Thursday, 29 December 2011

Christmas, Me - Unplugged and a Happy New Year

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas day with friends and family. I had a great one, surrounded all day with friends and plenty of food and drinks. Cooking for 21 for Christmas Eve's dinner turned out to be rather fun and I am glad everyone enjoyed the meals. There was hardly any leftovers which I always believe is a good sign. I didn't even have a chance to take pictures of the food. I cooked slowly-roasted shoulder of pork with cranberry glaze, potato gratin, roasted Brussels sprouts with balsamic, honey and pomegranate (which you can find here, minus the walnuts) and Christmas rocky road complete with all the trimmings; the plastic trees, reindeer and robin which I bought on-line. The expression 'as camp as Christmas' comes to mind, doesn't it? Well, it is the season after all to super indulge.

On Christmas day, I spent the day with smaller group of friends and we opened our presents, watched Christmas TV (including the Queen's speech) and ate loads. No surprise there I'm sure. For our main, I cooked slow-roasted pork belly which I knew everyone love. This is I think the one dish my friends request the most. The pork rind is flavoured with fennel seeds and after three hours of cooking, it became the crunchiest crackling. Heavenly!

To go alongside the fatty pork belly, I think it's always nice to have something acidic or vinegary to balance the richness of the meat. My favourite is Jamie Oliver's must-try red cabbage braised with apple, bacon and balsamic vinegar (find the recipe, here). I just love this dish. I can actually eat it by itself and if you're lucky enough to have some leftovers, this is I must say, also delicious cold from the fridge.

This holiday season I also managed to convert a couple of friends to like Brussels sprouts. I personally think they're delicious as long as they are properly cooked. Not mushy or watery. Not nice. My favourite is Nigella's Brussels sprouts with chestnuts, pancetta and parsley (find the recipe, here). You've got to try it.

And what is Christmas without some goose fat roast potatoes? They're just out of this world. The secret is, the goose fat must be scorching hot before you roast the potatoes in the oven. Just the thought of these potatoes, makes me salivate.

Of course, I could not let my friends leave without something sweet. And the something sweet we had was Nigella's gleaming maple cheesecake (Nigella Christmas book, p. 74). My friends asked for a second serving of the cheesecake, so this must be pretty good.

Before I set of to Scotland to spend the New Year, recently I was tagged by Victoria at 21st Century Urban Housewife and Little Macaron for a game of Food Bloggers Unplugged... the persona behind the blog... - and I have truly enjoyed reading and knowing more about you. Mainly because I am nosy. Now it's my turn and you can learn a bit more about me :)

1. What, or who, inspired you to start a blog?
To cut a long story, short, I started the blog a couple of years ago in desperation to learn to become a better cook. I can't afford going to culinary school, so I decided to train myself. One evening I was looking through my bookshelf, searching for inspiration and I saw Jamie Oliver's Cook with Jamie: My Guide to Making You a Better Cook. The next day, I cooked my first recipe from that book, blogged about it then eventually all the recipes. Looking back, it was an incredible experience. I loved every minute of it.

2. Who is your foodie inspiration?
Jamie Oliver. The man is a genius. Also, Nigella Lawson. I worship her.

3. Your greasiest, batter-splattered food/drink book is? 
I keep all my cookbooks really clean. I don't or let anyone touch them with greasy hands. But the one book that's pretty worn-out and the only one with scribbles is Jamie Oliver's My Guide to Making You A Better Cook. During my project year, I read the book everyday, whether deciding on my next meal or making notes next to the recipe instructions or highlighting the index of recipes that I've done.

4. Tell us about the best thing you have eaten in another country, where was it, what was it?
When I was in Tokyo, I had this noodles with fragrant, dark (perhaps dashi based) broth and topped with the tenderest and tastiest pork belly and nori. It was simply out of this world. I have had some 'dreams' about this meal.

