Tag Archives: Christmas

Gay History: The Incredible True Gay History Of Christmas.

It started with naked young men running around, not in a stable in Nazareth

Movie The Eagle showed a young slave given to a Roman, who would have complete use over his body.

Midwinter; fires are crackling, the home smells sharp of evergreen, candles flicker, glass glitters, the table sags. Drink flows like rivers and you and your partner snuggle up on a couch to shag and booze the holiday away.

But this isn’t Christmas: it’s Saturnalia, the ancient Roman festival dedicated to the fertility god Saturn around the first century BC. And it’s the true origin of Christmas.

What a queer festival it was. Sources mention lads running naked about the place, cross-dressing for dinner, tops becoming bottoms, masters waiting on their servants (just for a day, mind), sausages, wine, cunnilingus and fruitcake.

The Warren Cup in the British Museum depicts ancient Roman gay sex.

There’s less solid historical information about lesbians and trans men, sadly, but of course they would have been there.

As most good things come in gay packages, most of our traditions, from Christmas trees to Christmas presents, are rip-offs of gay pagan solstice celebrations.

25th December

This was the day the Sun was reborn and so was sacred to the deity Sol Invictus, the Unconquerable Sun. He was a beefcake of a god, popularised around 220AD by that great same-sex, selfish, cross-dressing, proto-transgendered Emperor, Elagabalus.

The beautiful young Elagabalus loved a good party. His dancing during the midwinter festival wowed the Roman legions into declaring him emperor. He shimmied his way to power.

But his Saturnalian practical jokes could go too far. One group of banqueting guests were literally suffocated by the weight of violets dropped through a false ceiling. Others might wake from a drunken debauch to find a pet tiger sniffing their crotch.

Roll reversal isn’t just for Saturnalia though: Elagabalus said he was ‘delighted to be called the mistress, the wife, the Queen of Hierocles,’ his lover who was a charioteer.

Not surprisingly, his reign lasted less than four years but Sol Invictus became a favourite of the Roman people.

Even Saint Augustine (of whom more below) later admitted its importance, saying Christ’s birthday replaced that of the Sun.

Christmas presents

Everyone loves presents, and so did the Romans during the Saturnalia. They gave statuettes of beautiful youths and ‘hermaphrodites’, phallic cakes, books of filthy epigrams, cosmetics and hair extensions for either sex.

Not just statues, either, but real life slave youths and hermaphrodites would be given.

The Christmas tradition wrongly insists the first gifts were brought by the Magi. But even this Bible myth may have a real queer history.

In 63 CE Tiridates of Armenia came to Rome with his entourage of Magi to end a drawn-out war and do homage to the Emperor Nero, that great bisexual showman of Roman history.

They gave gifts, the wise men made their predictions and Nero sang some early version of Three Coins in a Fountain.

He extravagantly kissed handsome Tiridates to seal the bargain. And he closed the doors of the temple of Janus, the two faced god who represents beginnings and endings, including New Year and January, to symbolize peace on earth.

Not long after, someone remembered this: and the three Magi and their kingly gifts made their first and only appearance in Matthew’s Gospel doing homage to the ruler of the earth.

The Gladiator film showed the scale of ceremony in Rome.

Christmas trees

Greenery was used to decorate the house during midwinter festivals from ancient Rome to Tudor England’s Yuletide in the 1500s.

Christmas trees are an invention of the pagan North: a symbol of rebirth or, according to one tradition, a Christian replacement for the pagan oak in the spiritual lives of the ancient Germans.

But the best story about the first Christmas tree is surely this:

Long ago a young count of Luxembourg called Otto was famous for spurning all the young women of the neighbourhood. He preferred the company of his male friends and ‘manly’ pursuits.

Like all young men who reject the charms of comely maidens, one Christmas Eve he fell for a fairy who, in return, gave him a wondrous tree all decked out with silver lights and shiny baubles. It was quite the campest thing he’d ever seen, and from then on his heart belonged to those creatures who are neither one thing nor the other.

Mistletoe

Kissing under the mistletoe, has even queerer credentials, almost lost in the mists of the ancient lands it came from.

In Iron Age Britain, Ireland and Gaul, Druids were the ‘professional classes’ and religious leaders. One of their jobs was to gather mistletoe at the winter Solstice.

Many Druids were also gay, their otherness singling them out as special and holy. All good until that ‘otherness’ meant they were called on to sacrifice themselves to save the tribe in times of war or want.

