Monday, December 28, 2009

The Cookbook Challenge: Week 6: I Made a Christmas Dinner!!

I'm a rat, I'm a clever, clever rat...

Of course it says Week 6 in the title, because it is the sixth week of The Cookbook Challenge with a Christmas theme but to be perfectly fair this is my first um cameo foray into The Cookbook Challenge, having been unable to partake in the festivities prior to this week due to moving, inadequate supplies, and work, work, work!

The Family Roast Leg of Lamb

Insanely Impressive Dessert

Well no matter, here I am now and mostly because I couldn't resist showing off the three-course Christmas dinner prepared for G's extended family at the first-ever Christmas party that I (we) hosted! Oh the pressure, the pain...the trials and tribulations of suburban life!

And thus:

Course One (not technically a cookbook recipe):
Rosettes of Smoked Salmon with Brie Chesse & Crackers & Rocket Salad with Quail's Eggs

I know this is highly unprofessional, but in my excitement (nervousness and terror) over the entire dinner, I only succeeded in taking pictures of the salmon from this particular course. So I will just briefly run through the (very simple) processes that took place:

To make smoked salmon rosettes:
1. Fold a strip of smoked salmon in half length-ways (rougher edges outside, to form 'petals').
2. Roll at an angle.
3. Place on plate.
4. Use scissors (if necessary) to make little artistic cuts in the roll so as to have the 'petals' appear more palatable.

For home-made olive oil and lemon juice salad dressing:
1. Combine equal parts of fresh lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil.
2. Add crushed cloves of garlic (as many as you like depending on how much you like garlic - I love garlic, so I put in 8 cloves per cup of dressing.)
3. Add 1-2 tsp salt.
4. Add 1-2 tsp black pepper.
5. Sprinkling of parsley flakes (because it was there.)

For boiling quail's eggs for salad:
1. Put eggs in small pot, fill with water (at room temperature) to an inch above eggs.
2. Bring eggs to a small boil, cover pot with lid, simmer for 10-15 minutes (you want them hard-boiled, so it doesn't really matter as long as they're cooked through).
3. Peel. Chill.

Main Course: Garlic and Rosemary Leg of Lamb
Cookbook: The Australian Women's Weekly Great Lamb Cookbook

(Recipe adapted from the very basic garlic and rosemary lamb roast, which had no sides, and just the lamb - so I'm detailing the recipe here as I made it.)

You will need:

Basic lamb recipe:
  • A leg of lamb (I used a 1.75kg/3.88pound leg)
  • Fresh rosemary sprigs (2-3 minimum)
  • Wild rosemary from bottle (as cost of fresh rosemary can be prohibitive)
  • One bulb of garlic
  • Black pepper
  • Salt
  • Sprinkling of mixed Italian herbs (basil, thyme, oregano) for looks
  • Plenty of (extra) virgin olive oil
For sides:
  • Potatoes (baby ones are excellent for roasting, but you can use any size and cut them as you like)
  • 3-4 Carrots (or two if they're massive)
  • 4-5 Tomatoes (egg tomatoes if you can get them, but any medium or large ones will do very nicely as well)
  • One onion bulb
  • One garlic bulb
  • Black pepper, salt, (extra) virgin olive oil as above

The Night Before

  1. Pierce the lamb all over with small slits about 2cm long and a 3/4 inch deep. As many as you can. Place in roasting dish (you can just use a disposable aluminium one like I did without having to buy a huge roasting pan you'll only dig out once a year, if that).
  2. Chop up fresh rosemary sprigs. Reserve twigs.
  3. Peel one bulb of garlic and slice into garlic chips (not length-wise).
  4. Stuff each slit with a garlic chip and a pinchful of rosemary.
  5. Place excess garlic and rosemary, and rosemary twigs underneath the lamb leg.
  6. Drizzle with copious amounts of the olive oil, and black pepper. (Do NOT salt your lamb at this stage.)
  7. Generously sprinkle the wild rosemary from the bottle (or use fresh rosemary if you have it obviously) all over the leg of lamb (pictures below).
  8. Add a sprinkling of mixed Italian herbs over the top of the lamb if you have it.
  9. Glad-wrap, place in fridge overnight.

On The Day of Reckoning


To Prepare Sides of Vegetables:
  1. Peel carrots, cut into slices.
  2. Peel onions, cut into slices.
  3. Peel garlic, chop roughly.
  4. Cut egg-tomatoes length wise, or if you are using normal tomatoes, cut into quarters.
  5. Peel potatoes, chop into required size (at least halve them). Try to make potato chunks as evenly-sized as possible. Parboil potatoes by doing the following steps.
  6. Place chunks of potatoes in a pot, fill with (room-temp/cold) water up to an inch-above the potatoes.
  7. Bring to boil.
  8. Cover pot with lid, simmer for 5-10 minutes depending on how huge your chunks are.
Back to the Meat:
  1. While waiting for potatoes to boil, get your lamb leg out of the fridge (it should now be about 4:20pm) because you need to bring it to room temperature before you roast it. Transfer lamb leg temporarily from roasting tray to your chopping board.
  2. Preheat oven to 220 degrees Celsius. Most ovens need at least a 1/2 hour to bring it's temperature up to this point, so be prepared. If your oven is slower than most, you can begin 45 minutes before, if it's faster, then 30 minutes should do, etc.
  3. Make a 'bed' for the lamb leg with the onions and carrots in the roasting tray.
  4. Drain potatoes in colander.
  5. Roughen them up by shaking your colander such that you can see all the edges of the potatoes becoming 'furry', and the surface is 'broken up'. This will give you crisp roasted potatoes.
  6. Place potatoes and tomatoes alternately around the lamb leg.
  7. Drizzle entire tray and all its contents with olive oil, black pepper, and rosemary. Rub the olive oil into the lamb to make sure its really coated. Sprinkle some salt over everything now.

