It's brrr cold outside. Christmas music resounds. The smell of freshly cut pine fills the room. Holiday decor anoints the walls. It feels good to be home for the holidays! Those memories make the season come alive. Twenty five Christmases count for a plethora of rememberances. Oops ... Twenty four years... Last year it was in a small overheated apartment. Reluctantly celebrated with a small Douglas fir. A small tree sparsely festooned. But Christmas in another house is as good as any. Spirits prevail, festive meals sustain and being together takes on a different meaning.
This year we make Christmas cake, kulkuls, cookies. Enough to fill neighbors platters and our waistlines. The cake is an all day affair. Golden brown caramel bubbles and cools. Butter softened just right. Eggs, separated and sitting at room temperature. Candied citron sits in a pool of cognac. Tins buttered and lined with parchment. The mixer is put to test, whisking and whipping in a frenzy. The cake bakes for two long hours as it tempting aroma wafts through the house makes mouth water. A bite of warm cake and tea transports me to warm Bombay Christmases of yore.
Kulkul making is a family affair. They are small curly nubbins of sugar coated delight! Crunchy exteriors with soft insides, a hint of coconut and sugar. They really should be minuscule curlicues but ours are pretty large curls! The Gonsalves family hands are not the most adept at kulkul making, but definitely the most enthusiastic and innovative. Instead of using fine-toothed combs we substitute wider tined forks. To me they make for a more toothsome kulkul! But then I'm not the expert here, just the expediter! In no time at all we have a ton of fairly small curls to fry. Browned kulkuls are coated with sugar syrup that looks like frost when hard. A perfect winter snack!
We go for Midnight Mass or as my ma-in-law puts it 'real mass' as many parishes hold their masses earlier in the evening. Presents are ripped open. Eyes droop as we trundle off to bed. Xmas morning is spent happily talking to family all over the world. And then we get to work! It is to be Xmas lunch but as we surface too late, so dinner it is! Just as we talked to family the world over, we dine in the same fashion! The youngest drinkmeister sets the scene with a potent gin cocktail! It creeps up surreptiously, making for loud voices and incessant laughter! We begin with Mexican corn soup and fried tortilla slivers. Then go to England for chive popovers. Swedish hassleback potatoes lie under a Swiss cheese blanket. Across the ocean to the Middle East for roasted cumin-dusted butternut squash and fennel and then an detour to Israel for grilled lamb chops. We end with dolce from Italy...strawberry and peach semifreddo.
The semifreddo is not easy! The recipe looks deceptively simple. But as I start I find myself using a dozen different bowls and pans! I am astounded by the pile in the sink and hope the effort is warranted! Strawberries are cooked and puréed. So are the peaches, which means the food processor gets washed repeatedly! Eggs are separated and whipped. Cream needs its own cool bowl. You see what I mean! I do want to give the recipe a shot so I persevere. The strawberry filling sits in the freezer alongside the peach. I have to wait for one layer to freeze before I can pour on the other! I can only hope the family appreciates this convoluted effort!
Strawberry and Peach Semifreddo
Serves 6 to 8
2 cups Strawberries
1 1/4 cup Sugar
4 tablespoons Lemon juice
2 cups Peaches, fresh or tinned
1 cup Cream
2 Egg whites
Wash, dry and trim strawberries. Cut them into quarters.
Place strawberries in a pan with 1/2 cup sugar and 2 tablespoons lemon juice.
Cook over medium heat till the fruit bubbles.
Lower heat and cook for 10 minutes.
Take fruit off the heat and cool.
If you use fresh peaches, peel, remove pit and cut into 1/4 inch slices. If you use tinned peaches, drain well and slice as advised.
Put peaches in a pan along with 1/2 cup sugar and 2 tablespoons of lemon juice.
Cook on medium heat till fruit bubbles.
Lower heat and cook for 15 minutes.
Keep fruit aside to cool.
Purée cooled fruit in food processor. Rinse processor bowl after strawberries. The fruit purée sneed to stay separate and pure. Pour purees into separate bowls.
Add the 1/4 cup sugar to cream and whip in a cool bowl till stiff peaks form.
Whip the egg whites to soft peaks.
Divide between the purees and gently fold the egg whites in.
Pour strawberry purée into prepared pan and freeze for 1 hour.
Keep peach purée in mixing bowl. Put the bowl in the freezer.
After an hour has passed, gently ladle the peach purée over strawberry purée.
Cover with Saran and freeze for 5 to 6 hours.
When you are ready to serve, unmold semifreddo onto a platter. Remove Saran Wrap. Cut 1/2 inch slices and serve.
I used tinned peaches. I'm sure fresh ones will have a more pronounced flavor.
You could interchange fruit layers.
You could also use other fruit purees too. Your choice.
Dessert is served!! Needless to say we are pleasantly stuffed! The couch is the perfect for a nap. And we succumb to its call. Sleep overcomes a few in minutes! Another Xmas overtakes us with yet more wonderful memories, good food, but most of all ....gratefulness to the man upstairs!