On the Tuesday before we left for Sydney, we had dinner with Jac’s mum, Pattycakes.
Before we left home to go to Pattycake’s house, we had a Christmas hamper to assemble. This was to be Pattycakes’ Christmas present from Jac’s brother Jon. He lives in Sydney (we stayed with him on our holiday) and had planned to send her a hamper of goodies but had left it too late for guaranteed delivery by Christmas. He asked us if we could help him put together a hamper for her, and we were happy to help. It really was great fun shopping for the decadent items we thought Pattycakes would like, and would enjoy trying. I don’t have a complete list of everything, but they included: lumpfish caviar, Christmas pudding, brandy custard to eat with the pudding, Moccona Mystique coffee, a selection of cheeses including King Island Brie and Capel Vale Vintage Cheddar, a mini bottle of St Agnes Brandy, cold meats, sundried tomato pesto, smoked salmon, cream cheese, baby capers, dried fruits and figs, French lemon butter, caramel sauce, crackers and wine. Instead of the more traditional wicker basket, Jac bought a plastic tub to hold everything. We thought it would be more practical in the long run than a basket, as the tub could be used to hold ice and drinks on Christmas day and other get-togethers. I’d bought some handmade chocolate truffles from Chokeby Road for the hamper – they came in a chocolate dish I was tempted to break bits off (but I didn’t!). I promised to take photos of the hamper for Jon so he could see how it turned out.
I was surprised how difficult it was to find clear cellophane! I thought we’d never find any, but after lots of searching, we stumbled upon some at Priceline. We put the hamper together at the last minute with the cold items on one side, sitting on ice packs.
Pattycakes was thrilled with the hamper (family can see photos on Flickr). Time for dinner!
When she cooks for guests, Pattycakes worries she’ll mess things up and serve up a disaster, but I always enjoy dinner at her house. On this occasion, she tried out a menu from one of her cookbooks, which I think is called “Easy Entertaining”. The first course was curried pea and apple soup, made with frozen peas and real apples – this probably sounds terrible, and the soup looked murky and swampy but it was really lovely – really! The apple gave the soup a yummy sweetness. I’d definitely have it again.
Next, we each had a tomato stuffed with a savoury filling of chicken, onion, pinenuts and sultanas. They were served cold, with a light sauce made from mayonaise and the juice out of the middle of the tomatoes. I really enjoyed it. The tomato was sweet and firm and went well with the chicken and pinenut mix. Another winner!
For main course, the vegetable dish was baked potatoes, avocado and onions. I’m not a fan of avocado, but the onions and potatoes were fantastic. And Jac was pleased to eat my share of the avocado.
The main meat dish was apricot and ginger chicken. Pattycakes panfried the chicken breasts (the sound and smell of the frying was so good!) and served them with a sauce made with apricot nectar, ginger and spring onions. I normally can’t stand chicken in fruit sauces (can’t stand mango chicken, for example!), but the ginger in this sauce ensured that the apricot-ness was minimal – it was a savoury yet sweet sauce, and surprisingly delicious.
Round one was shortly followed by round two, and then round two-and-a-half. With her guinea pigs fully fed and content, Pattycakes declared this meal had indeed been “Easy Entertaining”.