from one generation to the next
Nominating one single cook book as the major source of recipes used to prepare the food for our festive dinner table is a difficult task. I believe Leah was hoping we’d name a book that others could reference for the Cookbook Guru, but I have decided that I have no choice but to name the old, battered and splattered, blue loose leaf folder which is the repository of my tried and true recipes.
For many more years than I care to confess, I have handwritten recipes into the folder, recipes shared by family and friends and those that I have developed myself. Many I have noted the source, but the majority are anonymous. Costing notes appear beside some recipes, and alongside others I have worked out their calorie value. There are also arithmetical calculations in many margins, converting domestic recipes into catering volumes, all making this folder a living testament to my life with food.
Magazine and newspaper clippings feature are pasted onto pages too, including the recipe for the Christmas cake I first made as a newlywed and continued to make for many years. Christmas dinner was more of a traditional English style then. Roast turkey with all the trimmings, steamed plum pudding and custard, then fruit cake, fruit mince tarts and shortbreads were put on the table along with nuts in their shell and dried muscatels.
Because the weather on December 25th in Melbourne can vary between 16C and 38C, but is generally around 30C, chances are we’ll sit outside under a shady tree slurping freshly shucked oysters washed down with champagne, feast on barbecued chilli and lime prawns, gravlax on rye, grilled asparagus, caprese salad and rocket with a simple vinaigrette. A cheese platter might follow, a bowl of plump local black cherries, a homemade chocolate treat, or a sugar cone filled with local artisan gelato. Keep it light and keep it simple has become our family clarion call for food on Christmas Day, but I’m here to tell you, we won’t cut corners on quality, variety, or balance of flavours and tastes.
We usually drink champagne on Christmas Day starting with the best French that we can afford for breakfast. We drink lots of iced water, coffee and peppermint tea too. The first of a series of aged red wines will be decanted late in the day, depending on the cellar, maybe a flight of three consecutive vintages. As the night winds down, and we kick off our shoes and loosen our belts, a wee dram of single malt whisky will bring the Christmas to a close for another year.
From my folder I’m going to share an incredibly simple recipe, something I’ve served for many consecutive years with a platter of fresh tropical fruit on Christmas morning. It’s a simple yoghurt dip I adapted many years ago from an old Margaret Fulton cookbook.
1 cup low fat, unsweetened Greek yoghurt
1 teaspoon of lime zest
1/4 cup desiccated coconut
3 tablespoons finely chopped apricot jam
2 tablespoons finely chopped preserved ginger
2 tablespoons finely chopped pistachio nuts
If your yoghurt is thin you may need to increase the volume to 1 1/2 cups and then leave it to drain and thicken in a muslin lined strainer while you prepare the remaining ingredients.
Toast the desiccated coconut in a dry pan, tossing continuously. Remove the pan from the heat before the coconut is golden as it will continue to toast in the residual heat. When done immediately tip into a bowl.
Finely hand chop the pistachios and ginger and add to the coconut. Either strain or chop the jam to integrate any large pieces of fruit, then add to the dry ingredients. Add the lime zest, then the yoghurt.
Thoroughly combine all the ingredients then chill until required.
This can be made the day before.
Serve with a selction of fresh fruit cut into bite sized chunks.