Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Monday, December 27, 2010

Xmas Traditions

Who says we don't have Christmas traditions in Australia! We do, it's just that they are a bit eclectic and inherited from hither and yon. This year we borrowed from European and Asian customs. From threepences to pig's feet and casalinga ham to glass noodles. It was a lot of fun.

Knowing that we were being joined for Christmas lunch by two of our Chinese student friends, Joshua Yao and Helen Han, Mary and I gave some thought to a meal that had an East/West balance.

We set our Christmas table with our Bavarian table centre cloth, mince pies made by Anna, one of our Italian neighbours and pfeffer kuchen made by Allison a young, former neighbour with strong German food links.

The Christmas crackers complete with corny jokes, tacky novelties and silly paper party hats have been present on our Christmas tables for as long as Mary and I can remember and we carefully explained to Joshua and Helen that we didn't actually take them seriously and that boys could take their hats off if they liked after the first course.

The first course has pretty much been an Australian Christmas food tradition since the groovy 70's and the lobster went on top of shredded iceberg lettuce and avocado in a parfait glass and was liberally doused with a home made Thousand Island dressing made with Rosella tomato sauce. No picture is necessary - or desirable - but the taste was timeless.

The second course was not one many Tasmanians would be used to at Christmas. We had a box of pig's feet in the fridge. Free range Wessex Saddleback pigs, ethically bred and raised by Guy Robertson and Eliza Wood at Mt Gnomon Farm near Penguin. I had discussed with Joshua a pickle sauce dish that was customary at celebratory feasts in Shanghai and this dish was painstakingly prepared by Josh on Christmas Eve. The chewy tangy feet were coupled with an equally cooling dish made by Helen with glass noodles, cucumber, egg, mushroom and pork. A delightful first for us on both counts. These dishes were balanced out with abalone stir fried in butter, oil and garlic picked from Mary's herb garden.

The fourth dish was more familiar to Tassie summer Christmas tables. Cold ham with potato and broad bean salad and a mixed lettuce salad with walnuts and goat's cheese. The pinkeyes and broad beans were also dug and picked from Mary's garden on Christmas morning and the beans twice podded. The dressing was made with mustard and chopped green onion. The ham was accompanied by a home made mustard piccalilli featuring zucchini and peppers. The walnuts were from a friends tree and the goat's cheese a Belstone, made by a lady at Bonnet Hill near Taroona south of Hobart.

The ham was prepared casalinga style by a guy in Launceston. The pig was a free range Black Berkshire, ethically bred and raised by Lee Christmas of the Red Feather Inn at Hadpsen. The holly ( out of season) was from our tree and the pudding was made by Mary from my late mother's family recipe. It was served with Creme Anglaise instead of the traditional (in my family anyway) brandy sauce. The silver threepences were boiled and once singing in the pot, were buried in the pud with appropriate warnings to Joshua and Helen about the hazards of biting one too hard or swallowing one.

Allison's pfeffer kuchen with spicy cinnamon and ginger notes were decorated with Callebaut dark chocolate. Along with Anna's mince pies they were a great end to the lunch, nibbled with Chinese tea carefully prepared by Helen.

Well Josh had a good day. Presents, Sichuan peppers and a big smile to start the afternoon.

Mary and Helen checked out the Thermomix article in the Tasmanian Chinese language newspaper after discussion about how easy it was to make the Creme Anglaise in the TM.

And fortunately Josh's Christmas cracker yielded a gift of a tape measure with which he could empirically establish the effect of the 6 courses just eaten.

And finally, the kitchen cleared it, was time for a sleep in a chair in the lounge room before listening to the Queen's Message.

Christmas traditions ? Yep - we've got 'em ok - it's just that sometimes we don't recognise them as our own. Now for macaroni cheese made with leftover ham.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

World Party 2010

Food, music and violence towards international students were the catalysts for World Party. Designed to bring our diverse community together, the Party worked a treat. About 6000 people grazed and grooved and shmoozed over 10 hours last Sunday. And the goodwill didn't stop at the door. Hobartians of all sorts, carrying away sushi by Masaaki Koyama and Greek sweets by the Estia crowd, engaged happily with each other going along the streets leading from the City Hall and on the buses on their way home. World Party made a lot of students and recent arrivals in Hobart more confident and gave cause for great pride to the older arrivers to our shore who partied with them. It was inspiring to see everyone happy in their own skin.

