Every year, in December we make gingerbread snowflakes. It started years ago when we received snowflake cookie cutters as a gift, and has now become our Christmas tradition. This year though, I hesitated.
Freshly-baked gingerbread snowflakes
I had already bought the ingredients. A task that saw me standing in the supermarket picking up one type of sugar, and then another, trying to figure out which one was most likely to resemble the soft brown sugar available in Australia. Last year, I used cassonade; it had the right flavour but was too granular. This year, I opted for vergeoise, which was the right consistency, but lacked the rich flavour of brown sugar.
With the ingredients in hand, I had second thoughts. Our kitchen is insanely cold at the moment, and the oven function on our combination microwave isn’t quite up to the job of baking.
Cutting out the dough with our snowflake cookie cutter
But, the biscuits have become a tradition, and they really are delicious. So, I put my excuses aside, and made them anyway. I now have the pleasure of sipping my coffee, with gingerbread on the side, as I write this.
Growing up, the first weekend in December was when we put up the Christmas tree. This weekend still feels like the start of the festive season for me; our decorations are up, and the Christmas baking has begun.
This weekend, I made chocolate balls using my grandmother’s recipe. She has been making these for Christmas for as long as I can remember, and now that I’m so far away it’s comforting to have a little bit of my family Christmas traditions in our celebrations.
We also visited Lyon’s Christmas market at Perrache over the weekend. We wandered around, sampled the chocolate-covered marshmallows, admired the twinkling lights, and generally soaked up the festive atmosphere.
Chocolate covered marshmallows at the Christmas market
Christmas market in Lyon
I’m often surprised at what you can successfully cook in the microwave. My first discovery was pappadums, followed by the prawn crackers you get at Chinese restaurants. Both of these are usually deep fried, but they puff up just as well when microwaved for a minute, without any oil at all.
Toasted pumpkin seeds
This week, I added pumpkin seeds to the list. Pumpkins have started appearing in our market, and I picked up a slice this week. By coincidence, I found this post about toasting pumpkin seeds in my RSS reader around the same time.
Since the oven feature on our combination microwave doesn’t work particularly well on its own, I looked around to see if I could use some combination of microwaving and grilling the seeds instead. And it turns out, just microwaving them is enough.
I washed the seeds, and tossed them with a little bit of olive oil, salt, and smoked paprika then put them on a plate in the microwave for 2 minutes. After 30 seconds, the microwave had filled entirely with smoke, and I wondered whether this was a good idea. I opened the door, and the smoke (which was more likely steam) dissipated quickly. Nothing seemed to be burning, so I carried on.
I microwaved the seeds for about 4 minutes in total. They continued to produce huge amounts of steam for the first 3 minutes; I checked on them every 30 seconds or so, to reassure myself they weren’t about to catch fire. In the last minute the steam stopped completely, and the seeds made a crackling sound. When I pulled them out they were golden, crunchy, and delicious.
Our little garden has finally grown enough to be able to harvest. Every few days I snip off some lettuce or parsley leaves for one of our meals.
Our first radish
Today we got our first proper-sized radish; crunchy, spicy, and bright pink. We took out a couple of our other radish plants recently to give the lettuce some space. They didn’t have bulbs, but the stir-fried leaves were tasty.
Our first radish joined my first batch of homegrown alfalfa in our lunch today.
Living in the gastronomic capital of France ensures we are surrounded by amazing food, and a seemingly endless collection of new things to try. Still, there are things I miss that are hard to come by in France. So, our trip to Australia became something of a gastronomic event. This was not fine dining gastronomy, it was simple pleasures, mostly enjoyed outdoors.
Meat on the bbq
To start our visit, my parents organised a barbeque. Sausages, steak, chicken wings, and a collection of salads contributed by various family members were all enjoyed in the backyard. The beer, wine, and conversation flowed freely. And it was finished off with my Mum’s signature pavlova.
Homemade bread and butter