1. Having our traditional Christmas morning breakfast before attempting the 15 courses may not have been the smartest thing we have ever done. Although when offered home made panettone with roasted nectarines, mascarpone and a side of champagne you can’t really say no.
2. Getting drunk-spired (drunk + inspired = drunk-spired) on Christmas Eve is ideal because it results in 3D hexagonal menus that double as flower holders. And I got a gold star for managing to use a craft knife when drunk and still having 10 fingers to open presents on Christmas morning.
3. When you get totes emosh on Christmas morning because its the first family Christmas with all the kids at home in three years and spill your aforementioned champagne over a cat your family will give you a hug and top up your glass.
4. Table styling is all important. If you don’t know what you are doing just keep putting things on until you see the Pinterest logo appear in the top right hand corner.
5. Apparently I live in a family where if you wish out loud that you had mini-blackboards as place mats, your father will appear round the corner holding some and asking ‘will these do’. Oh and having a graphic designer in the family makes for some AMAZING lettering. Double oh, you are apparently from a family with ready access to mini-tankards, ER and pirate glasses and of course crystal shot glasses.
6. Your father will never quite forgive you for pretending to give him an iPad and then actually giving him a Bazinga t-shirt… sorry Dad.
7. When you plan to have all four members of the family in the kitchen cooking this will actually turn out to be two members of the family in the kitchen cooking, one taking selfies and the last using a power saw.
8. After course 4 you will start singing power ballads. And after course 10 you will need a nap. Don’t fight it.
9. Your family will catch the blogging bug and every course will start with a mini photo shoot.
10. Runawaykiwi will get grumpy when no-one wakes up from their naps on time.
11. You will have forgotten about three things (in our case cooking the sweet potato, putting avocado on the Pirate salad and to take the sorbet out of the freezer) THIS IS OK. Your guests will be already overwhelmed with champagne, food and selfies and will not notice.
12. Cats and fine dining do not mix.
13. It is harder to keep your bright red lipstick perfect during the meal then it is to cook the 15 courses in the first place.
14. 15 courses is too many. Trust me when I say to stop at 14.
15. There is nothing in the world that could be a better Christmas than hanging out with my family, cooking and laughing the day away.
Its that time again, the Christmas degustation*. The first year we did it we went for 12 courses, the next year this was bumped to 14, and we all know whats better than 14? You guessed it, for Christmas we made a 15 course degustation lunch from scratch. I thought that this time around I would write about the planning stage because the first question that I am always asked is ‘are you insane?’. I choose to believe that this is a question about all the work that goes into cooking that many courses, and not about my general state of mind. Based on that, read on for the work that goes into that level of Christmas cooking insanity.
The first important step when planning a Christmas degustation is to get your family on board. After an excited “hey Mum I’ve got a GREAT idea” email I got the equivalent of a pat on the head back as a reply. Taking this as full acceptance of the Christmas plan I did the only sensible thing and started a Pinterest board. Lets be clear at this stage, I was just pinning things that looked yummy…no great thought went into it.
A bit closer to December I had a Skype with Mum who started asking if we were really going to go through with it. Now just a bit of an FYI – this happens every year and will happen to your loved ones if you attempt the same. Mum was concerned about the time it would take to plan, when we would do all the shopping, and who would cook. Being the good daughter that I am I just changed the subject and said I wanted to get a tattoo. Trust me, the tattoo distraction thing works every time.
On to December and I walked off the plane and into the welcoming arms of my family. I think the plan was to actually, oh I don’t know, think about this massive Christmas lunch at some point? Distracted by wine, brunch and sunshine it just didn’t happen. So a week before Christmas we had to get our As into G. Putting a bottle of gin just out of reach we vowed not to open it till we had decided about the degustation…motivator in place we set to work. Part Pinterest, part whats in season and part just really wanting that gin we quickly wrote a list of courses and a shopping list.
In terms of actual food prep we again hit a bit of a snag. Originally we planned on a full two days of kitchen cooking before the Christmas day, but then Dad suggested a trip to Waiheke to visit the vineyards. Turns out you can do all the required prep in one day!
