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Thursday, 30 December 2010

'Tis the Season...and plans get changed - again and again!

This Christmas was going to be a bit different - for all of us. For me, personally, it was the first christmas that my grandmother wasn't around. She passed away early in the year. For The Lovely Wife, it was her first Christmas without her father, who passed away in September. With that, traditions and what we normally do on Christmas would be different.

Usually on Christmas Eve, The Lovely Wife, kids and I go to her parents house where we are joined by the other siblings and sometimes TLW's uncle and family for Christmas Eve dinner. That has been the tradition ever since I got married. My parents on the other hand, usually go to my Grandmothers house.

This year, the original plan was to have Christmas Eve dinner at our place with TLW's family and my parents. However, all plans sometimes go awry and TLW got called back to work for something urgent on the 22nd and she reckoned she could possibly be tied up on the 24th as well. So... we decided to call off Christmas Eve dinner and notified the rest of the family to 'go do their own thing.'

Come Christmas Eve however, The Lovely Wife managed to finish off all that she had to do and my parents suggested that we go out for dinner. I suggested to The Lovely Wife that we get her family over after dinner for dessert as I had already made the dessert. We could all then open up our presents as we would normally do on Christmas Eve. That sounded like a good plan.

Late in the afternoon of the 24th, we were out shopping and so on the way home, we decided to stop at a restaurant nearby to make reservations for dinner. Would you believe that at 4pm, they were already fully booked for Christmas Eve dinner? And here we thought that everyone would be at home on Chrissy Eve!

I decided then that rather than go out somewhere I would cook a simple meal. As I said, dessert had already been made the day before so it was just deciding on the main meal. I decided to keep it really simple and just get some bread and toss up a pasta as well as some fried sausages. That would be enough for my parents and the 4 of us.

It was then that The Lovely Wife asked if since I was already cooking, could I make extra and invite her family over as well, rather than just getting them to come for dessert. No Problem!

So...rather than just make one pasta, I made two. TLW's family bought some Pizza too and brought that over so there was plenty. It was really good having everyone over and the meal was enjoyed by all.

So for Christmas Eve Dinner, this was what we had:

Pasta Salmone - Pasta with Smoked Salmon and Portobello Mushrooms in a creamy sauce lightly flavoured with Salmon stock and tomatoes.

Spicy Vegetarian Pasta - Zuchini, Fresh Thai Basil and Red Capsicum tossed in Chilli Flakes

Sausages fried with Basil

Triple layered Chocolate delight - Oreo base layer, baked mousse layer with nuts and topped with a final layer of Chocolate Mousse.

Not forgetting the garlic bread and the bought pizza :)

Dessert didn't quite turn out the way I wanted it to, but it was still a mighty delicious dessert nonetheless. I had wanted the baked layer of the dessert to be softer but it turned out more like a brownie thanks to me adding in too much flour, forgetting that the cocoa would act as a binder as well. (I redid the layer a few days later and I'll post about that soon - I hope!)

We didn't put up the Christmas tree either this year either so the kids decided that our reading light was going to be the Imaginary Christmas Tree...

...and all the presents were placed under this light in lieu of the tree. After all, the tree is usually place in this spot anyway!

A week earlier, I had ordered a new TV for the family as prior to this we were still in the Stone Age with an old CRT TV - thats Cathode Ray Tube TV for those that have never seen a fat old TV Set before. I took the opportunity to take a picture on Christmas Eve night since all the other presents were being opened and this was by far the biggest present! Note the small ribbon that we put on the TV...

Now we have the latest but probably not the greatest, but still a marked improvement to what we used to have! The kids love it and so does The Lovely Wife! I have to admit that watching football(soccer) on the big screen is so much more fun - especially so when I have hooked up the sound to my audio system!

The best part about this dinner was getting the whole family together. Christmas Eve dinner is rarely about the food and more about just getting together with lots of love and laughter!

Merry Christmas Everyone and a Blessed New Year ahead!

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Crème Brûlée infused with ginger

Crème Brûlée is something I've always wanted to make. So a few weeks ago, when we had Lynn and Tina over for a get together, I decided to make Crème Brûlée. I also wanted to use my kitchen blowtorch that I had bought some time ago. I'd used the torch for briefly searing tomatoes and peppers but nothing really fancy. I'd actually bought the torch for desserts like Crème Brûlée so this was a perfect excuse to make the dessert and use the torch!