If that happened, they’d eat mistletoe berries, the juice of which was thought to be gods’ semen.

Do NOT try this at home. Mistletoe is also poisonous.

Christmas dinner

Saturnalia was an enormous feast. Masters would serve their slaves, as all were equal in the golden age of Saturn’s reign.

The well-healed were supposed to let their less wealthy neighbours gorge at their tables, but as Lucian, a second century satirist, complains they could be as tight-fisted as Scrooge. His revenge was to pray all their fine clothes be eaten by mice and their pretty boyfriends’ hair fall out.

To avoid this, gay Emperor Hadrian preserved his lover’s locks by insisting on sampling all the trimmings from all the tables at dinners he hosted.

Saturnalian dinners were just a prelude to something even better than a feast…

As the first century Roman poet, Martial says: ‘give me kisses, boy, wet with wine/… if on top you’ll add a fuck, Jove couldn’t be happier with his Ganymede than I am with mine.’

A threesome depicted on the wall of a bathhouse in the ancient Roman city of Pompeii.

The crib

There’s nothing ancient about Jesus in his crib. The first Nativity scene was a piece of live theatre organised by Saint Francis in 1223.

As he moved ox and sheep and Virgin around to strike the perfect tableau, one of the people watching was Elias, the man Francis had loved since boyhood.

Francis spent all his time with Elias, sharing intimate secrets, calling him ‘Mother’. In a sweet slip of the quill, Elias even confessed he knew Francis’ body intimately.

He was present at all the turning points in Francis’ life and death, but later biographers wrote him out of the story.

The Christmas sermon

St Augustine didn’t write the first one but he is credited with popularizing the festival in the late fourth century, through sermons reminding Christians that on this day ‘God became man’.

Augustine wrote some pretty vile stuff about gay people too, but then he had the zeal of a convert. In his youth he loved a boy his age so violently and passionately and physically, he was devastated when the young man died. He turned to religion.

Peace and goodwill

The ghosts of Christmas present owe a lot to those of Christmas past. The great tradition of tolerance and warmth that Christmas borrowed from gay Roman Saturnalia is with us still.

Jesus is a god of love, even if some of his followers forget that.

The film Agora showed how the early Christians turned from the persecuted to persecutors.

As the pagans in the fourth century fought to preserve their ways and festivals, one of them made an eloquent plea to a Christian Emperor. It serves just as well for a Christmas message:

‘We gaze up at the same stars; the sky covers us all; the same universe encompasses us. Does it matter what practical system we adopt in our search for the Truth? The heart of so great a mystery cannot be reached by following one road only.’

Merry Christmas everybody! Io Saturnalia!

References

Daily (Or When The Mood Takes Me) Gripe; Christmas Bah-Humbug!

I hate Christmas! There, I’ve said it! And don’t argue with me about it because you won’t change my mind! And whatever you do…don’t try the “baby Jesus was born” line on me…it is the one time of the year I am glad to be Atheist.

Truly! Saves me a fortune on gifts, and I just love sending people in Darwin, Far North Queensland and Adelaide “Season’s Greetings” cards with snow, sleighs and people wrapped up to the nines on them.

People are stocking up on baked goodies with “Palm Oil” listed amongst the ingredients…a couple of rainforests have probably been destroyed to plant plantations of palms to provide the oil…but it’s Christmas, so I really shouldn’t think about that.

Nor about the back alley sweatshops in India and Asia where the Trade Practices Act doesn’t exist, and they are bent over machines making all the multitude of Christmas stuffed toys, stockings, tablecloths, serviettes and a myriad of other products so that you can over-laden your tables with enough food to last for weeks…but again, it’s Christmas, so I really shouldn’t be thinking about that either.

But these aren’t the real reasons I hate Christmas…though they are important issues. No, the real reasons are a lot sadder than that. On the 8th December 1965, my father – Frederick Pickhills…known to his friends and family as Joe – took his 7yo son Kevin – my brother – out to The Gap at Watson’s Bay in Sydney, and went over the edge with him. My father, unfortunately, survived. My brothers body turned up in Broken Bay three days later. My father got off with a slap on the wrist and a five-year good behaviour bond. Merry Christmas for 1965!

Christmas Day 1980: my company – a religious retailer of long repute in Australia – had sent me to Melbourne to troubleshoot two businesses down there just prior to Christmas. With so much to do I had no time to meet people or arrange anything. I spent my first Christmas ever on my own. There was fuck-all on television and I amused myself with a bottle of scotch!

