Sunday, August 1, 2010

Cooking Christmas in July

Rachel's prosciutto wrapped cranberry stuffing balls

Last night we converged once again on our friend Holly Williams' gorgeous home for a Christmas in July dinner party. Being the final evening in July, Saturday the 31st, we made it just in the nick of time. A ‘Christmas in August’ party just wouldn’t have had the same ring. Our guests included our host Holly, artists Aseem Pereira and Jonathan James, Daniel’s brother Sean Mudie, and the three of us. Oh, and of course, Mr Smoochy, Holly’s beautiful cat.

Part of our reason for hosting a ‘Christmas in July’ dinner was to try our hand at making mulled wine, something that none of us had prepared before. Luckily before arriving at Holly’s house, Rachel had a very helpful conversation with her lovely uncle and aunt, Harley and Dee Roberts, who are very experienced mulled wine makers. Their advice was simple. Basically there are countless different ways to make mulled wine. So, like sangria, you can pretty much add as much sugar and whatever citrus, fruits and spices as you like. The key is to taste the mulled wine as you go along, so that you make it to your own liking. As easy as falling off a log.

Rachel mulls up

We knew mulled wine was definitely on the menu, but what would we do for our main course? In the end, we decided to bake turkey drumsticks. The rationale behind cooking turkey legs, rather than a whole turkey, was to save cooking time. And a wise decision too when we saw the size of the turkey legs in the supermarket. Gargantuan things! The birds themselves must have been Pterodactyls!

As soon as we arrived at Holly’s house, the turkey legs needed to go straight into the oven. Then it was time to make the mulled wine and relax with our friends for a while. Our version of mulled wine was 250 grams of castor sugar, about ten cloves, a cinnamon stick, nutmeg, the rind and juice of an orange, the rind of a lemon and a lime and two bottles of De Bortoli Sacred Hill Cabernet Merlot. The result was utterly delicious - sweet, spicy and warming. Daniel said it was like Christmas cake in a glass, only with a whole lot more punch. With a few glasses of that stuff under our belts, we were definitely feeling the Christmas spirit.


Alongside the turkey drumsticks, we had decided serve an array of side dishes, including prosciutto-wrapped cranberry stuffing balls, mashed pumpkin with roasted pine nuts, pan-fried brussel sprouts with bacon and steamed broccoli. Every bit the Christmas feast that we had imagined but perhaps we had drunk a bit too much mulled wine by that stage because we almost started a fire in Holly’s wooden kitchen while we were cooking. Thanks go to Sean for noticing that Drew had accidently set a tea towel alight. Preparing a Christmas in July dinner was quickly becoming a high risk activity.

Tea towel flambé

Our dinner thankfully didn't burn. Every dish turned out to be an unqualified success. Given the size of the turkey drumsticks, the meal was a bit ‘Flintstone-esque’ but what it lacked in grace, it made up for in taste. Drew’s turkey was a particular triumph - moist, delicious and cooked to perfection. After dinner it was time for a hilarious game of Articulate, which we interrupted briefly for Holly’s delightful dessert of rhubarb crumble and cream. Some more mulled wine and we found it was well past midnight. Turns out we were having a ‘Christmas in August’ party after all!

Playing (in)Articulate

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