Christmas Party Zoom

Well this feels a long time ago now… and indeed it was … December 14th 2020 …last year.

A goodly number of Staveley Choral members and friends gathered at 7pm and after the usual Zoom clamour as we all met un-muted online, off we went….imagining us gathering for a Christmas party meal., with entertainment from the minstrels’ gallery – and the floor.

Hugh, our chairman, welcomed us all and got us groaning with some festive upmarket cracker type riddles and jokes!

Ian &Margaret Jones, willing as ever to lend us their time and skill sang us a lovely Christmas folk song accompanied by two squeeze-boxes.

Wendy held up to the computer screen some little Christmas decoration crafts she had made from old corks, clothespegs, buttons, and bits and bobs… picture of some at the top of the post, then

Liz Blaney read us an atmospheric section from Wordsworth’s ‘The Duddon’

Hugh, wearing not a party hat but one of his many other talent hats, poured us a virtual drink…not a wine recommendation as red or white is of personal preference, nor favourite tipple, but a shout-out for sherry. Sherry… Fino – as an aperitif with soda water and ice. A dry Oloroso to accompany turkey or other main course.. and then, forget a pudding wine… which will likely be over come by a good plum pudding, but instead follow it with a sweet Pedro Ximénez – try it with cheese.

Really lowering the culinary tone, Wendy did the world’s fastest (preprepared) demo of 90 second Microwave Cheese Keto Bread … other versions are available..

Yield: Makes 1 mini loaf Ingredients

  1. 1 large egg
  2. 1 tablespoon milk
  3. 1 tablespoon olive oil
  4. 1 tablespoon coconut flour
  5. 1 tablespoon almond or hazelnut flour
  6. 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  7. Pinch salt

Optional add-ins:

  • 1/4 cup grated cheese
  • 1 tablespoon minced scallions or herbs

Instructions

  • Whisk the egg, milk, oil, coconut flour, nut flour, baking powder, and salt together in a small bowl. Add the cheese and scallions or herbs, if using, and stir to combine.
  • Pour into a tall microwave-safe mug and tap the bottom firmly on the counter a few times to force any air bubbles to rise and pop. Microwave on high for 1 minute, 30 seconds.
  • Invert mug onto a cutting board and let the bread slide out. Cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick slices. To toast, heat a teaspoon of oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the slices and toast until golden-brown, about 30 seconds per side. Mmmmmmmmmmm!

Now a singing challenge for us – we are a choir after all! ‘We wish you a Merry Christmas’ on Zoom…..maintain your line without distraction. You have to have tried it to know how raucous it is!

And what’s a Social Zoom without a quiz…so Wendyasks the twenty questions of Christmas Zoom Party Mini Quiz. (Test coming next Christmas)

  • What did Tom Smith, a confectioner, invent? The Christmas cracker
  • How many ghosts appear in A Christmas Carol? 4
  • What would the other reindeer not let Rudolph do? Play in any reindeer games
  • How many gifts in total were given in the 12 Days of Christmas? 364
  • Which song (exact same song and artist) has been Christmas number One twice, 16 years apart? Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen (1975 and 1991)
  • In which 2004 animated film about a magical adventure to the North Pole does Tom Hanks voice six characters? The Polar Express
  • Which ruler allegedly banned mince pies in Britain in the 1600s? Oliver Cromwell
  • Which country first introduced eggnog, otherwise known as milk punch? Britain
  • Who served up figgy pudding in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol? Mrs Cratchit
  • How many of Rudolph’s fellow reindeer have names beginning with ‘D’? Dasher, Dancer, Donner.
  • Can you name the two American states with a town called Santa Claus? Indiana and Georgia
  • In the song “Frosty the Snowman,” what made Frosty come to life? An old silk hat
  • What Christmas-themed ballet premiered in Saint Petersburg in 1892? The Nutcracker
  • In the song “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer,” what incriminating evidence was found on Grandma’s back? Claus marks
  • What animatronic cassette-playing bear toy did children want for Christmas in the mid 80s? Teddy Ruxpin
  • What well-known Christmas carol became the first song ever broadcast from space in 1965? Jingle Bells
  • What decoration do elves traditionally have on their shoes? Bells
  • What is the opening line to Shakin’ Stevens’ ‘Merry Christmas Everyone’? “Snow is falling, all around me”
  • In which country is it (apocryphally) a tradition to eat KFC for Christmas dinner? Japan
  • The French word “Noel” is often used around Christmas, but what was its original meaning in Latin? Birth

And relax! … while Viv talks us through her current favourite main course turkey alternative show-stopper:

CHESTNUT, SPINACH & BLUE CHEESE EN CROÛTE

A vegetarian main course

  • Prep:1 hr and 20 mins Cook:55 min plus 1 hr chilling Serves 6 – 8 Ingredients
  1. 50g butter
  2. 500g pack leeks, thickly sliced
  3. 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  4. 240g bag baby spinach
  5. 415g can chestnut purée
  6. 3 large eggs, plus 1 for glazing
  7. ½ nutmeg, finely grated
  8. 200g pack vacuum-packed whole cooked chestnuts, halved
  9. 85g fresh white breadcrumbs
  10. 220g pack blue Shropshire cheese, rind trimmed, diced
  11. 500g pack all-butter puff pastry

For the sauce

  • 500ml vegetable stock
  • 2 leeks, thinly sliced
  • 1 tbsp cornflour
  • 300ml pot double cream

Method

  • STEP 1

Melt the butter in a large frying pan. Add the leeks and garlic, stir well, cover and cook for 10 mins until the leeks are soft, stirring a few times to check that they don’t catch. Tip into a large bowl. Put the spinach in the pan and allow it to wilt. Leave to cool and, when cold, squeeze out as much liquid from it as you possibly can.

  • STEP 2

Tip the chestnut purée into the bowl with the leeks and add the 3 eggs, the nutmeg, chestnuts, spinach, breadcrumbs, cheese and seasoning, and stir until well mixed. Chill for at least 1 hr until the mixture firms up.

  • STEP 3

Heat oven to 220C/200C fan/gas 7. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the pastry to a rectangle large enough to completely enclose the filling. Carefully lift onto a large, long baking tray that has been lined with baking parchment, then brush round all the edges of the pastry with the remaining egg. Spoon the filling down the centre of the length of the pastry, leaving the ends clear. Tuck the ends over the filling, then firmly lift up the sides to wrap them round, trimming away any excess pastry as you go. Brush with more egg to glaze, then make a few holes in the top so steam can escape as it cooks. Bake for 40 mins until golden and the filling is firm. Remove from the oven, brush with more glaze and bake for 10 mins more.

  • STEP 4

To make the sauce, heat the stock in a medium pan, add the leeks, boil for 5 mins, then take off the heat and scoop out 2 tbsp of the leeks. Blitz the rest in the pan with the cornflour using a hand blender, then cook, stirring, until thickened. Pour in the cream and reserved leeks and warm through. Can be made 2 days ahead and chilled. Serve the pastry in thick slices with the sauce.

You’ll need to digest – so sit back and see if you can name the tune in this Music box sorbet; Wendy has a little Victorian music box….with an unknown melody. And at the end of the handle-turned-tinkly-tune….it is still unknown as no-one can name it! There’s always next year…

Ok – gird your loins – here comes a ribsticker… Tina explains her favourite prepare-in-advance stonker of a festive pudding:

DARK CHOCOLATE TRUFFLE TORTE WITH AMARETTO SOAKED RED FRUITS.

Ingredients:

  • 5 tbsps liquid glucose
  • 5tbsps rum
  • 450g dark chocolate
  • 1 pint double cream
  • 75g Amaretti biscuits, crushed

23cm cake tin lined with greaseproof paper , sides brushed with oil or butter.

Method:

  • Sprinkle crushed biscuits on base of tin.
  • Melt chocolate, liquid glucose and rum in bowl over a pan of simmering water until quite smooth.

Take off the heat and leave to cool for 5 minutes.

  • In a separate bowl beat cream until slightly thickened.
  • Fold half of the cream into the chocolate mixture. When blended fold in remaining cream. Spoon it into prepared tin, cover with clingfilm and chill. …………..
  • Before serving run palette knife round the edge of the tin and turn pudding out onto serving plate.
  • Dust with icing sugar.

I like to serve this with a jug of single cream, and a selection of red fruits – raspberries, strawberries, cherries – that are soaked in Amaretto Liqueur. Calories per portion: we don’t go there. Enjoy!

And phew! – sit down! Alas, my friend Manna was unable to bring us a soothing Hungarian song on this occasion, but perhaps next time: I’m sure she has song that unites berries and cherries and chocolate and cheer – but which at the same time explains something profound about the human condition… always the most extraordinary songs for every occasion.

Bernard wrote in earlier to say that what he enjoyed as much as anything else was the simple combination of oatcakes, Stilton cheese, mango chutney and Malbec: it could almost be a Hungarian folksong… especially when he enjoys in the good company of Pam – as demonstrated.

This was accompanied by Elaine W with a rustic accented recitation of a classic poem by Pam Ayres. Ahh – that was nice. As was the final farewell folk carol sung to us by Ian and Margaret.

Thank you all for coming, and contributing. Happy Christmas, Everyone!

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