Merry Christmas everyone! Last night we had our big Christmas dinner on Christmas Eve. This year for Christmas I decided to do everyone's favourite dishes and this year's guests were my family as well as cousins and uncles. Come and take a peek into our family Christmas!
The last few years have been whizzing by in a daze and this year was no exception and I don't think I'm the only one that is grateful for the Christmas break.
Along with a break, this Christmas also brought us a wonderful surprise- something we've been waiting for for a long time. Our dream to have our own dog has come true and we are now the proud owners of Mochi, a Maltese Shih Tzu. Officially registered and everything!
(Alas that doesn't include approval from the meddlesome strata committee but hey 2016 right?)
I have mentioned a couple of times about Mochi's life and now that she is ours I thought I might share it. For the first four years of her life Mochi was treated with extraordinary cruelty by people who lived in North Ryde who neglected and malnourished her - she still has health issues caused by this. One day around when she was four years of age and so malnourished that she could have been picked up with two fingers, there was a fierce Sydney thunderstorm. Builders working on a neighbouring property huddled for shelter and then looked down at the adjoining house below. They spotted a tiny white fluffy ball sheltering and shivering. When the storm abated they knocked on the door.
Snowflake Christmas ornament from Little Event Boutique
"Do you know that there's a dog there?" they asked. The owners said, "You can have it if you want, stupid dog". Not wanting to leave the tiny pup in such circumstances the group of builders huddled for a conference and called their partners and mothers. One woman worked as a shopping lady for a lady in the Eastern Suburbs and Mochi then lived there for the next four years. The lady has poor sight, little mobility and had a hoarding problem and wasn't able to properly care for her only giving her a walk once a week by hired help so while Mochi was no longer abused she didn't exactly flourish. She only visited the vet twice for cursory examinations. When the woman had to spend three months in hospital she needed someone to look after Mochi.
Enter Louise, the lady who lives upstairs from us. She rescues dogs and volunteered to look after her. Alas Louise's husband didn't want a permanent dog in their lives. And because fate trades in magic, one night Mr NQN was coming up the stairs and Louise was coming down the stairs holding Mochi to take her out for her nightly walk. Louise introduced Mochi to Mr NQN.
"You should see this dog, you'd love her!!" said Mr NQN excitedly as he returned to our apartment. And when Louise walked back up, we opened our door and peeked out and saw Mochi. She was shy, meek and downtrodden due to her previous households but we fell in love with her right away. She is older than we wanted at 8 years old but if you look at shelters they are full of loving and lovable older dogs.
We started looking after her, first just while Louise was at work and then overnight. Then after a couple of months Louise saw how attached we were to Mochi and asked if we would like to adopt her. There was no question, we wanted to give this little lovely the best life that she deserved all along.
Mochi (named after the small, white Japanese sweet) is the calmest, sweetest dog I have ever encountered. We take her on drives to the country so she can roll around on grass and on the rocks in Clovelly Beach which she adores. We have also discovered her favourite food is Peking Duck. We learned this when I bought one one day and this usually very polite and obedient little lady couldn't stop pestering us for some even licking our well washed fingers for any final traces of it. She loves it more than her favourite dog food treat-in fact it IS her favourite treat!
This is Mochi's first Christmas with us and hopefully the start of many more. She has some huge health issues that require a lot of tests, especially due to her age and neglect but she is ours and we're never going to let her go.
Christmas present wise this year we decided to go a bit low key this year. An unexpectedly astronomical vet bill meant that we had to channel our present fund into that. So I thought that the best idea would be something fun and inexpensive like framed photos. We made Mochi calendars for my family and I gave Mr NQN a photo collage with pictures that I had taken of her.
Apparently one of Mr NQN's favourite presents!
Then I remembered another picture that I had promised to have framed for Mr NQN. It was from a few years ago and long time readers may remember it. I affectionately refer to it as "b&^chface". It was from a media trip and everyone in the pic is smiling and I didn't realise the pic was being taken and I have a natural b&^chface (I can't help these things) so I am the only one ruining the picture. I actually love this photo and so does Mr NQN so I framed up b&^chface and gave it to Mr NQN. B&^chface rides again!
Beautiful Italian cookies from Dear Reader Matilda!
Anyway back to the food! As far as food was concerned, there was a lot of it and there would be 10 of us sitting down to dinner in our apartment. My uncle Sam and his partner Lian arrived 15 minutes early because that's their thing. Of course Mr NQN was in the shower and I was trying to exterminate a fly and chasing it while wearing heels. Not clever.
Then my cousin arrived-there was Roger, his partner Catherine and their two kids Natalie and Jason. Uncle Sam had given them my parents' address so they had been there just before. And then my mother arrived by herself. "Where's father and Blythe?" I asked. "Rice," my mother answered, You see my father had to go home and make rice to bring to dinner. Because my dad is scared of there not being rice!
