Did you enjoy your Christmas with family and friends? Since moving to New Zealand in 2010, our Christmas Days have been entirely different. My mum died in 2007 (Dad died in the late 80s) and, after this, we always spent Christmas Day with my great Aussie mate and her mum (who is my second mum, Fritz). And by the way, speaking with Fritz and my mate on Skype over Christmas, I have to report that Fritz is still guilty of coffee fraud. Christmas with them would be entirely different because my mate now has a daughter, my God-niece, Emily. We still shake our heads and wonder how THAT happened!

This year, we were invited over by my Kiwi mate who is my riding instructor and has taught me about natural horsemanship. So I thought I’d show my international readers what a Kiwi Christmas is like. Rather like an Aussie Christmas really – a lot of food in a casual laid-back setting.

When I was living in Oz (Sydney), I remember spending Christmas Days sweating over the baked ham. Christmas for Aussies and Kiwis is at the height of summer and many of us like to have the traditional Christmas feast of baked ham and boiled pudding. I remember many a Christmas spent cooking with my father – preparing the glaze for the ham; whipping up mince pies and trifle. And then we’d sit back and wonder why on earth are we eating this sort of food in hot weather. English-based tradition I guess. This Christmas it was around 32ºC/89.6ºF – yep, the South Island of New Zealand does get hot weather.

El Hubs doctored a ham. When I say doctored, I mean he worked his magic and produced a wonderful honey-glazed baked ham based on his secret recipe. I whipped up a pavlova and a German potato and cucumber salad, which is a 1970’s recipe I used to make when cooking with my Dad when I was a teenager.

And speaking of my family – we used to really go to town with the Christmas decorations and food. My maternal grandparents hosted the Christmas lunch and my grandmother made a fabulous pudding spiked with brandy. The Christmas tree was fully laden with sparkling decorations and there were plenty of presents under the tree. My uncles, aunts and cousins would all descend on my grandparent’s very spacious home. When my grandparents died, Christmas dinner was at my parent’s house and it was really just the three of us. We’d see the rest of the family at other times, like Easter. My paternal grandparents died before I was born so I never knew Dad’s side of the family really. My mum was huge on the whole Christmas dinner table decoration thing. Crystal glasses, crystal bowls – you name it.

But since my parents went, it’s been El Hubs and me and Christmas just doesn’t hold the same magic. His family is spread across Portugal and South Africa and I only have one uncle left, up in Levin, and I barely know him (Dad’s brother). Last year, we decided not to buy Christmas gifts for each other anymore and just spend the day doing usual stuff.

But our Kiwi mate invited us over and we had a great time. The Christmas menu was full of homemade bumble bees (which I call chocolate coconut balls); mixed nuts; Christmas mince pies; baked ham; duck with cherry glaze; various yummy salads; trifle; pavlova and boiled pudding.

My mate’s two sons joined us for lunch and the family dog (a West Highland white terrier) was given a tiny bit of duck. Well, it was Christmas after all. I scored a great book on horses and the day was very enjoyable  – albeit I now have to exercise extra hard as I’m sure I gained 5kg in one day!

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The Christmas table groans with food.

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1970’s recipe – German potato and cucumber salad in front.

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Pre-Christmas lunch nibbles – Horse-themed!

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Trifle in crystal bowl – a great memory from my childhood.

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Despite the Kiwis claiming the pavlova – I followed an Aussie recipe.

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Traffic light jelly (red, yellow, green).

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Homemade Christmas pudding in the middle (served with whipped cream).

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Rowdy licks his lips at the thought of duck.

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Like the rest of us after such a big lunch, Rowdy feels like a nap.

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