29 December 2007

A Pot Luck Christmas

Now the Princess Pat...
(children repeat each phrase after you)

Lived in a tree
She sailed across
The seven seas
She sailed across,
the channel too
and she took with her
a rig of bamboo

A rig of bamboo
now what is that?
It's something made
by the Princess Pat
its red and gold
and purple too

Thats why its called
a rigabamboo

(repeat chorus)

I'm a Buddhist partly raised by Catholics, Protestants, Confucian Tao Buddhists and Jews. I make a stab at being charitable all year around. But for most Aussies, Christmas is when they do it and along with that comes the festive scramble of parties and gatherings, leaving many people stressed and emotionally overwrought.

This year's Sticky Christmas gathering moved from our house to a rented house by the sea and new hosts. So we were relieved of the need to buy multiple free range turkey hens to smoke in the Weber, large meals to prepare in our tiny galley kitchen and the juggling of the diet conscious and those with bland bogan palates. There was no need to prepare the house nor to move the furniture around to accommodate Mr Stickyinger's Christian half of our family.

No, instead this year, after years of kow-towing to certain outspoken relatives for a piping hot, sit down meal of traditional fare with lots of choice to cater for finicky eaters, we went casual. It was what the North Americans refer to as Pot luck. A Kris Kringle of food offerings. We were told to each bring three dishes as there would be guests visiting from the UK and consequently a great many mouths to feed.
Mr Sticky's niece directed us to bring salad and the ham.

As usual I had my Christmas order of locally farmed and smoked ham on the bone - who could pass that up? This year's offering was just under 6kg, or $90+ of the leanest smoky pork I've seen, with an especially thin skin.

All Mr Sticky's siblings had
also been asked to bring salad along. And mindful that there would be a vegetarian present, I went for our tried, true, simple and easily transportable vegetable jumbles for the 40minute drive. We left the traditional garden salads and coleslaw to others.

The car was filled to capacity. Two six seater folding tables and chairs, 30 glasses, cutlery, utensils, plates and table cloths fought for room with the drinks, gifts and food. We needed Sherpas at each end of the journey. It was like moving house.

On the
festive table of assorted offerings, I lay a huge burnished gold platter of rocket with tons of freshly shaved Parmesan and lashings of my usual emulsion of dressing, alongside Mr Stickyfinger's Chargrilled Salad. We call it this because although he doesn't usually involve himself cooking our meals, he is happy to wield the tongs on a Barbecue to make this, while I do the prep and the dressing.

It's a sexy salad, red, gold, purple and rustic. The warmth of the grilled vegetables enlivens the tons of freshly torn herbs and it is merely dressed with just the fruitiest Extra Virgin Olive Oil to hand. Mixed with the hands and piled onto a terracotta Spanish platter it smells of the freshness of the garden, begging to be eaten and tantalising with its deep, regal colours.

While the other salads on the festive table sunk deep into their plastic bowls, ours stood their ground boldly and were quickly devoured in spite of their being the largest vegetable offerings of the day. They proved more popular than
a curious Mushroom Croustade, and even the roasted potatoes. I was proud. I could have happily skipped the meat. I love those salads.

Next time we eat Mr Sticky's salad, it will be served with slow aged, rare roast beef and homemade Hollandaise sauce.


Although we use locally farmed (SOLE) etc produce it works as well with regular market sourced supplies.

1 large red pepper
1 large eggplant
1/2 Butternut pumpkin
1/2 male fennel bulb
1 large bunch of thick stemmed asparagus

4 cloves of garlic, bruised with a cleaver

Herbs - 1 small handful, torn, of each:
Flat leaf parsley
Fennel leaves
1 sprig Rosemary (optional)

Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVO) - Fruity or robusta
Cold Pressed Lemon Olive Oil (optional)
Salt - coarse grain ( Murray River Salt)

Chop larger vegetables into similar sized pieces. Butternut pumpkin is used because it doesn't go to mush on cooking and should be cut to the same thickness as the eggplant. If you're in a hurry, the eggplant can be cooked briefly in the microwave to avoid brining. The Pumpkin may also be par-cooked either in the nuclear reactor or on the stove top in the traditional manner.

Cut asparagus stems in half and if quite thick, split vertically too. Place all of the vegetables in a large bowl and anoint generously with olive oil and salt. Tear up herbs a put aside.

Starting with the red pepper and pumpkin, chargrill all the vegetables on a gas Barbeque or very hot Cast Iron stove top Griddle until they are soft and charred. Finish with the asparagus and garlic as they will take the least time to cook.

Transfer all the cooked vegetables to a bowl and add the herbs. Mix the herbs through gently with your hands, jumbling the vegetables in the process. You will smell the herbs releasing their scent on contact the the warm vegetables. Add a generous slosh of EVO and the lemon oil - if you have it - mix and then spread onto a platter.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

That is one beautiful salad!