Bringing in a happy, healthy 2019

Hi and a (rather belated) Merry Christmas to you all! The sun is finally out in New Zealand (the top half, anyway) after what was apparently the wettest Christmas Eve since 1962, and everyone’s starting to roll on back to the beach, a little fuller than usual perhaps, but hopefully with happy hearts.

I absolutely LOVED my Christmas. For the first time ever, my sister Jane and her partner were here for just a few days from England; couple that with the fact that my daughter Jess will next year be in Gwangju, South Korea, for Christmas, as part of the Rotary International Exchange, and what you end up with is me in the kitchen for days, happily creating enough food for 20 people, and making sure it was a celebration to remember.

The feasting started a few days before Christmas in true Kiwi style, with ike mate, sashimi and salads – all eaten indoors, while we watched the rain hammer down outside, where I’d planned for us to enjoy most of my creations. (Best laid plans, and all that…). Thanks to a fishing trip by my husband’s work, we had plenty of fresh snapper and kahawai, dipped in a wonderful soy tempura dip, for the raw fish dishes; sadly my planned scallops in bacon and garlic butter had to be scrapped due to a complete lack of available days to actually go down and collect them ourselves. Having seen the damage dredging can – and does – do to our ocean floors, we only eat scallops when we’ve caught them ourselves.

Didn’t stop the fun, though – rain doesn’t stop play in this house! In between games of beer pong (the competition was real), ping pong (thank you Typo for your brilliant tabletop table tennis sets. Ours gets a lot of use!), dog walking in the pouring rain and a game of Pictionary that revealed some very disturbing aspects of everyone’s characters (do you ever wonder what a psychologist would think of how you chose to illustrate the word ‘Dictator’? Let’s just say the end of it was a ‘tater…)

While I enjoyed many long, much-missed chats with my lovely sister Jane, I made sure the food came thick and fast. Traditionally, everyone at home has some sort of input into a big dinner, and mince pies, courtesy of Jess, were very popular as an afternoon treat, and her gingerbread houses were devoured so fast, there was no chance to get a picture.

A side of salmon was an easy Christmast Eve fix for my Simple Salmon Share Plate that doesn’t involve much work but looks really impressive! Click on the link for the recipe.

Christmas Day began with pancakes – of the pink variety! (That’s what happens when you let the kids loose in the kitchen…) I was actually not unhappy that it wasn’t boiling hot while I was cooking turkey with all the trimmings, and it certainly didn’t make any difference to the levels of hilarity! A delicious prawn cocktail kicked off the Christmas lunch, with 14-year-old Charlie managing to put down his presents for long enough to make a Marie Rose sauce (tomato sauce, mayo and Lea & Perrins with a bit of seasoning and paprika is all you need).

My favourite Pink Princess Pavlova was a popular dessert option (although so were the trifle and the Christmas pudding!), with my ever-starving teenager Charlie tucking into no less than four turkey sandwiches later that evening as the rest of us lay prone in the living room, enjoying that wonderful feeling when family is all present and correct, full as little geese, and thoroughly enjoying watching The Kingsman for about the 30th time.

Boxing Day saw Jane and David reluctantly leave on a plane – at which point the rain which had persisted for days and days, suddenly completely disappeared! So now I have an empty (OK, slightly emptier) fridge, plenty of sunshine, and a whole load of amazing memories that will stay with me for ever. I’m not sure if we’re the only house who can make a 6kg turkey disappear in a day, but it’s nonetheless pretty impressive I think!

As we head into the New Year and some exciting starts for many of us, I can’t help but feel that once again, food has brought us all togeterh in a way that only sitting around a table can. Thanks Jane and David for coming, and proving once again that while good food and fun company make the world go around, even torrential Auckland rain can’t dampen a fantastic family get-together.

Happy New Year to everyone!