Since about April we have been wishing for rain, as the ENSO cycle has brought an end to the wet of last year. December has been pretty much a zero rainfall flatline, however as the old saying goes “You need to be careful what you wish for”, because Santa brought us just a little more wetness than we would have liked:
The water tanks were happy. The frogs in the dam were happy. The garden was happy. The eleven of us sitting around the table on the deck outside having Christmas lunch…well…not so happy. Apparently this was the wettest Christmas Day on the East Coast of Australia in seventy years. See…you wish for rain…you get rain. Don’t say Santa never delivers.
In between dodging raindrops we exchanged gifts and bonhomie, and demonstrated our mutual affection by cooking up a storm. The Others ate various dead animals they had prepared elsewhere and brought along already cooked. Meanwhile we feasted on stuffing; roasted baby potatoes with garlic, pine nuts and dill; rose harissa tagine, Bevski beetroot; sweet potato salad; quinoa salad, and I don’t even remember what else. Afterwards, just to ensure we hadn’t missed filling any spare sections of intestine we had Bevski Pud, and chocolate self saucing pud. And then we all looked like our friend Monty, right after he’s eaten a large something.Like Monty we all wanted to just lay in the sun for a few days and digest everything. Alas, there wasn’t any sunshine to lie in. Well, not for a few days anyway.
Christmas isn’t Christmas without stuffing. Though it is a fair and reasonable question to pose whether Stuffing is Stuffing if it isn’t stuffed up the vent* of a dead chicken/turkey? One reasonable answer is that the name is still appropriate because after you’ve gorged on the meal it is you who feels stuffed. This was made on the afternoon of the day before Christmas, simply because it could be and thus gave me one less thing to do in the kitchen on The Day. But if you want to sagely nod and claim that doing so will allow “the flavours to stew, intensify and gain complexity” go right ahead..
- As luck would have it, a loaf of homemade wholemeal bread had just been finished leaving only the two end crusts from the loaf. Each of these was a fairly thick slice. So…two end slices of bread.
- 6 or so thin slices of onion, finely chopped
- 1 clove of garlic, crushed
- 1 medium, firm mushroom
- 1/4 cup of almonds, finely crushed
- 1 tablespoon of marinated black olives
- 2 teaspoons of light miso
- 2 teaspoons of tomato paste
- 2 teaspoons of chopped, fresh herbs: rosemary, thyme, parsley
- 1 teaspoon of ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup of olive oil
- Put the kettle onto boil…
Méthode de la fabrication bourrant…
- Breadcrumb the bread slices. In my case, they were torn into medium size pieces and then “wizzed” using the ever useful Bamix.
- Do the same for the mushroom and the olives.
- Combine these with all other dry ingredients into a bowl
- Dissolve the miso and tomato paste in about 1/2 cup of boiled water, and add to the mix
- Add the olive oil, and mix thoroughly
- Place mixture into an appropriately sized and lidded baking dish, squeezing down as you do so to ensure a tight fill.
- Pour in additional boiled water to about the halfway level (this was easy in my case as the baking dish was glass so I could see the level).
- Bake, covered for about 45 minutes in a hot oven.
* “Vent” is the official name for the common opening that birds have, that is used for reproduction, and for the evacuation of stools and urine.
“You are making gravy aren’t you?”…..spoke SheWhoMustBeFed about five minutes before everything else was about to be served for Christmas Dinner. Blinking innocently, the love of my life informed me that “I’ve told everyone you’re making gravy”, which struck me as being an odd thing to feel the need to drop into conversation with family and friends on the run up to Christmas. Note to self: should buy She WhoMustBeFed a copy of “The Fine Art of Small Talk: How To Start a Conversation, Keep It Going, Build Networking Skills — and Leave a Positive Impression!” by Debra Fine for her birthday.
And so…to the gravy…
- Dark miso
- The glass of red wine you’d just poured yourself to drink
- Two or three thin slices of onion, finely chopped
- Pinch of mixed herbs (oregano, rosemary, thyme)
- Ground pepper
- 1 teaspoon of sugar
- Olive oil
Putting it all together quick enough that the rest of the meal doesn’t burn…
- Smile sweetly at SheWhoMustBeFed and say “Of course I’m making gravy dear…”
- Put the kettle on to boil. Once boiled, fill the gravy pitcher with hot water to warm it up
- In a small saucepan, over a low flame…
- Lightly saute the onion in 2 tablespoons of oil, together with the pepper
- Remove from heat and add a tablespoon of cornflour, stir out any lumps
- Return to the heat and add all other ingredients
- Add about one cup of boiled water
- Stir; taking care the miso dissolves thoroughly
- If not thick enough for your taste; remove a tablespoon of the gravy and in a cup, mix in another teaspoon or so of cornflour. Once mixed to an even paste, stir into the pan.
That’s that then. Only 363 sleeps until Christmas. And if there are any stores actually left trading come next Christmas (that haven’t gone bankrupt) we can again wrap a collection of gifts under the tree and contribute our own little way to the engine of economic consumption. Bless you all and especially the little darling loinfruits, and to paraphrase Dear Queen Lizzie – “Blessed are those who sacrifice a moment of their wealthy days and give something to the common people, standing in their unwashed millions beyond the castle walls”.
Thus directed by the only person who’s effigy jingles disturbingly near my groin when I have a pocketful of change, it is my pleasure to share the recipes for the two most important parts of the Christmas meal; The Gravy and The Stuffing. Now…get yourself off to the 90% Off Boxing Day sales before the last store closes…forever.
PS. For Christmas SheWhoMustBeFed gave me a set of digital kitchen scales. Accurate to 1 gram and able to be “zeroed” at any weight these are a boon to breadmaking as they mean all ingredients including liquids can be accurately measured by weight