Boxing Day 1986: the beginning of what was to become a 10 -year path of sorrow called the HIV/AIDS epidemic. My tiny 24yo friend Andrew Todd finally succumbed after a long period of illness, in the dark times when they could offer him no hope. It broke my heart!

Every Christmas from 1998 until 2013: spent with my then partners family…and yes, he dreaded it every bit as much as I did. The years we went away were the worst – Werri Beach; Port Stevens; the far South Coast of NSW; Port Macquarie! Sheer boredom and bloody misery. Everyone tried to be oh so happy…but nobody was. My poor ex has to face it on his own this year.

But it hasn’t been all misery. There were 4 Christmas’s in Darlinghurst when, having found that a number of friends had nowhere to go on Christmas Day, I arranged an “Orphan’s Christmas” at home, often with 10-15 people turning up. It started off with me preparing everything, then became a bring-a-plate. These were the happiest Christmas Days I ever had, in the company of good friends, eating, drinking, laughing a lot and exchanging gifts. So, I am not lost after all lol.

And this year? On my own for the first time in a long, long time. I am looking forward to it, actually. It will be peaceful and quiet with the dogs. I’ll prepare a nice meal, drink a few glasses of white, and I think a friend from Sydney – also out to escape the family Christmas – may visit.

So as much as I bah-humbug it, most of you will celebrate it in one form or another. As an Atheist, I will not wish you a merry Christmas , but a happy holiday season.

Tim Alderman
(C) 2014

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So Can You Cook ? 15

Christmas Edition
I must confess to not understanding the whole ‘Christmas in July’ thing, or why people go ape over it, trundling themselves off to the coldest climes to celebrate something that has no relevance here whatsoever. This is Australia, and Christmas means heatwaves, bushfires and flies. If you are an American, or English, it kind of makes sense to want to have snow for Christmas, but if you’re an Aussie, and only ever associate Christmas with summer, it just doesn’t work. And apart from that, it is hard to imagine Christmas happening in the middle of the year – snow or no snow.
The whole Christmas thing in Australia has always been too tied up with English and European traditions, and catering to our climate at this time of the year never seems to be something anyone used to consider. I remember my mother slaving over hot stoves months before Christmas even started to get the cake and pudding done on time for it to mature before being reheated and eaten with hot custard in steamy 30-odd-degree heat. Everyone sweated in the hot house, just wanting it to end so that they could kick back with a cold beer. When I lived with my stepfamily back in the 70’s, I remember my poor sister-in-law catering a hot lunch for twenty people every Christmas day. Her reward was a stinking headache, and near dehydration. You have to query if this is the right way to celebrate Christmas day in Australia, especially with our tradition of breaking traditions, and our usual irreverence for anything considered over-the-top.
When I lived in Darlinghurst, I used to cater a orphans Christmas lunch on Christmas day, for anyone who had nowhere else to go. I used to do the full traditional thing for anywhere from 12-15 people, with glazed ham, pork, turkey and pudding. I used to get to bed at about 3am on Christmas Eve, to be back up again at 7am to finish all the prep work. After my last of these – many years ago now – and finding myself with a migraine, I decided it was time to change my approach to Christmas eating.
My partners mother was quick to realize the advantages of having a chef in the family. She swings a couple of hundred dollars my way, and I do the whole thing – but not the old way. I have started a tradition of fresh oysters in the half-shell, with various toppings arranged in small bowls, as an entrée. Everybody in his family – bar his Grandmother – loves them. We go to the fish markets about 10pm on Christmas Eve to get them – take this as a time hint. This is followed by cold ham, cold lamb and cold chicken with a range of salads, and finished off with an ice cream fruit pudding. On a hot day, this is a really refreshing meal, and no one has sweated themselves into oblivion to put it all together. I still do mince fruit tarts, a cake and shortbread but this is all easy to do, and involves little stress on my part. If you are still doing it all the traditional way, I suggest you consider a rethink, and start your own Christmas traditions.
I hope everyone else can enjoy a stress-free and refreshing Christmas day.
Happy Christmas to all readers.

