I first experienced my American Christmas when I was fifteen years old. Coming from Australia, where we celebrate with barbeques on the beach, it was like something out of this world. There was a particular fragrance that circled around the festive tunes that played in the shopping malls. Decorations weren’t spared and people literally walked the streets with beautifully wrapped boxes piled on top of the other to put under the tree, just like in the movies. We were there visiting my step-mother’s family, so we spent a lot of our time celebrating in their homes and sampling all of the seasonal specialties. And then there was the snow! Flipping through the recently released cookbook, New York Christmas by Lisa Nieschlag and Lars Wentrup, took me back to that magical Christmas I spent as a fifteen year old. Let me tell you a little bit about it, along with sharing a couple of the Christmas recipes from the book.
Since their launch a couple of years ago, Storm and India Tea Sisters have brought the glamour back to the tea scene. They caught everyone’s attention with the Tea Van, serving specialty brews from a cool polished chrome sixties van at events and markets around Auckland. More recently they have collaborated with Little Bird Organics to educate the detox and health benefits of their handcrafted organic tea. While there has been a cheeky twist, they have always taken tea very seriously and they’ve pleased everyone from the ordinary drinkers, to the connoisseurs. I’m a huge tea lover; it is a ritual for me, and reading India’s answers to my questions for NZ Month, has brought me to a new level of appreciation.
On Sunday I developed a nasty head cold. I was at my worst on Monday and feeling rather sorry for myself. The autumn sun was shining outside but all I felt like doing was snuggling up on my couch and eating comfort food. That afternoon, I received a delivery from French Country Collections. The impeccably styled catalogue included suggested everything “comfort” that I was craving that day; rich moody hues, a seat by the warm fireplace and an enviable table setting. The blues are set off beautifully with the classic gold accessories. Strangely enough, this summer loving girl was looking forward to winter. You heard it here first!
If you’ve been following me on Instagram, you would have seen that I recently got back from a week away in the Coromandel. We rented a house with a great big deck with one amazing view. To make the holiday even more special, one of my oldest and dear friends from Australia, Tash, her husband Dave and their two boys were able to visit us for three nights while they were here.
I’m a little more organised this year compared to last, and spent Wednesday scouring the Internet to put together my Christmas menu. Wow, a whole two weeks before! This is something that I usually put off until the very last minute as I see to all of the other urgent things like – presents! I also don’t have the pressure to be super prepared because it’s usually just us on the day. I still like to do something special though, and the kids adore the pretty table and whole experience.
For the first time in years I have an oven that bakes cakes perfectly. The temperature is exact, the heat even. We’re on a bit of a roll with birthdays in this family at the moment so it’s been getting a bit of work out and each and every time, the cake has been baked to perfection. I’m pretty excited by this and I’m in the baking mode! I experimented with an old recipe for my son’s class birthday cake, which turned out well. This weekend I expanded on it again, and I’ve come up with a pretty delicious banana buttermilk layer cake. It’s also fairly simple to make.
Just a few days now until Bastille Day and I thought that some of you Francophiles might have fun creating a little French dinner party for your friends. This “how to” French soirée is the kind of thing that I’d do and is not overly complicated: