December 1st and it’s the downhill run to one of New Zealand’s major religious referenced festivals and holidays. While you’ll now see Matariki, Diwali, Chinese New Year and Morris dancers around the place, Christmas remains one of our primary seasonal celebrations. Variations have been brought by successive waves of European migrants and you’ll find some families focused on Christmas Eve and Midnight Mass with others waiting to be woken at the crack of Kiwi-summer dawn by children still able to believe in myths and legends.
It’s a time when we try to make an effort to provide for some of our community who don’t have access to the benefits of the “rockstar economy”. In the supermarket I watch as a Mother hands a tin of pineapple pieces to her teenage son and directs him to Countdown’s food collection portal. Head down I studiously walk past a local annual Lions gigantic raffle trailer – I’m downsizing.
Sharing company and food is a major component of contemporary Christmas. Service groups are holding “meals” with paper hats and crackers for the dispossessed and the lonely – they’ll still be on their own on Christmas Day. Our newly elected Prime Minister Jacinda Adern is part of a network of Secret Santa present givers. Most probably the lost and the lonely won’t be getting a present from her – you have to have given a present to get a present!
In the early 1990’s one of the most insightful experiences I had was being allowed to be one of the helpers at the Auckland City Mission Christmas Dinner at the Auckland Town Hall. Was I taken aback that people brought along bags and collected bottles of fizz and spare presents to take away – no, it was another harsh reality check for a person of privilege.
Tonight the local kindy is having it’s Christmas Market and I’ve opened the old cabin trunk and selected 2017’s Christmas decorations. It’s only recently I’ve been able to dispose of the battered collection of cardboard Santas created in Mrs Margaret Tey’s new entrants class at Karaka School. I had the same feeling as when I finally put out my first pair of ballet shoes – irrational loss.
I’ve started scoffing Christmas mince tarts and make-believe marzipan covered Christmas cake – not like Mother used to make. The half lard-half butter pastry in a pie dish covered with Christmas mince which somehow tasted better back then. The uniced Christmas cake a pale golden colour full of fruit cherries and nuts, and the Christmas pudding with its greaseproof wrapped silver coins. I’ve never really worked out why they were wrapped up – germs, metal content or to avoid one of us needing medical attention? Growing up I’d have selected germs as the major motivator for a pre-penicillin nurse.
It’s been another magic ARTbop year for me. Around the Bay of Plenty I’ve met hardworking, amazing creatives and in cafes, gallery and exhibition openings I’ve eaten scrumptious goodies. At last weekend’s formal opening of the People’s Gallery at the Historic Village I returned repeatedly to the a plate of small, delicious traditionally tasting, home-made cheese balls. Dairy intolerance put to one side I exhorted all around me to try them.
So I’m reproducing the cheese ball recipe of Katherine Steeds of Cottleston Gallery in Greerton – it’s redolent of earlier years of dinner parties, high heels and fondue sets. You could present this as tiny cheese balls rather than a large single one. What ever, it looks amazing on the largest white platter you own surrounded by the suggested accompaniments.
Cottleston Cheese Ball
100 gm Mainland Parmesan Cheese
500 gm Mainland Edam
100 gm Mainland Tasty cheddar
250 gm Meadow Fresh cottage Cheese chives and garlic
250 gm Mediterranean chunky dip sun-dried tomato with cashews and parmesan OR chop and briefly blend 135 gm sun-dried tomatoes, ¼ cup unsalted cashew nuts and enough of the oil to make a soft past.
About ½ cup very finely chopped shallots
3 tsp garlic past
1 ½ cups walnuts chopped or sesame seeds
Mix well together, shape into a ball, roll in sesame seeds or chopped walnuts and chill in your fridge for at least 12 hours before serving with crackers, grapes, sweet pepper fingers, carrot sticks, strawberries, olives, cherry tomatoes – what ever is in season.
What’s so good about this is you can make it up in advance of hysteria and mayhem – it tastes better because of it!
Sneaky tip – I rinsed out a small pottle of Mediterranean Roasted Capsicum Chunky Dip with Cashews & Parmesan into a simple beef stir fry. Just a tiny amount of dip gave the stir fry a flavour zing.
And if you’re wanting to impress: best supermarket sourced crackers I’ve eaten were at the Whakamarama Hall Committee AGM – nut and oat crackers you can find in Countdown – rich, delicious and I took the left overs home.
And unexpected visitors and no crackers? I cut slices of Vogel’s Sunflower and Barley bread into small triangles (not Winnie the Pooh soldiers on this occasion) and oven crisp them. Same with my homemade crostini but I wipe the oven tray with olive oil and sprinkle chopped rosemary or ground black pepper on the tray and them put slices of supermarket sourced french bread on top. Oven dry and they’ll freeze!
Keep any odd bits and offcuts of the french bread, store in the freezer and then you can “saute” (that’s fry in English) in a heavy bottomed pan with chopped garlic, halls and olive oil and you’ve got little crunchy bits for salad or summer cold meats and cheese.
If you use the pre-made frozen sausage rolls from the supermarket – defrost and while still uncut push into a line of black and white (or black or white) sesame seeds and then cut into “bitesized” pieces, oven blitz keeping an eye on them because they won’t take as long to cook. Serve on a big white platter around a small bowl of your own tomato sauce (you can make a perfectly acceptable TS from a tin of tomatoes, garlic, garden herbs etc)
Unexpected brunch guests? Just cut the pre-made roll into three, same sesame seed process and then you can serve two pieces with a side-salad and cheese and some of that “homemade” tomato sauce.
And don’t forget if you’re Downtown Tauranga over the holiday period you will get a great witloof salad and a plate of polenta chips/fingers at Rye on Wharf Street next to the Tauranga Art Gallery. Lots more on the menu but these two I really like.
Keep cool, be safe, eat well and follow the ARTbop and ARTbop alternative facebook pages which share a variety of delicious recipe and food videos from local fashionista and foodie Tracey Rudduck-Gudsell!
Rosemary Balu. Rosemary Balu is the founding and current editor of ARTbop. Rosemary has arts and law degrees from the University of Auckland. She has been a working lawyer and has participated in a wide variety of community activities where information gathering, submission writing, community advocacy and education have been involved. Interested in all forms of the arts since childhood Rosemary is focused on further developing and expanding multi-media ARTbop as the magazine for all the creative arts in the Bay of Plenty, New Zealand.
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AND DON’T FORGET THE AFFORDABLE ART & ARTISAN FAIR WILL BE BACK ON THE LAST SUNDAY IN JANUARY 2018 AT THE BLACK SHEEP BAR & GRILL, WHAKAMARAMA! A very big thank you to everyone who participated in the inaugural market, the wonderful visitors, the businesses who supported us getting the Fair off the ground and the team at the Black Sheep Bar & Grill!
A very big thank you to everyone who participated in the inaugural market, the wonderful visitors, the businesses who supported us getting the Fair off the ground and the team at the Black Sheep Bar & Grill!
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