Saturday, 20 December 2008 by kinakoJam
Last night we decided to have a Christmas dinner with our friends Demi & Carmen before they went to visit their families in the countryside.
I found a bunch of recipes on websites (something I rarely do - I prefer the analog world of cookbooks), and Carmen heated up some apple wine from a quirky old commune called Matsch & Brei ('smash & mash'), where they grow the apple trees in the traditional German permaculture style. The reason she heated it and added cinnamon and cloves, was due to her experience serving it to a family in Chicago, whose reaction was that it tasted like vomit. It is sort of watery, sour and dry, but I found that served this way I enjoyed it.
While meat, mashed potatoes, mint sauce and gravy might be the backbone of a kiwi christmas, having lived in Germany for a few years, this kind of solid repast isn't especially celebratory to me anymore. Plus I'm not necessarily a huge fan of traditional roasted meats: give me simmered, sautéed, smoked, braised or barbecued any day. It's great to have such hearty pub-food at the Brauhaus from time to time, but to feel like I'm making real seasonal celebrational dishes, I want something that doesn't feel like everyday fare: something with buttery spiciness, creaminess, apples and oranges. Preferably arranged in huge piles.
With the recipes gleaned from sites like Epicurious and the Fork in the Road blog, we did an all-vege menu: with two of us cooking the whole thing took probably an hour and a half.
1) Potato gratin with strips of poblano chile. This was realllly good. For those of us not living in places where fresh poblanos are readily accessible, you can quite easily buy little tins of rajas (poblano strips) from Mexican import companies. We used a 250 g tin.
2)Broccoli with wine, citrus zest & garlic
. This was the only dish that didn't make me break out in 'ooh's and 'aaah's, but the slight bitterness and the citrus zest added a lot to the overall Christmas vibes of the table. Marks for effort.
3) Savoy cabbage coleslaw with creamy mustard-apple vinaigrette & walnuts. Refreshing and crunchy, I really enjoyed this, though Germans who like their kraut-salat a bit softer could prepare it the day before serving.
4) Buttery green beans with ginger & roasted, salted crushed cashews. Simply: DOPE.
5) Little baby jesus cake. Obviously, the main reason I wanted to make this was because of the name. It's a lighter version of sticky date pudding: there's three tablespoons of butter in the cake itself, with two more (and a half cup of cream) in the sauce. I baked it in a flan/quiche dish so it took less time to cook than the recipe says, about 30 minutes: count on the full recipe serving eight people, otherwise you will end up eating it for breakfast with a hint of regret, as I did. Easy to whip it up while your guests are festively huddling around the computer after the main course, looking at sneakers online.
Serve dessert warm, straight out of the oven, with butter & brown sugar sauce, persimmon and greek yoghurt. Complimented by Pegovino grenache/syrah and a sentimental 80s flick like When Harry Met Sally.
I found that Meg Ryan goes over quite well when you're on your third serving of Baby Jesus.