Monday, 23 July 2007

HELP! Planning for Christmas in July Down-under

HELP!!! ... I need your culinary expertise....
Before I get to that, let me introduce you to Lokilan, my friend Em's part-time cat. "Part-time" because he actually belongs to a neighbour but often stays over at Em's place. He's got nothing to do with today's post, but I just had to share that photo with all of you - he looks like a furry penguin! LOL. Can you tell that he loves food?

Ok, back to my culinary dilema. As some of you already know, we are hosting a Christmas in July party this Saturday (just a few days away). " What are those crazy people in Oz up to now?" You might be thinking. Well, Christmas arrives in the middle of summer in Australia and New Zealand, so we miss out on "typical" Christmas food like roasts because it gets waaaay too hot here in summer. A Christmas meal here typically consists of fresh seafood and other delicious foods that do not require hours of cooking in the oven. So, what is quite common in the middle of winter (July) down-under is to organising a "Christmas in July" dinner party with friends. This way we get to exprience Christmas (the eating part!) in winter.

I have very little experience with a cold weather Christmas dinner menu planning and so, I need some suggestions (HELP!) from those of you who are more experienced with Northern hemisphere Christmas dinners. If you have recipes on your blogs, even better! Just point me to the right direction. There are so many recipes and combinations out there and I am really feeling quite bewildered. All I've done so far is order the turkey and some decorations (e.g. Christmas crakers/bon bons, an inflatable Christmas tree....)

Some ideas I'm tossing around so far (for 9 people):

TBA by Eva

6-7kg Roast turkey (how should I cook this?? Brined? Hellllpp!)
Some sort of stuffing for the turkey
Scalloped potatoes or two potato gratin
Warm zucchini, tomato & eggplant salad
Balsamic roasted baby carrots & baby onions (I like cute stuff)
I need to make another meat dish (but no ham/pork)
Another side dish, you think?

Sticky Date Pudding with Toffee sauce

I am counting on all of your expertise....


Susan said...

Hi, Nora. You don't have to brine a turkey, but can roast it first breast down, then turn it last 1/2 of cooking time to brown breast. If it browns too quickly before it's fully cooked, lightly cover breast w/ aluminum foil. It is easier and safer to bake your stuffing in a separate pan rather than stuff the bird. Sorry I can't give you temperature & duration, but I'm afraid I don't know the proper conversion from F to C or Gas Mark. Use a meat thermometer inserted in the thigh joint and make sure the juices run clear & not pink.

Last Xmas we had (when I was still eating red meat) Roast Beef & Yorkshire Pudding w/ gravy; brown sugar glazed parsnips & double-crusted mincemeat pie. We kept it simple, but no one left hungry at all.

I don't think you need another side dish. You've got more food planned than you realize. You can email me if you have any other questions. Good luck. Hope you post about it after you recover. : )

Patricia Scarpin said...

Nora, we have the same "Xmas in summer" situation here in Brazil - I feel sorry for the guys who dress like Santa Claus in the freaking hot weather... :)

I don't have anything new to share with you, so sad... :(
Love the party idea, though.

Margarita Valli said...

I am told that when I host a large dinner party I have to include recipes for my vegetarian friends. I have a delicious recipe for a "Sweet Potato Strudel" that would not only look pretty but taste pretty darn good as well. I don't have it on my blog as yet, but it will be on there by the end of the day!!!!The rest of your meal sounds perfect as is!!!

katiez said...

Check out the Christmas / New Year menus on my website. If you like any and want help converting them to 9 people, let me know!

What a novel idea! Wouldn't seem right to me to do Christmas on the barbecue.

Nora B. said...

Hi Susan,
- thanks for your tips about cooking the turkey - I've never roasted a turkey before. And also about making the stuffing seperate. I hope that the turkey will fit in my oven! I need to buy a meat thermometer (it's been on my "to buy list" for a few weeks...). Does it matter what kind of meat thermometer I buy?
- I saw a few types available. The meal you had last year sounds wonderful. I love yorshire pudding.
- As for the quantity, you'll be surprised how much my friends can eat, esp. the guys. But you are right about not adding another side dish.