Christmas Cake:

Gluten-Free Christmas Cake – for coeliacs
250g unsalted butter
1 cup soft brown sugar
5 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon coffee essence
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 tablespoon molasses
1 tablespoon orange marmalade
1 tablespoon finely grated orange rind
1 kg mixed dried fruit
300g glace fruit, chopped
100g slivered almonds
180g soya flour
90g baby rice cereal
90g maize cornflour
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon mixed spice
¼ cup orange juice
½ cup sweet sherry
extra 2 tablespoons sweet sherry

Bake in 20cm square tin.
Cook for 3½ hours

Per slice (weight of cake; 2.1 kg)
Kilojoules 985/calories 235; protein 4g; fat 10g; carbohydrate 34g;dietary fibre 3g; sodium 55mg.

Sugar-Reduced Christmas Cake – for diabetics
180g mono-unsaturated margarine
½ cup soft brown sugar
4 eggs, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons coffee essence
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 tablespoon cherry jam
1 tablespoon finely grated orange rind
1 kg mixed dried fruit
100g currants
100g glace fruit, chopped
50g slivered almonds
1½ cups wholemeal plain flour
1 cup self-raising flour
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon mixed spice
¼ cup orange juice
½ cup brandy
125g pecans for decorating – optional

Bake in 23cm round tin
Cook for 3½ hours

Per slice (weight of cake 2kg)
Kilojoules 785/calories 185; protein 3g; fat 6g; carbohydrate 31g; dietary fibre 3g; sodium 100mg.
TO CONVERT THESE TO A TRADIONAL CAKE, substitute soya flour for 2 cups plain flour, and rice cereal and maize cornflour for ½ cup self-raising flour.

METHOD FOR BOTH CAKES:
Preheat oven to slow 150°C. Line the base and sides of your cake tin with greaseproof paper. Using an electric beater, beat butter or margarine and sugar in a mixing bowl until light and creamy. Add eggs gradually, beating well after each addition. Add essences, molasses, marmalade or jam and rind. Beat until well combined.
Transfer mixture to a large mixing bowl and add the fruit and/or almonds. Using a metal spoon, begin to fold in the sifted dry ingredients.
As you begin to fold in the dry ingredients, alternate with the combined juice and spirits (or juice only). Stir until just combined and the mixture is almost smooth. Spoon mixture into prepared tin. Sprinkle the top with a little cold water and smooth surface with wet hands.
Tap the cake tin gently on the bench top to settle the mixture. Decorate with fruit or nuts if desired. Wrap a double thickness of brown paper around the outside of the tin and secure with string or a paper clip. Bake for required time, or until a skewer comes out clean. If top is browning too quickly, or is starting to burn, cover the top of the cake with a layer of foil.
Store in an airtight tin outside of fridge for 4 weeks, or in fridge for several months.

Frozen Brandy Christmas Pudding:
1 x 475g jar fruit mince (from supermarket)
1 x 1lt tub Old English Toffee ice cream, softened
1 x 1lt tub vanilla ice cream, softened

Combine fruit mince and ice cream in a bowl. Spoon into 10 1-cup size plastic drinking cups. Wrap in plastic, and place in freezer for 6 hours. Dip into hot water, and upend onto plate. Serve with…
Summer Berries and Mango Slices;
2 x 250g punnets strawberries, washed, hulled, halved
1 x 150g punnet mulberries
1 x 120g punnet raspberries
60ml (1/4 cup) fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons icing sugar mixture
4 ripe mangoes

Combiner berries in a large bowl. Add lime juice and icing sugar mixture, stirring gently until just combined. Cover with plastic wrap and leave to macerate for 30 minutes.
Cut the cheeks from the mangoes close to the seed. Peel and thinly slice lengthways. Add to the berry mixture and gently stir to combine.

Traditional Shortbread:
2 cups plain flour
½ cup pure icing sugar
2 tablespoons rice flour
250g butter, cubed

Preheat oven to 160°C. Line 2 baking sheets with baking paper. Sift plain flour, icing sugar and rice flour together into a bowl.
Using fingertips, rub in butter until mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Press mixture together to form a dough.
Place dough on a lightly floured surface. Knead gently. Halve mixture. Roll or press out each half into rounds about 1cm thick. Place on prepared trays. Decorate edges by pinching. Mark out 8 equal portions on each petticoat. Prick with a fork, and if desired sprinkle with a little castor sugar. Bake for 30-35 minutes until golden. Stand for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool. Store in an airtight container.

