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Ho! Ho! Ho!

Believe it or not, Christmas is only 17 sleeps away! Have you done all your shopping? Have you decided what to cook for Christmas lunch yet? It all gets a little crazy this time of year, every shopping mall I’ve been to thus far are already heaving with shoppers looking for the best presents and the supermarkets usually will have long queues at the checkouts with people pushing trolleys overloaded with food ready for Christmas. If you do not want to fight with a horde of people at the supermarkets, here is a tip for you – go and do your grocery shopping at 10pm on weeknights. I found the best night to go grocery shopping is on Friday night, this is the night where they replenish the shelves ready for the en masse on the weekend. So you might have to push your trolley and dodge a few staff members and big stock trolleys in the aisles, but the upside is you don’t have to fight with anyone, and usually you will get the freshest vegetables and fruit, then there will be no queue at the checkout counter. And on top of that, you will go grocery shopping after dinner with a full stomach and normally you will not succumb to temptation and buy the unnecessary junk food (and I am also pretty sure this doesn’t work on everyone).

When Coles asked me to do a taste test on their Finest gourmet range, I knew I would have a big shopping to do. With a budget in hand, I walked into the supermarket with a trolley on a Friday night, there were less than ten customers happily doing their grocery shoppings as well. I had the pleasure of browsing from aisle to aisle without having to rush and walked out the supermarket with a trolley full of Christmas goodies. I ready to cook up a storm over one weekend and invited a few friends to help me on the taste test.

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First thing first, leg ham! Choosing the right leg ham can be a daunting task since there are so many leg hams by different companies in the market these days. I would suggest try to avoid the cheaper leg ham as they tend to be pumped with brine to make them bigger, and when you cut into it, parts of the meat can just disintegrate into mush. I personally would go for good quality leg hams directly from pig farms, so I am excited to see that Coles now stocked leg hams in their finest range that are free range pork.

I tried not to do too much to the leg ham, I followed the instructions on the packet the ham wrapped in but added a few personal touches. One common error that most people make while preparing a leg ham is by trimming all the fat off. DON’T! When you peel the pork rind off, try to leave as much fat as possible on the leg ham because it will protect the meat from drying out while in oven. I scored the fat into diamond shapes and then studded with cloves all over. I prepared a simple glaze by using Coles finest Blood Orange Marmalade and Coles finest Red Gum Honey, but I also added a cup of dark brown sugar  as it tends to give the leg ham a dark brown caramelisation. I do like the blood orange marmalade as it is a lot tangier and sharper than apricot jam which can be a little sweet (together with the brown sugar) for the leg ham.

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I actually left the leg ham a lot longer in the oven than the instruction says on the packet simply because I prefer to have my leg ham warm rather than still cold on the inside. It was nice to find that the meat wasn’t dry at all even, it was tender and not overly salty from the brine. Make sure to keep some of the glaze (or make extra) and use it as a sauce to go with the leg ham.

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The Pom is a turkey man. I don’t mean he is a turkey, but he does prefer turkey over leg ham. I don’t usually roast a whole turkey since there are only the two of us, so I decided to get the small Coles finest turkey roll and gave it a try. I was surprised to find there is no cooking instruction on the packet but suggesting that the turkey can be eaten straight out of the packet. Again, I prefer warm over cold meat, so I brush the turkey with the same glaze I used on the leg ham and put it in the oven for a short time over high heat just to give it a nice tan and warm up the meat inside.

The turkey actually quite juicy and tender as it had been brined which brought out the sweetness of the meat. Never thought of using orange and rosemary on turkey but it is a nice refreshing touch. We kept the leftover and make turkey sandwiches for lunch the next day.

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Love, love, love Christmas mince pies. Again, I think we are spoilt for choice with mince pies, I can’t help but being critical and finding the best mince pie can be a life long quest. Coles not only has the traditional mince pie in their finest range, they also have the rhubarb and champagne tarts that really worth a try. I love my mince pie comes with buttery shortcrust, a deep pastry case that packed with lots of fruit mince, Coles finest mince pies definitely delivered that. While the mince pies were nice, I actually found myself loving the rhubarb and champagne tarts even more. Not overly sweet but a nice sharp tartness from the rhubarb with a oozy champagne sauce inside. On top of that, it also came with a sachet of glittery lemon sherbet sugar powder to sprinkle over the tarts, a nice fizzy touch that has Christmas written all over it. What not to love?

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While I like Heston for Coles hidden orange christmas pudding for being something a little bit different from the other puddings in the market, but when we tasted the Coles finest Christmas luxury pudding, we all agreed that it was one of the best puddings we’ve ever tasted. My friends laughed at me squealing like a school girl when I tipped the pudding out onto a plate, I was so excited to see there were lots of candied fruit and nuts on top of the pudding with glossy syrup dripping down the size. Oh boy, it was glorious, or how Coles put it – “LUXURY”.

