“The main reason Santa is so jolly is because he knows where all the bad girls live.”
~ Goerge Carlin, American comedian, actor, author and philosopher
With the passing of each Christmas, I can’t help but think how lucky we are to be living in Australia.
This country is blessed with a temperate climate which gives Sydney up to 340 bright and sunny days in a calendar year. Because of this moderate climate, fresh foods in our country are so good and bountiful.
As our country is “girt by sea”, our food markets are packed with the freshest fish and other seafoods.
Australia has also been the best performing economy in the developed world for the last 4 – 5 years. We have a stable political system with a robust and transparent mechanism for debate and policy-making. Public infrastructure such as transport, health, education, public parks, recreational precincts and law-enforcement systems are commendable, giving us a lifestyle that is the envy of many of our regional neighbours.
In spite of all our good-fortune, I still read about people who complain and whinge about so many things each day – from trains running late, traffic jam, poor quality mobile phone service and the list goes on.
Christmas is a time to reflect. It is a time to take stock of and appreciate our well-being. And it is a time to think about and give to those who are less-fortunate than ourselves such as the sick and homeless. Unless we can do this, we will never be happy as we continue to wallow in discontent. Remember that no matter how difficult our individual situation might be, there are always those who are in more dire straits, those stricken with illness that might have more than a life’s battle on their hands.
With these thoughts, we wish to humbly share with you our joyous time spent with family and friends over this Christmas season.
We sincerely wish to thank you for your support in reading our blog over the last twenty months. It is you, our dear readers, that keep us motivated in sharing our love for a delicious life of good food and music with you.
Receiving Christmas pressies are fun but we must remember that it is a privilege to be able to give. On that note, we wish you a very merry Christmas and may 2013 bring you peace, happiness and good health!
Chopinand & Mysaucepan
Christmas party at home
Unlike last year’s 1970s retro Christmas party, we have chosen a more contemporary theme.
A chilled 2012 Turkey Flat Rose is dry and an absolute delight as a pre-dinner drink. It is a perfect complement for our glazed Christmas ham.
Christmas in Sydney is not the same without cooked prawns.
The Sydney Fish Market opens for a staggering 36-hour trading session right up till 5pm on Christmas eve to give seafood lovers their chance to indulge in their favourites.
Mayonnaise is good but my favourite dipping sauce for cooked prawns is Japanese wasabi mixed with light soy sauce.
Christmas this year has been cool unlike some years where the weather is hot and humid. After all, we are in the summer season in Australia during Christmas.
An orange and cos lettuce salad is light and the slightly tangy cider vinaigrette dressing is delicious in whetting the appetite.
Unlike last year’s fig and brandy glazed leg ham, this year is a honey and mustard leg ham with glazed Granny Smith apples.
Each slice is moist and tender with the hint of clove and the tangy sweet green apples work like a treat with the meat – a real marriage made in heaven.
The leftover leg ham and bones are packed with flavour will make the most awesome pea and ham soup in the world.
I always look forward to cooking this pot of hearty soup the very next day with some beautiful vegetables.
Gently simmer the bone with all its meat remnants in a cast iron pot for about two hours until all the meat has fallen off the bones.
In another pot, sautee finely diced brown onions, carrots and celery in some extra virgin olive oil until transluscen. Then add diced tomatoes, borlotti beans and the stock from the leg ham and simmer for a further hour until the diced vegetables are very soft. Season with salt and black pepper to taste and add in the green peas just before serving.
Tip: If you have a hangover from over-indulging during Christmas, this soup is also one of the best hangover cures that I can recommend.
Ellen and Louie’s party
Our friends Ellen and Louie invited us to their place for a pot-luck dinner.
I always look forward to pot-luck dinners because our multicultural society means that each pot-luck dinner will invariably be a melting pot of wonderful and diverse cuisines.
In this instance, some of our friends have become very innovative with their choice of dishes. Certain kinds of food are best cooked fresh and Ellen’s kitchen is looking like a MasterChef hot house at one stage.
Our contribution to this pot-luck dinner is a grilled barramundi which Mysaucepan seasoned at home to be cooked on the BBQ at Ellen’s place.
Preparing fresh Vietnamese rice paper rolls with prawns and pork belly
While the pots are simmering, another group of friends are busy preparing fresh Vietnamese rice paper rolls made from cooked shrimps, poached pork belly, rice vermicelli, garlic chives and cucumber.
Check out these fresh home-made Vietnamese rice paper rolls. I’m not sure if I have even seen such fresh ones at good Vietnamese restaurants in town.
Banana leaf parcels of John Dory grilling on the BBQ
Not to be outdone by the kitchen that is now firing on all cylinders, the outdoor BBQ is fired up and Margaret is grilling banana leaf parcels of John Dory.
Banana leaf is one of the most exotic and beautiful ingredients that one can cook with.
In this Thai inspired dish, banana leaf is used as a wrapper for succulent John Dory fillets that are marinated in a lemongrass, ginger and chilli paste.
There is so much food, I don’t even know where to start.
Chris’ braised pork belly with preserved cabbage is an iconic Chinese dish.
The slow-cook method means the meat has taken in all the flavours of star anise and cinnamon, not to mention melt-in-your-mouth tenderness from each piece of decadent pork belly.
