The weather in Sydney over the last few days has been drear, dreich and generally wet, wet, wet. Given that last week I was skipping along the beach glorying in spectacular sunshine this is particularly irritating.
|If only you'd been here last week!|
I sent this picture of the sad swimming pool to a friend in New Zealand this morning to convince her that she should be packing her Sou wester for her upcoming trip to Sydney.
She pointed out that at least it was warm and whilst I did restrain myself from posting back a selfie of me muffled up in my ancient holey cashmere jumper which was the warmest garment to hand this morning, the observation re respective warmths of climate did reinforce my opinion that a move to Auckland might be a bit like returning to my Scottish roots in terms of weather.
Weather aside I did in fact have the most fabulous weekend. A friend who has a beach house an hour or so up the coast at a place called Patonga invited me up for a girls’ weekend of Christmas baking. Given my culinary skills this would normally have me running for the hills and in fact I have to own up to a moment of complete panic when I realised I had failed at the first hurdle and had completely stuffed the marinating of the mixed peel and fruit. However I remained calm (relatively) and consoled myself that most things, and indeed people, are greatly improved by being soaked in brandy for a week rather than the mere skimpy 24 hours that the recipe apparently called for.
Patonga is a former fishing village, transformed into the ideal weekend getaway. Bags of character, stunning scenery, at the end of the road so off the beaten track, whilst containing all the essentials of life in the form of a ferry jetty, an active pub and a fish and chip shop.
In fact the Christmas pudding courtesy of a Maggie Beer recipe, was comparatively simple to make, particularly once I axed the notion of dehydrated cumquats as an ingredient, I do after all know my limitations. There is nothing so good I have now decided as the citrusy and brandy scented smell of boiling puddings and cooking cakes on a wet afternoon when the rain is lashing down. And I have to admit the cumquats that my more ambitious friend tackled with aplomb did smell divine once hydrated with brandy – but once again, what wouldn’t?
I didn’t know the other three women who had also been invited for the pudding project weekend, but I have to say we bonded over the whole thing. They were all stars on the cooking front and whilst they remained effortlessly polite, they were reduced to hysteria by my method of cutting up a pumpkin – not for the pudding I should add, I may be a cooking novice but I do know the limits of pumpkin. However I remain firm that there is no right way to slice a pumpkin and if I choose to do it in a completely bizarre way that no decent cook would contemplate, so long as I am not a) using my teeth or b) losing a finger, then that’s all right.
Puddings and stunning views aside the best bit of the weekend, in fact the plum in the pudding as it were, was the conversations. Such a fabulous group of women, three different nationalities and five different professions between us, and somehow we all just jelled. We laughed and laughed and by the end of the weekend we were all writing up lists of each other’s recommendations, from films to see and books to read to auction houses to frequent. I did make a mental note on this last one that given I am supposed to be de-cluttering the debris of the last 22 years currently stored in boxes balanced on top of wardrobes, an auction house addiction might be somewhat dangerous; particularly given my love of kitsch that combined with a competitive nature will lead to bidding wars and impulse buys and I can just see Husband’s face when I return with a set of gnome salt and pepper shakers and 68 mismatched glasses.
I am feeling very proud of my two puddings, that I reckon look the business swathed as they are in calico.
|Puddings of which to be proud|
However I am slightly more nervous about the instructions re hanging them in a cool place until Christmas, and the accompanying warnings about humidity and the dangers of mould. I have the general feeling it might be difficult to pass off a pudding with a stilton-like blue bloom around it. My family tend to be somewhat suspicious of my culinary masterpieces and it may require a major sleight of hand to disguise a furry tendency round the edges of the pudding. However I can but hope for the best and if the worst comes to the worst, and given most of my coats and shoes grow whiskers of mould given half a chance – and the fact that torrential rain and warm conditions does add up to humid, I think I am not being overly pessimistic in assuming mould is an option, there is always the remedy of yet more brandy and setting fire to the thing prior to the glorious entry.