The days between Christmas and New Years are always good ones. We fall into a funny kind of lazy limbo when you know the date but not the day of the week, you get to sleep in then stay in bed with tea and new Christmas books, a trip to the town pool is the only thing on the agenda and it’s warm enough for balmy dinners in the garden with whoever is about. Plus, my birthday is the 30th so that’s always fun.
We are just back from the most lovely Christmas spent down at Bundeena (a small village in the Royal National Park just south of Sydney) with Tim’s family. Our hosts were his sister Penny aka the woman behind 1803 Artisan Deer products, and her family Campbell, Pippa and Stella. And their generosity, plus the chance to stay right on the beach, wake up on Christmas morning and swim in the ocean was a MAJOR TREAT for us country mice.
There were cricket matches on the beach at dusk, a huge paella party on Christmas eve with half of the Bundeena beach community, Bloody Mary’s (see below) and a long lunch comprising of our venison simply barbecued and served with chutney and a huge side of salmon roasted then topped with chilli jam and a spicy cool green mango salad. The latter prepared by Penny and good friend and superb chef Martin Boetz aka the man behind the Cook’s Co-op, who we were so thrilled to spend Christmas with too. Gosh it was good.
One of the things I love so much about Christmas is that, whatever your beliefs and faith surrounding this day, an essential part of the celebration is bringing your special people around a table to enjoy food that has been sourced and prepared with thought and care for a lunch that can linger on into the evening, with nobody rushing off or with anywhere to be.
So thank you SO much to the Hanan family for facilitating just such a day, and hosting this generous, fun and relaxed Christmas. And if the idea of a few days on Bundeena beach appeals to you too – then you are in luck lovely people, as it is available to rent for short stays and excellent holidays (the property includes a boat ramp right onto the beach aka heaven and all kinds of comforts and views). Bundeena Beach House’s website has all the details.
In the meantime, with New Years Eve just a couple of days away, I thought I’d share the recipe for the Spiced Bloody Mary’s pictured above. It might seem like a bit of a long process but really is only the work of say 10 minutes to produce the spiced base mix and after that it’s a matter of mixing together with tomato juice, adjusting for taste, piling on the crushed ice and of course the vodka. Make up a batch now so it’s ready to kick start any sluggish heads on New Years Day.
Spiced Bloody Marys
The inspiration for this recipe comes from the fabulous book Flavorwalla by Indian chef Floyd Cardoz. I’ve fiddled around somewhat with the spice base mix but otherwise the idea is his and I am so grateful to have discovered it! A big icy glass of this bloody Mary on New Years Day or any day you need a punch of savoury spice and a hint of hair of the dog is pretty much perfection. Make a double batch so you can give a friend in need a little package of the base mix, a bottle of vodka, one of tomato juice and some celery and limes and keep some in the fridge so an excellent pick me up is only ever mere minuets away.
For the spiced Mary base
2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tbsp black peppercorns
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp brown mustard seeds
1 cinnamon stick
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes (or to taste)
1 tbsp canola oil
1 stick celery, diced
2 spring onions, finely chopped
3cm piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
2 tsp brown sugar
3 tbsp tamarind paste
1 litre tomato juice
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
Lots of crushed ice
Combine the cumin, coriander, fennel and mustard seeds with the peppercorns and cinnamon stick in a dry frying pan and toast over medium heat for a few minutes, until the spices become fragrant and begin to pop. Transfer to the bowl of a mortar and pestle or a spice grinder. Add the salt and chilli and grind to as fine a powder as you can.
Next, add the canola oil to your frying pan and return it to a medium-low heat. Add the celery, onions and ginger and cook for about five minutes, or until everything is soft and translucent. Add 1 cup of water, the brown sugar and tamarind paste and cook for another few minutes, stirring often.
Tip this mixture to a food processor or blender, add the spice mix and blitz until you have a smooth, thick mixture. Transfer to a jar or bottle and keep in the fridge until needed.
When ready to make up your bloody Mary’s; mix one part spiced base mix to 4 parts tomato juice. Mix in the lime juice and check the taste – does it need more salt, sugar, lime? Adjust at will. Fill glasses with lots of crushed ice, top with a 20ml shot of vodka (or to taste) and then pour over the tomato mixture. Stir with a celery stick and serve, if possible, with freshly shucked oysters! Makes enough base mixture for 6 servings, give or take.