Monday, October 18, 2010

Guest Blogger Natalie Anderson

The Playfriends welcome Natalie Anderson back to the blog today! She brings with her tidings of Christmas -- which would normally make me have to throw something at her for bringing this up in October, but I will get on board with this time because it's all about food. And you know how I love food.

~*~*~*~

Sweet As Christmas!

As it’s October, all the Christmas decorations are up in the shop and the countdown has officially begun. In fact there are Christmas themed romances available already – and yes, I’ve got one out there too! ~g~

Here in New Zealand, it's summer at Christmas – although invariably its an overcast drizzly day (the real summer heat doesn’t hit us here in the South Island until late January and February). For me the best thing – apart from catching up with all the friends and family of course – is the food. It doesn’t take much to release my inner glutton and Christmas is one of those times when she’s fully unleashed. In fact we have a phrase in our house if anyone has overeaten at any time – then they’re feeling ‘Christmas Uncomfortable’.

For years we did the ‘traditional’ Christmas dinner – roast lamb or something, roast potatoes, okay maybe some new potatoes as well, cauliflower and cheese sauce, peas, carrots… sometimes Turkey although not that often. There’s always a giant ham. Nowadays we tend to cook on the BBQ. Actually, I should mention I’m vegetarian, so I just dive into the veggies. I love vegetables and don’t need a separate veggie main dish. Well okay, it leaves more room for PUDDING.

Yes I admit it, it’s the pudding I love at Christmas. Here in New Zealand the traditional is the Pavlova (the Australians will argue it’s ‘their’ national dish, but they’re wrong). It’s made of egg whites and sugar and is like a giant meringue, with a crunchy crust on the outside and a wall of marshmallowy yum stuff on the inside. We top it with whipped cream and then either raspberries (perfection) or strawberries, flaked chocolate at a push. It is heaven on a plate and everyone loves it. Everyone. It takes a while to cook – we often leave it in the oven overnight. And thank goodness for electric mixers because back in the ‘old days’ my Great-Uncle used to beat the egg whites by hand and it was a lot of work (you know they’re ready when the whites are smooth and glossy and when you hold the bowl above your head, it doesn’t all fall out!) And then there’s the terribly tricky moment of having to transfer it from tray to plate – fortunately you can cover a lot of sins with all that whipped cream ;)

There might be a Trifle as well, or Spanish Cream, Christmas cake, fruit salad, but it’s always the Pav that has my heart. But here’s the real secret. The Pav is not the best on Christmas Day. Nope, if ever you have Christmas in New Zealand here is what you must know.

Early, EARLY in the morning on Boxing Day you must get up, tiptoe to the kitchen and find the plate that’s on a precarious angle near the back, balanced on top of a ton of other stuff – hopefully far away from the ham. Fridges are never big enough at Christmas, do you find that? Anyway, under a piece of cling wrap, you’ll find that very last piece. Now it isn’t going to be that pretty – Pav tends to fall apart once you cut into it – so it is like a more marshmallowy version of Eton Mess at this point. But it’s cold and so delicious. You eat it standing up in front of the fridge, still in your summer PJs and quietly. Because there’s only ever enough for one. It is the most decadent breakfast of the year. And it’s MINE. But if you’re ever in New Zealand for Christmas, I will share it with you – maybe! Of course we have Pavs all year round – there’re at any BBQ or celebration. But it is that one early on Boxing Day Morning that’s the best of the year. Maybe its like the dessert equivalent of ‘hair of the dog’ or whatever, and giving you that little sugar lift after the crash down from the Christmas Day feast – I’m not sure, but its soooooo good. And I’m very much looking forward to it this year.

What Christmas foodie traditions are you most looking forward to this festive season? Is there something always served up on the day that makes you smile just to think of it? Comment below and be in to win a copy of ‘TIS THE SEASON – an anthology of Christmas novellas by Carole Mortimer, Alison Roberts and me.


Natalie’s Christmas novella “The Millionaire’s Mistletoe Mistress” is in the ‘TIS THE SEASON anthology is out now and will be followed up by CAUGHT ON CAMERA which is out in the US in December. For more details on her other stories, check out her website.

She’s also on Facebook and Twitter.


*****

I have some winners to announce:

robynl, you're Angel's winner from last Monday. Email Angel to claim (angel@writingplayground.com)

Kelly Fitzpatrick, you're my launch party winner -- email me with your snail mail addy. (Problemchild@writingplayground.com)

24 comments:

Problem Child said...

What is it about leftover sweets eaten standing up... I do that as well!

Jean Hovey said...

For me, it's the German chocolate cake, which isn't German at all. Mine is the best because I toast my pecans and coconut before making the frosting.

I also make this really rich cheesy potato soup and sour cream corn bread to have after church on Christmas Eve. It's the only time of year I make it because it is so bad for you.

Maureen said...

I enjoy the desserts the most at Christmas from the cookies and brownies to the apple pie.

Smarty Pants said...

The calories don't count if you're standing up and eating out of the container with the fridge door open.

There are so many choices at Christmas, especially since with my family, no one likes the same stuff. We have apple pie or yellow cake for DB, pumpkin pie for me, pecan pie for the father in law, red velvet or coconut cake for the mother in law... then all the cookies and candies I baked for extras... Christmas uncomfortable is right.

Intrigued by the idea of the Pavlova, though... as though I need another dish to add.

Playground Monitor said...

I'm looking forward to pumpkin pie. Last year some natural disaster wiped out the pumpkin crops and you could not find canned pumpkin at all. I'm stocking up early this year. ::grin::

Just let me know what time you're eating because I'll be there for the roast lamb. I'll bring along a jar or two of the mint jelly I made this summer.

KELLY FITZPATRICK said...

