Saturday, January 1, 2011

'Tis the season to eat, eat and eat some more

I'm back on the blog now that the festive(aka overeating/over-indulging) season is over. I'm also back on track with my quest to cook many new dishes, try new foods and generally indulge myself in everything food related.

As well as enjoying some fabulous meals (and accompanying warm hospitality with some all around wonderful peeps) that other foodies prepared during Christmas week (including spiced pear vodka cocktails, Beef Wellington cooked perfectly, divine stuffed pork tenderloins, homemade ravioli and a fantastic Christmas brunch), I cooked a Christmas day meal with all the trimmings for myself and a special guest, Ms K. We started with carrot and ginger soup which I had made several times recently due to it's carrot-y deliciousness and general orange-ness. It's really easy to make and everyone that has sampled it has licked their bowl clean, myself included. The original recipe is from New Covent Garden Soup Company "Soup for All Seasons", but I have modified it a bit with the addition of the Maple Syrup, inspired by my very own Maple-Maniac, Ms MJ.

Carrot and Ginger soup
1 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, diced
8 medium carrots, diced
1 tsp ginger, minced (I love ginger so I add more than this)
500ml chicken stock
1-2tbsp pure Maple Syrup
salt and pepper

Heat olive oil in a pan. (don't use EVOO, the smoke point is too low for this).
Add the onion and cook gently for 5 mins without colouring.
Add the carrots, ginger and stock. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer for 20 mins until carrots are soft.
Blend until smooth, add seasoning and maple syrup and Bob's your mother's brother, your soup is ready!

The orange is so bright and it's a pretty thick soup so you may want to thin it out with some more stock or even some cream if you can eat dairy.I like to serve it with a thick toasted slice of Squirrely bread or Cape Seed Bread from Cobs Breads. Basically something with seeds and a lot of crunch.

The main course was turkey of course. There were only 2 of us for this meal but it's not Christmas without a turkey so I had a small one (is that an oxymoron?). I kept it simple and put a halved onion, halved lemon and halved garlic bulb in the cavity. I patted the turkey dry, rubbed a garlic clove over the skin and sprinkled with salt, pepper, dried thyme and dried rosemary. I put it in the oven at 350 for about 3.5 hours and then for the last 30 mins or so, I placed strips of bacon over the turkey and turned up the heat to 400.

While all that was doing it's thing cooking away, I made some side dishes of roasted baby potatoes, mashed maple sweet potato and Brussels sprouts with bacon and chestnuts. The last side dish I sort of made it up, but anything with bacon will taste good so I wasn't worried.
Everything tasted great and the turkey looked fab (thanks again to bacon), I didn't want to carve it up!

Dessert was also prepared earlier in the day, Poached Pears in red wine.My Guest for the day, Ms K, made this dish for me several years ago and I have made it many times since as it's so easy but it's visually rich and also healthy. It's also allergy friendly.

Poached Pears in Red Wine
100g sugar
150ml dry red wine (I use Shiraz usually)
150 ml water
1 strip lemon rind
1 tsp ground cinnamon
8-10 small pears ( I used 4 larger pears)
50g blanched almonds, split and toasted to finish (or almond slivers)

Put sugar, wine, water, lemon rind and cinnamon in a large pan and heat gently until sugar dissolves.
Peel pears (I did not do this), cutting off core at base and leaving stalks on. Add to pan, cover and simmer gently for 20-25 mins or until soft and coloured by wine. Remove from pan with a slotted spoon and stand upright in a heat proof dish. Set aside.
Increase heat and boil liquid in pan rapidly until a syrup forms. Allow to cool slightly. Remove lemon rind and pour over pears.
Chill in fridge for several hours, spooning syrup regularly over pears.
Add almonds just before serving.

I guarantee this dish will wow any guests and you can do a lot with the presentation too. I recommend a white serving dish to contrast with the rich ruby red of the wine reduction.

I received 2 fabulous cookbooks for Christmas too which I am itching to crack open. That will start next week and many posts will follow.

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