Monday, December 22, 2008

Oysters South Carolina

Oysters straight off the beds.

If the oyster was a prettier creature, it might have appeared on the South Carolina flag. As it is the SC flag is beautiful, displaying a crescent moon and the palmetto palm depicted in white over a deep blue background.


Oysters are visible all along the Intracoastal Waterway, especially through the low country of South Carolina. In fact, oysters grow all along the East Coast and just as wine takes on flavor notes from the earth, oysters exhibit flavors that come about from the environment in which they grow.

Fernandina Red Fish


During our stay in Fernandina Beach, Florida, we cooked a piece of freshly caught Red Fish, purchased from the Atlantic Seafood "shack" at the waters edge. This was a quick and easy, thrown together meal. We made some coconut basmati rice as a bed for the fish. Robert brushed the fish in melted butter and coated it with Chef Paul's Blackened Redfish Magic. The fish was barbecued on the grill. We steamed some fresh asparagus spears and drizzled them with a pomegranate glaze, imported from Greece. The result was a fresh mix of Indian and French/Cajun flavors.

Memories of Grandma's Christmas Pudding

Grandma Edna Budd's Treasured Plum Pudding Recipe
(See recipe below)
Christmas just wouldn't be Christmas without pudding and egg custard. At least that's how it was when we were growing up and we still crave for those rich Christmas dishes; roast chicken or turkey with stuffing and all the trimmings, baked ham and cranberry sauce, a host of vegetable dishes, glazed fruits and muscatels, assorted nuts in hard shells i.e. brazilnuts, walnuts, macademias, hazelnuts, and almonds, plum pudding to top it all off and of course the family favorite fruit cake.

Remember all those hours Mum slaved over the stove to prepare a traditional "hot" Christmas dinner? Remember too, those bon bons or "Christmas crackers" with little toys (party favors) and paper party hats folded up so tight. You and your partner had to make the double-ended bon bon "crack" when pulled it apart or it was a disappointing dud. When the paper hat, joke and toy tumbled out, you donned the hat and told the joke, drole as they were!

No-one, adults and children, seemed to mind how silly we all looked in our party hats. In fact, the sillier the better. It truly made for a very relaxed atmosphere, in contrast to the very "formal" traditional Christmas meal being served at the time. It took a while for Aussies to wake up and realize that Christmas time is too hot to be slaving over a stove in an un-air-conditioned kitchen.

We've finally recognized that Christmas is the perfect time to enjoy the wide array of fresh produce available to us from land and sea. After all, Christmas does fall in the summer! These days, Australians have reinvented Christmas dinner to reflect the culinary delights of the "Sunburnt Country"; seafoods of every kind, salads, fresh fruit salad and ice cream, etc. Mediterranean and Asian influences have taken over the traditional English cooking habits of Aussies over the past 30 to 40 years, and mingled with unique Aussie ingredients and culinary expertise to create a fusion copied by chefs more recently in England and the U.S.

Australian Christmas dinner is more likely to be prepared on the barbecue at home or at the beach than in the kitchen. Even so, memories of Grandma's Christmas Pudding can never be replaced! Grandma Edna Budd's pudding included silver sixpences and threepences. Never mind the choking hazard, kids were much tougher in the old days! If you were lucky enough to get a coin in your mouthful of pudding, you got to keep it or in later years after decimal currency came in (1966), Grandma would exchange it for a 50 cent piece or dollar coin.

And in case friends in the U.S. are wondering, I'm pleased to say the typical Aussie Christmas Cake bears little resemblance in flavor or texture to the typical fruit cake most Americans despise and dread receiving at Christmas time. To enhance the flavor, Aussie fruit cakes are often drenched in rum or brandy, straight out of the oven. That can't be bad! Made weeks before, they usually don't last until Christmas, but are enjoyed with a cup of tea or coffee at any time!

So here's Grandma Edna Budd's Christmas Pudding recipe. I doubt you'll find a better one. Enjoy!

Ingredients:
1/2 lb butter
1/2 lb sultanas*
1/2 lb raisins*
1/4 lb currants
2 oz figs chopped
2 oz dates chopped
2 oz almonds
2 oz glace cherries
1 tsp mixed spice
6 oz soft breadcrumbs
6 oz plain flour, sifted
1/2 lb brown sugar
1/4 tsp bicarb soda
5 eggs
3 tbsp rum or sherry
A large square of raw cotton cloth
Extra flour for dusting cloth

Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, beat thoroughly.
Add prepared fruits, nuts and spirits, alternating with sifted flour, spice, bicarb soda and breadcrumbs.
Dip cloth in boiling water then dust with flour. Place mixture in cloth. Pull corners together and tie securely.
Boil for 4 hours
Hang in a dry place until day of serving. Boil 2 hours before serving.
Serve with custard
Tip: Place the wet cloth in a colander before dusting and adding mixture.
*Note: Australian sultanas are dried white sultana grapes. Raisins are dried, dark, flavorful, red grapes. In the U.S., "raisins" are made from the white grapes. and are less flavorful than their Australian namesakes.