Thursday, December 17, 2009

From our garden: Lilies

I have to confess a slight obsession with lilies- I started a couple of years ago. Some Asiatic and Christmas lilies. Then the next year I got some Orientals and more Christmas lilies. They are the best sort of flower- pop them in the ground or a pot, forget about them until the leaves pop up like little pineapples, then water and feed (only a bit) and then you are rewarded with these beautiful, and sometimes fragrant flowers.
The best bit is that they vegetatively reproduce themselves like crazy, after they're done you can dig up the bulb and there will be a twin and several small baby ones.
So my collection doubles itself each year!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Christmas countdown & clean shoes

The countdown to Christmas has really started now. Sure, I’ve put up the decorations last week, we’ve got dried fruit plumping up in brandy for our Christmas cakes, and we’ve been shopping for presents for everyone (nearly there!) But on Saturday night we had to put our cleanest shoes on the back doorstep.
This is something I’ve done every 5th of December since I can remember. My mother is Hungarian and like many Europeans, her family has kept the tradition of St Nicholas. On the eve of the feast of St Nicholas, children have to put out their freshly cleaned shoes and if they have been good during the year St Nicholas will visit overnight and fill them with sweets or presents.
I’m the eldest of five children, so it was always a very exciting evening, as we all went about picking our favourite pair of shoes. Much debate was had over if we picked a big pair of boots whether we’d get more! I’m not sure about our polishing technique, but we set about it. We set our five pairs of shoes out either on the hearth, or near a window or the front door. We also (at my parents suggestion) left a glass of milk and biscuit for St Nicholas, a carrot for his horse (apparently that’s how he got around!) and a list for him to pass onto Santa. This last bit was a bit of blending- my mother’s Hungarian & my father’s Australian Christmas traditions- to help them on their shopping trips. I remember we struggled to sleep- thinking of what we might find in our shoes. Hoping St Nicholas hadn’t caught us misbehaving and thereby earning ourselves a stone instead of a lolly. As soon as the first of us woke up, we’d shake the others awake and run out to see what St Nicholas had left us: chocolate Santa’s, lollies, nuts, popcorn, chocolate coins, and fresh cherries. Then we’d spend the morning eating chocolates & lollies instead of breakfast.
I may be a bit older now, but St Nicholas hasn’t been able to give up the habit of visiting all of us each year- he even makes sure that some little treats get to my siblings in northern Tasmania & the UK.
So now I feel like I'm on the downhill run to Christmas -when do you feel like it’s the start of the silly season?

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

A Duck Dinner

We’re on holidays at the moment- and we’re not going anywhere! Well, that’s if you don’t count Launceston.

We headed up to my stay with my in-laws for a few days. Nigella hates the drive but loves the place- she knows it as the “house of duck”, and it lived up its name.

My duck hams have been hanging in the fridge for last few weeks; we sliced them thinly to eat on the deck (in some rare sunshine) with a pretty bottle of sparkling Rosé. Moving inside we had our main course of confit duck marylands (Rob had been cooking them slowly in the oven all afternoon- then a quick crisp up at the end) served with our broad beans and some little carrots. For dessert, I’d made a Blancmange served with raspberry sauce.

Nigella hung around hopefully- giving us this look- she did get a few pieces of the duck ham and a little confit. Spoilt thing, she would only eat her own dinner, chicken drumsticks if we slathered them in duck fat!

I always enjoy our visits to the “house of duck”- our time is mostly spent deciding or discussing our next meal and preparing it together. We did visit the Niche market, I’m meant to be buying Christmas presents for all my family but sadly I keep finding things for myself. Opps. We walked Nigella around Windmill Hill Park and visited her doggy cousins. We went for a Sunday drive to visit a vineyard that my father-in-law helped start, and where Rob spent a lot of time as a youngster, a trip down memory lane for them all: remembering neighbours, where certain vines were grown, who planted which trees, building the winery. Drove away with a car full of Christmas bubbles.
Sadly we ate our duck dinner too quickly for pics- but we did make a salad the next evening with one of the duck hams- what’s your favourite way to eat/cook duck?
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