My mother’s birthday was a few weeks ago and a celebration was certainly due so I invited mum and dad over for dinner. At the time the invitation went out I had no idea what I would cook and as much as I tried I couldn’t focus on the event because the annual council clean up was on. I was desperately trying to cull everything that was clogging my house and invading all available space. In an effort to be ruthless I was going through my vast collection of magazine cookbooks because we all know my shelves are buckling under the weight.
But it’s just so hard to be ruthless. Every issue of Delicious or Donna Hay or Gourmet Traveller seems to contain that one inspirational recipe I just might need. And the ditching, culling and throwing out process turned out to be fruitless because my mind became inspired not from the turf-out but to what I could cook for my mother.
I found a Gourmet Traveller from December 2007. On the cover was an impressive looking cake called a ‘Caribbean Christmas Cake’. It was full of dried fruits and spices and essences and nuts and I just knew I had all those ingredients leftover from my Christmas baking. I was inspired.
Complimenting it completely was a recipe for a traditional roast turkey. I remembered how on Christmas Eve when I was one of the last shoppers through the supermarket doors, how they had organic free-range turkeys reduced by 50%. There were only two remaining and if I’d had a larger freezer I would have bought both. Regrettably, I only bought one. It was a 4.2kg turkey that was still in my freezer.
But no longer! I cooked my mother a brined roast turkey with a cranberry and sage stuffing followed by the Caribbean Christmas cake.
All was going well and mum and dad arrived and commented on how the aroma from the kitchen was fantastic but then asked where Alfie was. ‘Outside riding his bike’, I said, as I reached for my kitchen scissors to cut the twine from the trussed legs of the turkey.
But they weren’t there. And a frantic search ensued, but alas, my kitchen scissors, the item I can’t live without and use every day, was missing. Meanwhile Carl was tugging at the twine, jiggling the turkey legs forcefully from the impact of a blunt knife. ‘Leave it alone’, I cried, we need the scissors.
Then Alfie walked in from his ‘bike ride’, only he hadn’t been on a ‘bike ride’; that was a front. Somewhere out on the road along with all his street-mates, he’d found a rainbow lorikeet. A dead one. One that he was holding in his bare hands and had brought into the house. He was also holding my kitchen scissors.
‘What are you doing?’ I cried.
‘Nothing’, answered Alfie, all confused.
‘What did you do with my scissors?’
‘I’ve got a lorikeet. We found it. It’s dead. It had a tag. I wanted to take the tag to the zoo in case the lorikeet had escaped. We couldn’t get the tag off. It was stuck…’
‘What did you do with my scissors?’
‘We had to cut the leg off to get the tag. Then Lachlan put the tag in his pocket and went bike riding and lost it’.
‘You cut the leg off the lorikeet? Where’s the leg?’
‘Don’t know; well where we left it; but…’
‘You don’t have the leg?’
‘Mum; did you hear me? Lachlan lost the tag. How could he lose the tag? I was going to take it to the zoo. I told him I was taking it to the zoo. He says he can’t find it’.
But my scissors? Did you use my kitchen scissors, the ones I use every day in my kitchen to amputate a dead bird’s leg?’
And I might have been yelling with an ashen look on my face and at the same time I was handing my mother a wrapped package containing a stick blender with an ironed smile. ‘Here you go, mum; happy birthday. Don’t worry so much about the scissors; we won’t use them to cut the turkey. We’ll just put them in the steriliser we don’t have so don’t worry about germs, or contamination, or poisoning or sudden death syndrome or anything like that; all is good.’
And we put Alfie in the shower. And we found a suitable receptacle for the dead lorikeet. And Lachlan is in disgrace for losing the bird’s identification tag. And we’ve enlightened Alfie as to the number of uses for kitchen scissors – they’re limited and autopsies of rotting birds is not one of them.
Despite the awkward beginnings, the dinner was lovely. The turkey was tender and it was a treat to have turkey at a time other than Christmas Day. The Caribbean Christmas Cake was special and unique and you don’t need to wait for Christmas to cook this. It’s a cake that will serve many and it’s a great way to use up packets of nuts and dried fruit and all those essences and bottles of booze you have leftover from Christmas.
Serves: 10-12, plus leftovers
Degree of Difficulty: 4/5
Cost: Expensive. This has so many ingredients and a lot of them are pricey.
- 250g seeded prunes
- 200g raisins
- 200g currants
- 200g mixed peel
- 120g glace cherries
- 80g mixed nuts
- 125m (1/2 cup) dark rum
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 tsp almond essence
- 400g brown sugar
- 225g (1 1/2 cup) plain flour
- 1/2 tsp ground allspice
- 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1/3 tsp ground cloves
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 225g unsalted butter
- 5 eggs
- 125ml (1/2 cup) Tawny Port
- 60ml (1/4 cup) golden rum (I have no idea what golden rum is. I only know dark and light. I used dark).
- 30g glace cedro, sliced into wafer-thin ribbons to serve
- 2 baby glace clementines
- 440g (2 cups) white sugar
- 60ml (1/4 cup) golden rum
- 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
- 2 egg whites
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
Combine dried fruit in food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Transfer to a large bowl and add nuts, dark rum, essences and 60gm of brown sugar. Cover and steep in liquid overnight, then transfer fruit to a heavy-based saucepan with 1 cup cold water. Place over high heat until it begins to simmer then reduce to low heat and cook for another 15 minutes or until soft. Cool.
Sift flour with spices, baking powder and 1/2 tsp salt. Set aside. Using an electric mixer cream butter and remaining brown sugar until pale and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add fruit mixture and stir to combine, then add reserved flour mixture and stir through.
Preheat oven to 150C. Grease and line a 28cm diameter spring-form pan with baking paper. Spoon cake mixture into pan and bake for 2 hours or until a skewer withdraws clean.
Remove cake from oven, prick all over using a skewer. Combine port and rum in a small jug and pour over cake. Stand for a least 3 hours before turning out.
For icing, combine sugar, golden rum, cream of tartar, 1/4 tsp salt and 3/4 cup water in a saucepan, then cook over low-medium heat until mixture reaches 118C on a sugar thermometer (soft ball stage). Meanwhile, using an electric mixer, beat egg whites to stiff peaks. Gradually add hot syrup to egg whites, beating constantly, then add vanilla and beat for 10 minutes or until icing is cooled and of a spreadable consistency. Ice cake immediately using a small palette knife and serve garnished with cedro ribbons and glace clementines.
This recipe is from Gourmet Traveller, December 2007.