Monday, 28 December 2009

Festive fayre and Christmas Excess

Last year we weren't at home for Christmas and so I didn't have to prepare anything. This year, I am not sure why, I have literally taken it upon myself to prepare absolutely everything festive that I could possibly think about. I love cooking, and I really get a kick out of making delicious things for friends and family to eat, but I think I have slightly overdone it this year. The thought of even starting our Christmas cake (yet more dried fruit) is enough to make my stomach turn.

We have had mince pies in their hundreds (I specially brought back vegetarian suet from the UK in October and then proceeded to prepare about 8 kgs of the stuff because that was how much the suet made).

I am about to send the last 36 or so of these little beauties into husband's office as a New Year british delicacy that most people will not have tried in Kazakhstan.

Then we had the Christmas Cake - as yet unopened - which has been in the preparation since September. My Turkish friends all thought the idea of a cake you keep for 3 months before you eat it, utterly disgusting, but I am hoping I will be able to fob off a few slices at the New Year baby group coffees. Catch a few unwitting non-Brits, for whom the sight of a raisin for the first six months of any year is enough to have them running for the Alka Seltzer.

On December 23rd I casually mentioned to husband that I was planning to make a sherry trifle instead of a traditional Christmas pud and he looked at me as though I had said I was going to sell our youngest child to pay for presents, in total shock. "What?" he choked, "You make a million mince pies which I don't even especially like, but you are not going to make my favourite part of Christmas lunch - the pud?". So I got out the recipe book again and prepared Christmas Pud a la Kazakhstan - with grated cold butter instead of suet (had used all mine in the bloody mince pies), and another kilo or so of the amazingly good dried fruit we get here in the market.

Apart from going out for a Christmas Eve drinks party and forgetting that said Pudding was still only on hour 6 of the cooking process and nearly burning the house down, we managed to come back in time to switch it off and on Christmas day, it very satisfactorily burnt purple flames with brandy long enough for two little girls to run upstairs, find their newly acquired cameras and rush back down to take a photo of the glowing pudding. Here is a picture of the pud with a Tawny port trifle, sherry not being available at the moment in Almaty.

As for the turkey, our main dish of the festive period, we ordered a fresh one from the Turkey lady at Zelony Bazaar. On Christmas Eve, four-ish kilos of large bird arrived in a plastic bag looking like it had been clubbed to death, such was the concavity of its chest space. I made a pork, apple and pistachio stuffing for this, and once this had been inserted, it began to resemble an overbred, Katie Price-breasted bird, as we would expect at home. Sage and onion up the bum, a few packs of bacon and it was all looking quite promising on the bird front. I wasn't sure how it would taste - maybe a bit stringy? But it was a fab turkey, delicious, tasty and tender.

And finally, because I had been worried that the Turkey might be a, well, turkey, I ordered a smoked ham just to make up the meat section of our lunch. They could not guarantee the size when I ordered it, so I explained it was for five adults and six children. And also on Christmas Eve, a 5kg (that is nearly 11lbs!) ham arrived from the butchers shop. Covered it in mustard and honey breadcrumbs a la Barbara, and baked that down the road at my friend's house. Actually, it was the most delicious thing on the table, but we have a lot left.... 

It has been a delicious and gorgeously-smelling feast of Christmas. Once the ham is gone, we will all live on soup for the rest of the holidays I think. 

I forgot to mention the quantity of chocolate that has made its way into the house: 

3 x Raxat Christmas pudding-shaped round boxes (Raxat is the chocolate factory here)
1 x Happy New Year large gift box of chocolates from Raxat
1 x large gift box of Mint thins
1 x large box of choco truffles
2 x large boxes of Cadbury's celebrations
1 x large tube of Dutch chocolate dragees
1 x multipack of Dutch chocolate dragees in different flavours
3 x Terry's Chocolate oranges (total result - we will hide these from the children and eat ourselves!)
6 bags of chocolate coins from father christmas
3 x Cadbury's celebration novelty champagne bottles full of chocolates
3 x large bars Raxat chocolate - will save for choco mousses later in the year (maybe September, when we feel like eating again!)

How obscene is that?? I am going to hold a chocolate amnesty for the kids who had stashed the stuff in various baskets and boxes all over the house and send some of it to the office for husband to share with his colleagues over New Year, or we will end up looking like Roald Dahl's Augustus Gloop family, suffering from diabetes and sporting blackened stumps for teeth. 


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