MFF_HousemateXmas13_TableStill haven’t quite got your Christmas menu sorted? Still struggling to find that perfect side dish? Well read on because I’ve got a few ideas for you.

I have been flat out lately preparing for our second annual Housemate Family Dinner which was held over the weekend. Like last time, my housemate Miss R and I invited our families over for dinner, however, this time we also invited my Bf-B’s family also, giving us a total of 15 people to feed.

With such a large number to feed, we had to be sneaky with what meat we served as we didn’t want it to cost an arm and a leg (we are both only lowly graphic designers after all!). With this in mind, I decided a leg of pork would be a good idea, as it is more economical than beef or lamb. A recipe from Jamie Oliver published in the December 2013 issue of delicious magazine provided the base for my own interpretation which was a slightly simplified version given I was rushed off my feet when it came time to serve!

MFF_HousemateXmas13_Pork

After the hanger steak we tried at San Telmo, I was keen to give it a try. I ordered the steak from the butcher with no problem, and grilled it on the stovetop on a blistering hot grill pan. It’s quite a fatty cut of meat, but this is what gives it flavour and keeps it moist so resist the urge to trim off all the fat.

You will have to forgive me for my blurry photos – I literally had about 10 seconds to take my photos before everyone descended on the food table.

MFF_HousemateXmas13_Steak

I was also keen to have some prawns on the table, given it is an Australian tradition though not one we normally follow. This lovely recipe I found in the December issue of Gourmet Traveller: lime butter prawns on a bed of grits (which I substituted for polenta). I ordered the best possible prawns, already cleaned and shelled, from the fish market which saved me so much time.

MFF_HousemateXmas13_Prawns

For sides, we had to have our goose fat potatoes. You can find goose fat this time of year at gourmet food shops or delis. It really does make a difference so give it a try at least once. The resulting potatoes are so crispy and creamy you’ll find it hard to go back to regular potatoes.

MFF_HousemateXmas13_Potatoes

I also found a great grain salad recipe from former Albert St Food & Wine chef Phillippa Sibley which I knew Sister A would love. It combines quinoa, black rice and freekeh, which I have had in the cupboard for months without finding a use for. You can find both the freekah and black rice at well stocked Woolworths (I’ve seen them both at Camberwell), otherwise try a gourmet deli or a specialist grain store.

MFF_HousemateXmas13_GrainSalad

I was also keen to have some sort of fruity leaf salad to match the pork, so went with a poached pear salad with buffalo mozarella and rocket. Make sure you get really hard pears (perfect for a last minute dash to the market!) which will hold their shape better when poaching.

MFF_HousemateXmas13_PearSalad

Finally, I decided I needed some sort of vegetable based side, so went with an eggplant salad with pomegranate and lots of herbs. It looked very Christmassy with all the green and red. You probably need 1 eggplant per person if you are serving this as a meal, as they shrink down quite substantially in the oven. The below was from just 5 medium eggplant but I think we could have done with a little more. You can also find pomegranate molasses at a lot of good delis these days – it tastes like concentrated lime cordial to me, though I wouldn’t substitute that for it!

MFF_HousemateXmas13_Eggplant

It was a bit of a last dash effort to get it all to the table (as always!) but it always helps to delegate – I wasn’t sure which of the 4 fathers present should be given the honour of carving the pork, however, it was Miss R’s father J who raised his hand first.

To make things less stressful, get all your salads ready ahead of time by placing all the ingredients untossed in their bowls before all the guests arrive. Then, when you are ready to serve, pour over the dressings and toss just before serving. The grain salad and eggplant salads you could dress just before your guests arrive, though I would leave the rocket salad to the last minute if possible to prevent it wilting.

MFF_HousemateXmas13_Table2

It was a great night, with the weather holding out thanks to my anti rain dance. With no time to rest, I am now busy preparing for Swedish Christmas and Christmas Day.

