Friday, 15 July 2016

Christmas in July lunch and fruit mince flapjacks

It is bitterly cold in Melbourne this week.  A wild wind, snow on the outskirts and some heavy rain have chilled us to the bone.  I had hope for some wintery weather on Saturday when we had a Christmas in July lunch at our house but it was a bright and sunny day.  Nevertheless we had a lovely festive meal with friends and the dry weather meant the kids could run around outside.

The day before the lunch, Sylvia was at a friend's all day and I baked and cooked and cleaned.  I continued cooking into the evening.  By the end of the day I had been to the supermarket, made reindeer cake pops and chocolate and fruit mince flapjacks, a saucepan of mulled wine was resting, I had the nut roast and cauliflower cheese ready to bake, there was a big jug of gravy in the fridge and a large saucepan of chopped potato and pumpkins sitting in water prior to roasting.  The house was still a mess but that would have to wait.

I mostly stuck to tried and true recipes with just a few new sweet recipes.  There was heaps of food.  In retrospect we could have done with very little sweet food because we were so full after lunch but it is always fun to have.  I love having leftovers of the savoury food and will wrote more about leftovers at another time.  However while shopping I did start to wonder how much food I needed for 5 adults and 5 kids so here is my notes for next time:

Shopping list:
2 kg potatoes - a bit too much
1 large wedge of pumpkin a bit too much
2 large parsnips - a bit too much
5-6 cloves of garlic for roasting
1 cauliflower was too much
2 or 3 cups of Brussels spouts were all eaten
3 onions in gravy too much - 2 onions is probably plenty

The next morning before everyone arrived we got up and started preparations.  I put the potatoes, parsnip and pumpkin in the oven to roast and then I made the pizza dough to make candy cane pizzas.  We all did lots of cleaning and E did a sterling job with the dishes.  The nut roast and cauliflower cheese went in the oven to cook. 

Once the house was looking cleaner we bought out some of the good serving dishes.  The gorgeous Christmas tree Spode serviettes were found in E's dad's house when it was cleaned out in March.  We suspect his mum might have bought them years ago.  They made me think of her and her wonderful Christmas meals I shared with E's family.  The cauliflower cheese make me think of my family because we often had it with roast dinners as a child, and still do.

I then had a moment of calm when it seemed I was really organised.  Everything was ready to be warmed up or briefly cooked when our friends arrived.  The gravy was in the microwave.  The candy cane pizza had been cooked with the tomato sauce on for about 30 minutes and had some extra sauce spread over it and stripes of cheese placed on it.

Then there was the fun of setting the table with Christmas candle holders that Sylvia made at kindergarten, the gravy jug and cranberry sauce and sorting out glasses I felt were robust enough to handle the warmed mulled wine and finding smaller glasses for the Baileys.  Sylvia had fun setting her smaller table for her friends.  We even brought in a little plastic Christmas tree and put on some carols.

By the time our guests arrived, we were pretty organised with just the brussels sprouts to prepare.  And they don't take long to trim and boil up for 4-5 minutes.  Brussels sprouts have a bad reputation and I only started to associated them with Christmas when I lived in the UK where they were in season in the festive months.  (My family always had green peas.)  But we love them in our household and so perhaps it is not surprising I didn't have any leftover.

As I have already said, we had heaps of food and it was lovely to share it with friends who had of course brought over generous contributions of salad, wine, rumless rum balls, baileys and ice cream.  I had made the candy cane pizzas for the kids to start when they came in.  The adults were greeted with mulled wine.  By the time we were settling into our dinner the kids had eaten and run outdoors.

Here is the menu:

To start: mulled wine or regular wine

For the kids: candy cane pizza

Dessert: reindeer cake pops; rumless rum balls; chocolate and fruit mince flapjacks; baileys irish cream and tea or coffee.

I made a batch of chocolate and fruit mince flapjacks because I still had fruit mince leftover from Christmas and was determined to use it up.  The flapjacks seemed an easy way to use it (though I was very tempted by this mincemeat and apple caramel cake).  My take on JibberJabber's recipe is below.
I did a poor job of drizzling chocolate over them and then scattered some chocolate covered popping candy (again leftovers from Christmas that Sylvia unearthed recently).

I often have trouble with flapjacks and end up with muesli when they collapse.  These ones held together but looked pretty messy when I cut them.  I wondered if they needed slightly longer in the oven (mine is slow) or if I had messed with the ingredients too much.  I found them quite soft but they lasted well for at least 5 days (and counting) and have made great snacks.  I was surprised at the prominence of the fruit mince flavours and have enjoyed the chocolate topping with the fun surprise of the popping candy.

