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.


  1. What a lovely Christmas you've all had and you certainly haven't forgotten the biggest tradition of all, getting together with family and friends. n.b. it wouldn't be Thousand Island dressing without the tomato sauce, now would it?

  2. a lovely post Stephen. I enjoyed it. Happy holidays. Melanie x

  3. It's great to have you back, thanks for sharing your Christmas feast and traditions.

  4. Hi Marian. Thanks. World Party just left me so far behind with everything something had to give while I caught up.

  5. That sounds lovely. We did the seafood overload again. Oysters, prawns, lobster from Mures, Salads from Hill Street for lunch and Nicolls Christmas pudding with custard for dinner.
    There is a part of me that still misses Montys Orphans lunch, but as mum said when dad passed away, we need new traditions.

  6. A very nice Christmas post, Stephen! Glad you had a nice day.

  7. Sounds like a fabulous mix of people, food, culture and tradition!

    I notice that you mention a Thermomix... do you have one? We're thinking about getting one. Have you tried a pavlova in it? The ultimate TM challenge, I think :)


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