Monday, July 27, 2009

Christmas comes but twice a year...

Everyone knows the best thing about Christmas is the presents. Don’t try and tell me you think otherwise, underneath it all, the presents is what draws you to celebrate the event year after year. I mean really, you could do without the family fight and Uncle Joe passing out behind the couch, but the presents will make it all worthwhile, right?

I’m not saying I don’t love Christmas for the presents – cause I sure do! (If I was being honest, I am a Christmas nut, love everything about this holiday much to my family’s horror) – but the other equally important reason is the food. I love Christmas food. I hate that we don’t eat it all year around. The same applies to Hot Cross Buns. Why make something so good, and then only have it available for half the year?

Anyways, as yesterday was July 25th, I invited some girlfriends over to celebrate Christmas in July. Traditionally, Christmas is July is a made up event so that Aussies can give Christmas a bit of a winter feel, however I personally feel that any excuse to eat Christmas food is a valid one, so the menu was set – one friend would make a soup for entrée, I would do a turkey with roast vegetables for main and another would tackle the dessert – traditional plum pudding.

My Christmas in July started with a minor miracle – I returned to my car at the local Safeway (I only had to run in and get the peas!) to find a parking inspector issuing me a ticket. Thankfully, the gentleman’s Christmas spirit was intact and I was dismissed with a warning.

Next up was table decoration – as you will remember I am not staying at my house at the moment, but housesitting inner city. So where does one find the serving bowls and spoons, roasting dishes and serviettes in another’s house? Much hunting ensued, and after a quick trip to the MCG for the Hawthorn v Geelong match, I returned to Christmas central to prepare the feast.

I cheated a little with turkey – bought one of the turkey rolls instead of a whole bird, and threw in pumpkin, potato, sweet potato, carrot, broccoli, cauliflower and corn. The girls arrived bearing gifts of wine and mix cds, and we sat down to our first course, Miss K’s homemade lamb and vegetable soup. So good that we wanted more, but with the prospect of a further two courses ahead, we decided to pace ourselves and move on to the main.

My turkey and roast vegetables were perfect if I don’t say so myself, and in a small twist, I totally forgot about the all important peas purchased that morning. Wine flowed, laughter followed and before we knew it, the time had come for the piece de résistance – Christmas pudding. Miss M had been hard at work for a week - soaking, steaming and simmering. Served with custard, this Gluten Free Plum Pudding was just heaven – exactly what Christmas should taste like!

Stuffed to bursting with food, I bought out the final trays of food, after dinner mints, and my little gift for the girls, peanut butter m and ms. We fell onto the couch, complaining of having eaten too much and drunk equally in excess. One screening of ‘The Devil Wears Prada’ later, and 3 very satisfied girls crawled into their beds.

Only 5 months until we get to do it all again, and I think I will probably still be full from this meal. Miss M’s pudding recipe is below and should you want to start practising now I am available to assist in any taste testing you may need. This is probably also a good time to start Christmas shopping. You know how much those presents mean to everyone come the big day in December.

Happy Christmas in July everyone!

Gluten Free Plum Pudding

Ingredients (serves 12)
350g raisins, coarsely chopped
300g sultanas
1 x 300g pkt currants
185ml (3/4 cup) rum
Melted butter, to grease
200g butter, at room temperature
200g (1 cup, firmly packed) brown sugar
4 eggs, at room temperature
140g (2 cups) fresh gluten & wheat-free breadcrumbs (made from day-old bread)
120g (1/2 cup) soy compound
70g (1 cup) Farex Baby Rice
80g (1/2 cup) Orgran Gluten Free Self Raising Flour
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground cinnamon
Bought gluten-free vanilla custard, warmed, to serve

Place raisins, sultanas and currants in a glass or ceramic bowl. Stir in the rum. Cover and set aside, stirring every few hours, for 6 hours to macerate.
Brush a 2L (8-cup) capacity pudding basin with melted butter to grease. Line the base with non-stick baking paper.
Use an electric beater to beat the butter and sugar in a large bowl until pale and creamy. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in the breadcrumbs, soy compound, baby rice, combined flour, nutmeg and cinnamon. Add the raisin mixture and stir to combine. Spoon into the prepared basin. Smooth the surface.
Place an upturned heatproof saucer in the base of a large saucepan. Fill one-third of the saucepan with boiling water. Bring to a simmer over low heat.
Cut a 30cm-square piece of non-stick baking paper and a 30cm-square piece of foil. Place the paper on top of the foil and fold to make a wide pleat in the centre. Place over the basin, foil-side up. Tie a double piece of kitchen string under the rim of the basin to secure foil. To make a handle, tie a double piece of string loosely over the top of the basin. Scrunch the paper and foil around the rim so they don't get wet.
Use the handle to lower the basin onto the saucer in the saucepan. Add enough boiling water to reach two-thirds of the way up the side of the basin.
Simmer, covered, adding more boiling water when necessary, for 4 hours or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the pudding comes out clean.
Set aside for 5 minutes before turning out onto a serving plate. Cut into wedges and serve with custard.

Notes & tips
Allow 6 hours macerating and 5 minutes resting time.

Recipe thanks to

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