Patricia, I appreicate your moral support. :-)

Margarita - Thanks for dropping by and for your suggestion. A vegetarian option would be an excellent idea. I'm looking forward to seeing your recipe. You've gotten me very curious. Thanks so much for rushing to post it.

Thanks, Katiez. You've got lots of terrific menus on your blog. if only we live in the same hemisphere (i.e. similar seasonal produce), then I would be a subscriber.

Susan said...

Nora, any meat thermometer would work, but the digital ones are the easiest to read for exacting temperatures.

You're right - guys eat like no tomorrow! What's most important then is quantity rather than variety (you've got that). I don't know when your guests are arriving, but you can slow their stomachs down w/ some nuts and crackers/cheese.

Em said...

Hi Nora,
I had sent a very comment but it did not appear...
So I will try to remember what I wrote.
First, I was very surprised to see Lokilan on your blog! Now, he won't fit through the door... Not because of his appetite, but because of his ego - such a big star!
Re: Xmas meal.
At home, we usually have a strange mix of things... but it is Christmas, so everything is allowed :)
We usually have cranberries (in a sauce or other form) with the roasted turkey. One year we made turkey with port and cranberries + stuffing. It was yummy. Let me know if you want the recipe. I am not sure how easy it would be to find cranberries here, however.
We also usually make my grandma's vegetable aspic, some sort of meat pies (often served with maple syrup, as strange as it can seem), and of course the traditional bûche de Noël (
I will have to tell Iain you are celebrating Christmas on his birthday!

Have fun!

P.S. If you don't make your stuffing separately, ensure that it has completely cooled down before you stuff your turkey... Otherwise you might end up at the hospital.

tigerfish said...

I heard it's Christmas this time of the year in Aus. Wow! You get it to celebrate twice in a year, isn't that wonderful? HOpe you have a great party :D

Rose said...

Hi there Nora and nice to meet you cute little Lokilan. As for the menu Nora, I will suggest you a delicious stuffing recipe from Heidi's website.
I would rather suggest you potato scallops instead of gratin, although I don't know how you would cook them, just keep in mind that you are going to use the oven for a long time for the turkey, so to save some time don't rely only on the oven as a method of cooking. If you think about another meat dish I will suggest you a red meat such as beaf or lamb in a sauce dish like boeuf bourguignon or beef stroganof or a moroccan lamb or you can go with a fish dish, for those who prefer to have fish, a grilled fish or shelfish served with lemon and chives sauce would cut the heaviness of the turkey and stuffing.
No need to add a side dish as you have a great dessert waiting for them. For the balsamic carrots and baby onions salad, I suggest you to add at the end some chopped sage. This is how I serve my balsamic carrots and onions and it works so good with the sweetness of the dish.
Good luck with everything Nora and please don't hesitate to ask me some questions or just to share some ideas with me via e-mail.

Em said...

I agree with Rose... boeuf bourguignon... So good! I love my mum's recipe.
You will have to skip the lardons though... I don't like them anyway :)

P.S. A question for your readers or yourself...
I am baking Iain a Black Forest Cake for his birthday. The recipe says that I need a 22cm deep cake tin. Would a spring form 22cm tin be OK?

Eva said...

Nora, I'm getting hungry just by reading the menu! And I'm sure that the turkey will be big enough to feed us all. Regarding the entree, I'm thinking of rather making something to go with the pre-dinner drinks instead of a plated entree - something like grissini with different toppings and some homemade dips and other nibbles (which would be easy to transport, too). Or would you like to have something a bit more sophisticated? Still can't make up my mind...

Lucy said...

What about a side of smoked salmon?

Always looks smart, you can dress it up with some dill, capers and sour cream, and you don't have to cook a thing.

Have fun Nora; sounds like you'll be having a wonderful Australian winter not-Christmas!

Wendy said...

Nigella Lawson did a fantastic Christmas cookery programme last year. I prepared my turkey according to her recipe and used some other ideas of hers too. It was a REALLY great spread. The recipes are on the BBC Food website. Search for Nigella's recipes on this site and you'll find them.
Good luck!

