Sunday, 28 December 2008

Of Lollies and Cake and BBQ Lamb

I'm back again. We spent a few days in Sydney at the Bloke's Mum's place, where we had a quiet and pleasant Xmas and no internet. Moira made her signature ham, baked in Guinness - the best ham ever, if you ask me. We had that for Xmas lunch, and prawns & veg & turkey, and we finished off with a "Pudding Lady" pud with Moira's homemade brandy icecream. And a nap.

For our contribution, we bought the ham for Moira to cook, and I added a jar of "Ham Jam" and a dozen mince pies from the gourmet food place at Belco markets. The "jam" was very good - a spicy cherry relish. I also took some cherries, and a hunk of my Xmas cake, a bit spruced up with glace fruit and a bauble. The fruit is glued on and glazed with apricot jam, sieved and thinned with a little brandy. You warm it up to a liquid, then paint on a layer to the cake, add the fruit, and brush it with more glaze.

Today we had a couple of friends round for lunch. I had a butterfly leg of lamb in a Greek marinade from Meatways, so I decided to cook that on the BBQ, and throw together a couple of salads. These were a simple bean salad, and a Greek salad. The bean salad is a standard: just a tin of mixed beans, some cooked fresh green beans, blanched red onion, and an oil & vinegar dressing. This time I added some strips of sun dried tomato. The Greek salad was a mix of tomato, cucumber, onion, capsicum, fetta cheese and kalamata olives, with a herb and lemon dressing.

We finished off with a lovely refreshing green apple sorbet and shortbread biscuits, made by Helen. I'll have to ask her for the recipe, but the trick was that the apple is not cooked at all, simply frozen and then minced finely in the food processor. The resulting sorbet is a little bit granular, since the apple can't be made totally smooth. It comes out somewhere between sorbet and granita - really brilliant on a hot summer afternoon.

For no good reason, I had been thinking for a while of making some honeycomb toffee. I finally decided to do it this evening after our guests had gone home. I hardly ever make sweets, but it's Xmas season, so why not? It only takes about ten minutes. If you want to make your own hokeypokey icecream, this is the stuff to use.

Recipes follow.
Recipe 1: Cake Glaze
2 tablespoons apricot jam
2 teaspoons brandy

Sieve the jam to get rid of any large chunks. Put it into a small glass or jar, and add the brandy. Heat in the microwave for 30 seconds, or until boiling. Stir well. Brush onto cake, to use as glue for decorations. Apply a second layer over the fruit. Reheat for 10 seconds to re-liquefy, any time you need.

Recipe 2: Greek Salad Dressing
1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
2 cloves garlic
50 ml lemon juice
25 ml good olive oil
small pinch salt

Peel the garlic cloves and partially crush with a knife blade, so that they stay mostly whole. Put everything in a small glass jar, shake well and leave for 3 hours before using. Remove garlic before adding to salad.

Recipe 3: Honeycomb Toffee
200g sugar
50ml water
1 tablespoon golden syrup
2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda, sieved.
light vegetable oil for greasing tin

Put sugar, water and golden syrup in a large saucepan. Bring to boil, and continue boiling to "hard crack" stage. This is when a drop of the sugar mix, tipped in a glass of cold water, sets to hard filaments as it sinks. If you have a sugar thermometer, that's 150C. Remove from heat and toss in the carb soda. It will foam up a lot. Stir quickly and tip into an oiled cake tin to set. If you want neatish cubes, use a square tin, and score with an oiled knife when partly set. Or just break it up in shards, as I have.

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