Mysaucepan‘s grilled barramundi topped with freshly diced mango, drizzled with a salsa dressing of grated lemongrass, ginger, fish sauce, palm sugar, lemon juice and garnished with coriander.
Paul’s dinner party
My cousin Paul is an amazing cook and tonight, we are treated to yet another sumptuous feast!
The aromas of a 2006 Climbing Shiraz is full of dark berries and spice yet restrained. The soft tannins make this a beautiful wine on its own.
This simple sambal eggs dish is making me yearn for nasi lemak yet I am drawn to the hearty bowl of bak kut teh in front of me.
Black bean sauce is a popular Sichuan ingredient and is normally used to stir-fry chicken or beef.
Paul has made a stir fried prawns with bitter gourd and black bean sauce and this is my favourite tonight as I love the subtle bitterness of the bitter gourd.
Nicole brought a sour cherry and almond flan and as much as I am indifferent to desserts, I ate a huge piece of this awesome flan because it is one of the best flans that I have ever tasted.
The sour cherry’s and roasted almond flakes are a genius combination but the star of this dessert is truly the shortcrust base – a wonderful revelation with its toasty and crumbly bits.
It is available in Thomas Dux outlets but you can also order it directly from Yael’s Cake of Distinction.
Para & Lena’s New year’s eve dinner party
KC brings a 1999 Joseph Perrier Champagne which took me a while to dislodge the cork over the kitchen sink.
The cork finally eased off with a small ‘pop’ and this 13-year old champagne is toasty straw in colour.
It still has a gentle amount of fizz and I detect hints of roasted walnut. It’s not a Bolinger but I think James Bond would have approved, in a compromising situation perhaps.
I am a little disappointed with my 2001 Petaluma Riesling because the previous one I had a few months ago seemed nicely aged.
Light honey coloured, this wine might be on its last legs but nevertheless, it is still showing some attitude on the finish.
KC’s 2012 Grosset Polish Hill Riesling is arguably one of Australia’s best rieslings.
On this cool new year’s eve evening, I detect the characteristic hints of zesty and citrusy lemon on the nose.
Although I like this dry style riesling, I believe this wine may be a little too early to drink. Good as it may be, drinking the current vintage now is a bit like expecting Bernard Tomic to win the Australian Open this year.
A Thai prawn salad with cabbage, onions, kaffir lime is like having a Thai-girl show in the mouth – an explosion of spicy and delicious flavourrs.
Succulent and plump pieces of prawns that’s dressed with a spicy sour chilli sauce are making me more hungry as I eat.
This Chinese roast duck was picked up at BBQ Kitchen’s newest joint in Chatswood and tasty as it is, I find it a little dry and I wonder if it is due to it being a take-away.
Teoh’s 2006 Holyman Pinot Noir from Tassie is one of the ‘biggest’ Aussie pinot noir that I have tasted.
Bold and chest-out, I think this pinot noir wants to shake off any resemblance of its subtle yet complex Burgundian heritage. I am not complaining because it is a bloody awesome wine with the Chinese roast duck.
I made a pot of rendang the day before from my mum’s home-made curry paste. Even though I have probably cooked this dish a hundred times, I am still totally addicted to it.
Succulent pieces of beef that has taken in all the flavours of galangal, ginger, lemongrass, chilli and spices, they just melt in the mouth and is so good with either steamed rice or a few pieces of toasted bread.
I think my favourite wine of the evening is Para’s 2005 Chateau Briot Bordeaux.
“You ought to move away from Aussie sometimes and check out the French wines” he tells us.
He’s definitely not wrong because this wine has all kinds of berries on the nose. Tannins are soft and delicate, yet full of complexity and a lingering finish.
Para brought out a bottle of 1973 Chateau Mouton Rothschild where the label has a famous painting by Pablo Picasso.
“Are we drinking this tonight too?” someone shrieks.
“Nah ..” Para replies. “It’s almost forty years old, I’m not sure if it will perform tonight” he adds.
“I might save it for my 50th wedding anniversary” he declares.
“If I don’t perform on that night, I can blame it on this bottle of wine” he jokingly tells his wife Lena.
Nevertheless, I am glad that my bottle of 2000 Noble One Botrytis Semillon has performed tonight.
After years of cellaring, this dessert wine is dark brown, mellow, smooth and quite classy too if I might add, just like our host Para.
Para is meeting up for dinner later in the week with one of his long-time friend Tan Sri Fumihiko Konishi, a successful businessman from Penang in Malaysia who founded the Texchem Group, a public-listed entity on the Kuala Lumpur stock exchange.
Being a fellow Penangite, Para shares with us some wonderful stories about his hometown in Malaysia, how he moved to Singapore to read medicine and eventually settle in Sydney.
Last but certainly not least, we are here tonight to watch the beautiful fireworks over Sydney harbour from Para’s balcony. As always, Sydney never fails to impress us with its awesome new year’s eve events and tonight is certainly no exception.
At the stroke of midnight, Sydney harbour roars with an awesome display of pyrotechnics that lit up the southern skies to usher in 2013.
As the fireworks draw ‘ooohhh’ and ‘aaahhh’ from everyone, we charge our glasses and wish each other for great 2013.
You can also check out last year’s new year’s eve where we watch the Sydney fireworks from a boat.
So dear readers, what did you get up to during the Christmas break and what kind of food did you feast on?
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