My wife, Olivia, is an absolute whiz in the kitchen. She is always following new trends, making new dishes or planning fantastic themed feasts. We seldom eat the same thing twice.
For the last 5 years she has composed a special menu for the “12 Days of Christmas” – alternating between the traditional (Partridge in a Pear Tree) and New Zealand (“Pukeko in a Ponga Tree”) versions each year. This year it was the turn of the traditional version.
Wherever possible she tries to tie in part of the carol lyrics to the dish – i.e. “Partridge in a Pear Tree” will usually contain pears to some degree, or there will be some sort of alliteration or similar tie-in. It really takes a fair bit of dedication and imagination to pull off!
This year, though, there was one small, cute, crying, constantly feeding problem.
Parents-to-be please note at this point: When baby arrives and you want to eat dinner, it’s absolutely guaranteed that Junior will too – ruling out any opportunity for you to:
A/ Have dinner together.
B/ Have dinner at your regular time.
C/ If you DO get it cooked at the usual time you won’t get around to eating it together at any temperature above tepid.
So while Olivia supplied our baby with dinner, I took to the kitchen to make the meals. This is not something that is usually advised unless a fire extinguisher, paramedics and Civil Defence are on stand-by.
As it turned out, the results weren’t too bad!
Day 2 – Two Turtle Doves:
Meal: Flour Crust Poisson with Steamed Vegetables
Reasoning: This was an awesome idea we got from a Jamie Oliver cookbook. The Poisson being a small bird like a dove, cooks itself in a flour and water crust that ends up hard like a turtle’s shell! We add the broccoli, which looks like a tree, for extra birdy-ness.
Day 3 – Three French Hens:
Meal: Coq Au Riesling
Reasoning: Chicken thighs (hen) cooked in a very French-sounding casserole (we’ll just ignore the fact that Riesling comes from Germany and DON’T MENTION THE WAR!). Very yum!
Day 4 – Four Calling Birds:
Meal: Blueberry, Banana and Bacon Tart
Reasoning: We researched this dish and discovered that it isn’t actually “Calling Birds”, but “Colly Birds” (otherwise known as “Blackbirds”). So we often borrow from another old rhyme and make some variation on “Four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie.” Last time we made chicken pie. This year we went for a big “B” alliteration “Black Birds” / “Blueberry, Banana and Bacon”. It was BEAUTIFUL!
Day 5 – Five Gold Rings:
Meal: Panko-fried Courgette Fettuccini
Reasoning: I cut courgettes from our own garden into rings (ok, “coins”, technically), coated them in panko breadcrumbs and shallow fried them, before tossing them in fettuccini.
Day 8 – Eight Maids a Milking:
Meal: Beef Burgers Topped with Goats’ Cheese and Baked Baby Beetroot.
Reasoning: The burgers are made from an animal that gets milked and the goats’ cheese is a result of the same process. The beetroot is there because it goes beautifully with goats’ cheese.
Day 9 – Nine Ladies Dancing:
Meal: Antipasti Platter
Reasoning: Olivia stopped (and really missed) eating soft cheeses, cured meats etc. (all the “no-no” foods) while she was pregnant. So the promise of finally being able to eat them again made this lady so happy she wanted to dance!
Day 10 – Ten Lords a Leaping:
Meal: Lamb Chops with Bean and Mustard Salad
Reasoning: Lambs, like lords (allegedly) love to leap. As do the mustard seeds when you cook them in hot oil for the dressing on the (“Spring” – get it?) Bean Salad.
Day 12 – Twelve Drummers Drumming:
Meal: Deconstructed Duck Drumsticks with Kohl Rabi and Cherry Salad
Reasoning: We were going to use self-explanatory duck drumsticks for this dish, but they sold out the day before we went to do it. So I used duck breast, some creative licence and alliteration to call them “Deconstructed Drumsticks”.
So there we go, another year of deliciousness done and dusted! Many thanks to all the Facebook and Twitter friends and followers who liked and commented on the dishes!
Wherever possible, we sourced ingredients from our own garden, the Napier Farmers’ Market, local greengrocers, butchers etc. For the more specialised ingredients, we went to Gourmet Direct and Vetro – any Napier foodie’s best friends!