Nora B. said...

Susan, thanks again. As for slowing down their stomach, Eva has got entrees covered.

Hey Em, thanks for the suggestions. I mentioned that I would put Loki on my blog but it was two weeks ago and never got round to it till now. Quikong is making cranberry sauce using frozen cranberries.
p/s: I've already e-mailed you about your cake dilema.

Tigerfish, any excuse for a party, I think :-)

Rose, thank you so much for the suggestions and tips. I didn't really think through about the oven use - there will be heavy oven usage as you pointd out. The addition of sage to the carrot sounds wonderful. I'm using all new recipes (I've never tried before), so I hope it will all go well. My friends are very forgiving, so I am not too worried about them, but it's my own perfectionistic standards that I need to manage. ;-)

Eva, I'm sur ethat whatever you make will be delicious. I like the idea of grissini with different toppings. I'll call you soon to discuss this further.

Thanks Lucy. I'm sure that it will be lots of fun becuase we will be having lots of Christmas "spirit". ;-)

Hi Wendy, thanks for the suggestion. It's always good to know about "tried & tested" recipes. Do you mean the "spiced juicy roast turkey" that she made?

Aimée said...

Hi Nora! That sounds like fun. I wish you luck. Did you mention a cranberry sauce for the turkey?? That's my favorite part.

Nora B. said...

Aimée, yes it will be lots of fun. We are even exhanging gifts ("secret Santa"). I am really looking forward to spending time with my friends while enjoying good food. My partner is in charge of making the cranberry sauce....yummm...

Toni said...

Hi Nora,
I see you've gotten lots of great suggestions. I was going to add the cranberry sauce idea as well. I loved the suggestion of smoked salmon. Very, very festive, and no need to time it with the rest of the stuff in the oven.

What a cool idea - Christmas in July! I think we should adopt it here in the northern hemisphere, too! LOL!

Karin said...

Oh, I can´t think of Christmas in the middle of the summer. However Christmas in Sweden is very much about food.

You already know about the Swedish "Smörgåsbord", Nora. No Smörgåsbord in Sweden is complete without herring dishes.

Wendy said...

Yup. That's the one. It was amazingly juicy and the smell of the meat and spices cooking was divine! The preparation method tickled my mum. On Xmas eve she couldn't stop telling people that our turkey was in a bucket in the greenhouse!

Anonymous said...

I love the idea of a Christmas in July party!

Menu ideas: mulled wine, corn muffins, hazelnut cake, chocolate pull-apart kuchen! Recipes for all of these can be found on my blog in the desserts and breads category. :)

Ari (Baking and Books)

Oh for the love of food! said...

Hey Nora, You're doing really well with the menu, but if you wanted another simple no fuss but great tasting dish, how about some grilled (King) prawns, butterflied, shell on, basted with a honey garlic(freshly minced) and soy glaze? It just takes 10-15 minutes under the grill!
Garnish with some chopped coriander/cilantro leaves.Answering your question; I dont sell my baked goods, I give them as gifts to friends and loved ones!

Nora B. said...

Hi Toni, thanks for dropping by. It's just 3 days to "Christmas" and I am getting very excited! I really hope that we can find frozen cranberries for the cranberry sauce, otherwise we'll have to use the ready made stuff....

Wendy, thanks for the confirmation. The recipe looks great, with the spices and all. Depending on how large the turkey is, I'll make my decision about brining it. If I do, I'll definitely go with Nigella's recipe. I trust your recommendation. :-)

Hi Ari, thanks for your suggestions. I had a look at your lovely blog and I got distracted by your banana bundt cake. :-)

Carol, great minds think alike! I was actually considering Nigella's spiced prawns. It's a quick stove top stir fry (just because my oven will be busy roasting the turkey and other stuff). I also enjoy give away my baked goods to friends and loved ones. However, your packaging of the gooddies looks so much more professional and elegant than mine.

Nora B. said...

