It’s that time of year again, come around before we even had time to say “Ho, ho, ho.” (Or “humbug,” depending on our attitude…).
In amongst the hype associated with the holiday season, there is plenty to genuinely and less frantically celebrate: the coming of fine (or at least warmer) weather; the long summer evenings; time with family; time to relax if we play our cards right. And summer food is a great reason to celebrate!
Many people have fond memories of little rituals related to celebrations, and most often those relate to the Christmas/New Year season. It might be a little stash of ageing Christmas tree decorations, lovingly dragged out each year in remembrance of past Christmases and friends and family now gone. It might also be the traditional tiffs and huffs that break out among assorted uncles, aunts, cousins twice removed and aged grandparents when they are forced into each other’s company for just a little too long and after just a little too much Christmas cheer, but which somehow keep on happening every year anyway and just seem to be part of the seasonal wallpaper… And of course, it might be the traditional or even completely non-traditional food that we associate with the holiday.
For those with young families, new celebration traditions are just beginning, as children start to form the memories that will be part of their lives forever. So it would be good to have those memories centre on times of pleasure and relaxation, rather than frantic consumerism. A nice thought, which might also save a lot of time, money, and angst if followed through!
What you do to establish good memories is going to depend a lot on what your family’s enthusiasms are. All the hype in the catering magazines might suit some people down to the ground, and holidays in expensive resorts might do it for others, but if your idea of a good time is camping at the beach with some sausages browning in the frying pan, go for it. You’ll be happy, and that’s what will be remembered. And as has been long known, memories, good and bad, are often associated with smells and food. For some people it’s sausages that bring back recollections of happy summer holidays; for others, it might be steamed puddings, or roast chickens, or strawberries warmed by the sun. See what you can come up with that allows your favourite food to be associated with happy times and celebration.
If you love cooking, you will have a happy time indulging your passions over the holiday season, and those around you will help you out by wallowing in the delights you create. If the thought of catering a three course meal for ten brings you out in hives, just don’t! Either get someone else to do it, get the whole family to help, or give up all pretence at style and do something really, really easy.
If really, really easy appeals, here are a few recipes that are simple (the kids can do them!) and most unlikely to go wrong, even if you get distracted opening presents, talking to Aunt Maisie, or just sitting in the sun. Happy Christmas!
Saucy Chicken Drumsticks
(Very yummy, very easy to make and can be scaled up depending on how many you have to feed)
To serve 4:
- 8 chicken drumsticks
- 1 tbsp oil
- 2 tbsp Worcester sauce
- 4 tbsp homemade tomato sauce or low-salt commercial tomato sauce
Preheat oven to 180°C.
Mix the oil and sauces in a small bowl.
Place the drumsticks in a medium-sized roasting dish, cover with the sauce mix and cover the dish with aluminium foil.
Bake for about 45 minutes on fan bake until tender and cooked completely through.
Serve with baked potato and steamed green beans or broad beans, and salad.
Frittatas are wonderful – good hot or cold, naturally gluten free, and can be taken on picnics just like a quiche (but without the pastry…) You can use almost any vegetable combination you like – pumpkin is always nice, and you might enjoy courgettes, finely sliced green beans, red peppers… A little crumbled feta cheese is also a tasty addition.
- About 4 medium potatoes, peeled and sliced
- 2 medium kumara, peeled and sliced
- 2 large onions, peeled and sliced into half rings
- 50g butter, melted
- 6 eggs
- 12 tbsp milk or a mix of milk and cream
- 1 tsp salt
- Grated black pepper
- About ½ cup grated parmesan cheese for spreading on top of frittata when grilling
- About ½ cup grated tasty cheese to incorporate into the frittata mix
- A good big handful of spinach leaves, washed and chopped.
Melt butter in a large heavy frying pan with a metal handle (so it can go under the grill).
Gently fry onion for a couple of minutes then add the potato and kumara slices. Stir well to coat evenly with butter. Cover and cook over low heat, stirring frequently until the vegetables are tender (usually 15 to 20 minutes).