MFF_HousemateXmas13_Table3


ROAST PORK LEG

3kg leg of pork
6 brown onions, peeled
2 tbsp coriander seeds
6 bay leaves
1 tsp black peppercorns
1 tsp coarse sea salt
2 tsp olive oil
2 tbsp plain flour

  1. Preheat oven to 200C. Score the leg at 1cm intervals with a sharp knife.
  2. Half the onions horizontally and place in a deep roasting tray. Place the pork on top, skin side up.
  3. In a small food processor or mortar and pestle, grind together the coriander, bay leaves, pepper and salt. Add the olive oil and mix until smooth.
  4. Rub paste into the pork between all the score marks.
  5. Place pork in a hot oven for 30 minutes until the crackling is just golden. Reduce heat to 160C and cook for another 3-3 1/2 hours until tender – Keep an eye on it though as you don’t want burnt pork. If it does brown too quickly, cover with foil and remove it for the final 10 minutes to ensure crispy crackling.
  6. Place pork on a tray to rest while you make your gravy. Transfer unburnt onions and pan juices to a large saucepan and add flour. Stir until you have a sticky paste. Add water until you reach the desired consistancy. Remove from heat and blend with a stick blender. Season to taste and serve with pork.

Serves 8


HANGER STEAK

1kg hanger steak
olive oil
salt
pepper

  1. Remove steak from fridge 30 minutes before cooking. Preheat your BBQ or grill pan until it is smoking hot.
  2. Rub the steak with a little olive oil and season both sides with salt and pepper. Grill until your liking, about 4-5 minutes either side for medium rare.
  3. Allow to rest for at least 15 minutes before carving thinly.

Serves 4-6


PRAWNS ON POLENTA
W/ LIME BUTTER

3 corn cobs, soaked in water for 15 minutes
olive oil
50g + 100g butter
200g polenta
finely grated rind of 1 lime, juice of 2
1 1/2 tbsp smoked paprika
1 tbsp fresh thyme, chopped
1 clove of garlic, crushed
2 tsp ground cumin
1kg prawns, peeled and cleaned with tails intact
salt & pepper

  1. Heat the BBQ or grill pan until smoking hot. Brush corn with a little olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill until cooked and slightly charred, about 15 minutes. Allow to cool slightly before cutting the kernals from the cob. Set aside.
  2. In a saucepan, bring 30g butter, 900ml water and a pinch of salt to the boil. Add the polenta and stir until thick. Add half the corn kernals with another 20g of butter and season to taste. Keep warm.
  3. In a saucepan, melt 100g butter. Add lime rind and juice and stir to combine. Season to taste and set aside. Keep warm.
  4. In a bowl, combine paprika, thyme, garlic, cumin, and prawns with a little salt and pepper. Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a frying pan and fry half the prawns until they begin to curl and turn opaque, about 5 minutes. Remove from pan and keep warm. Add another tbsp of oil and fry remaining prawns until cooked through. Return first lot of prawns to the pan and warm though.
  5. Spread polenta on a large serving platter. Top with prawns, lime butter, and remaining corn kernals.

Serves 4-6


GOOSE FAT POTATOES

3kg brushed potatoes, peeled and cut into sizeable chunks
  4 tbsp goose fat
salt and pepper

  1. Preheat oven to 200°C.
  2. In a large pot, add potatoes and cover with water. Bring to the boil and cook for 5 minutes until just soft. Drain well and return to the pot with the lid on. Give them a good shake to rough up the edges (this will make them crunchy). Let them sit in the pot for a couple of minutes so that all the water evaporates off them.
  3. Spoon goose fat between two baking trays and place in a hot oven for 5-10 minutes until very hot.
  4. Carefully divide potatoes between baking trays and toss lightly to coat in the goose fat. Season well.
  5. Cook for 1 hour until golden, tossing occasionally in the goose fat. 10 minutes before serving, drain off remaining goose fat and return to the oven to ensure crispy potatoes.

