Christmas dinner in New Zealand at the Brown house is an amalgamation of the traditional wintery English food that my grandparents always served, and lighter summery fare, that acknowledges that we’re not actually watching robins perch on snowy boughs, and that the sun may be beating down (as it did this Christmas day).
I love planning and cooking the Christmas dinner, but I adore the desserts and sweets end of the menu. I thought that before Christmas is packed away for another year, you might enjoy a look at some of the food, and you might like to file away a great recipe for the prettiest chocolate strawberries (we’ll get to those soon.)
and add dishes with snappy gingerbread cookies propped up in sugar.
After barbequed prawns and scallops with mango salsa, prime rib, glazed ham, duck-fat roasted potatoes and other side dishes, plus a woo-woo cocktail or two, I knew I wouldn’t want to be carefully plating the desserts, so I planned desserts that could be pre-prepared into individual servings.
Trifle is a non-negotiable, so I made a raspberry trifles in glasses rather than my big glass trifle dish. Raspberries are hitting their peak here, so they were a natural choice for the fruit component, with a slurp of Framboise liqueur to accentuate their flavour. To lighten the traditional layering of sponge cake, fruit and custard, I added a jelly made from a couple of packets of frozen berries, simmered with a little water, sugar and lemon juice. I mashed the berries as they cooked, then strained them through a sieve lined with muslin. Then the tart juice was topped up with water till I had enough for 1/2 cup per serving, reheated to melt the gelatine ( I used 2 1/2 sheets of soaked gelatine for each cup of juice, as the jelly needs to be firm enough to support the following layers.) The jelly needs to become semi-set before it is poured over the cake and berries, otherwise it will turn the sponge into soggy mush. Add a final layer of creamy vanilla creme patisserie, a piped swirl of whipped cream and a perky berry for garnish. The last touch was a shower of gold sprinkles. I save these for special occasions, as they were a souvenir of Paris, bought at the Bon Marche Grande Epicerie. These were all prepared the day before, and the genoise sponge was baked the week before and frozen.
The other dessert was pear-caramel ice cream with finely diced candied ginger mixed into the ice cream, garnished with tiny gingerbread trees (that’s edible glitter on the tree tips). These were all scooped the day before, so I only had to reheat the salted caramel sauce before serving them. The recipe for the ice cream and the sauce came from David Lebovitz‘s book, “The Perfect Scoop”. This is probably the best book on making ice cream I’ve ever come across, perfect results every time and flavours to fill a whole summer with creamy goodness.
And finally, strawberries in tuxedos…
I first served these at Christmas about ten years ago, and now the girls insist that they are an essential part of the Christmas feast.Although, how they actually made it to the table, when they kept mysteriously disappearing from the kitchen….. Continue reading