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By now I think I should just accept the fact that I would never be able to cut a Christmas pudding cleanly before it crumbled away because of the amount of boozy fruit mince they jam-packed into the pudding. There is no other way to put it, the pudding is irresistibly decadent and “moist”, richly aromatic with spices and alcohol. Usually I would serve the pudding with some brandy custard for that extra indulgence, but why stop there when I can get even naughtier and serve it with the choice of Coles finest vanilla cream anglaise and Coles finest salted caramel sauce. I also picked up the Coles caramel and macadamia ice cream to go with the pudding, you can’t go wrong by having a hot pudding with some cold ice cream on the side.

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One of the Christmas products from the Coles finest range that intrigues me the most is the Black Forest pudding. I know some people don’t particularly like the taste of candied fruit in a Christmas pudding, so this Black Forest pudding would be a nice alternative. The pudding was studded with wholes cherries that happily soaking up the alcohol syrup, warm melted chocolate mingled with the cherries on every mouthful was heavenly delightful. The pudding was rich and definitely not for the faint-hearted.

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I think fruit cake is totally underrated. Many people find them boring (and I am one of those people) and usually ended up in a wet soggy trifle which is understandable as there are many bad fruit cakes out there. So I was really excited to give Coles finest handcrafted Christmas fruit cake a try and see how it flares amongst all the fruit cakes in the market.

The cake comes in a beautiful round tin so that you can keep it inside for a long period of time and it won’t go off. It is a decent size cake at 1.5kg, it will definitely last for a while and at least get you through the whole festive season. There was a nice welcoming aroma of alcohol as soon as I opened the tin, followed by a pretty sight of toasted almond flakes on top of the dark fruit cake. The cake itself was soft and not too dense, the alcohol definitely made a huge difference to the cake, it wasn’t dry at all. This Coles finest Christmas fruit cake is definitely a keeper and would be a waste to be used in a trifle. If you are looking for an edible gift for friends or family this Christmas, this fruit cake might just be the answer.

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Christmas is not Christmas without brussels sprouts here in this household. Although I always encourage people to buy produce that are available according to seasons, sometimes I do make an exception for the special occasion like Christmas – brussels sprouts for instance. The Pom always had brussels sprouts back home in UK during Christmas, so we pretty much keeping the tradition and still serving brussels sprouts with our Christmas meal even now in Australia.

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I love this time of year when you can get fresh walnuts, like real fresh, still in the shell fresh. To crack open the walnut is easy, forget about the nutcracker, here is a trick for you – place two nuts in your palm and squeeze them together with your fingers, eventually one will just crack open on its own. Too easy. Alternatively, place nuts in a tea towel and smash lightly with a rolling pin. And I will be using these walnuts to go with the brussels sprouts and also a salad.

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For me, there is only one way to prepare brussels sprouts – pan seared them with some bacon in butter and then whack them in the oven until they are charred and crispy. To finish it off, I will season it with salt, pepper and a good splash of aged balsamic vinegar, then add the walnuts liberally for the crunch.

 

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Then I also made a Christmas wreath salad! Not sure if you remember I made a Holiday Wreath Bread once for a Christmas party, the festive looking bread always get the table talking, hence this time I decided to make a salad wreath instead. It is a no brainer and simple to prepare with only just a few ingredients – beetroots, rocket leaves, walnuts, goat cheese and a good glug of extra-virgin olive oil. I was being fancy and actually shaped the beets into balls by using a melon-baller so they look like baubles. I mean seriously you don’t have to and can just cut them into small cubes. Alternatively, especially if you hate beetroots, then you can always use cherry tomatoes too. For this recipe, I tried Coles finest goats’ cheese with Italian black truffle, which is nice and tangy with a subtle hint of truffle flavour and not too overpowering. Beets and goat cheese go exceptionally well together, if you going to use cherry tomatoes or not a fan of goat cheese, then I would suggest to go with bocconcini or feta.

Christmas Wreath Salad

  • a packet rocket leaves
  • 4 large beet roots
  • 1 block Coles finest goats’ cheese with Italian black truffle
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • a handful of walnuts
  • salt and cracked black pepper, for seasoning

Method

1. Boil beetroots in a large saucepan filled with water on medium heat, for 1 hour or until a knife can pierce through the beetroot easily. Drain, rub the skin off under running water, pat dry. Then shape the beets into balls by using a melon baller. Alternatively, just cut them into even size 2cm cubes.

2. Place rocket leaves around a large plate like a halo. Add beetroot balls, lumps of goat cheese here and there, sprinkle with walnuts.

3. Season with salt and pepper, then drizzle olive oil liberally.

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I think the Coles finest Christmas range has exceeded my expectations. Most of the products we’ve tried were good quality and exceptionally delicious. You’d be surprised to find most products are reasonably priced, if not cheaper than some of the gourmet ones in the market. I hope my photos of the Coles finest range are enough to make you salivate and hopefully to give you a few cooking ideas this Christmas.

Hereby I wish you all a Happy Christmas and most importantly, a delicious one!

 

[This is a sponsored post for Coles finest range]

 


 

Nescafe Dolce Gusto capsule machine competition – Winners Announced

Thanks to everyone who entered the competition here on the blog, there are some really creative and funny entries! There is one comment definitely had my in stitches! So here I would like to announce the winners of the competition is:

Robertito Antonio Gonzalez

Congratulations! Hope the machine will keep the Daddies happy! LOL!