Panforte;

This delicious Italian Christmas treat can be difficult to make using many recipe. This recipes is not so difficult, and is tried and true. You need to work quickly, so have all ingredients ready to go.

1 cup roughly chopped dried figs – stalks removed
¾ cup roasted hazelnuts, skins removed (roll and rub them in a tea towel after baking)
¾ cup roasted almonds
½ cup roughly chopped dark chocolate
1 tablespoon mixed spice
1 teaspoon ground black pepper (optional)
finely grated rind 1 orange
2/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup honey
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
icing sugar, to serve

Preheat oven to 150°C. Lightly spray and line base and sides of a square cake pan (20cm) with baking paper.
Combine figs, nuts, chocolate, spices and orange peel together in a bowl.
Combine sugar, honey and butter in a saucepan. Heat on medium, stirring until beginning to melt (DO NOT STIR AGAIN OR SUGAR WILL CRYSTALISE)
Bring to the boil and cook for 5 minutes, until a little of caramel dropped into cold water forms a soft ball when moulded between fingers.
Working quickly, pour caramel over nut mixture, mixing well. Pour into prepared cake pan. Smooth top with a spatula. Bake for 15 minutes. Cool. If mixture has not set, place in fridge.
Remove baking paper and dust surface liberally with icing sugar. Cut into small squares to serve.

Sugar Dusted Spice Biscuits
125g butter, softened
¾ cup brown sugar
¼ cup golden syrup
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg
1¾ cups plain flour
½ cup hazelnut meal (from supermarkets or health food stores)
¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon allspice
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
icing sugar, for dusting

Preheat oven to 180°C. Place the butter, brown sugar, golden syrup and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixture and beat until pale. Add the egg and beat well. Add the flour, hazelnut meal, spices and soda and beat until just combined.
Roll 2 teaspoons of the mixture into balls and place on baking trays lined with baking paper, allowing room for spreading. Bake in batches for 8 minutes or until light golden. Cool and dust with icing sugar.
Makes approx 50. Great for gift-giving if presented in a fancy jar.

Cheats Fruit Mince Tarts:
Yep, even I look for shortcuts in hot weather. Buy a packet of frozen sweet tart cases from the supermarket, some sheets of sweet shortcrust pastry, and a jar of good quality fruit mince. Blind bake the shells according to the packet directions. Spoon in the mince. Cut rounds or shapes from the pastry sheet and place on top. Brush with a little beaten egg, sprinkle with some castor sugar and bake in a 180°C oven until golden brown. Serve hot or cold.

Tim Alderman (C) 2015

  

So Can You Cook? 26

The Season for Giving

I can’t believe it is nearly 12 months since my last Christmas column. Time to steam puddings and bake cakes…again. Well, on the good side I have managed to win the Christmas lunch debate with my mother-in-law. We are going to Canterbury Leagues for lunch. This battle has been going on for some years now, but after the whinging that went on last year I knew it was a good time to push the point. I think it is a relief to all of us. I think we are all sick of slogging ourselves to a melting-point-lather at a very hot time of the year getting food ready that everyone is only half inclined to eat if it is a really hot day.
We have a Christmas bash every year for friends in the jungle…oops, I mean backyard. It happens sometime between mid-November and early December, depending on everyone’s calendar. It is always looked forward to, and usually involves a lot of champagne cocktails – I have most of a bottle of Vanilla Vodka to get rid of at the moment, so know already what sort of cocktail it will be – a lot of wine, and bring-a-plate of food. Fortunately for us, all our friends are gourmands so the food will always be great and adventurous, despite the inevitable battle of who provides what for which course. It’s bad luck to the rest of them that I have desserts planned already, which they will be notified of shortly. Suck eggs, I say!
Part of the Christmas bash traditions is the exchange of gifts – another traumatic buying exercise, and usually ending up being CD’s. However, part of my traditions is the giving to each guest of what is laughingly referred to as a ‘charity bag’. Considering that most of them are too busy or too lazy to make any little luxury items for themselves, I try to do it for them. I find this kind of gift giving to be personally satisfying. There is something genuine about giving friends gifts that you have made yourself. I used to make the bags a mix of biscuits, sweets and preserves, however I have dropped the biscuits as from last year. They have to be made early due to my other commitments, and with the humidity and heat associated with Christmas, I have found that they go soft before they can be given out – as happens with biscuits with no preservatives. So, preserves it is…and a CD.
I have included a bit of a mix in this column of things you can either make to use for yourself, or use as gifts for your friends. They say it is better to give than receive…but they had better make sure I get something in return.
Happy Christmas to all my column readers. Keep yourself safe, don’t drink too much…meaning not to the point of passing out. Enjoy the conviviality of friendships and have a great New Year where all your wishes and hopes and dreams are fulfilled.
See you next year.

