Monday, December 23, 2013

Indian Christmas

After nearly a week of above 30oC temperatures (including a ghastly 38oC on Sunday) it was  refreshing to have a cooler day yesterday to travel along beautiful country roads, in amongst the vineyards at Murrumbateman, to our annual early Christmas celebration with good friends. This year our celebration had an Indian theme (of course).

I am always so happy to see the L. family teenagers joining us at these celebrations - they still haven't given up on us oldies!

This year we were joined by the gorgeous Phoebe, only just back from India (where else?) herself and all set to head back home to Auckland, NZ today.  Thomas will make the trip too so it is an exciting time for them both after a hard year of study at the ANU.

We had a unique challenge this year - to devise our two dishes for the shared feast around a spice.  Maxie & Rod had star anise to work with, Rob and I had cardamom and Jennie and Wayne had saffron. Judy and Jurgen had a year off being part of the challenge this year on account of Judy having undergone surgery recently.

With Anke's Majella poured into festive glasses and Judy L's spiced nuts passed around we knew the party was under way. Maxie had devised two starters: beautiful fresh rice wrappers filled with red cooked beef , Vietnamese mint, basil, iceberg lettuce, red pepper and peanuts served with an unctuous soy and hoisin sauce; and, baked chicken drummetes marinated in a star anise based sauce. It's always a surprise on the night what dishes will turn up, so occasionally we have some delicious double ups. I also prepared chicken drummettes as a starter but mine were flavoured with za'atar and cardamom (of course) and served with a mint and coriander flavoured yoghurt dip.

Judy and Jurgen had picked up some beautiful freshly shucked oysters at Berny's at Charnwood on the way to Murrumbateman (the same Bernys as the famous Bernys at Batehaven, on the South Coast). Judy had prepared some dressings for the oysters, including a delicate pomegranate dressing inspired by our stay at Amarya Villas in New Delhi.  They were served with a Howard Park 2011 Miamup Chardonnay from Margaret River - the most astoundingly good wine and oyster combination I have ever experienced!

Then came Jennie's first course: calamari and scallops gently fried and served with seafood dumplings and saffron mayonnaise. Maxie and Jennie shared some stories about mayonnaise making debacles. Apparently the recent heat wave has made mayo making difficult..not that anyone like me who uses the store bought stuff would know about this!  Anyway Jennie's saffron mayonnaise tonight was perfect!

Then it was time for traditional carol singing.  We're lucky enough that for one more year Sophie, Maddie and eventually Thomas all agree to take turns to accompany us

By this stage some of the oldies are well primed by all the wine they have drunk and think they are GREAT singers who can sing quite LOUDLY.
Luckily Sophie, Maddie & Thomas think this is a amusing and make allowances for sudden changes in timing (and pitch) along the way.  The caption for the pic below could almost be along the lines of : The Three Wise Men on their way to Bethlehem get waylaid at Murrumbateman for some rowdy carol singing........

Main course followed: Jennie's chicken Biriyani and my chicken Korma with cardamom, crispy shallots, almonds and golden raisins and orange cardamom roasted sweet potatoes. Rob chose an Isabella 2006 Sauvignon Blanc to drink with this course. It was proved a winning combination too.

I think Jennie's dessert dish was a highlight of the night for me: a fig and walnut flavoured saffron kulfi - WOW! This was served with a 60 year old fortified wine that Jennie and Wayne have been nurturing in various complicated ways for years now - we count ourselves very lucky to be able to sample its rare deliciousness.
And to finish off, a divine chocolate cake from Gumnut Patisserie in Berrima (thank you Anke for making the trek!) - beautifully complemented by lashings of fresh raspberries and strawberries, the true taste of summer.

With present giving and so much good food and laughter to share, stories and great memories of another wonderful year doing things together, it was well after 1 am before any one of us gave a thought to packing up and making the drive back to Canberra...... Another wonderful celebration at Murrumbateman - thank you Jennie and Wayne.

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