One day in the kitchen, with Mum and I enjoying hanging out way too much was all the prep we needed. Next post…the 15 course degustation.
*The eagle eyed among you may have twigged that I am posting about Christmas in February, my justification for this is that New Zealand normally dosent get the Doctor Who/Downton Abbey/Call the Midwife Christmas specials until about now so I’m giving the UK a taste of its own medicine. Thats my story and I’m sticking to it.
This post was in no way sponsored by anyone at all except for my Dad who made me gin and all opinions are my own because its my damn blog and I can write whatever the hell I want. #honestbloggers
Dinner parties are hard work for the host, not matter how much you like cooking they inevitably mean at least an afternoon in the kitchen before a panic to get ready and look cool calm and collected when your guests arrive. This is doubly the case when your guests are foodies – there is no pressure like it. My family however have discovered the ultimate dinner party hack; the shared degustation.
We had an early Christmas dinner with our family and my sister’s in laws. We could all definitely be classified as foodies, like make your own muesli and have experimented with foam foodies. Essentially the worst kind of dinner guests all in one family (or soon to be family come the October wedding!). Which is why this dinner party hack is so awesome.
Here’s how it works, each person/couple takes care of one of the courses. If you want a really impressive spread then each person/couple takes two courses. Now remember here the definition of degustation: a series of small plates. This means that all the courses are about the size of a standard appetiser and can be as small as some artfully arranged finger food. You can go really simple or really complex, it totally depends on a) how much time you have to make the food, b) if inspiration has struck.
To keep the washing up to a minimum we used the same wooden boards for almost every course with a quick wipe in-between. Side note on the boards, my Dad is all kinds of amazing and he made them himself from a bit of wood he found under our house. Along with spreading the washing up responsibility the degustation also means that every single person there gets a chance to relax and chat, after all if it’s not your course you don’t have to be in the kitchen.
Potentially the only downside was the cocktails. Actually I lie, it was an awesome downside… We had my sister making the cocktails, and it took a few tries till she was happy with the result. Not a family to waste food (or gin) we, ah, drank all the test cocktails. I can’t tell you how hard it is to plate up multiple dishes when under the influence of sister.
Thank you so much to Julie and Greg for hosting, and everyone else for cooking. Because the super ultimate dinner party hack? Arrive home after 24 hours of flying and everyone else just feeds you while giving you gin and cuddles.
I was feeling quite cocky about the London cafe scene. After all our coffee roasters have some of the most impressive beards in the industry and we all know the relationship between beards and coffee:
Because of this I wasn’t actually planning to blog much while I was in New Zealand, after all what was the point writing about the poor backward brunch cousin. Queue awkward jaw dropping when my Mum took my jet lagged self to The Return of Rad on my first day in Auckland. First up was that it looked like a cool cafe, so different to the normal Kiwi white plastic table numbers I was expecting.
After sitting down and trying to figure out what time zone my stomach was in, I went for the eggs Benedict and a flat white (of course). Holy crap. Turns out in New Zealand having a ‘good’ brunch is no longer the aim. While in London I am rating eggs Benedict by a home made holindase and perfectly toasted muffins, in New Zealand it’s all about invention.
It was like going into a Michelin starred restaurant and asking for chicken: you know you will get a beautifully presented plate with unusual but perfectly complimentary flavours. And that’s what I got at Rad. Instead of the standard eggs benne, I got a ham hock and apple delight.
It was sweet and savoury and something I would expect as a main in a Heston restaurant not a cafe in Mt Eden. Forget your boring muffin, the eggs were on a crispy potato gratin, and along with the creamy holindase there was grated apple and melt in your mouth ham that was more akin to a slow cooked pulled pork. Mum had a pretty looking muesli presented in the Kiwi version of a mason jar. It almost goes without saying that the coffee was perfect.
So, turns out I might be blogging a bit on this trip…stay tuned it’s going to be a caffeine fueled ride.