First of all - Happy New Year to you, readers of my blog. I hope this year is an excellent one for all (two) of you.....and, hello Mother.
That out of the way, for my first post of 2010, lets talk about Christmas Eve 2009.
Every Christmas Eve for the past few years, I host a big blowout around my place for mine and the GF's respective families. Lots of booze, lots of food and lots of dressed up to the nines, knee high, nieces and nephews (try saying that after a glass or two) running up and down the hall and absent mindedly trailing their sticky dirty hands along my oh so impractical white minimalist walls.
I enjoy it immensely though.
I love hosting a big family get together, and I love providing the food and drink.
Even though, invariably the preparation, which takes all day - normally descends into chaos with time running out, sweating, swearing, tempers flaring.......I still enjoy it. Once its finally done, and I've had a drink or three.
The families enjoy it too, otherwise they wouldn't keep coming back I guess.
This year, I thought I'd try a few new things....mix it up a bit.
The Coco book which I reviewed last year here, has a section on Lyndy Redding with some fantastic looking canape recipes, although these are completely untested by me (which isn't always the best idea when your under pressure to deliver, as Ive found to my cost at a few dinner parties.....Lemon and Orange tart - my nemesis...I'm thinking of you).
But being awesomely stupid, I decided to try a few anyway, along with a few old favourites from previous years.
So, a few days before the event I worked feverishly into the night, listing, plotting, planning, crossing out, umming, ahhhing and finally - I had it. A buffet menu for just under 20 people....I was going to cook all of it, no doubt losing a bit more of my sanity....perhaps the tip of a finger, and some hair.....but it would all be worth it.....the menu looked like this....
Extra Long Cheese Straws (From Coco)
Salt and Pepper crusted beef fillet skewers with horseradish skewers (from Coco)
Pea and Mint tartlets with Feta and Mint (From Coco)
My Famous Club Sandwiches.
Pork and Sweetcorn Fritters with roasted red pepper dip (Based on an Ottolenghi recipe)
Goats Cheese and Red Onion Toasts (The GF's contribution, and by far the most popular thing...much to my disgust).
Mushroom and Alloi toasts
And the normal selection of Olives, Twiglets, kettle chips, couple of cheeses (which no one eats), crackers etc etc.
Oh, and I also planned on making mulled wine, the scent is so evocative of Christmas....really makes the place smell fantastic and sets the mood. I'd seen a Rowley Leigh (of Le Cafe Anglais fame) recipe in ES magazine.....it looked suitably paint strippingly, alcoholic, exactly what I wanted.
So, Christmas Eve found me working steadily in the kitchen,...I seemingly had loads of time, totally on the ball.
A few hours later - I was starting to worry....
I had loads left to make, some of it couldn't be made till the last minute, otherwise it wouldn't be that fresh....I'd forgotten things and had to go out to track down shallots and sherry.....
The Coco recipes seemed to be a bit hit and miss.....cheese straw recipe omitting how thick to roll out puff-pastry to make the specified 50.....the pea and mint tartlet recipe left me with about half of the mix left over.....
I was starting to freak out.
I'd run down the shops earlier throwing on a jumble of clothes, the first things that came to hand....that suave Christmas eve host look, as I mingled dispensing canapes and witty comments? I looked like a particularly vile and repulsive tramp.
Its ok though....I still had an hour and a half till they were going to arrive. Head down, I could do this....
I glanced back at my watch seemingly 10 mins later.....the hour and a half had gone, vanished. I still wasn't finished, and my guests were supposed to be arriving 10 mins ago. (Thank God for fashionably late). I needed a shower, the kitchen was a mess, I looked terrible...
Into this Maelstrom the GF had come home from work and attempted to help......by moaning that she didn't know what to wear....and stopping me mid panic, asking me to help her open a bottle of Champagne....(I almost lost it at that point - I really did).
I don't know how.....but somehow, I pulled it out of the bag....I managed to throw on some suitably debonair hosting clothes....(smoking jacket, cravat and Pyjama bottoms 'a la' Hugh Hefner if you must ask).
My last job was cooking the beef skewers on the griddle pan, and I made the mulled wine while my guests were arriving.
It was done. I could relax.....
Everyone was happy, my family was here.... it was Christmas Eve....the nieces and nephews were going nuts.....Sinatra and the Rat Pack were supplying suitably festive music.... the place smelt of cinnamon and cloves, Right there and then, I wouldn't have wanted to be anywhere else.
The food pretty much all went, the most popular item being the beef skewers with horseradish cream which disappeared in minutes.....
followed by the GF's goat cheese and onion relish toasts, which are always incredibly popular.
The Pea and Mint Feta tartlets - were ok.....I wouldn't make them again.
The Cheese Straws were bloody gorgeous.....I had to explain I'd actually made them, because everyone thought by the look of them, they'd been bought.
Oh - the mulled wine went down very well.....I ended up drinking most of it myself, and was in quite a festive state.
For posterity - here's a few of the recipes.....
Rowley Leigh's Mulled Wine
(Makes 15 glasses)
2 Bottles of Red Wine
8 strips of orange peel
8 strips of lemon peel
1 cinnamon stick
5 pieces of star anise
3 bay leaves
a few shards of mace
200g soft brown/muscovado sugar
1/4 bottle of port
1/4 bottle of brandy
Method - Heat all the ingredients, except the port and brandy to just below boiling point. Then add the port and brandy and serve
My Famous Club Sandwiches
(Makes a tray full)
12 slices toast, buttered one side.
Salad leaves of your choosing
Couple of handfulls of grated Cheddar Cheese.
8 Slices of Bacon - fried.
1 Red Onion, finely chopped.
French's American Mustard
4 thick Slices of Chicken or Turkey Breast
Cocktail sticks to hold the sandwiches together.
Lay out four slices of toast, buttered side up and build the sandwich up - it's a triple decker deal. You can do this anyway you want, but I normally give it a squirt of Mayo, grated cheese, chopped onion, the bacon and some salad leaves....then the next piece of toast on.....a squirt of mustard, the Turkey or Chicken, more grated cheese and chopped onion, and more salad leaves. Finally the last piece of toast.....cut diagonally into four 'V's and put a cocktail stick through each. Arrange on a plate, and grind black pepper and grate Parmesan over the lot.
(Makes about 50)
200g Plain Flour
1 tsp dried yeast
4 large eggs
140g grated cheddar
55g grated Parmesan
Pre-Heat the oven to 210C.
Mix the flour and yeast in a bowl.
Put the butter in a pan with 250ml of water and 1/2 tsp salt. Bring to the boil and immediately tip the yeast and flour into the boiling liquid, beat until smooth with a wooden spoon.
Remove from the heat
Beat in the eggs, one at a time.
Beat in the Cheddar and Parmesan
Line a baking sheet with non-stick parchment, and pipe or spoon little balls of the mixture, about the size of 50 pence pieces.
Bake in the oven for 8-10 mins.