December, as always, has been a blur. A blur of eating and drinking and hangovers and sunshine and piles of dirty laundry. If laundry was a struggle, blogging was always going to take a back seat, and somehow amongst it all I was able to get sorted. It took until Christmas eve and getting to my parent's house to actually stop and breathe and soak it all up.
We decided on a Greek-inspired feast for Christmas this year. I love the core ingredients of mediteranean cooking - lemon, garlic, mint, olive oil. Mum had bought a funny little Greek cookbook published by the Woman's Weekly and it was surprisingly inspiring. I took creative licence a bit, since I have certainly been influenced by Greek cooking before, and we ended up with quite a feast. It was a lazy and hot, food and bubbles-filled day at home, which was ideal.
We started with our only Christmas tradition - croissants and smoked salmon and bubbles for breakfast. That, and the angel which adorns our tree (a creative 5 year old me made in 1989) are the main Christmas constants in our family. The croissants we use are the frozen dough ones by Paneton - leave them overnight to prove and fresh pastry awaits you in the morning. With jam and lewis road creamery butter first (butter on butter, tis the season) then hot smoked salmon and lemon and cracked pepper to follow, I managed to down 3 of them. We skyped our sister in Wales before politely doing presents after that. The Greek inspired feast then began.
The sun came out while I barbecued the haloumi and prawn skewers. I'd doused the thawed prawns in plenty of lemon juice, a few chilli flakes, some olive oil, some dried oregano, and some lemon zest. The haloumi just got lemon juice, before taking to the skewer and hitting the barbecue plate.
We had a spanakopita, tzatziki, a roasted eggplant salad, and amazingly rosemary roasted potatoes alongside the traditional Christmas leg of lamb, albeit slightly Greeky inspired. I rubbed it up with olive oil and salt and pepper, as well as lemon juice and zest, plenty of garlic, oregano, fresh thyme, and rosemary.
The cheesecake was the highlight. And although I appear to have been harping on about cheesecake in every forum available to me of late, I'm going to give it a little more airtime here. Why? Because it's amazing. It's a ricotta baked cheesecake with a very subtle lemon hint, and a tiny sprinkle of almonds. We served it with brandied figs and it was incredible. My Mum, who makes a mean cheesecake herself, declared it the best she'd ever had.
Cheesecake with brandied figs
adapted from 'Greek' published by the Australian Woman's Weekly, by ACP books, Sydney.
1 packet wine biscuits
50g (ish) melted butter
1/2 cup icing sugar
1tbsp lemon rind
1 tbsp cornflour
1/2 cup thickened cream
2 tbsp flaked almonds
1. Preheat oven to 140C. Grease and line a 20cm springform tin.
2. Process biscuits until fine. Add butter, and mix until combined. Press mixture into base of tin and set in the fridge for about half an hour.
3. Beat the ricotta, sifted icing sugar, lemon rind, and cornflour, until smooth. Use electric beaters or a food processor. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then beat in the cream in two batches. Pour mixture into the tin and sprinkle with the almonds.
4. Bake for 1 hour 10 minutes (note! mine took a good hour and a half, and then I put it in the warmer drawer while I began cooking the meal. Keep an eye on it, but you want it to be set (not still runny) and golden on top). Turn oven off and cool completely in the oven with the door ajar (or cook a bit longer then cool out of the oven). Refrigerate for an hour before serving with the figs.
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup brandy
1 tbsp honey
figs and sultanas - about 200-250g
Stir sugar, water, brandy and honey together in a saucepan. Add figs and sultanas, and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, and then allow to cool in the syrup. We left ours overnight.
Serve cheesecake with figs and syrup.
I hope whatever you ate and wherever you were you had a great day, with plenty of leftovers. Happy holidays!