25 December 2009

All I want for Christmas is... Sweet Potato Crumble...

Lets be honest. I’m a little bit of a Christmas Grinch.

Don’t get me wrong – I don’t tackle Santa in the street or anything but - I don’t like Christmas Music, I don’t send Christmas Cards and I don’t have a Christmas Tree… But I do LOVE Christmas.

And I guess my one redeeming quality in all of this, is that I love it for all the right reasons. I don’t care too much about getting presents (although I do love to give them), for me – this whole day is about family. It makes me so blissfully happy to spend this one fabulous day with my family who I really don’t see enough.

I love the phone calls from my Mum in the weeks before Christmas discussing the menu plan, the somewhat cryptic phone calls from Dad trying to suss out some present ideas – and the blatant “what do you want” from my Brother on Christmas Eve as he battles the last minute shoppers.

I love dancing around Mum’s kitchen that is much too small for one person, let alone the both of us trying to measure flour and sugar and fight over the MixMaster. I love trying new dishes, drinking Champagne before midday and having seconds of dessert at lunch without feeling remotely guilty.

I love this day because it gives my family the unwavering excuse to spend it together.

With each Christmas that passes we get a little bit smarter and Christmas becomes a little less stressful. We serve smoked ham cold, fresh from the Butcher. We don’t do a whole bird – rather we do 2 rolled Turkey Roasts and usually cook them in the BBQ outside in an effort to keep the house cool.

The only rules we have are:

1. There must be potatoes. No exceptions. Carbs are king in our house!

2. There must be at least one item on the menu that we can tease my “stiff upper lip” British Poppy about. (This year it was Sweet Potato Crumble. Poppy has very strong views on what kind of vegetables are acceptable for human consumption. In his opinion – Corn, Pumpkin and Sweet Potato are all to be used only for fattening pigs on a farm.)

3. Although not a rule as such, we always seem to have at least 3 desserts… considering there are usually only 6 of us for lunch… this is a little excessive – but no one complains.

Christmas Menu 2009

Rolled Turkey Roast
Smoked Ham
Sweet Potato Crumble
Caramel Roast Potatoes
Green Peas

Nectarine Tart
Plum Pudding
Apple Jalousie

If any of these sound remotely appealing – feel free to scroll down for recipes.

The highlight for me was without a doubt the Sweet Potato Crumble. I was suspect about this addition to the menu – it reminded me too much of the horrid sounding Candied Marshmallow Yams that I have heard Americans have for Thanksgiving – but this dish was phenomenal. Super rich and sweet but with a delicious crumble and Pecan crunch – I was hooked.

Me, those Sweet Potatoes and a stick of butter could have spent a very happy day together…

The Caramel Potatoes were another winner – crunchy potatoes with a fluffy centre and just enough caramel to gum your teeth together… bliss. Although – looking back at some strange looks on Poppy’s face – we probably should have warned the denture wearers earlier…

Mum’s dessert are infallible. Although Dad jokes that she wasn’t always this good – that he roughed it through some spectacularly bad dinners early in their courtship – I find it pretty hard to believe. In fact – if I end up half the cook my Mum is – I’ll be a happy girl… and my husband even happier.

So from my humble blog – I hope that you had a wonderful day and were lucky enough to spend it with the people who matter most to you.

Happy Christmas.


Caramel Roast Potatoes:
(Delicious Magazine, Rick Stein Feature)

2 kg Floury Potatoes
3 tablespoons Duck Fat or Butter if no ducks within reach...
90g Sugar
2 tablespoons water

Parboil the potatoes until half cooked.
Drain from water and bash about in the saucepan until the poatoes look quite rough.
Heat the Roasting pan on the stove top with the duck fat or butter until hot.
Add the potatoes and turn until the potatoes are covered.
Cook at 180C for approx 1 hour or until golden.

To make caramel: Combine water and sugar in a saucepan, cook over heat until desired caramel colour, then add one tablespoon of water to stop the cooking process. Be careful as it may spit.

Sweet Potato Crumble:
(From the Delicious Christmas Cook book)

5 Sweet Potatoes / Kumaras
Olive Oil to brush
240g Butter, chilled
50g Butter, room temperature
3/4 cup Brown Sugar
1/4 cup Honey
1 tsp Vanilla essence
1/2 tsp Nutmeg, freshly grated
2 Eggs
1 Cup Hot Milk
2 Cups Plain Flour
1 tsp Ground Cinnamon
1 Cup Ground Pecans

Brush Sweet Potatoes with Olive Oil and bake for 1.5 hours at 180C.
Allow to cool and then peel.
Place SP flesh in a bowl with the 50g Butter, 1/2 cup brown sugar, honey, vanilla and butmeg.
Beat with a hand mixer until combined and then add the eggs, one at a time, then the milk.
Spoon into a baking dish and smooth with the back of a spoon.
Place flour, cinnamon, brown sugar in a blender, add butter and pulse into a rough crumble.
Add pecans and pulse again until just combined.
Sprinkle over the SP mix and then bake at 180C for 1 hour and crumble is golden.

Nectarine Tart:
(From my Mum's head)

1 sheet of shortcrust pastry
1 kg Nectaries, pitted and sliced
1 tablespoon corn flour
1 tablespoon sugar

Fit the shortcrust pastry to your desired baking dish and then freeze until solid.
On the day of baking, sift the cornflour into the base of the pastry, then sprinkle with the sugar.
Arrange the nectarine slices in a cylindrical patter onto the frozen pastry. Bake at 180C for 45mins or until the nectarines are cooked through and the pastry is golden.
Allow to cool and serve warm or room temperature.

* The secret to this tart is for the Pastry to remain frozen up until you put it in the oven. This gives the Nectarines time to cook fully without needing to blind bake the pastry beforehand.

Apple and Fruit Mince Jalousie:
(From Delicious Magazine, Rick Stein Feature)

375g Puff Pastry, thawed
Plain Flour for dusting
1 jar of Fruit Mince
1 Granny Smith Apple, cored and peeled
1 Egg, beaten
1 tbspn Milk
Icing Sugar for dusting

Cut the pastry in half and roll out into 2 rectangle peices, keeping one slightly larger (by approx 1 inch around all edges).
Place smaller sheet of pastry on lined tray. Spread with fruit mince leaving a 1 inch border free.
Slice the apple in half and then slice thinly. Lay the apple neatly over the fruit mince, allowing to overlap as much as possible.
Mix the milk and egg together and brush mixture over the border.
Lightly dust the second peice of pastry, fold in half and make cuts every 1.5 cm.
Unfold and drape across the bottom layer of pastry so that it resemble a strudel.
Brush with the remaining egg mix, press the edges firmly so that they are sealed and cut away any excess.
Bake for 20mins at 200C, then at 180C for a further 12 mins until golden.

Allow to cool to room temperature and serve with Custard, Cream or Ice Cream... or as my Dad would insist - all three.

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