Christmas on the farm brings with it an abundance of miracles. Seeds that were carefully saved from last year’s crop have not only germinated and grown into seedlings but have thrived and are now providing us with food. The scent of lavender that borders our kitchen garden calms us and luscious boysenberries picked straight from the brambles are rich in sweetness and stain our fingers. Even our lovely rare breed chickens have settled in to the warmer weather and are happily laying an egg a day for our breakfasts. But the wonderful thing about Christmas, wherever you live, is that there’s always something to be thankful for, even if it’s just a few extra days off work to relax with family and enjoy the simple pleasures that come from a full belly and a mind at peace.
Christmas is a celebration of summer in Australia and so picking up a tray of mangoes from a street-side vendor is as much a part of Christmas as the ham or turkey. Ideally on Christmas Eve we’ll be settling in for at least three days of relaxing and eating and nothing accompanies the balmy summer evenings better than vintage champagne and wash-rind cheese. We call them embellishments, as they’re the kind of foods we try and abstain from throughout the year. We’ve ordered a Brillat Savarin wash-rind cheese this year, it’s creamy and rich and very bad for you in general but perfect for a special treat, in addition to a couple of really nice hard sheep’s and goat’s milk cheeses. Embellishments should be a special eating experience, so we’ve also ordered chicken liver parfait and a selection of rustic style salamis. I can imagine my husband now cutting off a thick chunk of salami and gazing in to the open refrigerator, wondering what leftovers to eat next.
In spite of the warm weather many households continue the Christmas tradition with turkey and ours is no different. This will be our first Christmas as husband and wife and our first spent on our property in the Dandenong ranges east of Melbourne. This year it will be just the two of us on Christmas Day and yet we won’t be tempted to skimp and buy a turkey breast instead of the whole bird. Oliver makes a mean coleslaw. He’ll make a big batch of it on the 24th as it always tastes better a day or two after and cold turkey and coleslaw on fresh white buttered rolls is honestly one of the best meals ever. Again, even though there’ll only be two of us, we won’t hold off on the ham either. This year we’ve been on the lookout for free range suppliers that use interesting smoking techniques. As I write this I wonder how we’ll fit all this food into our fridge but I’m sure we’ll manage. We always do. At least our vegetables won’t take up precious space. We’ll pick them fresh, straight from the garden.
The pride of any veggie gardener is their tomato crop and so the first time we taste one of our heirloom tomatoes there’s always a strong sense of relief and satisfaction as we’ve been thinking about them since August and praying for their success. We have over three hundred tomato plants on our small-acreage farm and most of the fruit will be sold to restaurants in Melbourne, however, a special family reserve will be set aside for Christmas Day. We’ll cut the tomatoes to allow plenty of surface area in order to better soak up the quality Australian olive oil and pink Murray River salt. Placing a few basil leaves on top will provide gorgeous presentation and so we won’t be tempted to chop it up and toss it through the salad as we love the flavour and texture of fresh unbruised basil. Alongside our turkey, ham and tomato salad we’ll also serve a warm zucchini salad; simply cut into discs and pan fried until they colour slightly then mixed through in a bowl with torn fresh mint, toasted pine nuts and currants. Soaking some lettuce in iced water until it really crisps up will provide a nice antidote to the richness and fattiness of the rest of the meal. Even if you think you’re full, a bite of crisp cold lettuce can really refresh you, leaving you ready for what some would consider the best part of any Christmas dinner – pudding.
My mother makes a Christmas pudding to die for. It’s packed full of fruit and includes a special secret ingredient to make it extra moist. She made one for us the last time she visited and we plan on serving it hot with the most outrageous brandy butter we can make. This means adding lots of brandy (to the point where we might think we’ve added too much) then storing it in the fridge so that once served it will begin to melt but not enough to deprive us of the textural pleasure of tasting the cold crunchy brandy butter against the warm pudding. After the pudding all that’s left is to loosen our belts and go for a walk around the garden before returning for sliced peaches, apricots and cherries and quite possibly taking a nap. So, this is what we’ll be eating at Christmastime. What dish makes your Christmas special?
Thank you for reading. All best wishes for a safe and happy holiday season.
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