23 December

Fridge work

Today’s the last delivery day for the year, so leave the postie’s Small Present in the letterbox. (Clearly labelled – you don’t want them to assume it’s to you rather than from you.)

2016-12-23
Jam packed (and not just with jam).

Now you really need to get the fridge ready. Toss everything that you don’t need,[1] carefully consider what you’ll be storing and how you can fit it in and plan where everything will fit on Christmas Day. (I’m making extra room for a pre-cooked rolled pork loin and a supermarket quiche because I no longer have time to cook everything from scratch!)

Also fine-tune your Christmas Day food safety plan:

  • How will you cover food? Will you serve it in containers that have lids? Will you use plastic wrap and foil? (Put them on your shopping list for Christmas Eve if you don’t have enough.) Do you have your ham bag ready?
  • Remember to get all that food back into the fridge pronto and out of the danger zone.

You can cook frozen desserts and cheesecake today. Personally, I’m getting stuck into an ice cream plum pudding because there won’t be enough actual pudding to go around and no-one’s going to feel like waiting two months until something I whip up today has matured properly!

Wendy rang from Tullamarine and she said that they flew with a nice family who had also abandoned ship and don’t know what to do for Christmas because they were expecting to be on a cruise and now they’ve come home to an empty larder and an undecorated house so she invited them to my place, knowing that I always have plenty of everything!

So that’s twenty-five people for Christmas dinner! I’m going to have to buy some extra crackers and more wine and find some extra presents!

“Wendy,” I said, “do you think Gertruda would have time to cook a really big batch of sauerkraut pierogi for Christmas dinner?”

“I’m sure she’d love to,” she replied. “I’ll let her know straight away.”

“And something for dessert too?”

“Count on it,” she replied.

Then Gemma rang, checking if there was anything she could bring.

“Well,” I said cautiously, “how are you off for china?”

“We got a big dinner set for a wedding present that we hardly ever use!” she gushed. “I’ll bring it around!”

And she did. She’s got my sixteen-place white and gold plates and has added her twelve-place white and silver service and she’s currently bustling around, working out how to mix them together in a stylish way. She says she’ll bring glasses and cutlery tomorrow and now she’s talking about serviettes and centrepieces.

“I was going to do conifers and baubles,” I mentioned, “and I have big gold bowls for nuts and lollies.” (Note to self: will need more nuts and lollies.)

Gemma looked at me with my apron and oven mitts and said, “Please can I do it? I love this kind of thing and it was feeling so wrong to be sitting around on Christmas Eve Eve with nothing to do. I can do conifers and baubles and I’ll wrangle punch cups and serving spoons too. I promise it will look lovely.”

And that’s an offer too good to refuse.

By the time Hannah rang, I went to speaker phone straight away so that I could keep stirring.

“You need twenty-one crackers?” she asked.

“It’s twenty-five now,” I said. “Probably thirty tomorrow, the way things are going. And if you ask again on Christmas morning, I expect it will be a hundred.”

“How many crackers have you got?” she asked.

“Fourteen,” I replied.

“Pixie and Poppet are bouncing off the ceiling so we’ll sit down and make crackers together this afternoon and that might calm them down a bit. I’ll drop into the shops on my way over and get eleven trinkets. They won’t be up to your usual standard but I’ll find something.”

“Could you make the crackers silver?” I suggested, thinking of Gemma’s table décor. “And do you think we could have the girls in charge of the punch on the Day?”

“They’ll love it,” she assured me. “Should we start on the punch ice today?”

“Yes, please,” I replied.

[1] Like the leftover pasta from yesterday you thought you’d eat today but actually won’t because you’ll be too full of mince pies.

2 December

The queen of tarts

My turn-the-lights-on cocktail party went very well last night: it was a few friends, a few relatives, a few pretty drinks and a pretty good time. We finished up with mince tarts which I think are best when small, made with thin pastry, cooked in gem scone tins for a pleasing round shape and topped with a small star of pastry.[1] Or you can cover them completely or use a different Christmas shape.

Here’s my recipe – but you don’t really need one: just use your favourite pastry, be it homemade or store bought, and your best fruit mince (ditto), assemble the tarts and cook them.

Mince tarts

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Makes 24

Preparation time 55 minutes

Start 90 minutes ahead

1 cup plain flour

1 cup self-raising flour

125g butter

¼ tsp lemon juice (or vinegar)

1/3 to ½ cup water

1½ cups fruit mince

Preheat the oven to 190˚C. Grease two 12-hole gem scone trays.

Sift the flours together and rub in the butter. Add the lemon juice to the water and mix enough into the flour mixture to make a firm dough. Knead the dough lightly until smooth and roll out very thin.

Cut circles out of the pastry that are slightly bigger than the diameters of the tart holes in the trays. Cut stars out of the pastry scraps that are slightly smaller than the diameters of the holes in the trays. Line the tart holes with the pastry circles, fill with fruit mince just short of the top, add pastry stars and bake for 25 minutes or until pastry is lightly browned. Cool in tins.

*

I decorated my dining room today. I used big swoops of fat green tinsel with a single red bauble hanging at each of the high points and it looked really good with the clover garden walls. (Mind you, with a mere four of us, we don’t have to use the dining room at all: we’d fit on the coffee table in the lounge room.)

[1] Auntie Pat used to ice them but this is extremely unusual, totally unnecessary (they are sweet enough already) and irritatingly confusing: people would think they were getting a flattish cupcake and would find themselves with a mouthful of raisins instead.