Christmas at the Satin Bowerbird Inn is a fairly relaxed affair. We do a big lunch with a multitude of aperitifs followed by roasted meats and salads, then a range of desserts. This year, I made a different glaze for the ham. I still used my usual chilli-plum glaze as a base, but I added some honey, and a combination of dijon and wholegrain mustards to cut the sweetness. It worked well.
Most of the other things I cooked: roast beef, roast pork with crackling, roast pumpkin and spinach salad with caramelised walnuts, can all be found on recipe sites. Two of the desserts were unique to me.
I took a Milky Bar Cheesecake recipe and, instead of making it in the ice-cube trays as recommended, I made it in a small square slice pan then added a cherry jelly (tinned cherries, caster sugar, gelatine) on top. A few crushed pistachios sprinkled over it before serving and it's our very own Christmas cheesecake, cut into squares. So creamy and delicious.
The other recipe I adapted was my last-minute chocolate truffles:
1 can condensed milk
1-1/2 packets Cadbury melts (I used a mix of dark and milk chocolate melts. I didn't measure the 1/2 packet - it was left over from a previous recipe so I simply emptied the packet into the saucepan)
a nob of butter (I didn't weigh it but it was probably around 50g)
1 packet Arnotts Scotch Finger biscuits finely crushed.
Put the first three ingredients into a saucepan (no need for a double boiler - we want it to crystalise a little) over medium-low heat until it's all melted and smooth. Add the biscuits. I would normally shape them into balls at this point but I didn't have time this year so I sprinkled the base of a square slice pan with sifted cocoa, added the mixture, sprinkled the top with sifted cocoa then chilled for an hour. I use baking paper in all my pans and make sure I overlap the edges so I can lift the slice out onto a board for easy cutting.
Meanwhile, my sisters and I are still trying to work out how we're supposed to be making everything work between us. It's not all smooth sailing, that's for sure. Read our stories in Tangled up in Blue, available now.
It's nearly Christmas. This year is so very different from every other year in the last fourteen years that I'm not sure what's happening. One thing that will happen is that's I'll be cooking Christmas lunch for my family and all the guests who are staying through the holiday.
One of the things I'll be making is one of Katherine's favourite meals. She's my eldest sister, but doesn't always make it clear exactly what she wants. I remember this from before everything fell apart.
It's a roast chicken basted with thyme butter. The stuffing is lemon macadamia. Here's the recipe:
2 cups fresh breadcrumbs (I used day-old nine grain bread)
lemon zest (I do a whole lemon, two if the lemons are small)
roughly chopped macadamias
1/4 cup grated parmesan
salt and pepper
Mix all ingredients. Add more breadcrumbs if you need to. The mixture should form balls when pressed into shape.
The stuffing releases subtle flavours through the chicken.
I put the thyme butter under the skin as well as on top of it. I'm not shy about using lots of it either. I add chicken stock to the baking pan so the chicken doesn't dry out while baking. The picture isn't one of my best results - I was distracted by Katherine and her... well, you'll find out when you read Katherine's story, Out of the Blue, in Tangled up in Blue.
I know most places that provide breakfast for guests buy their bread and put in out ready for the guests to toast. I don't do things that way at the Satin Bowerbird Inn. I make all my own breads and rolls every day--right up until two years ago when Morgan gave me a bread maker for my birthday. Now, I use the bread maker exclusively for the loaves of bread I make and only make bread rolls and specialty breads by hand.
I usually make my own bread mix as well. Mrs Olsen keeps a fantastic range of organic seeds and nuts in her shop. There are times, though, that I simply don't have time to make my own mix.
I haven't told anyone this before, and I don't want it getting out, so you can't tell anyone, but sometime--only sometimes--I buy a bread mix. It saves me a lot of time.
No one has noticed yet (except Mrs Olsen, but she won't tell anyone).
Read my story, The Satin Bowerbird, in Tangled up in Blue.
My sister Edie is a piece of work. She likes my Hummingbird cake though, so she can't be all bad.
Like most of my cooking, I don't follow the traditional recipe. I begin with the recipe but change it up to suit me. I've done the same thing with the Hummingbird cake. I like the tartness of apples and spice of ginger in it. This is my Hummingbird cake. The original recipe was Nanny's (she copied it from some magazine). She used it a lot in the '80s and '90s. The cake went out of vogue a bit after that but I think it's coming back, just not in its original form.
This is my take on the Hummingbird cake.
Read more about Edie and my Hummingbird cake in Danielle Birch's Little Bird - in Tangled up in Blue. My story is told in The Satin Bowerbird. Available now.
My mind is stuck on a loop. All I can think is that there wasn't enough time.
Time to pour another cup of tea for Nanny.
Time to sit in my favourite chair with the William Morris sunflower tapestry seat and talk about the herbs growing in the garden.
Time to tell Nanny how I've changed and am still changing.
The ground beneath my feet feels like clay. or sand. or thick, sticky mud. I struggle to take a step. Any step. I can't breathe. I know I'm breathing because I'm still here, in a world of confusion and grief, but my throat hurts. My eyes hurt. My heart hurts.
I didn't expect her to die. I stare at my vintage caravan nestled amongst the trees at the bottom of the garden and try to find something, anything that will hold me together.
Behind me, in the house, people are talking.
They're not people I know: they're my sisters.
Everything is too much. I'm feeling too much. Holding in too much. I can't... I can't...
"I've got you." It's Morgan. I'm safe with Morgan. I let myself go with her.
Read my story, The Satin Bowerbird, in Tangled up in Blue.
With Dragon God with the editor and Memory for Loan moving ahead, I decided I'd earned a reward, so I bought a book: the first paper book I’ve bought in months.
I’d forgotten how nice it is to hold a book, feel the weight of it in my hands. I can turn the pages and put a bookmark in. I can write notes on sticky notes and place them around the edges of the pages, then close the book and look at all my tags.
Then I come across a date I want to check…
and I stab my finger onto the page to bring up the dictionary and Wikipedia…
It’s been a long time since I’ve bought a paper book.
E E Montgomery
About writing, life, and random thoughts.
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