This is the finished 'prep' picture:

It is now ready to go into the oven.

9. Place lamb in oven (now preheated to 220) and leave for 20 minutes. This step is to crisp up the skin of the lamb, much like searing.
10. During this time, cut out a sheet of aluminum foil about the size of the roasting tray.

9. Take lamb out of the oven. Turn temperature down to 180, and place the aluminium foil sheet loosely over the top of the roasting tray. No need to press down the sides as this is just to protect the vegs from burning, and you still want some air in there so the skin doesn't get soggy.
10. Place back in oven, continue roasting at 180.
11. Start taking the temperature of the lamb from about 6:00pm, using a meat thermometer in the thickest part of the lamb. You want to avoid opening the oven too much, so you can maybe do this once at 6:00 or 6:10.
12. Whenever the temperature of the lamb reaches 63 degrees Celsius (this occurred around 6:30pm for me, which is the second time I checked), take the lamb out of the oven and rest for 15-20 minutes.


The lamb was abso-bloody-lutely perfectly cooked, with the innermost meat closest to the bone about medium rare. If you like your lamb a bit more red, take it out when it reaches 60. I would not recommend cooking lamb any more done than this!

As you can see the entire leg was as moist as moist can be, and the juices from the lamb and veg combined meant that there was no need to make any gravy. Some store-bought mint jelly was served as well but many just had the lamb as good as it was on its own! *beams proudly*

Dessert: Gordon Ramsay's Chocolate Fondants
Cookbook: Gordon Ramsay Makes It Easy

You will need:
  • 50g melted butter , for brushing
  • cocoa powder , for dusting
  • 200g good-quality dark chocolate , chopped into small pieces (I used Lindt 70%)
  • 200g butter , in small pieces
  • 200g golden caster sugar
  • 4 eggs and 4 yolks
  • 200g plain flour

The Night Before
  1. First get your moulds ready. Using upward strokes, heavily brush the melted butter all over the inside of the pudding mould. Place the mould in the fridge or freezer.
  2. Place a bowl over a pan of barely simmering water, then slowly melt the chocolate and butter together. Remove bowl from the heat and stir until smooth. Leave to cool for about 10 mins.
  3. In a separate bowl whisk the eggs and yolks together with the sugar until thick and pale and the whisk leaves a trail; use an electric whisk if you want. Sift the flour into the eggs, then beat together.
  4. Pour the melted chocolate into the egg mixture in thirds, beating well between each addition, until all the chocolate is added and the mixture is completely combined to a loose cake batter.
  5. Take moulds out of the freezer. Brush more melted butter over the chilled butter, then add a good spoonful of cocoa powder into the mould. Tip the mould so the powder completely coats the butter. Tap any excess cocoa back into the jar, then repeat with the next mould.
  6. Tip the fondant batter into a jug, then evenly divide between the moulds. Chill or freeze.

Halfway Through Main Course
  1. Heat oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas 6. Place the fondants on a baking tray, then cook for 10-12 mins (takes about 20 minutes from frozen) until the tops have formed a crust and they are starting to come away from the sides of their moulds. You will be able to see the butter 'bubbling' at the sides as the crust comes away. Remove from the oven, then leave to sit for 1 min before turning out.
  2. Loosen the fondants by moving the tops very gently so they come away from the sides, easing them out of the moulds. Tip each fondant slightly onto your hand so you know it has come away, then tip back into the mould ready to plate up.

Serve with ice-cream of course - I used Haagen Daz Macadamia Nut to great effect!

And there you go, my first dinner party and first Cookbook Challenge post! I am so proud!


  1. whoa! I can see alot of effort here. What a juicy piece of lamb! And that chocolate...

  2. WOW!!! Great job!!! Everything looks sooo delicious!

  3. WOW!! Well done!! I know there will be a day when I'm the one who has to cook... for now Mum does a fantastic job ;)

    I always love Gordon's chocolate fondants.
    Your lamb looks abso-bloody-lutely fabulous too!

  4. Wahh! That is a lovely Christmas feast. Mine pales in comparison to yours> i had a hangover.

  5. What a dinner party and Christmas dinner. It looks fantastic - the fondant is particularly stunning.

  6. WOW! What an absolute feast!! Everything looks fantastic, especially the salmon rosettes! I should try making the rosettes next time! I've also made Gordon's chocolate fondants before and they are to die for! :)

  7. mmmm, chocolate fondant.

    I don't have any of Gordon Ramsay's cookbooks. Maybe they need to go on the coveting list.

  8. Welcome on board Vee - those fondants look mouth wateringly gorgeous!

  9. Adrian: I'm sure it's a lot less effort than it looks! *blushes modestly* Oh to heck with it, YES I'm SO proud!

    Precious Pea: I'd love to master some of the Chinese dishes you've put up on your blog though! Maybe you can give me lessons sometime??

    Shellie: I've seen your cooking efforts and I'm amazed no one's asked you to cook Christmas dinner yet! Talk about im-bloody-pressive!

    Penny: You have GOT to be joking. Your piggy was most porky!

    Agnes: Thanks babe, the fondant was MY favourite bit too!

    Rilsta: Haha the rosettes took all of 10 seconds to make, but they were admired by all except one crotchety aunt "It's JUST rolled salmon!" She was right of course =o)

    Kate: I love Gordon Ramsay! I'm a sucker for all his TV shows, am fighting to get another one his cookbooks soon - all his Youtube videos are extremely useful as well!

    chitchatchomp: Thank you, it's an honour! =o)