This year we celebrated Christmas Eve at The Tiny House and had the German Grandparents, Uncle, Aunt and Cousins over for coffee and cake, followed by a full Christmas Dinner. This meant I had to cook and entertain TEN other people! And *somehow* I managed…just!
A lot of it was down to preparation. I baked the Christmas fruit cake a few weeks in advance and decorated it the day before. The Madeleines, Brussels sprouts with Chestnuts and Sweet Potato Pie were prepared the day before. The only things that had to be made on the day were the Roast Pork (which was supposed to be a Baked Ham, but I could not find a ham for love nor money!) and its gravy. The Brussels sprout and sweet potato dishes just had to go in half an hour before the end of the pork’s cooking time to heat up and (in the case of the sweet potato pie) brown.
Do not be deceived by appearances of effortlessness; I was up until past midnight the night before… The final menu was thus:
- Coffee with Mini-Madeleines and Boozy Fruity Christmas Cake
- Rum Punch
- Roast Pork with Pineapple Rings
- Caramelized Brussels Sprouts with Chestnuts
- Sweet Potato Pie
We dispensed with the need for dessert as we had enough sweet things to start with…besides which, no-one could have eaten any more anyway!
In order of preparation here are the recipes not linked to above:
1. Mini-Madeleines (slightly adapted from the recipe here)
Ingredients: (makes 24 mini Madeleines)
- 1/2 cup butter, melted
- 2/3 cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon orange zest (optional)
- 3 large eggs
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
1. Cream the butter and granulated sugar on high until it is light and fluffy. Add the vanilla extract and orange zest to the butter. Turn the mixer to low speed and add the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a spatula as needed.
2. Beat the mixture on medium-high for about 3 to 4 minutes, until the mixture has lightened in color and is very fluffy. In a separate bowl, mix together the flour and baking powder. Very gently fold the flour and baking powder into the egg mixture. Once the batter is smooth, cover it and transfer it to the refrigerator for 2 hours.
3. Preheat the oven to 375F. Spray a silicone mini-Madeleine tray with cake release spray and spoon the cold batter into the molds (do not over fill the molds!). Bake them for 10 to 15 minutes, until they are puffed and turn golden brown. Invert the pan onto wire racks and give them a hard tap to remove the Madeleines from the molds. Dust with confectioners’ sugar. If keeping overnight, put into a container with a tight-fitting lid or cover a container with clingfilm.
2. Sweet Potato Pie
This is one of my childhood favourites. Nothing says, “FEAST” to me like this dish! Yes, it does use marshmallows and yes, it is sweet and unusual, but really, give it a go. Kids LOVE it!
- 5 large sweet potatoes
- Marshmallows (preferably the mini kind and just plain white ones, no strange coloured or flavoured ones please!)
- Tin foil
1. Heat the oven to 250 degrees C. Prick the potatoes all over with the point of a sharp knife, then wrap in tin foil and place in a baking dish. Put the dish on the lowest shelf in the oven and bake for about 2 hours or until the potatoes are squishy when squeezed (don’t forget to wear an oven glove when you do this…)
2. Unwrap the potatoes and leave to cool down. When they are cool enough to handle, peel off the skin and put the flesh into a large mixing bowl. Dot with a few knobs of butter and then mash with a potato masher.
3. Put the mashed sweet potato flesh into an oven-proof baking dish and cover the top with the marshmallows. If serving immediately, put the dish (uncovered) under the broiler until the marshmallows have melted and browned (about 15-20 minutes).
4. If you are going to serve this later or the next day, cover the dish with clingfilm or a tight-fitting lid and keep in a cool place or refridgerator until it is time to heat up; then follow the previous step.
3. Roast Pork with Pineapple Rings
As mentioned, this was supposed to be made with a ham (or gammon joint), but I utterly failed to find one of these in any of my local supermarkets or butcher’s shops…so I settled for a boneless pork roast with skin,
- 1 x pork roast joint of 2 – 2.5 kg, boneless and with skin on (choose a piece that has a decent amount of fat under the skin)
- Whole cloves
- Brown sugar
- Ground cinnamon
- Ground nutmeg
- Pineapple juice
- 1 can of pineapple rings
1. Heat the oven to 250 degrees C. If the skin/fat on the top of the pork roast has not been scored, then use a sharp knife to cut thin strips diagonally across the roast (cut through the skin, but only half way through the fat), creating a diamond pattern.
2. In a bowl mix some brown sugar (about 1/2 cup or slightly less) with about 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon and about 1/2 tablespoon ground nutmeg. Add just enough pinepple juice to make a paste. Rub this all over the pork, working it well into the flesh and skin/fat. Sprinkle the skin lightly with salt and rub in.
3. Push in a clove (or two) at each intersection of the scored skin/fat. Place the pork in a roasting tin and roast in the hot oven for 20-25 minutes. After this time, remove the skin and brush on some more of the sugar/spice rub using a silicon pastry brush. Reduce the oven temperature to 200 degrees C. Roast the pork for another 20 minutes per 500g of meat. About 25 minutes before the end of the cooking time, remove the pork from the oven and cover the top of the roast with pineapple rings, using toothpicks to keep them in place. Roast until the juices run clear when the meat is poked with a sharp knife. You may have to baste at least once.
4. Remove the roast pork (which should have a lovely crispy crackling) to a carving dish and pour the cooking juices into a saucepan. Spoon off the excess fat and then add about a cup of pineapple juice to the remaining liquid (although if this has gotten too burned, pour off about 1/2 to 3/4 and double the amount of pineapple juice). Heat this up, add some cornstarch mixed with a little warm water and whisk in until the sauce has thickened. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.
We had enough food to serve everyone that night and then just our family one day later! Everyone agreed that the pork worked well (although I missed the slightly salty tanginess of a baked ham) and the sweet potatoes were a bit hit (even with my fairly conservative in-laws!). If you have leftovers, I recommend slicing the pork thinly, putting it into a saucepan with the remaining gravy (or making up some pork gravy) and heating through. Serve over toast or with Yorkshire Puddings. The sweet potato pie can be reheated in the oven, as can the Brussels sprouts.