Everyone kindly chipped in to help with the dishes at the end.  This meant that when everyone left we could just flop on the sofa and relax.  I was tired but happy with the meal.  I will leave you with some reflections.

I grew up with my mother making roast dinners regularly.  When I started cooking when I left home, the idea of making a roast dinner was really intimidating and I thought it odd my mum would say how easy they are.  I think I have got to a point in my life where I find them a bit of work but they are also fairly simple because they are so familiar.  The apples doesn't fall far from the tree!

It seems I decide to do larger dinners and am all gung ho about them.  Then I get all nervous about what to serve and it takes a while to get my head around the menu and shopping list.  In the middle of lots of baking, I wonder what on earth possessed me to think I could do it.  On the Friday I told E to remind me never to make reindeer cake pops again!  But once it is done it doesn't seem so hard after all.  And I take that little bit of confidence into the next dinner!  I will look forward to our next Christmas in July dinner.

I am sending this post to Utterly Scrummy Food for Families where Elizabeth's No Waste Food Challenge is being held this month.

More festive chocolate recipes on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Chocolate and cranberry shortbread 
Chocolate fruitcake
Chocolate mince tarts
Chocolate panforte
Chocolate salami 
Vegan chocolate mince tarts
White Christmas   

Chocolate and fruit mince flapjacks
Adapted from JibberJabber

200g fruit mince
125g butter or margarine
55g brown sugar
3 tbsp golden syrup
200g porridge (quick) oats
55g dark chocolate chips or chunks
extra chocolate to drizzle
sprinkles (I used chocolate covered popping candy)

Preheat oven to 190 C.  Grease and line a 20cm square tin or a slice tin.

Gently heat fruit mince, butter, sugar and golden syrup until butter has melted.  (This can be done in the microwave in a large bowl which is what I did or on the stovetop in a large saucpan.)  Stir in oats then chocolate.  Scrape into prepared tin and smooth down with the back of a spoon.

Bake for 20 minutes.  Mark squares or bars while in the tin and then cool.  Remove from tin and cut along the lines you have marked.  If desired drizzle with chocolate and scatter with sprinkles.  Keeps for 5-7 days in an airtight container.

NOTES: To make this vegan check the fruit mince, margarine and chocolate are vegan.  I had rolled oats and blended these up to be smaller because every time I make flapjacks with rolled oats they fall apart.  I added the chocolate to the warm mixture and it melted so I would add the oats first and let it cool a bit before adding choc chips if you don't want them melting.  This recipe is open to lots of variations: you could substitute glace ginger or dried fruit for the choc chips, coconut oil for the butter, and other sweeteners.

On the Stereo: 
Christmas in the Heart: Bob Dylan


  1. I had flapjacks and they were so delicious! I must give them a try. The Christmas menu looks very tasty Johanna!

  2. I love the sound of those flapjacks. In fact, your whole menu is delightful - I've never done Christmas in July (and now am in the wrong country to consider it!) but you do celebrate it very well.

  3. What a fabulous feast! I am hosting Christmas in July this evenjng - waiting in anticipation now.

  4. Christmas is always a good way to break up the short days and grim weather, whether it's in July or December! The fruit mince flapjacks look lovely!

  5. Happy Christmas in July!! Your menu sounds amazing. You made a truly wonderful meal. I especially like the sound of the nut roast and cauliflower cheese. The reindeer pops are adorable.
    It's funny hearing you say you used to find making large meals intimidating and still get a little nervous about it because to me, you are a domestic goddess!

    1. Aww that is so sweet Kimmy - I have my domestic goddees moments and they feel good because there are lots of moments where I am just finding my way!

  6. This looks wonderful Johanna! I always stress on the day a bit, though I rarely entertain these days so it's not so bad. Your table settings are lovely and I'm glad we had that nice sunny weather (though I can barely type this comment as my hands are freezing)

  7. Wow! That's quite a feast. And a scrummy one at that!
    I never think of Australia as having snow.....
    We're definitely a brussels sprouts household here too... I think they got a bad reputation as the post-war generation seemed to cook everything to death and they tasted foul as a result. But cooked well, they are good.
    It's great to see my nut roast getting another airing.... Did the swirls work better this time?

  8. Happy Christmas in July! That's an impressive feast you have prepared! Thank you for sharing with the No Waste Food Challenge, and my sincerest apologies for the delay in popping over for a visit!


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