Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Cold Christmas Treats.

A cold Christmas would indeed be a treat for those of us sweltering in the sub-tropical regions of the Southern hemisphere at this time of year, but that is not what I meant when I wrote the title for this post.

Early British settlers to this country stuck firmly to the traditional Christmas fare from ‘Home’, despite the uncomfortable fact that large roasts and hot puddings were completely unsuitable to mid-summer in their new country. We have not yet shed our colonial inheritance.

Those of us whose lineage is Australian for several generations back are much more comfortable with a ‘barbie’ (on which we might throw prawns – NOT shrimp!) or a cold seafood buffet, but the newer migrants amongst us, and I include myself in this group, seem unable to completely escape the family memory of our grandparents Christmas dinner in the old country. The irony is that to please every generation we often end up with double the work; we add salads as well as roasted vegetables for example, and include some cold seafood too. The place of honour however is still reserved for the turkey and/or the crackly pork and/or the ham. We might serve the turkey and pork cold, which sounds sensible on a sweltering day, but it has to be cooked at some time, so we suffer the kitchen heat on Christmas Eve instead of Christmas Day. 

Inevitably, however, there has been a slow but steady move towards a more authentic Australian Christmas cuisine. This seems to have begun in earnest in the 1950’s, if the recipes offered in newspapers and magazines are any indication of a trend. Ice-cream is an obvious choice for a mid-summer Christmas – but then, ice-cream is always in season, isn’t it?

Christmas Ice-Cream Pudding.
One pint home-made ice-cream, 4 oz. block of dark chocolate, 2 oz. each of sultanas, seeded raisins, chopped dates, crystallised cherries, chopped crystallised pineapple, ground almonds, 2 tablespoons sweet sherry, ½ cup chopped preserved peaches and apricots (mixed).
Prepare ice-cream, freeze until “mush” consistency. Break chocolate roughly, place in saucepan with sultanas, dates cherries, and pineapple. Stir while melting, mix well. Remove ice-cream from trays, beat smooth, add chocolate fruit mixture. Stir in almonds, sherry, apricots and peaches. Mix thoroughly, return to refrigerator trays. Freeze until firm. Serve decorated with chopped coloured jellies.
The Australian Women’s Weekly, December 12, 1951

Christmas Trees on Ice Cream
What could be a prettier sight for a Christmas dessert or party fare during the holidays than a square of ice cream topped with gay little Christmas tree cookies? They're as much fun and as easy as trimming the big tree, too.
2 level tblspn. cocoa.
3 level tblspn. sugar.
½ cup powdered milk.
½ pint fresh milk.
1 ½ level tspn. gelatine.
2 tblspn. hot water.
2 level tblspn. Condensed milk.

Method: Blend cocoa in saucepan with sugar, and powdered milk. Add a little fresh milk mixing well to remove any lumps, then add remaining milk. Heat until scalding, stirring all time. Remove from heat, add condensed milk and gelatine that has been dissolved in hot water. Turn into refrigerator tray. Chill until quite set but not hard. Turn out and .beat until fluffy and doubled in bulk. Chill until firm.

Sugar Wafer Trees
1 scant cup butter or margarine.
1 cup sugar.
2 eggs.
1 tspn. vanilla.
3 cups plain flour.
1 level tspn. Baking powder.
1 good pinch salt.

Method: Cream butter. Add sugar gradually and cream thoroughly until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time and vanilla; blend well. Sift in flour, baking powder and salt; mix well. Chill about ½ hour. Roll dough to ⅛ inch thickness on a lightly floured board. Cut with Christmas tree cookie cutter. Bake on a greased baking sheet in a moderate oven about 12 minutes. Decorate with red (Royal Icing) and silver beads.
The Sydney Morning Herald, December 11, 1952

Quotation for the Day.

At Christmas play and make good cheer,
For Christmas comes but once a year
Thomas Tusser

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