The Lovely Wife had mentioned that one of her friends had told her about this fabulous Ginger flavoured Crème Brûlée at some restaurant. A couple of weeks earlier, we had tried the Ginger Creme Brulee over lunch at a Vietnamese restaurant. It was a big disappointment as the custard was lumpy and runny at the same time. The flavours though were really quite good.

I adapted a recipe I found in the Readers Digest Your Cooking Questions Answered - one of The Lovely Wife's favourite cookbooks. This is what I did:

600ml Whipping Cream
2 tsp Vanilla Essence
4 large egg yolks (or 5 medium egg yolks)
125g Caster Sugar
3 tsps ground ginger
Preheat oven to 150C. Heat the cream with the vanilla and ginger until just boiling. Remove from heat and allow the ginger to infuse into the cream.
Beat the egg yolks with half the sugar until thick and creamy. Temper the yolks with a little cream and then whisk in the cream ensuring that the yolks dont curdle. Pour the custard into 6 ramekins.
Put the ramekins in a baking pan and pour in enough hot water to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake for at least one hour or until set.
Remove from the pan and allow to cool before refrigerating for several hours, preferably overnight.
Before serving, sprinkle the tops with the remaining sugar and then caramelise the sugar with a cooking torch. Serve immediately.

[If you dont have a torch, place the sugar covered custard under a very hot grill until the sugae caramelises. Chill again for a few hours or the custard creams will be hot]

To say that this was delicious would be somewhat of an understatement. The ginger flavour of the Creme Brulee was lovely. I was in a bit of a rush and the custards didnt set as well as I had hoped, with the centre a little runny. I think that was partially due to the eggs being slightly smaller than usual. Also, I think it would need to be baked for a while longer to set really well.

Nonetheless, the custard turned out rather well and I was most pleased with the caramel layer. It was crisp and full of flavour and it was a lot of fun cracking the crust and digging into the smooth custard underneath.

A lovely dessert, very professional looking and really yummy! Something I will definitely make again and the best part of this dessert is the fun using the torch!!

Saturday, 4 December 2010

How I celebrated my Birthday Part Two..

In my previous post, I talked about the earlier part of the day of how I celebrated my Birthday. This is what happened later in the evening....

TLW came home a bit late as it started raining and she was caught in a jam. She got home just a short while before my parents left and the kids had a quick shower before we headed out again.

We decided to just go to one of the shops in the nearby shopping centre as it was still raining and it was getting late. Dinner was at The Meat Experts where we had some ribs and sausages. The kids wanted to get back home quickly and I knew that the kids and The Lovely Wife had something up their sleaves as they kept whispering and making remarks about not having dessert all the way home.

Once we got home, I was barred from the kitchen. The Lovely Wife had bought something on the way back from office but I had no idea what it was. I soon found out though...

Before they came out of the kitchen, Sarah sat at the piano to play me Happy Birthday!

The Lovely Wife then came out of the kitchen with some cake.

She had bought two slices of cake from Harrods in KLCC. One slice was a Victoria Sponge that is apparently a hot favourite at Harrods. The other was a Jaffa Cake. She also bougght two slices of a chocolate cake called Chocalate Devil Cake from Chinoz, KLCC.

It was a lovely gesture from The Lovely Wife but I have to say that the cakes were a HUGE disappointment - especially when the Lovely Wife told me how much the cakes from Harrods cost. Exhorbitant. s.i.m.p.l.y.
e.x.h.o.r.b.i.t.a.n.t. I was surprised that the cakes were so highly priced when they really weren't all that tasty.

The chocolate cakes from Chinoz were just as bad and my son remarked to The Lovely Wife that she should have known better than to buy me cakes that werent nice. He remarked that the cakes from Coffee Bean would have been nicer as "At least we all like those cakes!"

In The Lovely Wife's defence though, she was just trying cakes from different shops and as I said earlier it was such a lovely gesture.
That's why she really IS The LOVELY Wife!

Thanks for the cake slices honey, thanks for the lovely dinner and most of all Thanks for being The Lovely Wife!

So ends another birthday story for me....


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