Sunday, 27 December 2009

Christmas cooking and baking

Seasons greetings and merry belated Christmas to all!!
I can't believe that I've been back at home for almost a week and now, its almost time to go back to Blighty :(

So what have I been up to for the last few days? A combination of last minute shopping for presents and ingredients followed by lots of time spent in the kitchen cooking up goodies.

 No mince pies this year - just a little Christmas cake with toasted almond paste icing "a la Darina Allen". Decided to use the fruit cake recipe from school and it tasted pretty good, maybe needs a bit more fruit to be like a proper Chrimbo cake.....and dare I say it, more booze! :)

Standby treats for Christmas Eve visitors - clementine mini-madeleines. Easy to make and always go down a treat. Known to convert cake sceptics! :)

This year, after watching Jamie Oliver whip up Christmas dinner on the telly, I decided that it looked relatively easy and took up the challenge of cooking dinner for the big day!! Lots of work but the day itself wasn't as frantic as I had imagined - turkey didn't go into the oven until 2pm and we were sat down to dinner by around 6pm? I think the key is to try and get as much prep work done in the days beforehand. I also had the luxury of having Ma Chan in the kitchen as my sous chef/plongeur, brilliant!! So, what was on the menu?

Mediterranean style vegetable quiche (roasted peppers, aubergine, courgette) with mixed salad and sunriped tomatoes. The quiche was pretty tasty but had to go with a savoury shortcrust recipe from Raymond Blanc cos I forgot to bring back recipe from school - need something a bit more buttery next time!

Traditional Christmas dinner - roast turkey (first time carving the whole bird!) and all trimmings (bar a ham!) - gravy, cranberry sauce, roast spuds, roast parsnips, roast carrots and brussel sprouts with bacon and chestnuts.

Dessert should've been a walk in the park but I decided it would be a bit of a laugh and dice with death to make the elusive chocolate fondant! The recipe came courtesy of my kind ex-colleagues in HK so I was confident that it would taste good - the only problem was that I never asked how long the cooking time would take? A lot of guesswork and as you can see, the first attempt at unmoulding was a disaster! In the end, it was a little overcooked which was a pity - at least it wasn't cooked through which would've been an absolute disaster!! The poached pears worked well with the chocolate, the ice cream was a little melted (bought in, not homemade!) and I really need to work on my quenelle making! I have since contacted the experts in HK and found out approximate cooking times, as well as another all-important tip - the mould must be lined with baking parchment inside!!!! Must try again! :)
I think Christmas dinner was enjoyed by all so worth all the time and effort!

I also gave myself an ambitious task to try and make millefeuille at home - a little worried about the "feuilletage inverse" melting on me whilst rolling but was surprised that this step was pretty straightforward! I had the same problem with the chocolate fondant in that I had no idea how to bake the feuilletage (chef forgot to write any temperatures or cooking times in our recipe book, c'est quoi ca, chef?!) so it was guesswork a little came out pretty good but I need to roll it out a bit thinner next time and also ask chef if we put a tray on top of the feuilletage to press it down a bit? I can barely remember anything from our millefeuille class!! Pastry cream was also made without too much problem (I'm always scared of it now ever since my Paris-Brest fiasco!) The final products were a little wobbly but they tasted good and I had enough to bring to a close family friend who regularly checks my blog and his whole clan gave me the thumbs up! :)

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