"But I made rice," I said. And then he arrived with my sister Blythe and two big containers of rice because well, that's my dad. Then smiling he handed me a gift. We weren't exchanging presents until the next day so I was curious. He had painted a picture of Mochi!! And then finally my other cousin Richard arrived (also having been told that dinner was at my parents house) and then everyone sat down at the table straight away because Chinese families don't mess about. We're here for the food.
This was one of the most popular dish along with the dumplings. I also had a bit of a drama and an argument with the fish shop guy who insisted that a tuna loin was a tuna steak. It's not the same and Mr NQN joined the long queue at the fish shop this morning.
Our first course was Peking Duck pancakes which was a good sharing course! And the second course wasn't soup or pancakes but....
Duck Dumplings with Browned Butter
Dumplings! Holy heck, please make these! You know when you have a dinner and people don't do the passing thing so one dish sits unloved and neglected because it's in a "dead zone"? I was worried that nobody liked these but it wasn't until someone tried it and then they were all gobbled up. The trick is the browned butter crispy bottoms and the soft duck centre!
Oysters with Balsamic pearls
Seafood is a no brainer in Australia for Christmas and we all love those huge, fresh Pacific oysters. Instead of lemon I served these with balsamic pearls that I bought in Italy and they were sublime. I only wish I had more!
Tomato & Crab Angel Hair Spaghetti With XO sauce
This is a dish that I will make time and time again because it is super easy. My uncle was convinced that these were Chinese noodles and I had to explain that it was angel hair pasta. I didn't want to start a "who invented pasta" conversation (we'd already discussed Trump) so I let that trail off...
Sweet Potato with Feta and Chilli
I got this idea from the lovely Sarah just a couple of days ago. I thought that this would be a great side dish as it is so versatile. She used goats cheese and parsley, I used Persian feta and chives! It completely disappeared too.
Chopped Egg and Grilled Asparagus Salad
I adore asparagus and this chopped egg topped asparagus is creamy and tangy. Plus it can be made ahead of time and stored in the fridge.
Rice That Even My Father Will Eat
Originally I wanted to stuff the Peking duck with this rice but I completely forgot about it! So I served it cooked as it was. Even with his two huge buckets of rice my father ate this instead. "Good, good", nodded my father in the only positive words I've ever heard him utter about food apart from "It's okay."
Then after I came back from clearing the dishes Catherine leaned over and said, "Funny but the second you left the table, the compliments about the rice came flowing." I laughed, that is the Chinese way, or at least the way of my family. "That was no mistake, it's his way of saying he enjoyed it," I answered.
Green tongues and candy canes
I'd like to take this opportunity to thank you all for reading my little corner of the world. Some of you Dear Readers have been reading for many years while some are new to the blog and it means so much to me that you choose to spend your time here with me! :)
I dearly hope you all have a wonderful Christmas and even if you don't celebrate Christmas, similarly I hope that it's a relaxing, wonderful time!
And tell me Dear Reader, what are you having for Christmas dinner? I want to hear the whole menu!! :D
Lots of love,
Lorraine (aka b&^chface haha!)
DID YOU MAKE THIS RECIPE? Share your creations by tagging @notquitenigella on Instagram with the hashtag #notquitenigella
Chopped Egg and Grilled Asparagus Salad
All recipes by Lorraine Elliott
- 4 bunches asparagus
- 3 tablespoons oil
- 4 boiled eggs, finely chopped
- 4 tablespoons garlic aioli (you can also use bearnaise sauce)
- 3 tablespoons finely chopped chives
Step 1 - Preheat oven to 180C/350F and line 2 baking trays with parchment. Snap off asparagus at the ends-they will naturally snap at the right spot (the older the asparagus the woodier it is and more you will discard). Spread out the asparagus on the trays and drizzle with oil and roast until done-about 4-5 minutes for really thin asparagus and up to 7 for really thick asparagus.
Step 2 - Mix the eggs, aioli and chives together. Spread the asparagus on a serving tray and top with the egg mixture.
Make sure to ask for tuna loin. The fish shop that I went to was not my usual one and they sold me a tuna steak which was all wrong and necessitated another trip to the markets on Christmas Eve!
- Fine salt and black pepper
- 250g/8.83ozs. sashimi grade tuna loin
- 4 tablespoons Wasabi mayonnaise
- 2 tablespoons white and black sesame seeds
- 1 tablespoon oyster soy sauce*
- 1 teaspoon pickled ginger, finely sliced
- 1 teaspoon thinly sliced red onion
- Red shiso to serve
Buyer's tip: I know I go on about oyster soy sauce (and it's definitely not oyster sauce but oyster flavoured soy sauce) but after discovering it in Japan I only use it for sushi and sashimi. You can buy it at Tokyo Mart for $6.20 a bottle and there is so much delicious umami flavour to it. I even gave it to friends for Christmas!
Step 1 - Season the tuna with salt and pepper and then roll the tuna in the mix of sesame seeds and then heat a non stick pan on medium high heat. Add a little oil (about 1-2 tablespoons). Sear the tuna on all sides for 40 seconds.Allow to cool completely. Slice up with a sharp knife.