BASIC FRUIT MIXTURE:
You can make this mixture a month in advance, and store in a cool place like the fridge. Can be used in cakes, puddings or mince tarts. Or bottle and give as a gift.

6 cups (1kg) sultanas
2½ cups (375g) currants
2¼ cups (425g) raisins, chopped
1½ cups (250g) seeded dried dates, chopped
1½ cups (250g) seeded prunes, chopped
1¼ cups (250g) glace cherries, quartered
½ cup (125g) glace apricots, chopped (substitute dried if glace not available)
½ cup (115g) glace pineapple, chopped
½ cup (115g) glace ginger, chopped
¾ cup (120g) mixed peel
3 medium apples (400g) peeled, grated
2/3 cup (240g) fig jam
2 tablespoons finely grated orange rind
¼ cup (60ml) lemon juice
2 cups (440g) firmly packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon mixed spice
1 1/3 cups Grand Marnier (or substitute for any citrus-flavoured liqueur, rum, sherry or brandy)

Combine ingredients in a large bowl; cover tightly with plastic wrap. Store mixture in cool, dark place for a month (or longer) before using. Stir mixture every two-three days.

CHRISTMAS PUDDING:
¼ quantity basic fruit mixture (above)
250g butter, melted, cooled
3 eggs, beaten lightly
4 cups stale breadcrumbs
¼ cup plain flour

Combine fruit mixture in large bowl with butter and eggs, then breadcrumbs and flour.
Fill large boiler three-quarters full of hot water, cover and bring to boil. Have ready 2.5 metres kitchen string and an extra ½ cup plain flour. Being cautious, place a 60cm unbleached square of calico (if new, soak in cold water for 1 minute, then boil for 20 minutes, then rinse in cold water) in the boiling water for 1 minute, squeeze excess water out, then working quickly spread the cloth out and run flour into centre of cloth where the skin of the pudding needs to be thickest.
Place pudding mixture in centre of cloth. Gather cloth evenly around pudding, then pat into a round shape. Tie cloth tightly with string as close to mixture as possible. Gather and tie of the corners into a handle to make the pudding easier to move.
Lower pudding into boiling water, and tie the ends of the string to the handles of the boiler to suspend the pudding. If your boiler doesn’t have handles, place an inverted saucer or a round metal trivet in the bottom of the boiler to keep pudding from sitting directly on bottom of pan. Cover with tight fitting lid; boil rapidly 4 hours. Check water and refill regularly.
Remove pudding from the pan when cooked and DO NOT PLACE ON BENCH TO COOL. Suspend on a wooden spoon placed between 2 chairs or stools, or over a large bucket. If must suspend freely. If pudding has been cooked correctly, patches of cloth should to dry almost immediately. Suspend for 10 minutes.
To store pudding, allow to cool to room temperature, then either wrap in Glad wrap or store in a freezer bag. Store in fridge for up to 2 months, or in freezer for 12 months.
To reheat, bring to room temperature, then steam for 2 hours.

MOIST CHRITMAS CAKE
½ quantity basic fruit mixture (above)
250g butter, melted, cooled
5 eggs, beaten lightly
2½ cups plain flour
2 tablespoons Grand Marnier (or whatever you used to flavour the fruit mix)

Preheat oven to 150°C. Line base and sides 22 cm square cake pan with one thickness of brown paper and two thicknesses of baking paper, extending paper 5cm above sides.
Combine basic mixture in large bowl with butter and eggs; add sifted flour in two batches.
Spread mixture in pan. Drop pan from 20cm height 2-3 times to settle fruit. Level top with a spatula. Bake about 3 hours. Brush top with liqueur; cover hot cake in pan with foil; cool in pan.
Can be made three months ahead, and stored in an airtight container under refrigeration.

GOURMET ROCKY ROAD:
300g toasted marshmallow with coconut, chopped coarsely
400g Turkish Delight, chopped coarsely
¼ cup roasted almonds, chopped coarsely
½ cup roasted, shelled pistachios
450g white eating chocolate, melted

Grease two 8cm x 26cm bar tins, line base and sides with baking paper, extending paper 5cm above long sides of pan.
Combine marshmallow, Turkish delight and nuts in large bowl. Stir in chocolate; spread mixture into pans; push mixture down firmly to flatten. Refrigerate until set, then cut as desired.

