Monday, December 17, 2012

The christmas cooking has begun!

With school finished for the year, we had some time on the weekend to start our Christmas cooking.
Yesterday afternoon I tried a new recipe, Portuguese Christmas Cake and two batches of chocolate chip cookies. I know that the chocolate chip cookies are not very christmassy, but this years cooking list was a joint effort.

Starting a little later than usual, our baking list is just as long as previous years.

christmas cookie list

snickerdoodles (because they make these in the Barbie movie: "A Christmas Carol")
swiss chocolate christmas cookies
jasmine’s sparkly stars (the recipe for these is in my daughters princess book)
gingerbread people
scottish shortbread
dutch shortbread
vanilla christmas trees
chocolate chip cookies
monkey face cookies (the recipe for this is from the "Anne of Green Gables Treasury")

honey cookies 

christmas cooking list

fruit mince tarts
rum balls
cherry ripe slice
christmas cake

I haven't even thought about the other christmas cooking that I need to do. There is food to take along to a Christmas Eve barbecue, Christmas Day breakfast and lunch, a Boxing Day barbecue, a New Years Eve barbecue and a New Years Day Picnic.

Today we will be out all day for a children's birthday party, tomorrow I will take a quiet moment and sit with some recipe books for inspiration. Because really... it is just 9 more sleeps!

What are you cooking this Christmas? Do you have any favourite Christmas recipes?

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Jelly, peaches and ice-cream!

If you read my other blog, you may have read this post about my Nana, who, had she still been alive, would have turned 100 years old last week.

And if you are coming over from Monkeemoomoo for the first time, I have copied this below for you, from the sidebar of this blog. My Nana's roast dinners are the inspiration for the name of this blog, "jelly peaches and ice-cream".

"When I was child, we spent every Sunday night having dinner at my Nana's little cottage on her farm. The menu was the same every week, year after year. Our family wouldn't have had it any other way. We ate Nana's roast chicken with roast potatoes, roast pumpkin, peas, carrots and gravy. Dessert was always jelly, peaches and ice-cream. If you asked me what I wanted my last supper to be: this would be it. Nana's Sunday night dinner."

Last Wednesday, on the day of her birth, I decided to cook a roast dinner, just as she would have done.

While the roast was in the oven, we ate mock chicken with jatz, a party favourite of my Nana's. The tablecloth that my Nan crocheted when she was 16, was brought out for the occasion. It is quite fragile and starting to break in places, it is usually reserved only for Christmas Eve dinner.

Geraniums were cut from the garden and put in a green glass vase that had been hers. Geranium's always remind my of Nan, in fact this particular one, I broke off from outside a country pub and stuck it into the ground, just like she would have done. Much to my surprise it is thriving now, with a flush of red flowers brightening my front landing.

I used the enamel roasting tray that my Nana had bought for me when I was 16 years old. I don't know why, but I rarely use it, but it is perfect for the way she cooks her chicken. It felt good to use it.

As dinner was being prepared, familiar smells filled my kitchen. I couldn't stop smiling. At once, I was a nine year old again. I felt so happy to be now preparing this meal for my own children.

So far so good, it smelled right and even my stove top looked just like Nan's. Her saucepans, her gravy jug, enamel cookware, the chicken resting under alfoil and peas and carrots!

Once dinner was served, it certainly looked the same.

But a few things were different: one, we never had candles on the table at the farm; two, it felt weird drinking red wine with this meal, I was used to drinking fruit cup cordial instead; and three, Nana was not there and Nana did not cook it.

So "Nana's Roast" is a work in progress. I absolutely loved cooking this meal and the memories that it brought back have kept me thinking for days. I want to cook this for my children on a regular basis.

When I left home I asked Nana for her recipe. I had moved a few hours away from my hometown. I remember ringing her from my tiny flat and scribbling down her guesstimate quantities. I think back then, at 17, I cooked this few times, but it was never the same. I stop cooking it, for back then, this was made for me every single time I went home.

But now I want to try and make this as close to the original as possible. I know that it will never be the same, but if I can come close, that will be pretty good too.

Here are some notes that I have made next to that original recipe:

• Nana cooks her chicken in part water - next time I need to add more water. She always ended up with way more gravy than what I got.

•  My recipe said nothing about pumpkin, but I just added it half an hour after the potatoes and it was perfect.

• the gravy needs 1 large onion, that's enough.

• I need to put more butter on the potatoes. I know, not so good for the health conscious, but these roast potatoes are legendary in our family, there were fights over them and it was a very big deal if you got the last one. Yes, for the potatoes, more water and more butter and perhaps a little longer in the oven. Mine were good, but they couldn't touch the originals.

• Maybe less gravox than I had listed in my recipe. And if you need to thin the gravy, just add a little of the vegetable water (that you cooked the peas and carrots in) I did this the other night, just as Nana had done. Perfect, in fact the onion gravy, as always was one of the best bits.

• Cook the chicken for longer and rest the chicken for longer. My Nana's chicken would sit on the stove for hours and it was always hot and melt in you mouth tender. She started cooking early in the day. I started cooking at 5pm, naturally I couldn't hope for perfection.

Another word on the roast potatoes, my daughter proudly got the last potato the other night, she talked about her achievement for days - "Ha Ha, I got the last potato!" To anyone in my family reading this - Does that sound familiar?

After a long trip down memory lane over dinner, it was time for dessert.

Jelly - aeroplane jelly, Nana would make red, green or orange. Peaches - tinned and sliced, never halved. Ice-cream - only ever vanilla (I think it was Pauls or was it Peters?) All I know is, Nan was very particular about the brand of ice-cream. Sometimes Nana would also have custard, instant. I only like Birds instant custard and I am convinced that this is the brand Nana used too.

We had it all... In Nana's bowls with Nana's spoons.

And can I tell you something, the last time I ate this was when Nana was alive. My goodness, over the last eight years, I have been missing out! This is soooo good!

Maybe it's nostalgia? Maybe not.

Eat this now. Forget for just one day, all of those nagging questions:  

"What about all of that sugar and additives and colouring in the jelly?" or "Where do these peaches really come from? How much processing goes into making them?" or "What is really in this ice-cream - preservatives, e numbers and reconstituted milk - really!?" or "What is custard powder actually made of ?" 

Just for one day.

And here is something that would have made my Nana smile. My little boy, eating jelly, peaches, ice-cream and custard, all in separate bowls! The next night (yes, we had it again) he took a leap of faith and mixed them all together in the one bowl.

He is converted.

It just has to be said, that a very special someone once cooked this roast dinner for me, it was along time ago, in her home in Brisbane. It was very, very close to our Nana's. Do you have any tips Mrs Gooseberry?

I would love to know what favourite food or meal your Nana or Grandma cooked for you?
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