Very sadly, the year didn’t end so well for a couple of well-loved families. On Christmas Eve a long-standing friend Drew and I had known since our teenage years was tragically killed in an accident leaving behind a wife and three beautiful daughters. Two days after Christmas, Em’s father-in-law passed away after a short bout with cancer. Christmas for those families was abhorrent as they struggled with their lose, shock and grief.
Last week Drew and I attended two funerals and while the services truly honoured the men who had passed, it was not how anyone imagined the year ending and the new year beginning. We have been deeply saddened for the families affected and as a consequence we are all out of sorts.
My blogging and visiting my blogging friends has been all over the place however, I am now trying to get things a little more on track. While it was now some time ago, I did want to share with you how we spent Christmas in The Dunes holiday house at Mount Coolum on the Sunshine Coast.
We woke up on Christmas morning with 12 people in the house including the five of us, Drew’s parents and his brother’s family of 5. After opening presents that were piled high around the tiny little Christmas tree, it was on with the Aussie tradition of a refreshing swim at the beach. Alfie had been given a surfboard for Christmas so it was down to the beach to give it a test-drive. He shared his board with his Queensland cousin.
While my sister-in-law and I were busy in the kitchen, everyone else relaxed either in the pool or beside the pool. Alfie was very keen to begin reading the book he found in his Christmas stocking.
The indoor table was set for 12. I had remembered to pack my white tablecloth into my suitcase which by a stroke of good fortune was the perfect size for the holiday home’s dining room table. I’d used the table cloth the night before for our Christmas Eve dinner and before going to bed had scooped it up and put it in the wash. With the heat of the day it took only an hour to line-dry and then it was back on the table, un-ironed!
I did want some flowers for the table, like a vase of holly or Christmas bush, however, I’d been unable to source either in my mad dash around the unfamiliar shops on Christmas Eve. I did think the table looked a bit bare, but in a holiday house it’s often a case of just making do. I did pack my candles and I found a platter to put them on.
We started the celebration with a drink. I pre-ordered the booze from a website in Sydney that delivered the wine the day before we left. We packed it all into our car and when we arrived, I found the house had this beautiful silver urn for presenting the drinks on ice – handy! We started with a pink-hued glass of champagne – my favourite drink for a celebration.
There were canapes that I chose in colours of red and green to match the Christmas colours; things like dolmades and fetta-stuffed bell peppers. But somehow the canapes weren’t photographed – but I promise they were there!
I pre-ordered a free-range organic turkey from Green Ag Farms on the Sunshine Coast. It was delivered to the front door on Christmas Eve. The turkey weighed just under 7kgs (15.5lbs). Not breaking from tradition, I rubbed a hazelnut, garlic and parsley butter under the skin of the breast and thighs, then stuffed the cavity with a celery leaf, shallot, walnut and sage stuffing, and filled the neck cavity with a forcemeat stuffing with sausage meat, apples, dried apricots and thyme.
While the holiday home’s kitchen was enormous, the oven was tiny. We decided to put the turkey in the bar-be-cue with Drew keeping a very watchful eye on it. It was a bit of a ‘fingers-crossed’ approach.
At about 2pm the lunch was ready. It was with great relief to discover the turkey was perfect – not even a teeny bit dry or undercooked. Drew carved the bird while I searched around for suitable platters to serve the lunch that would be buffet style.
We served the turkey with homemade cranberry sauce and a gravy I made with pan juices, and a bottle of verjuice and a little cornflour I’d packed into my suitcase. Yes, I had to serve the gravy in a measuring jug – it’s all part of the holiday experience!
I made duck-fat potatoes with rosemary and these were cooked in the oven while the turkey was inside the bar-be-cue.
My sister-in-law, Sue, made two beautiful salads. One was with baby rocket, pumpkin and caperberries and the other a mixed green salad with yellow tear-drop tomatoes.
I managed to find two matching platters to serve them on.
Lunch was an enormous feast and there were plenty of leftovers.
After lunch dessert was served. I’d packed in my suitcase, the ingredients to make a White Chocolate Christmas Bombe. I was so worried that the kitchen wouldn’t have suitable equipment for me to make this dessert I’ve been eating on Christmas Day since I was knee-high. But with a blender and a mortar and pestle and going back to the 1950’s where you did most things by hand as appliances hadn’t yet been invented, it was made.
In order to ease the bombe from the tin, I lined the tin with cling-film. That put an end to the stress of trying to un-mould a dessert that’s glued to the container while all eyes are transfixed on the challenge of the moment. I found a platter to serve the bombe and then decorated it with fresh berries. It would have been nice (and a lot more decorative), to have served the bombe drizzled with raspberry coulis however, the kitchen didn’t have a fine sieve so we went with whole berries piled high.
Then there were chocolates for those still with a gap, the compulsory reading of the ‘jokes’ from the bonbons, the swapping of ‘treasures’ from the bonbons, a walk on the beach and a swim in the pool.
It was a really wonderful Aussie Christmas.