Eating my way to midnight 2008 — duck, pistachios and stollen

Exhausted from launching The Gastronomer’s Bookshelf and distracted by other matters, I’ve at least managed to spend the last week of the year dining on deliciousness. I hope the same goes for all my readers and correspondents! Here are the highlights of the Christmas week and some reminders of fun articles from 2008.

Shortly before Christmas I found out exactly how a baker sweats, for I was baking the famous German Christmas bread called stollen. It’s about ten years since my last stollen event and I had mislaid my trusty recipe, so I went searching through my shelves and ended up combining the fairly lean ‘old style’ domestic recipe in Horst Scharffenberg’s fantastic Aus Deutschlands Küchen (also available in English as The German Kitchen, I think) with the much, much richer and fruit-laden recipe in Culinaria Germany. The result was a lovely, enriched bread dotted with raisins and peel and with a lovely vein of marzipan (home-made) down its length. I was glad I could still enjoy it after baking ten loaves!

Shortly after Christmas I put the ice-cream churn to good use to create a toasted pistachio gelato, served with sour cherries in syrup. This recipe was based on the southern Italian style of gelato which lacks eggs and, surprisingly, uses cornflour (cornstarch) as a thickener. David Lebovitz has a recipe which was the inspiration for me — he uses a luxurious pistachio paste. I made my own equivalent of the paste by grinding roasted pistachios with sugar. I also added pieces of raw pistachio for even brighter colour and more textural interest.

And then, to round off 2008, I heated up a piece of confit duck (alas, not home-made), sautéed some red capsicum and broccoli with garlic and marjoram, and fried some chips in duck fat! Ohhhh, they were soooo crispy and golden.

If any of this has your tummy rumbling or your imagination racing, here’s a rundown of some of the interesting things (in my humble opinion 😛 ) that you might have missed if you weren’t a regular:

Travel stories from Paris, Singapore and Madrid, Sevilla, Cordoba, Granada and Elvas. Oh dear, that also means I haven’t written up at least two other places!

I delved into a few issues in food and eating, looking at the role of supermarkets, alcohol consumption, being disappointed at weaknesses in the Slow Food movement, frustrated at the misrepresentation of statistics about overweight and obese people, and well and truly sick of mainstream media’s inability to do their job properly (macarons, SBS, food conference).

Macaron adventures, including bad stuff in Melbourne, only marginally better impressions in Sydney, and a reasonable number of delicious ones in Paris. At home, I played with the flavours of violet and mandarin, musk and Christmas.

In other cooking fun, there were chocolate éclairs and a quick-n-easy tarte Tatin, the unusual creation of beetroot and ginger kuih, lots of fun making violet jelly, pear and mascarpone tarts, and my long-standing favourites pastéis de nata (Portuguese custard tarts). I also discovered that you can do an unpretty but tolerably nice sourdough bread in a bread machine, overdosed on baba ghanoush, created a wild rice salad which has become a frequent (and pricey!) feature on my menu, and asked readers to reveal their humble home comfort food.

Thanks to all the readers who dropped by and all the commenters who made this a place for positive, enlightening discussion. I wish you all a delectable, comfortable and stress-free 2009!

If you’re a reader who doesn’t like to comment, feel free to say a quick hello below… it’s always nice to know more about the readers I haven’t heard from yet 🙂 .

14 thoughts on “Eating my way to midnight 2008 — duck, pistachios and stollen”

  1. Merry christmas and happy new year, Duncan.
    I wish year 2009 bring a good health, happiness, lots of luck, and success in life and at work.

    I’ve tried to make stollen ( with marzipan), but failed measurably! will you share the recipe (if you have the time to write it)?

    Have a wonderful one,

  2. Merry Christmas and a damn fine new year to you Duncan 🙂

    Haha, I spent the last week camping with my mum, so not much fine cuisine was had. For me the highlight was probably a meal cooked on a small butane gas burner, sitting on top a communal dryer in the caravan park at Coleraine: packet pasta and sauce (the dried stuff) made with water and powdered milk, served with (warmed) tinned peas and corn and a small tin of caramelised onion tuna. It was actually pretty damn tasty! And finished off with some really nice cherries. The next best meal would probably have been the scrambled eggs we had for breakfast the next day.

    Before that, of course, there was afternoon tea at the Langham Hotel… now THAT was good.

    Bring on 2009 and all the great food it has to offer!

  3. Ten loaves of stollen! Either you have a very large oven, or you are a very dedicated baker, in this heat!

    Happy New Year to you!

  4. Hi Duncan,

    Happy New Year! Loved your round up – you’ve had a busy year!

    Your stollen was incredible. 10 loaves?! I thought you only made 3! *applause*

    All the best for 2009!

    xox Sarah

  5. happy new year duncan – a very impressive round up – I am particularly impressed with your achievement in baking all that stollen – I love the stuff and hope to attempt it some day!

  6. Great year D! Looking forward to the next one. The food here in Buenos Aires is weird. They have a couple of national treats, but mostly with considerable E_coli. Look forward to meeting up when im back.

  7. I suspect we may be seeing a few more recipes with cherries… given your recent expedition into the cherry groves of Victoria 😉

    All the best for the year to come, and many a macaron may you make!

  8. Oh man, you were exhausted by our launch?! You could’ve asked me to take some more of your load. (Still mighty proud of my misplaced H1 tag discovery, though, heh heh heh.) Looks like 2008 was a maahvelous year web-wise at least. Here’s hoping for more successes in the coming year 🙂 *clink*

  9. Hey everyone! Thanks for all the wishes!

    @elra: if I get time, I’ll do a post about the Stollen:) By the way, Dan Lepard has done a rather fancy Stollen recipe (just google and you’ll find it easily). Mine is simpler and, I believe, more traditional.

    @Y: I’m just a nut. I baked two at a time (very tight squeeze) and as the kitchen got hotter, I tried to squeeze two trays in… which just worked with some juggling!

    @Harry: I am totally over cherries. I have done more cherry dishes in the last week than I ever thought possible!

  10. Happy New Year Master Baker.

    Look foward to reading more of your blog this coming year.

    How can you be over cherries, they’re perfect as they are. They are the epitome of summer in Melbourne. A bowl of cherries, the tennis on TV and a nice cold beer, perfect.

  11. Hey Duncan,

    I copied that David Lebowitz pistachio thing and started making it today, couldn’t remember where I got the link from until just now came across this post again when I was reading Thanh’s entry about the barbeque and it mentioned your stollen.

    Where did you get the recipe? and for the marzipan? I found a really good one with handmade marzipan in St Kilda before Christmas, but making it yourself must be Something Else.

  12. Hi Cath. My Stollen was a hybrid of two or three recipes I have. I do intend writing about Stollen soooonish, at which time I’ll also write about marzipan:) Unfancy homemade marzipan is a doddle… high-grade stuff is fiddlier.

  13. Hi Duncan, we had confit duck on New Year’s as well – though I combined mine with Cherries. I’ve pickled a kilo from the last Convent Farmer’s market and frozen a kilo so I can keep on having duck and cherries in winter – when it really is more suited.

    Thanks for your blog – you have inspired me to try to master macarons (my musk ones were quite nice – I added some fresh strawberry pulp to white chocolate ganache and flavoured with musk. Gave some depth to the flavour.)

    Stay cool…no baking this week.


Comments are closed.