5. Another food blogger's table you'd like to eat at?
My friend Jenn at Jenn's Food Journey or Elisabeth at Food and Thrift Finds. They're both awesome and I'd love to eat with them. However, they both live across the Atlantic... For someone local, I pick Dom at Belleau Kitchen. I'd eat all of his creations, and we both love pork belly. I am still anxiously waiting for an invite though.

6. What is the one kitchen gadget you would ask Santa for this year (money no object of course)?
This is easy. Kitchen Aid free-standing mixer. I've been begging for this for a while now - but yet again this year, I didn't get it. Boo! Maybe it's time I get it myself.

7. Who taught you how to cook?
My mother. She was a baking and pastry chef and also a private caterer. My childhood was spent following her from one kitchen to another and I loved it. I thoroughly enjoyed just sitting in the corner, watching her assemble all the dishes, whilst waiting for extra food... and there's always extra food. And Jamie Oliver.

8. I'm coming to you for dinner, what is your signature dish?
Rib of beef that's been marinated in lemon, rosemary and garlic then grilled to medium-rare (or however you like it, as long as it's not well-done), served with baked carrots and garlicky roast potatoes. Then we finish the meal with a pavlova or baked chocolate mousse.

9. What is your guilty food pleasure?
I don't feel guilty about eating anything. I only feel guilty if I don't go to the gym and burn off the calories.

10. Reveal something about yourself that others would be surprised to learn?
I'm sure I've mentioned this before but it was quite an achievement, so I'll mention it again. When I was a teenager, I lost a lot of weight, about 30 kg (66 pounds) by avoiding carbohydrates and regular exercise.  

I'm sure you're all tired of reading this post now, so that's it. I need to get packing for Scotland. I wish you all a fantastic New Year! See you in 2012!


  1. You are truly a fun blog colleague. Can't help but wish you weren't so far away.

  2. Oh, Michael.. you are ALWAYS welcome at my table!! Thank you so much for that compliment!!
    Your Christmas meal sounds absolutely wonderful. I wish I had been there.. I LOVE that crispy crackling - it looks perfect!
    Enjoy your time in Scotland.. and thanks for all the new insights into you... love learning more about my blogging friends! Happy New Year!!

  3. Sounds that you also have a great Christmas party dinner. I would definitely expect you to have pork belly in your menu :) But dang, love the crispy crackling.

    Have fun in Scotland! Happy New Year!!!

  4. What a FEAST!!!! And well done you for cooking for 21!!! I am so impressed! And you are SO welcome to come on over any time. Let's do a pork belly marathon shall we? I'm doing pork belly for new years day!! Happy New Year xxxx

  5. Merry Christmas to you! What an awesome Christmas food spread.

    Happy New Year to you! I am looking forward to your food journey in 2012.


  6. Sounds like a delicious Christmas. And Happy New Year to you as well!

  7. I love that you put all the plastic trees and reindeer with the rocky road. Excellent touch. Happy New year!

  8. Love the food! You’re amazing. This menu is fantastic, It sure will help everyone who’s looking for a perfect menu like this. Thank you for sharing this recipe.


  9. That rocky road is fabulous with the deer and Christmas decorations. GG

  10. Thanks for taking part in the unplugged thing, lovely to read. And I'm totally with you on that Nigella sprout recipe, it's the only way I ever cook them now, and they're even better in the bubble and squeak the next day ;0)

    oh, and that rocky road looks amazing!!

  11. 5. Another food blogger's table you'd like to eat at?
    My friend Jenn at Jenn's Food Journey or Elisabeth at Food and Thrift Finds. They're both awesome and I'd love to eat with them. However, they both live across the Atlantic...

    Michael-I would be so happy to have you sitting at my dinner table for a special occasion...I do realize I'm across the Atlantic, but you are always welcome, if you get a chance to travel this way!
    Thank you so much for the mention...and I am so thrilled to see your Christmas Feast that you prepared.
    The card that I was going to send out to you is still sitting around (shame on me)
    Wishing you a Happy and Prosperous New Year!

  12. Cooking is such an art which not only make you happy or earns you appreciation but also can counter your appetite in a very delicious manner. This is such an wonderful instinct that can make you creative day by day.