CHERRIES IN VODKA
500g fresh cherries, pitted
¾ cup caster sugar
2 cups vodka, approx

Place clean jars on sides in large saucepan; cover completely with hot water. Boil, covered, 20 minutes. Remove jars from water, drain upright on board until dry.
Layer cherries and sugar in jars. Pour over enough vodka to cover cherries completely. Seal.
Stand in cool, dark place for at least six weeks before using; invert jars occasionally to help dissolve sugar.

Makes about 4 cups

CHOCOLATE TRUFFLES
½ cup pouring cream
300g good quality dark chocolate, chopped
cocoa powder for dusting

Place the cream in a saucepan over medium heat and bring almost to the boil. Add chocolate and stir for 1 minute. Remove from the heat and stir until smooth. Pour into a greased 15cm square cake tin lined with non-stick paper; refrigerate for 2 hours, or until firm.
To serve, cut into squares and dust with cocoa powder. Store in refrigerator for 10 days. Stand at room temperature for 20 minutes before serving.

Makes 16

PLUM & PORT SAUCE:
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 medium brown onions, chopped
3 cloves garlic, crushed
¼ cup red wine vinegar
¼ cup brown sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
8 medium tomatoes (1.5kg), peeled, chopped
6 medium (780g) blood plums, peeled, seeded, chopped
1 cup port
2 teaspoons juniper berries

Heat oil in large pan, add onions and garlic; cook, stirring, until onion is soft. Add remaining ingredients, stir over low heat, without boiling, until sugar is dissolved. Simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes or until sauce has thickened.
Blend or process mixture in batches until finely chopped, strain, discard pulp. Pour hot sauce into hot sterilized jars. Seal immediately.

Makes approx 4 cups.

COCONUT CRUNCH COOKIES:
200g butter
1 cup caster sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 cup self-raising flour
1 cup desiccated coconut, toasted

Beat butter, sugar and vanilla essence in bowl with electric mixer until pale and fluffy. Beat in flour and coconut. Cover, refrigerate 1 hour.
Divide dough in half. Place each half onto plastic wrap and shape into a 22cm long log. Then wrap tightly and refrigerate overnight.
Cut dough into 5mm thick slices. Place on baking paper-lined baking trays about 5cm apart. Bake in moderate oven about 8 minutes. Stand cookies on trays about 5 minutes before coolong on wire racks. Dust lightly with sifted icing sugar.

Makes about 60. Will keep for 1 week in an airtight container. Keep uncooked dough in fridge 1 week, or in freezer for 2 months.

GINGERBREAD BISCOTTI:
3 eggs
¾ cup firmly packed brown sugar
¼ cup caster sugar
1¾ cups plain flour
¾ cup self-raising flour
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon bicarb soda
½ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

Whisk eggs and sugars in a small mixing bowl with electric beaters until just changed in colour. Transfer mixture to a large bowl.
Stir in sifted dry ingredients; mix to a firm dough. Knead on floured surface until smooth. Divide dough into 2 portions. Using floured hands, roll each portion into a 30cm log, place on lightly greased oven trays. Bake in moderate oven 35 minutes or until firm. Cool on tray.
Cut logs diagonally into 1cm slices, using a serrated knife. Place slices, cut side up, on oven trays. Bake in moderately slow oven about 15 minutes or until dry and crisp, turning once during cooking; cool on trays.

Makes about 40

GRAPEFRUIT MARMALADE:
1kg grapefruit
2 medium lemons
10 cups water
10 cups sugar, approx

Cut unpeeled grapefruit in half, slice halves thinly, discard seeds. Combine fruit and water in large bowl; cover; stand overnight.
Transfer mixture to a large pan, bring to boil, simmer, covered, about 45 minutes or until rind is soft.
Measure fruit mixture, allow 1 cup sugar to each cup of fruit mixture. Return fruit mixture and sugar to pan, stir over heat until sugar is dissolved.
Boil, uncovered, without stirring, for about 15 minutes or until marmalade gels when tested on a cold saucer. Pour into hot, sterilized jars; seal immediately.
Makes about 10 cups

Tim Alderman
Copyright 2014