My husband’s family are visiting from Wisconsin tomorrow so posting will be sporadic as we carry out the necessary sightseeing and entertaining expected of the hosts. It will give us a good opportunity to wave goodbye to the heavy seasonal food for another 12 months. It would seem that the Miso Soup diet is on the cards. Again.
For now though, be bedazzled by the following shots of our Christmas delicacies: the pudding, the cake and the Buche de Noel, all of which were met with great approval. In fact, everything culinary was executed without a hitch – the ribs of beef were perfectly tender, the sprouts didn’t turn to mush. Almost a perfect meal - quite a rarity when you consider all the trimmings that have to be prepared too.
Actually, my mum was in charge of the kitchen on Christmas Day. I have to cook a second meal, this time a Turkey, which I’m going to brine first and, because I’m cooking for exclusively Americans (myself excluded), I can eschew all the usual British trimmings in favour of a more simple meal. More on that later.
But back to the Christmas puds. I have spent so long waiting for them to be eaten that it seems churlish not to give them the heads up they deserve.
Firstly, the Buche de Noel, effectively a rubbery chocolate sponge made purely with eggs, cocoa and sugar, filled with a rich chestnut cream and iced with a fudgy butter icing. I had heard terrible things about making the Buche de Noel: the cake would crack and be a dreadful disaster. As the cake cooled in its Swiss Roll tin it resembled a flat, chocolate coloured piece of mattress padding. Texture wise it was very much the same: this isn’t a cake you would want to eat without its luxurious mantle of chocolate and chestnut creams.
The rolling process turned out to be very easy. Because the sponge has no flour in it, it doesn’t have the heavy, open texture that a regular sponge cake does. Being gentle but confident, it rolled like a dream, the rich chestnut puree holding it together. No cracks even. I was so pleased with myself that I kept rubbing my hands together with glee. I whisked up a butter icing, richly flavoured with some more chestnut puree, which lends a sumptuous fudge-like texture and cocoa powder. A final dusting of icing sugar on the big day (I made the log on Christmas Eve) and it looked as Christmassy as you could hope for.
The pudding, which started its second steaming at 11.30am, was greeted by my family with more oohs and aahs than usual, thanks to a flaming blue veil of vodka. It only burnt for about 30 seconds but they were 30 auspicious seconds. According to those who tasted it (I am not a fan of the great Xmas pud), it was less sweet than supermarket brands, the figs and other dried fruits were prominent and, if they hadn’t eaten lunch first, they would have had seconds. No more can be asked for.
Finally the cake. After pudding and Buche de Noel, no one could manage a slice. However, thanks to my mums artistic nature (which I, sadly, haven’t inherited) it looked beautiful so who cares what it tasted like?
So, I have guests to attend to. The turkey is now brining. You could say that it’s going to be wined, dined and brined. I’m a big fan of brining poultry: it tenderises the meat and makes it taste as it should, which is great if your budget can’t stretch to organic meat. A whole turkey is the biggest critter that I’ve brined so far though. Watch this space….