Yes Karin, it would be hard to think of Christmas since you are in the middle of summer. Thanks for the suggestion about herring. I'll have trouble finding it at the last minute, but you've made me curious, so I'll have to have a look around for it "research purposes". :-)

Holler said...

Hi Nora, Thanks for visiting my blog!
I would recommend trying BBC Food Website, they haven't let me down yet. If you add Christmas as a search you get a fabulous list of recipes. We have a lot of winter here in the Uk, so you know it will be good!
Have a great time! Hope it all goes well!

Eva said...

Have I told you already what a lovely cat that is? I'd love to have my own part-time cat... Last night, we had one of the very occasional visit of the neighbour's cat who is always very curious and wants to see and sniff everything. Alas, these visits are always very short...

Truffle said...

I don't have lots of expertise but I'm sending plenty of good wishes your way!

Amanda at Little Foodies said...

The suggestions of the bbc website is good also try
I love the idea of a Mid Summer Christmas. A friend of a friend always used to do this every year on Mid Summers Day. I hope you all have a really good feast and fun with the Secret Santa. I love Christmas turkey with all the trimmings and lashings of gravy. Roast Potatoes, mashed potatoes, creamed leeks, carrots, parsnips, any other veg you can fit on the plate. ENJOY!!!

veron said...

Hi Nora, I've got some Christmassy fare on my blog last Nov/Dec. You can check it out. I had a no-brine turkey and a cranberry salsa. Also you can do a pot roast....

Nora B. said...

Holler, thanks for reminding me about the BBC food website. hmmm...yes UK weather. I visited my sister often when she was living there. I trust that the English know a lot about cold weather cooking. :-)

Eva, yes Loki is sooo cute. He looks fatter everytime I visit Em. He must be getting fed by a few neighbours!

Truffle, thanks for the wishes!

Amanda, thanks for that website. I do like browsing through the UK food websites. The strange thing is that the weather is getting a bit warmer this week....e.g. yesterday, i only had a light jacket on & no scarf!

Veron, thanks for dropping by. I love your blog! I''ll have to take my time to look thru your archives. Your instructions are very clear. The turkey instructions were especially helpful. I like the idea of cranberry salsa. We have to buy frozen cranberries, so that fits your recipe well. My partner is in-cahrge of the cranberry sauce (he gave up on the turkey when he realised that it was rather complicated), so I'll try to persuade him towards your recipe.

Kelly-Jane said...

What a gorgeous cat! Love him!!

Do you have Nigella's Feast? it has a good chapter on Christmas, lots of sides!

Actually I have just thought I may already be too late, in which case hope it was fab!

Nora B. said...

Hi Kelly-Jane, tonight's the party so I am very excited. It almost feels like the "real" Christmas ;-) My menu has expanded somewhat, and now I am wondering if it's too much food. I was going to make Nigella's spiced prawns from that book...but maybe not... I better warn my friends to come with a very empty stomach. I like leftovers, so I'm sure that it will all be fine. :-)

Kelly Mahoney said...

Thanks for stopping by my blog. We usually have a green bean casserole, crescent rolls, mashed sweet potatoes and some kind of wine with the turkey

Kristen said...

Wow - you asked for it and you got it! Looks like you have plenty of advice. Cheesy potatoes, pies, turkey, green bean casserole, all the fixins. yum!

WokandSpoon said...

Cute cat! Let us know how the meal goes!

Rose said...

The suspense is killing me. What did you do? How was the food? Although I am sure everybody was amzaed by your talent Nora. Have a great weekend.

Cynthia said...

Nora darling, I am not sure what the time is there but it is 7.23 p.m. here on Friday, August 3 so I am sure that the Christmas Dinner is in full swing.

I was away and so, unable to contribute. Hope you are having a great time.

Lots of hugs.

Nora B. said...

Kelly, Kristen, Cynthia, Wok & Spoon - Thanks for dropping by and for the suggestions. I just wrote about the party.

Rose - Sorry to keep you waiting. I thought it was a success considering it was my first "Christmas" party, esp with roasting the turkey. My friends said that they enjoyed the food and all the other fun stuff we did (e.g. we played Secret Santa, pinyada, charades).