Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Christmas and Christmas Cooking (Part 2 - Christmas Day 2015)

A relaxing start to Christmas day (the kids had a couple of small presents to keep them happy) and E. cooked a "full English" for all of us - I had a quick visit to Park 'n' Shop to get hold of some more sausages.

Present opening was as usual a highlight of the day - I was fortunate enough to get lots of books and DVDs - A. was ecstatic with his X - Box and Vs main present was a "big" bike.

We then had our traditional visit to the beach (just below us next to where the Jumeirah Beach Park used to be before they decided to build the canal). It was a bright day with high cloud but plenty of sunshine and whilst initially a little cold the water was great and Dad, A and I all had a swim and V. had a paddle.

Christmas day dinner was with our Aussie friends K and J in the Villas - in total there was 15 of us as K's sister and her family were over for the holidays. It was a little hectic in getting there as my Ham - happily cooking away for around 20 hours decided to fall apart when I was applying the glazing - Nigella recommended cutting off some of the fat, scoring the remaining fat and then inserting the cloves and the Demerara/Treacle mixture but in removing the top layer of fat I had to cut the string that (as it turned out) kept the Ham together so there was an awkward 20 minutes as I tried to keep everything from flopping out (used tin foil in the end). We arrived a little late but everyone was in a party mood and after a couple of glasses of champagne (courtesy of Dad)and a Mojito (Julian's Christmas Day speciality) we settled down for a great Christmas Dinner outside in the afternoon sunshine. The Ham was well received and a good time was had by all.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Scores on the Doors

As foreshadowed by an earlier post at the end of this year's post a day challenge, I have just gone back to look at how this year's challenge faired in comparison with previous years and the results are as follows (year followed by posts vs nos. of days (ie 30)):

2015: 22/30
2014: 17/30
2013: 0/30
2012: 19/30
2011: 6/30
2010: 27/30

Not sure why 2013 was ignored altogether (although I do note that I was quite prolific earlier that Summer so perhaps I had run out of inspiration). 2011 also looks rather light.

I also took a look at the stats from my earlier blog dealing with Hong Kong days (visit here if you are interested: ).
These are very disappointing:

2009: 6/30
2008: 1/30
2007: 1/30
2006 1/30

One of the things that this does show it that I have been blogging for nearly 10 years - and I guess that would be about right as I started this around the time that V. was born. I think the original intention was to try to do it every week or every month. I have not had a huge amount of success at that but if you tot up my posts from my HK blog (c. 40 - which is quite interesting in itself as I thought that I had posted much more regularly than that)) and the 125 posts from here that is still a fairly healthy 160 + posts over a 9 year period.

Christmas and Christmas Cooking Part 1

Having used up pretty much all my holiday entitlement this year - mainly as a consequence of our Skiing holiday in Switzerland and our language lessons in Granada together with our Autumn RWC themed break in UK, I was rather fortuitously able to cobble together a 5 day break mainly because of an unexpected public holiday on Christmas Eve (Prophet's Birthday) and being able to add the 1 1/2 days I had to work over Martyr's Day/National Day holidays to the 1/2 day holiday I had left over for the year (and a weekend) so it turned into a very pleasant break - timed nicely to coincide with Dad's arrival from UK. Christmas Eve was spent on last minute gift purchases (E.) and a visit to Galleries Lafayette for lunch followed by the ceremonial cooking of the Ham ready for Christmas Day. Dad and I had gone to Park 'n' Shop to pick up a larger ham and spotted a turkey at the Pork section counter so nabbed that (6kg - possibly a little on the large side) as well as a wrapped Gammon. There was a lady behind us also eyeing up the Turkey as her name had been missed off the Turkey reservation list (it as apparently on the ham list so obviously a breakdown in communication) and so was a little concerned about sourcing a bird on Christmas Eve.

We have been avidly watching Nigella Lawson's cookery show and she had done a spectacular ham in black treacle which (a) looked amazing and (b) looked very simple. E. had bought me the book for Christmas s o I was allowed to write out the recipe (essentially 1 ham, black treacle and some whole cloves/Demerara sugar and more treacle for the glazing). The most difficult bit was wrapping up the ham in tin foil so it was fully sealed after applying the treacle. The next step was to cook for between 15 and 24 hours....

After the ham, we went to the Children's Mass at St Francis. I had hoped to get there for the carols at 5 but the traffic was terrible so we arrived just in time for the start of mass - it was absolutely packed with no room in the Church o the hall so we sat out side where they had set up seating and big screen. It was very nicely done although we were right next tot he speaker so a little noisy!

We got home at about 7pm and I did Dad and I a quick BBQ - lamp chops for him and some salmon which I had marinade in an olive oil/balsamic/garlic/Thyme sauce which was very nice indeed.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Hollywood Boulevard

A. and I went to see Paul Hollywood at the BBC Good Food road show at the WTC on Saturday - it was supposed to be me and E but V. has been unwell so No. 1 son and I made the trip to see the TGBBO (see previous posts)star in action. He did not disappoint. We had a couple of recipes and some chat followed by a Q&A and autograph session. Both A. and I asked some questions (and by a curious symmetry me being the first of the session and A. having the last one - both captured on Video) although we were handily placed in the front row as A. had left the last session (quite interesting with a chap called Andy Bates) as soon as it had finished and rushed to bagsy some spaces.

My question about his greatest disaster (having told him about the calamitous great Raymont/Grabham bake off in October)led to two stories from him - one about the Sultan of Brunei and the other about accidentally salting rather than sugaring 1,000 doughnuts at his Father's bakery.

The WTC venue is right next to where our new offices will be located and it was good to see them progressing well.

A. was also delighted to get PH's autograph on his Bread book and last night I put one of is recipes into action - Soda Bread. As those of you who know me will recall, Soda Bread - particularly made by Mother - is one of my favourite things and so I was keen to give it a go and the directions seemed to suggest that it would be relatively straightforward.

A. and I have been going for walks after I have been getting home from work as a pre-Christmas fitness drive (baby steps...) and so we went down to Park 'n' Shop to get the ingredients. The first problem was the complete absence of plain wholemeal flour - there was pretty much every other kind of flour you could imagine but not the one we actually wanted so we ended up with some all purpose flour. The second issue is that there was only low fat buttermilk. I am pretty sure that this did not feature at any point in my Mother's rendition of this recipe but in the absence of any alternatives we pushed on with this. Given that there is in fact only 5 ingredients (plain flour, wholemeal flour, salt, bicarb and buttermilk) this was not a particularly auspicious start. Nevertheless, V. and A were soon vigorously mixing everything together and whilst the resultant doughy mixture was not exactly like the picture is in the book, it was a fairly close approximation.

It does say in the book to wait until everything has cooled down before eating. However, I could not resist warm soda bread with butter and honey and actually it tasted very good (even though I say so my self). I also had it for breakfast this morning (and hopefully at lunch) - I cannot wait to make it with the correct ingredients!