Step 2 - Spread wasabi mayonnaise on a serving plate. Mix the soy sauce, ginger and red onion together and drizzle over the tuna and then top with red shiso.
Obviously this is too late to make for Christmas as the duck requires some drying out but if you love Peking Duck please make this for another special occasion (or hey a Monday night alone at home if you want, I don't judge ;)). Given that Peking ducks in restaurant go upwards of $88 it is worth making one yourself if only to satisfy the curiosity of how to make this delicious, delectable dish.
How to make Peking Duck video
- 1 duck, dry aged and hung for 4 days (my butcher did it for me, instructions to do it at home are below)
- 4 tablespoons maltose syrup
- 1 tablespoon five Spice
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
- 1 Lebanese cucumber, cut into batons
- Small bunch spring onions
- Hoi sin sauce
To dry a duck in a fridge, it's best hung so that it dries on all sides but since most of us have regular fridges you can place a rack on a cooling rack on top of a baking tray. Salt the duck all over the skin and place it on a rack and leave it in your fridge for a few days turning it each day. The salt with draw out the moisture from the skin which is what you want. It will develop almost a waxy coating on the skin.
Step 1 - Let's assume that you've got a dried out duck now either by your own hand or your butchers'. The day before place a kettleful of water on the boil. Place the sink in a sink and pour the hot water quickly over the duck to tighten the skin. Pat dry with kitchen paper and place back on the rack. Stick your fingers under the breast skin between the meat and wiggle them until you get to the top. You want to loosen the skin from the meat.
Step 2 - Heat the maltose syrup, give spice powder and two soys in a small saucepan on medium heat or in a microwave until the maltose is more honey-like in texture and you can mix the marinade well to combine all ingredients. Brush this mixture all over the skin of the duck. You will still have about half the marinade still left. Place the duck in the fridge overnight uncovered.
Step 3 - The next day brush the duck with a bit more marinade. Preheat oven to 180C/350F. Roast the duck for 45 minutes breast side up. Then turn the duck over and brush the other side and then roast for 30 minutes with the breast down. Then turn over and use the last of the baste and roast for 10 minutes.
Step 4 - Place the duck breast side up and increase oven temperature to 190C/380F. Roast for 7-8 minutes.
Step 5 - Make pancakes. Mix the flour, salt, oil and water together in a bowl with a fork and knead til you get a soft dough. Roll into a log and cut into 12 pieces. Roll out into a round and cook on a high heat in a non stick saucepan (do not add any oil). The first side will cook after almost a minute, then turn over and cook the other side for 20-30 seconds.
Step 6 - Carve the skin off the duck into 12 pieces that can fit the pancake. Serve with cucumber batons, hoi sin sauce and spring onions.
Rice (that even my dad will eat)
- 3 lup cheong sausages, sliced thinly on the diagonal
- 6 shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced, stalk removed
- 2 cups rice
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
- a few drops sesame oil
- white pepper
Step 1 - Place all ingredients in a rice cooker and steam until done. Season with sesame oil and white pepper.
Pan Fried Peking Duck Dumplings
Makes 60 dumplings
- 3 cups duck meat (from the Peking Duck)
- 100g/3.5ozs. shiitake mushrooms, sliced
- 3 tablespoons hoi sin sauce
- 60 won ton wrappers (round)
- 100g butter
- Salt and pepper to Season
Step 1 - Process the duck, shiitake mushrooms and hoi sin sauce in a food processor. Season with salt and pepper and taste for seasoning. It should taste sweet and salty.
Step 2 - I had a little assembly line going on here. Lay out the wonton wrappers and fill with 1 teaspoon of filling. Brush water around the edge and press down and seal well.
Step 3 - Heat a frying pan on medium high and a pot of water onto boil. Add the butter in the frying pan and brown until nutty and fragrant. Then turn the heat down.
Step 4 - Once the pot is boiling cook 6-8 dumplings for a minute until they float to the top (the filling is cooked so they don't need a really long time). remove using a slotted spoon draining well and then place in the browned butter tossing to coat the dumplings. Keep adding the dumplings as they cook and then turn up the heat and crisp the skins up.
Sweet Potato With Feta & chilli
- 1kg/2.2lbs. sweet potatoes
- 250g/8.83ozs. Persian Feta
- 1 large red chilli, sliced
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 2 tablespoons fresh chives
Step 1 - Preheat oven to 190C/380F and scrub potatoes well (you do no need to peel these). Roast until tender (about 50 minutes but these were not very large).
Step 2 - Slice in half horizontally and crumble feta on top and then chilli, cumin and paprika. Return to the oven for 5 minutes to toast the spices (or you can do these earlier in the day and then reheat them in the oven before serving). Sprinkle with fresh chives.
I'll share the recipe for the tomato and crab spaghetti very soon!