Christmas Day began with some white peaches poached in lemongrass syrup. I’d made the syrup for martinis we were going to have later in the day so it seemed easy enough to use some of the syrup to poach the peaches in. Accompanied with a bottle of Lamandier champagne they were beautiful. Some fresh mangoes and perfectly ripe cherries followed.
And then it was time to prepare. Snapper carpaccio with shaved fennel, clementine segments, salmon pearls and shiso leaves. A white wine of some description to accompany.
I had planned on searing some tuna and serving it sliced with a jalapeno dressing and garlic mayonnaise but the range of fish available at the fishmarket the day before was limited. Apart from the ubiquitous prawns, crayfish, lobster etc. there was very little in the way of either whole or filleted fish. We did indulge in some prawns with a lovely presto of coriander, green chilli and preserved lemon the night before. And a most interesting bottle of champagne: Pierre Peters (there are so many good French champagne houses that I haven’t heard of.)
So Plan B became scallops seared with ginger and soy/mirin and served in their shell on a bed of finely grated cucumber and radish and topped with shredded nori and toasted black sesame seeds. Truly delish. The delicate texture of the scallops is a perfect match for the crisp and crunch of seaweed and seseame seeds and the mirin/soy dressing added just enough flavour to enhance the experience of these equisite sea creatures. I never knew how good scallops were until I tasted them just cooked. Why is it that so many people over cook them? They loose all flavour and become rubbery and dull.
And then it was on to the ham. Glazed with maple syrup, brown sugar and mustard it was warm and unctuous. To accompany I made a variation on a waldorf with celery, apple, red grapes, walnuts, witlof and raddichio. I cant’ remember what we drank with this. There was another bottle of champagne (Mumm) at some stage (earlier I think with the scallops) but it paled into insignificance compared to the Lamandier. I do recall drinking a rather nice French pinot (yes, they’re called burgundy over there). And then we had the lemongrass martinis. And then it was time for a nap. Which turned into a sleep. I woke at 8pm. It was time to get the feast going again.
I had marinated a neck of pork in some wonderful smoky chillies that someone had told me about (from northern Thailand) and palm sugar, fish sauce and galangal for about 48 hours and it had been slowly cooking for about 2 hours. It was the most wonderful flavour experience – all those sharp, salty, sour and sweet Thai flavours with the succulent pork served with chopped peanuts, fried shallots and fresh coriander. Oh, and a green mango salad. A lovely bottle of Vouvray set this off to perfection.
And then it was time for desert. I had made basil pannacotta and raspberry jelly. As I was straining the raspberries through the sieve I wondered why? I recalled that you could buy raspberry jelly in little packets in the supermarket. All you had to do was add boiling water! However, the taste, is not the same. Trust me. It was like eating gelatinous raspberries. I know that doesn’t sound very appetizing, but it was like mouthfuls of flavoured fun.
More drinks and then more couch time with videos till finally slices of American fruitcake and glasses of sauternes appeared. Our Christmas feast took well over 13 hours. It was quite a day. Relaxed, companionable, full of good flavours, tastes, sensations, easy going conversations and veg out times. All Christmases should be like this.