Serves 10-12


POACHED PEAR & BUFFALO MOZARELLA SALAD

4 unripe pears
400ml water

100g caster sugar
15 black peppercorns
4 strips of orange rind
2 bay leaves
juice of 1/2 lemon
200ml red wine
4 small balls of buffalo mozarella
150g rocket, washed & dried
1 tbsp dijon mustard
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
4 tbsp olive oil
60g pistachios, deshelled

  1. Peel pears and cut into quarters. Remove core and cut each quarter into 3.
  2. In a large saucepan, bring the water, sugar, peppercorns, orange rind, bay leaves, lemon juice and red wine to a gentle simmer. Add the pears, turn off heat and cover with a lid. Allow pears to sit in poaching liquid until cold.
  3. In a jar, combine mustard, vinegar and olive oil and shake well to combine. Season to taste.
  4. When pears are cool, drain off liquid. In a large bowl, add pears and rocket and tear in mozarella in small chunks. Pour over dressing and gently toss together with your hands.
  5. Transfer salad to a serving plate and sprinkle over pistachios before serving.

Serves 8


EGGPLANT & POMEGRANATE SALAD

6 eggplants
1 pomegranate
2 tbsp pomegranate molasses
juice of 2 lemons
80ml olive oil
3/4 cup coriander leaves
1/2 cup mint leaves
1 tbsp sumac
1 red chilli, finely sliced
salt & pepper

  1. Preheat oven to 180C.
  2. Place eggplants on a baking tray and prick all over with a knife. Bake in a moderate oven until very soft, about 45 mins – 1 hour. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly until cool enough to handle. Cut in half lengthways and scoop the flesh onto a chopping board and cut roughly. Transfer to a large bowl and season with salt and pepper. Allow to cool completely.
  3. Cut the pomegranate in half horizontally and using a wooden spoon, bang the back of the pomegranate to remove the seeds. You may want to do this over the sink as it is quite messy. Remove any white pith bits before adding half to the eggplant. Add the pomegranate molasses, lemon juice, olive oil, coriander leaves, mint and a little salt and pepper and toss to combine.
  4. Transfer eggplant to a serving tray before scattering with remaining pomegranate seeds, sumac and chilli. Drizzle over a little extra olive oil before serving.

Serves 6


ANCIENT GRAIN SALAD

150g freekeh
200g white qunioa
100g black rice
50ml olive oil
1 pomegranate
240g can lentils, rinsed and drained well
1/2 bunch dill fronds, roughly chopped
15 mint leaves, torn
60g pistachios, roughly chopped
100g goats curd
1/4 cup fried shallots to serve

POMEGRANATE DRESSING
40ml pomegranate molasses
1 1/2 tbsp lime juice
1 1/2 tbsp white wine vinegar
30g ginger, finely grated
2 tsp dijon mustard
185ml olive oil

  1. Wash quinoa, rice and freekeh separately. Heat olive oil in a large saucepan and add the freekeh. Toss to coat and cook for 3 minutes until nutty. Add 400ml water and a pinch of salt and bring to a gentle simmer. Cover and cook for 45 mins – 1 hour until just tender. Drain well and run under cold water. Drain again and set aside.
  2. Place rice and quinoa in seperate saucepans and cover with water. Add a pinch of salt to each and bring to the boil. Cook until just tender – the quinoa about 10-15 and the rice about 30 minutes. Drain well and run under cold water. Drain again and set aside.
  3. Cut the pomegranate in half horizontally and using a wooden spoon, bang the back of the pomegranate to remove the seeds. You may want to do this over the sink as it is quite messy. Remove any white pith bits. Set aside.
  4. To make dressing, in a food processor add all the ingredients except the olive oil. With the motor running, gradually add the oil in a steady stream. Season to taste.
  5. Combine quinoa, rice, freekah, half the pomegranate seeds, lentils, dill, mint and half the pistachios in a bowl. Pour over dressing and mix well. Transfer to a serving plate and dollop over goats curd. Scatter over remaining pomegranate seeds, pistachios and fried shallots before serving.

Serves 10-12