Misc.

CHRISTMAS!

MERRY CHRISTMAS one and all! It was an absolutely divine christmas for both myself and my parents yesterday, and I still am reeling from all the delicious food and wine. Our tradition was at first to go out to a fancy restaurant for christmas, but over time it shifted to us going to a friend’s house where she would cook up an amazing christmas feast for us. I have precious memories of christmas with Polly and her family, including playing poker, lawn bowls, and laughing and eating a lot. But this year we did things slightly differently by getting other people – us included – to bring food as well so that the pressure wasn’t entirely on Polly, and I for one feel that nothing was lost or not as good as in previous years as a result.

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So we started off with the usual chips, bread and dip. And bear in mind all photos were taken with my dad’s iphone, so that’s why they’re not as sharp or as good a quality as if I had taken them with Atticus, my DLSR. But I enjoyed the beetroot dip, something I didn’t use to have a taste for. And very soon our table started to get more full.

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On the table were a range of magnificent dishes, my favourite at this stage being the gingerbread house created by Polly and the dish of turkey just past the quiche. I have always been a big fan of Polly’s turkey, and I was quick to dive straight into it when we started eating. But what first caught my eye were these –

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I am not a prawn fan, anybody can tell you this. But there was something simply spectacular about the colour of these enormous prawns and their smell was also very fresh. I knew my mother would be straight into them because she is, and always will be, a prawn fan. She loves prawns, big or small, and christmas for her means a prawn-stravaganza. So I was glad to see there were plenty for her and the other guests.

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But soon our table became much more fuller. It was a delicious array of foods with some newer salads and one enormous container of potato gratin. I don’t really have many memories of eating potato gratin outside of christmas with Polly and her family, and I do remember one of the first I ate was cooked by her husband Steve. It’s a very special dish that no one else outside of these christmas gatherings seems to thrill me with, and this year I think it was actually another guest who cooked it – and cooked it perfectly. I don’t know what it is about Polly and her friends, but they are just amazingly kind and talented people.

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Naughtily I stayed away from the salads because I wanted to eat as much turkey, chicken and potato gratin as possible before dessert. I got a semi-scolding for it, but the deliciousness I had already collected on my plate was worth it. And better still combining the chicken, turkey and potato gratin created an amazing flavour which to me will always be a christmas flavour. I ate as much as I could, and then enjoyed a glass of cherry wine, bought from the farmer’s markets.

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I seriously recommend trying cherry wine. It’s a beautiful, rich flavour and even though it is quite high in alcohol some of the time it’s worth it. As you can see I kept my glass only partially full because I was aware of the possibility that I might have to drive home, or that cocktails might have been served as in previous years. But I was soon distracted from my wine by everybody complimenting a pretty delicious mango salsa, whipped up by Polly’s son Caleb.

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It was put together to go with the ham, and my mum and dad went wild for it. I thought it was pretty good too, but personally I would have preferred to eat the entire mango all by myself! But it would have spoiled me for dessert, which was simply amazing.

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Aside from this amazing gingerbread house, there were a couple of other desserts. I was super excited for one of them because Polly’s chocolate pots are very special to me. I have memories of eating them for the first time as a little girl, and it’s one of those memories I often hark back to when I think of where my love for cooking started. It’s true I got started in cooking because of my mum, but it was when I met people like Polly and saw the incredible, delicious things she could make that I really felt – hey, I want to do that. I want to bring people together like that and I want to make people happy like that. It’s no secret Polly is my favourite chef, and I was excited to get some tips from her when she prepared another of the desserts.

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Creme brûlée is one of my favourite desserts, but getting the topping just right is not easy. I was happy to get to watch Polly put the sugar layer together and to see her technique for turning it to toffee. And I think that with practise I might be able to achieve the same, perfect result. But perhaps the next dessert would take me a lot longer to learn how to make.

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It was my first time seeing Banoffee Pie, and I have to tell you it was simply amazing. Stuart who cooked it up was also very helpful and friendly, and he chatted with me and told me all about how he’d put it together. It was an amazing dish, very sweet – but not overly so, and the rich mix of flavours was fantastic. It’s definitely something I want to try baking, but I feel it’ll be a greater challenge than what I’m used to so It’ll be extra fun!

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And of course the chocolate pots, which I mentioned above. It was a delicious, nostalgic treat and my parents wolfed them down as well. I took mine slowly so that I could savour the rich flavours and the smooth, creamy texture, and then had to resist the urge to get another one! But the desserts weren’t all sweets and sugar, there was also a fine bowl of mango and blueberries which was delicious as well.

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But perhaps for me the best gift of all were the ones Polly gave and her family gave us at the end. I received an amazing recipe folder, which I love immensely, and a matching white board to put on the fridge that works very well for writing out lists as well as messages. And for the family we got this beautiful glass jar with hand-made pecan drop biscuits inside. It’s amazing!

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So I hope you all have had as merry a christmas as I have, and I wish you all the best for the new year!

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