I can't believe they have Christmas decorations out at the store already.

robertsonreads said...

Welcome back Natalie,

Good one SP. I like your thinking.

I can believe and have even looked (don't hate me) at Christmas decorations already. So pretty.

I enjoy watching my Christmas trees turn, with the lights out. I just sit there and drool.

My family generally has the same meal at Thanksgiving and Christmas except for the meat, otherwise we are good to go. The menu is already printed out and just need to sigh up for something.

catslady said...

I started a tradition of a tree trimming party and now my one married daughter is doing it too so we have 2 parties. I make a fancy dinner afterwards but there are plenty of snacks and drinks and laughter as we trim the tree. I've collected ornaments for many years and from many travels and also have them from parents to homemade ones my kids made ect. We all get a kick from two paper angels made by my two daughters in kindergarten. We use to take turns but now I get a double top for them both. We tease my one daughter because her angel looks more like a lady of the night with her big red lips while my other daughter's angel is prettier (she is now an artist) lol.

chey said...

My favourite Christmas treat is whipped shortbread.

Angel said...

Ooohhh, a tree trimming party sounds like fun!!! I wouldn't want to do anything fancy, but I bet we would enjoy snack/party foods (we usually trim the tree midday).

At Christmas we always make cheese cookies. Kind of like our southern cheese straws but these are done in drop cookie form. Love them!!! The kids, hubby and I eat them pretty often between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

My favorite holiday cake is red velvet, and though I'm not a fan of chocolate cake, my sister makes an awesome Hershey's chocolate cake with cream cheese icing. We also make Hello Dollies during this time (commonly called 7 layer cookies--graham cracker crust, chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, sweetened condensed milk--I don't add the coconut or nuts).

Now look what you've done, Natalie!! I'm drooling over a meal that's over 2 months away. :)

Angel

Natalie Anderson said...

Problem Child - standing up can be SO good ;)

Natalie Anderson said...

Oh Jean - you have me giggling at the 'because it is so bad for you' - love it. A MUST at Christmas then!!!!

Natalie Anderson said...

Maureen - yep, its the desserts all the way. But pity us over here in NZ - it's the middle of bikini season!!!!

Natalie Anderson said...

Smarty pants - love it. We have a bit of that too - always make too much food to make sure everyone has something they like!

You have to try a pav. They rock. Let me know if you want a recipe :)

Natalie Anderson said...

PlayGround Monitor - you can have all my lamb!!!!!
You know, we have a zillion pumpkins here but we don't make pudding with them - eat them roasted as a vegetable, or in a veggie lasagne or something. I've never made pumpkin pie - just seems too weird!

Natalie Anderson said...

Kelly - here in NZ they've been out all month already - the instore Xmas stores open at the start of October... those chocolate advent calendars are out too... like they'd last in our house????

Natalie Anderson said...

Robertsonreads - I've looked at them too. Ki love them. We have a tradition where the kids get to choose a decoration and put them away for their own tree when they're older. They have the oddest collection already! But so cute :)

Smarty Pants said...

Natalie, I would, actually. If its too long to post, you can email it to me at smartypants@writingplayground.com

Natalie Anderson said...

Catslady - i love that about your party AND the home-made decorations - home-made decorations feature in my book actually :)
I love the different rituals/shared experiences families build at festive occasions :)

Natalie Anderson said...

Chey - how do you whip shortbread?????

Natalie Anderson said...

Angel - I've never had red velvet cake - is it good???? It is true that it's beetroot that makes it red??

those 7 layer things sound AMAZING - I'm drooling too! :)

Natalie Anderson said...

Smarty Pants- I can either email or post it here, just got to forward it to myself from the computer in the other room... but before that got to pick up the twins from preschool - give me an hour or so.
Meanwhile... take half a dozen eggs out of the fridge... ;)

Michele L. said...

Yummy! Cookies, bar cookies, pies and cakes are my favorites at Christmas. Snickerdoodles, powdered sugar rum balls, lemon bars, and upside down cake are what are remember my mom making for Christmas. As for the calories, what calories? This is a free holiday where we can eat what we want, right?

Love the cover on your book!

Natalie Anderson said...

Smarty Pants - I hadn't forgotten! here's the recipe for the PAV - hope you get to making it one and and enjoy it :)

The Kiwi Pav

The pavlova is an icon in New Zealand. You'll find it served as the centrepiece dessert at every BBQ, summer wedding, Christmas celebration and every other special occasion there is. Every family has its own 'special' recipe and this is ours (Actually, it's Aunty Margaret's - but she makes the best ones). The end result is a wonderful crunchy meringue on the outside and a wall of soft marshmallow in the middle. Don't worry if it 'cracks' when you transfer it to a plate - you can cover any imperfections with lashings of whipped cream.

4 egg whites (no egg yolk at all!)
1 dessertspoon cornflour (cornstarch in the US?)
4 tablespoons boiling water
pinch of Cream of Tartar
2 cups caster sugar
1 dessertspoon white vinegar
1 tsp vanilla essence

Preheat oven to 230C (450F). Line a baking tray with baking paper (do not preheat the tray).
Put all ingredients into a bowl and beat with an electric mixer for 10 minutes until thick, white and glossy.
Pile into a high heap on the prepared tray and smooth into a cake shape.
Turn oven right down to 120C (245F)(most important!) and put the pav in. Bake for 60 minutes. When completely cool, transfer to a plate, cover with whipped cream and arrange sliced kiwifruit on the top. Strawberries or raspberries are another option as is passionfruit pulp or shaved chocolate. Slice and enjoy!

Note, in NZ:
1 teaspoon = 5 ml
1 dessertspoon = 10 ml
1 tablespoon = 15 ml
1 cup = 250ml