Add the spinach and cook very briefly until just wilted (about a minute or maybe less)
Whisk the eggs, milk, salt and pepper together, and add the grated tasty cheese. Add this to the pan and shake gently to distribute evenly.
Cover the pan and cook on low heat until the egg mix is almost set.
Sprinkle the parmesan over the top and place the pan under the grill to set the mix and lightly brown the cheese.
Blueberry and cream cheese slice
This is delicious, low sugar, easily made gluten free with the right breakfast ‘cereal’ and very moreish!
- 2 cups homemade granola, or any kind of toasted breakfast cereal
- 50g butter, melted
Cream cheese filling:
- 250g Lite cream cheese
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 1 400g tin crushed pineapple in juice, drained
- ¾ cup cream
- 2Tbsp icing sugar
- ½ tsp vanilla extract
- 2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
- ¼ cup sugar
- 1/3 cup water
- 1 Tbsp maize corn flour
- 1 Tbsp lemon juice
Make the blueberry sauce by combining all ingredients and heating in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring throughout, until the sauce boils and thickens.
Leave the blueberry mix to cool while you prepare the rest of the mix.
To prepare the base, place the granola or other breakfast cereal in a food processor and pulse until it resembles a fine crumb mix. Add the melted butter and pulse to combine.
Press the mix into a rectangular or square baking dish, roughly 27 x 17cm (total area roughly 460 sq cm, whatever the actual dimensions) and chill in the fridge while preparing the filling.
In a bowl, cream the cream cheese with the ginger, then add the drained pineapple and mix well.
Whip the cream with the icing sugar and vanilla until thick, then fold into the cream cheese mix.
Spread the cream mix evenly over the crust and place in the fridge to chill.
Once the blueberry mix has cooled, spread it over the cream cheese mic and keep the dish refrigerated until required.
Caramel Mud Cake
This is very tasty and freezes extremely well, allowing you more than one piece of indulgence for each cooking episode…
- 200g butter
- 200g white chocolate melts or white chocolate pieces
- 150g ( ¾ cup) brown sugar
- ¾ cup hot water
- 1 Tbsp golden syrup
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 cups flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 4 eggs
Preheat oven to 180°C.
Line a 22cm springform pan with paper
Place butter, sugar, chocolate, golden syrup and vanilla in a saucepan and stir over medium heat until smooth. Add the hot water and mix well. Cool to room temperature (you can stand the pan in cold water in the sink to speed this up).
Add the eggs, beating well after each addition.
Stir in the flour and baking powder and mix well.
Pour into the prepared tin and bake 50-60 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.
Cool in the tin for 20-30 minutes before transferring to a wire rack.
Dust with icing sugar to serve and accompany with cream/ice cream/caramel sauce etc.
Delicious Lentil Curry
This may sound tedious, but don’t be deceived by the idea of lentils. This is a really nice curry (you can make it hotter if you wish but this version will appeal to children) and will be appreciated by vegetarian friends and relations. It’s actually vegan, since it has no eggs or dairy, so it caters for almost everyone! This amount will feed 4 to 6, and you can scale it up if you need to.
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 small onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 tsp mild curry powder of your choice
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- 300g pumpkin, skinned and cut into 3cm chunks
- 4-6 small potatoes and/or kumara, cut into 2-3cm chunks
- 1 cup red lentils, cooked in boiling salted water until tender, then drained
- 1x400g can Italian-style tomatoes
- ½ – 1 cup homemade tomato sauce or low-salt commercial tomato sauce
- ½ – 1 cup water, as needed.
Heat the oil in a large, deep frying pan. Add the onions and garlic, lower the heat and simmer until the onion is translucent.
Add the spices, stir for a few moments, then add the pumpkin, potato and/or kumara and mix well. Add the tomatoes, tomato sauce and enough water to just cover the vegetables.
Cover and simmer 15-25 minutes or until the vegetables are just tender (check them regularly after the first few minutes).
Add the drained lentils and simmer for another few minutes until the vegetables are cooked through.
Check the seasoning and add salt if needed. Serve with steamed beans, or other greens of your choice, or a salad…