While most of us are still getting over our overindulgent Christmas celebrations, it is time to start thinking about celebrating New Years Eve. New Years Eve tends to be a time for reflecting back on the past year (2012 was quite a roller coaster ride for me with a few lows but plenty of highs), remembering everything I have to be grateful for and looking forward to what lies ahead. For me, it also tends to be a time shared with friends, while Christmas is focused around spending quality time with family.
To help get you in a celebratory mood, I wanted to share this cocktail recipe with you. Nothing says celebration quite like the sound of a champagne cork popping (or in Australia, locally produced sparkling wine). For a delicious, affordable Australian sparkling wine, I recommend Yellowglen Cremant.
This drink combines the fizz of sparkling wine with the summer flavours of mint and passionfruit. I normally use Lemoncello, an Italian lemon liquor in this recipe, but my favourite local bottle shop Kemneys was all out, so I improvised and used Cointreau instead. You could use any citrus flavoured liquor you have available.
Wishing you a happy and healthy new year.
- 125mls ruby red grapefruit (zest before juicing, if you want to include zest in your recipe)
- 125mls Cointreau, Lemoncello or citrus liquor
- 5 passionfruit
- 20 mint leaves
- Sparkling wine or champagne
- Zest the grapefruit if you are adding zest to your recipe for extra citrus tang
- Juice the grapefruit, and add 125mls to a container with the zest
- Cut the passionfruit in half, and scrape the seeds and juice into the container
- Add the Cointreau or Lemoncello
- Finely chop the mint and add to the punch mix
- Stir your punch mix to combine, then freeze. Because of the high alcohol content the punch mix won’t freeze firm and you will end up with a slushy icy mix.
- When ready to serve, spoon a generous amount of your icy punch mix into a champagne glass, and top with sparking wine or champagne. Your sparkling punch cocktail is ready to serve. Enjoy.
What is your favourite New Years Eve ritual? Has this post inspired any new ideas?
As Christmas gets closer, I wanted to share with you a cocktail recipe that I think looks very festive with red and green colours. I can’t claim the Japanese Slipper cocktail recipe as my own, but I am borrowing it to include in my post today.
I used maraschino cherries or glace cherries, and managed to track down ones with the stems still intact. The stems make it easier to fish the cherry out of the bottom of your cocktail glass to eat when you have finished your drink. I don’t normally like maraschino cherries, but there is something kitch and appropriate about their bright red colour and candy like taste in this drink.
I’ve given quantities for one drink, but you can of course scale depending on how many you are catering for.
If limes are hard to come by or expensive, you could substitute lemon juice, or use half lemon and half lime juice.
- 1 maraschino cherry with stem
- 30mls lime juice
- 30mls Midori melon liqueur
- 30mls Cointreau liqueur
- Add a cherry to the bottom of your serving glass, I like to use a martini glass, but you could use a champagne glass or whatever else you think will look good.
- Fill up your cocktail shaker with ice
- Add the lime juice, Midori and Cointreau to the cocktail shaker
- Shake until everything is combined and chilled
- Strain your cocktail into the glass, keeping the ice out of your drink. Your cocktail is ready to serve. Enjoy.
What is your favourite Christmas cocktail? Has this post inspired any new ideas?
Continuing with my Christmas theme, I wanted to share my Christmas Trifle recipe. Cherries are abundant in Australia at Christmas time, so I have combined cherries with the more traditionally European Christmas flavours of gingerbread and mulled wine inspired custard. If you can’t get fresh cherries you could use tinned or jarred cherries, but I don’t recommend you use maraschino cherries.
This recipe uses quantities when you are cooking for a crowd, for occasions when you are asked to bring a desert to share for a large family or other Christmas gathering. You may end up with extra gingerbread left over depending on the size of the serving dish(es) you use. If you are catering for smaller numbers, you could half the quantities of everything and make a smaller batch of trifle.
If you are catering for vegetarians, vegetarian jelly is available from Kosher or Asian supermarkets. You could make some alcohol free trifles for the kids with a cherry or berry jelly, then use port wine jelly for the brandy infused adults version.
The gingerbread does seem to have an alarming amount of sugar and golden syrup, but the spices do balance this out and you end up with a sticky gingerbread.
I mentioned in my candy cane chip chocolate ice cream post, if you are worried about your custard splitting or turning into scrambled eggs, half fill the sink with cold water and ice cubes so that you can set the saucepan in the cool water to immediately stop the cooking once it starts to thicken. If you do happen to split the custard slightly, you can sometimes save it by blending thoroughly in a blender to recombine everything (after removing the vanilla bean, cinnamon stick, star anise and cloves).
- 500g cherries, pitted [you might need plastic gloves for this because cherries can stain your hands, clothes, etc.]
- 2 packets jelly
- Spiced custard
- Make the gingerbread and spiced custard according to the recipes below. Allow gingerbread and custard to cool completely.
- Make the jelly according to packet instructions and refrigerate until almost set.
- You can either make individual trifles in small glass cups / bowls, or a large one. I like to use glass so that you can see all the layers. Add a layer of gingerbread to the bottom of the bowl[s]. Next add cherries, then top with custard, leaving about 1cm at the top for the jelly
- Gently spoon over the almost set jelly and refrigerate the whole lot until set and ready to eat.
- 2 cups self-raising flour
- 2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon mixed spice
- 1 cup milk
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- 125g butter
- 1 cup golden syrup
- Melt butter and syrup in saucepan over low heat until butter is melted.
- Add the flour & spices together into food processor bowl. Add sugar eggs, milk and butter syrup and mix well [or if you don’t have a food processor use a mixer or beaters or wooden spoon].
