Polish Christmas Wrap-up

31 Dec

See what I did there?  …ugh.  Christmas makes me happy, and as I realized over the past couple of days on holiday, happy Cristalle makes really bad jokes.  Sorry, everyone.

So, Christmas is over for another year.

This year’s Christmas was a quieter affair, not quite as extravagant as the year before, however I definitely enjoyed it more.  I don’t think it could have been more busy for everyone (for example I was wrapping gifts on my lunch break on Christmas Eve.  Tardy, I know).

But lets start at the beginning – Midnight Baking.  Seeing as I was working 20 out of 24 December days before Christmas, I was definitely strapped for time this year.  Hence, midnight baking.  In one hectic night I managed to produce:

– Mini fruit mince pies (made with homemade fruit mince)

– Shortbread cookies

– Butterscotch lollies (see my post on candy for recipe)

– Black forest cheesecake (recipe at end)

– Raspberry ice cream (no pictures, you’ll have to take my word for it)

All made using my very own Vanilla Extract and Lemon Extract.  Seriously, that stuff is heavenly.

Shortbread with brandy butter filling

Mini Fruit Mince Pies

Making butterscotch...

This cheesecake didn't last a day...

Had to make another one! (the next day)

Shortbread Christmas tree - thanks to the amazing Christine at King of Knives Melbourne Central for the decorating supplies!

So, the baking was out of the way.  The rest was up to the sisters and mum.  And boy did they deliver!  I only took a few pictures, there was so much food!

Beautifully dressed table thanks to the siblings

Before sitting down at the table, everyone breaks the traditional wafer, or Oplatek and exchanges good wishes for health, wealth and happiness in the New Year.   The Oplatek is a thin, unleavened wafer similar to the altar bread in the Roman Catholic Church.

We also had unexpected guests…which was perfectly fine thanks to the tradition of having an empty place setting ready for the “Unexpected Guest”.  This is to celebrate the tradition of hospitality in Poland and, for the religious, a reminder that St. Joseph and Mary were also looking for shelter, and that no one should be turned away on Christmas.  The extra seat was left open just in case a traveler, family member, or a friend appeared at the door, so there would be a place for them to sit.  Well, we had an extra TWO people!  We were very glad they could join us in celebrating their first Wigilia.

Polish salata (salad) - there's a generic recipe at the end if anyone's interested. I don't think it's quite the same as what we have at home, but that's mum's secret...

Borsch ready to be served with uszka (ears!)/pierogi

Mmmmmm....

No herring, to my dismay, but that’s ok.  Next year I’ll make sure to get some, since no one else in my family likes it.  Pfft, and they call themselves Polish.

Don't judge it 'till you try it

However, my mum did try to cling to some vestiges of tradition – you’re meant to have many different types of fish and seafood dishes on Christmas Eve.

Extract from Wikipedia:

“The Wigilia is a meatless meal, no doubt the result of a long-time Church mandate that a strict fast and abstinence be observed on this day before Christmas. Although the Church laws have been revised and permit meat to be eaten on this day, the traditional meal remains meatless. Items that would normally be included in a traditional Wigilia menu include mushroom soup, boiled potatoes (kartofle), pickled herring (sledzie), fried fish, pierogi, beans and sauerkraut (groch i kapusta), a dried fruit compote, babka, platek, assorted pastries, nuts and candies.”

Always interesting in my family, as they’re, while not ‘fussy’, let’s say they’re discerning about what they’ll eat before they even know what it is.  Especially when it comes to the word ‘fish’.

Whenever I’ve made anything seafood related they’ve initially turned their noses up at it.  Initially.

They liked these earlier in the year... coconut prawns with mango mayonnaise dipping sauce

Still, when my mum announced suddenly that she’d bought some fish and that she expected me to “do something with it” I was understandably worried.  I needed something a) quick and b) not too “crazy” (read that as “elaborate”, unless you don’t like seafood).  So I made this (pardon the picture – this is straight from the oven) :

My very quick addition to the menu - baked fish with a parmesan and herb crust

The crust was a mix of parmesan cheese, lemon, lime, olive oil, salt, pepper, chives, basil and panko breadcrumbs.  Easy and was  well received.  *phew*!!

After a brief respite, dessert was served!

Dessert time

And finally, the time that the kids were counting down to – present time!  We (Polish people) open presents on Christmas Eve.  Overall a better system, if you think about it.  Means Christmas day is spent sleeping in, as you should on a holiday!

Santa Claus was good to us this year - check it - we also got a pool!

So that’s a quick skim over what was a very pleasant Christmas.  Probably quite different to your Christmas, huh?

Wishing everyone a safe and happy new year.

—————————————————————————————————-

Black Forest Cheesecake

My additions/tweaks to the recipe are in itallics.  One day I’ll just post someone else’s recipe up without fiddling with it….
Hah, who am I kidding.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon cornflour
  • 1 tablespoon gelatine, dissolved in 1/2 cup boiling water, cooled
  • 1 tablespoon rum (I used my vanilla extract, hey, it is rum!)
  • 100g butter, melted (for base)
  • 2 tablespoons caster sugar (for syrup)
  • 250g plain chocolate biscuits, crushed (I used a mix of Marie and Butternut snap biscuits.  Don’t like chocolate bases on cheesecakes.)
  • 3/4 cup caster sugar
  • 300ml thickened cream, whipped
  • 425g can pitted black cherries, drained, liquid reserved (the second cheesecake I used sour cherries, or wisnie, in Polish.  Even better, in my opinion)
  • 500g block Cream Cheese, softened

Method

  • Combine biscuit crumbs and butter and press into the base and sides of a greased 22cm (8”) springform tin. Refrigerate for 15 minutes.
  • Place the reserved cherry liquid in a small saucepan along with the sugar, rum and cornflour. Stir over heat until it comes to boil. Set aside to cool.
  • Beat the cheese and sugar using an electric mixer until smooth. Add the gelatine mixture and some vanilla extract and beat until well combined. Fold in the whipped cream.
  • Spoon ½ the mixture and ½ the cherries into the prepared base. Repeat with remaining mixture and cherries. Pour over the thickened cherry topping, then lightly swirl through mixture with a fork. A skewer gives you more control over the effect. Refrigerate 3 hours or overnight until set.
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