As you will see from the photo a couple down from here I had my hands full with the requirements of some 20 international food stall holders and a similar number of musical and dance acts that stretched from 2.00pm until midnight so I am once again indebted to my good friend, the very talented Marc Bester for his great photographic record of the day. His pic of this conger line formed by the Greek dancers early on captures the mood of the day very well.

Jonathon Poh a UTAS student who usually makes mooncakes made these gorgeous coconut desserts which burst in the mouth with their liquid centre. Unfortunately the recent Mooncake festivals in Hobart had cleaned all our Chinese stockists out of mooncake ingredients otherwise we would have seen Jon's beautifully crafted and coloured examples of this delicacy.

All the usual suspects were there. Some just having a beer and a chat ...

and some - well what can I say Rob. The dreamiest Clean Team worked tirelessly to make sitting down and eating a pleasure for all. Thanks also to Janet Carty, Fiona and Peter Davis, Robert Jarman, Jude Franks and Kim Foale.

Bree Mooney , alias Mondo Mama sold out in no time her hundreds of Italian bombolini.

These citrus flavoured Italian donuts were variously filled with chocolate, Meyer lemon curd and rosehip jam and then rolled in sugar.

Bree's bombolini were beautifully matched with Barista Sista, Anja Boot's coffee, the location of which had to be explained to our hard working security staff. I am happy to say however, that this all ages, licensed, day/night event was totally without incident or excessive consumption of alcohol.

One of the star attractions was Geeveston sushi genius Masaaki Koyama whose exquisitely crafted offerings were snapped up from the time he and his partner Lucy commenced operating.

These fried tofu wrapped sushi rice offerings named after the Shinto god Inari were a feast for the eyes as well as the palate. They were the best example of their kind I have seen.

And among Masaaki's customers I have no doubt would have been the amazing and stirring Taiko drummers who delighted the crowd early in the afternoon's line up.

Fen Zhou the Chinese lute player also enchanted the large crowd of 1000 plus who flowed in as soon as the doors opened.

The Tibetan Buddhist monks stall featured the traditional dumplings known as Momos and they were a huge hit, including with the Chinese Buddhist monks who later took the audience's breath away with the most athletic and meticulously choreographed Lion Dance Tasmania has seen. Thank you Master Wang.

These Momos were one of the few things I actually found time to sample and with the Tibetan's hot, and I mean hot, chilli sauce they were absolutely what I needed.

The Indonesian student's stall was carefully decorated and they had a great day they told me as well as a very successful one - selling out completely by the end of the evening. Their elevated mood typified the goodwill in the City Hall that was palpable all day long.

The Madi Tribal Dancers from the southern Sudan also rocked the crowd with their drumming and rhythmic movement. The African kids all had a great day and the young rappers and funk performers later on were also a huge hit with their polished performances.

Cultural cuppas were in evidence and were free, as I should say, was water, all day long thanks to the generosity of Richard Dobosz of Wellington Springs.

Indian food was represented by the Indian Kitchen and the Zaika Indian restaurant.

These pappadams and naan breads were seen everywhere and were just a fabulous accompaniment to the curries.

This beautiful and graceful Bhutanese dancer was one of the true artistic highlights of the day. Her great talent and grace belied her mere 14 years of age.

The World Party was also a quiet remembrance of murdered Chinese student Tina Yu and it was wonderful to see the Chinese PRC Student's Society so well represented and accompanied by their friends including food stalls by Four Seasons and Wah Yuen

The Chinese students stall had a beautifully decorated backdrop and was a popular spot for the Chinese artists during the breaks in their acts - including show stoppers Jason Xu and the Hotkings.

More Indonesian ...

and still more

The Thai stall - Zapp Thai was also a crowd pleaser

And the Greek ladies desserts were to die for.

Overseas students were seen taking large bags full of baklava and kourabiethes back to their accommodation as fuel for their study for imminent exams. It was a delight to see.

Some of the best baklava I have ever tasted. It was very kind of the Hobart Greek Community to turn out in such force. They also ran the bar and a souvlaki stall.

And the World Party would not have been possible without this man who arranged 10 hours of the most amazing and uplifting global music and dance. Non stop and seamless - thanks Martin Blackwell. All these artists came from within Tasmania and appeared without fee or for a nominal amount. This was a free, not for profit event and was a party to remember.