent some lovely hours doing absolutely nothing apart from eating, swimming, drinking, dozing and playing games. Unfortunately our daughter couldn’t make it as they were in Hawaii and were delayed getting back.

Brittania on The MurraySunset starting to roll in.img_3539 Most nights we just ate, played games, had a few drinks and did lots of laughing while the cockies squawked loudly around us.img_1243

In My Houseboat Kitchen.

We ate like kings! Unfortunately I seem to have waylaid a few photos but I can share the Finnish Flaxseed Sourdough load that was made from the recipe Francesca over at Almost Italian had posted, this loaf was delicious and I have been requested to make more and more and more. The recipe was spot on which always makes me happy!

Finnish Flaxseed Sourdough

I had packed some basic supplies and ran a mini ‘how to’ session for making sourdough. The house boat had a gas oven that wasn’t all that good at keeping in the heat so it needed some assistance. You do what you have to do!oven-doorThe loaf actually turned out pretty well considering, but I have had a bit of experience cooking in a dodgy or even without an oven.bread-on-boatWe had a butterflied lamb leg that my sisters purchased at the sensational butcher in Yae. The meat from there was some the best I’ve had in a very long time, roast BBQ’d lamb, lovely fresh asparagus and salad and we were happy campers on a boat.

roast-on-houseboatI was blown away by this lemon & ginger cheesecake that my niece made and was brought along by my sister as a surprise birthday celebration. It was delicious and I kept sneaking a piece every day when no one was around.img_0131-001 I took a batch of Glenda’s orange muffins as these have become somewhat addictive for us. I had made and frozen them to take, they really last the distance very well. Not sure what made me place it on the BBQ to take a picture of, but here it is, looking back at the Murray River before it gets gobbled up.img_0184-001 Before we left I made a batch of sourdough croissants with the intention of taking them with us.img_1161They didn’t make it away and they were delicious!Sourdough croissants Finally In My Kitchen back at home was the making of the Christmas pudding. As is tradition at our place, whoever is around has to have a stir for luck. Look who I found! I’m loving having our grandson around, you turn into complete idiots entertaining him and I love every minute of it!

Pudding stirring
Pudding stirring

Thanks to Liz over at Bizzy Lizzy’s Good Things who takes the time to link us all together for these peeks into what goes on in other kitchens.

Wishing everyone a safe and happy Christmas and holiday season. I’m pretty excited about having a kitchen to entertain and cook in this year! 🙂