Let me tell you about our Easter dinner.

I spent a fair bit of today making our Easter dinner. The easy part (and the only really expensive part) was the ham: I bought it from a really good place-that-sells-meat here in Wollongong (Illawarra Smallgoods — I think they're actually called something like Illawarra Meat & Deli now), and when the time came I trimmed off the bits I didn't want, chucked it in a big ol' roasting pan, and turned the heat on. So that was easy. I didn't bother glazing it or anything, because it doesn't really end up flavoring the meat very much, does it, to have a little bit of sticky stuff clinging to the outside layer of fat, which I for one refuse to eat anyway?

Instead, I made a raisin sauce. Except I forgot that in Australia (unlike amongst my own people), supermarkets are all closed on Easter! All of them! And I had no raisins. And no dry mustard. So off I went after church to see if any of the convenience stores had either product. The only thing I could come up with was a bottle of "American-style mustard," the kind you squirt onto your hotdogs if you're into that sort of thing. Oh well, okay. The raisins were still a bit of a problem. But I remembered! We had grapes! And a food dehydrator! Yay! So I cut up a bunch of grapes (so they would dry up faster) and started them in the dehydrator. Then I got stuck into the alchemy that would make this sauce great: cloves, cardamom pods, juniper berries (yes! I'd just bought some at the really-good-place-that-sells-cheap-vegetables-and-lots-of-ethnic-food, and I was dying to try them out), black pepper, and salt. I boiled these up in a little bit of water and let them steep for, oh, a long time, maybe even an hour. Then I took the bits out and replaced them with a bunch of brown sugar, two squirts of mustard, and a splash (just a tiny one) of additional vinegar ("American-style" mustard already has tons in it). Then I added the grapes-that-weren't-quite-shriveled-enough-to-call-raisins, and a little bit of cornstarch-and-water slurry and let it simmer for a while. I pretty much invented this recipe based on about a dozen I read on the Internet, and I'm happy to say the spicing was incredibly subtle and absolutely inspired. I HATE mustard as a rule, but this sauce came out aromatic and piquant and sweet and just exactly what I wanted for the ham.

Then came the mashed potatoes: two different kinds of potato, don't ask me what they were because I grabbed them from the bottom shelf of the cupboard and didn't think twice about it. I boiled them and mashed them with garlic-and-herb butter left over from making garlic bread the other night, a ton of fresh parmesan (grated, of course), a bit of salt, and a splash of cream.

The veggies were just plain, steamed veggies — have to have some white space in a meal, after all.

The breads were of two kinds: some AMAZING whole-wheat soda bread (my Ulsterman husband reliably informs me that this is referred to back in the Old Country simply as "wheaten") that Margaret made, and a stunning loaf of rye bread I made WITH caraway — mark me, Australia, this is how it should be done: WITH caraway. Went fabulously with the ham, as Americans have known for generations.

Dessert was a plate of strawberries, apples, plums, cheddar cheese, and some (homemade) candied walnuts and almonds.

I am full of food that not only tasted good, but had subtle and sophisticated (and maybe some not-so-subtle) flavors, top-quality ingredients*, and careful (if somewhat innovative) preparation. If there's one thing I learned from my few days in France and Belgium a while back, it was to appreciate this sort of food. It really, truly does make a difference. There's food that tastes pretty good and that's all. Then there's food that just brings it to that next level. That's the food that's good for your soul.

And making a meal such as this for my family — doubly good for the soul.

*Please note: top-quality does not have to mean expensive all the time. The only item on that menu that I really had to shell out the bucks for was, as I mentioned, the ham. I even got the almonds on sale. I will admit, however, that I would have preferred to use dry mustard rather than that bottle of "American-style." But it all worked out in the end.


At 7:32 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That sounds so good. Except that Muslims don't eat pork. I made a mustard, green onion and orange juice glaze for my (expensive item) veal rack. Ironically, my husband normally cuts all the flavouring off when he carves, in the manner you just described. Because he is Jack Spratt. So, I also made a hole and stuffed some in the middle. That way I can at least kid myself that he got a tiny bit of citrusy zing!

I'm stealing your mashed potato recipe.


At 12:22 PM, Blogger Laura E. Goodin said...

Be my guest, Thoraiya! It's delicious, if I do say so myself.


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