- Pour into tins – I use cupcake tins. Bake for 40 minutes at 170°C [fan-forced] or 180°C normal oven. Remove from oven when cooked – ie skewer comes out clean or the gingerbread springs back with lightly touched.
- 500mls full cream milk
- 500mls thickened cream
- 100g sugar
- 5 large egg yolks and 5 large whole eggs
- 2 vanilla pods or 1 tspn vanilla paste or 2 tspns vanilla essence
- zest from one orange
- 6 whole cloves
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg or mace
- 1 star anise
- 2 tablespoons brandy [or calvados – apple brandy] *optional*
- Put the milk and cream in a saucepan with the sugar.
- Split vanilla pod in half, scrape out seeds, add vanilla seeds to the pan, together with the scraped pods. [Or just add the vanilla paste or essence if using.]
- Add the cloves, cinnamon stick, nutmeg or mace, star anise, eggs and egg yolks.
- Whisk to combine the eggs, and place the saucepan on medium heat on the stove top.
- Cook, stirring continuously with a wooden spoon until it thickens.
- Immediately remove the pan from the heat, add the brandy (if using) and strain the custard through a sieve into a chilled bowl or jug. Cover and allow to cool.
What is your favourite dish to bring along to a large get together? Has this post inspired any new ideas?
As we move into December, the count down to Christmas has well and truly begun. Here is a dessert idea to get you in the Christmas spirit – candy cane chip chocolate ice cream. Growing up in Australia where Christmas falls in summer, and as Christmas is prone to over indulgence, ice cream seems to work perfectly for dessert, because no matter how full you are there always is a little bit of room left for ice cream. This ice cream could go alongside your Christmas pudding, trifle, pavlova or whatever else you are having or is great on its’ own.
I cook the custard over a fairly high heat, if you are not as brave you can cook over a lower temperature, it will just take longer. If you are worried about your custard splitting or turning into scrambled eggs, half fill the sink with cold water and ice cubes so that you can set the saucepan in the cool water to immediately stop the cooking once it starts to thicken. If you do happen to split the custard slightly, you can sometimes save it by blending thoroughly in a blender to recombine everything. If you wanted to make this recipe extra indulgent, you could use half cream, half milk. You could use the left over egg whites to make meringues or a pavlova, and remember, egg whites freeze well.
Candy Cane Chip Chocolate Ice Cream
* Please note you will need an ice cream machine for this recipe.
- 500mls full cream milk
- 75g sugar
- 4 large egg yolks, plus 2 whole eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
- 100g good quality dark chocolate, chopped
- 10 mini candy canes, plus extra to decorate
- Put the eggs, sugar, vanilla and milk in a saucepan. Whisk to combine.
- Cook on a medium to high heat, whisking continuously until the custard thickens slightly.
- Immediately remove the pan from the heat, add the chocolate and stir until melted and combined. Cover and allow to chill in the fridge.
- Pour the chilled chocolate custard into an ice cream machine and churn.
- Peel your candy canes, and add them to a brown paper bag or put them in some grease proof paper.
- Using a rolling-pin or something heavy, smash the candy canes into pieces.
- When the ice cream is firm, add the crumbled candy canes and churn to mix.
- Transfer ice cream to a container and put into the freezer.
- To serve, put into fridge to soften slightly up to half an hour before serving. Enjoy.
What is your favourite Christmas recipe? Has this post inspired any new ideas?
Last Saturday morning I discovered a new farmers market at Bondi Public School (5 Wellington Street Bondi NSW 2026). It was only the second week the market had been running, so there wasn’t a heap of stalls competing for attention, but the stalls that were there had excellent produce. There were fresh pastas, a mushroom guy, cherries, a few fruit and veggie stalls and a very reasonably priced flower and potted herbs stall. I hope it continues to grow in popularity and more stalls are attracted along. I couldn’t walk past the enormous bunches of basil being sold by one of the stalls, with roots intact. I love the smell of a fresh bunch of basil, and it inspired me to make a batch of pesto.
There are unlimited variations on the pesto theme, I have made a pistachio and lemon pesto, but you could substitute walnut oil and walnuts, or any other flavoured oils, nuts or herbs to come up with new twists on the classic.
You will never want to reach for the supermarket shelf version after you make your own pesto and see how easy and delicious it is. I tip with pesto that I have found very handy, is that it freezes really well, so when basil is at a good price I make a large batch and freeze any leftovers I’m not using straight away in small containers, ready to defrost and use as needed in the future. If you don’t have a food processor, you could use a pestle and mortar or even finely chop the ingredients minus the oils, then add to the oils.
If you are not sure what to do with your pesto once you have made it, the options are enormous, some examples that spring to mind include tossing it through pasta, added in a sandwich, mixed in with scrambled eggs or used to make a potato salad.
Pistachio and Lemon Pesto
- 50g shelled pistachios
- 1 large bunch of basil
- 1 small clove of garlic
- 50g grated parmesan
- 2 tablespoons of pistachio oil
- 3 tablespoons of lemon infused olive oil
- zest and juice of 1 small lemon
- Heat oven to 180°C and toast your pistachios for 10 minutes.
- Allow the pistachios to cool.
- Pick your basil leaves and add to your food processor bowl (don’t worry if some of the younger tender stalks make their way into the bowl).
- Add the pistachios, garlic, parmesan, pistachio oil, lemon olive oil, lemon juice and zest to the food processor bowl.
- Blitz the food processor until everything is just combined. Your pesto is ready to use or transfer to containers for later use. Enjoy.
What is your favourite use for herbs? Has this post inspired any new ideas?