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Another Christmas Dinner!

January 4, 2014 Leave a comment

post-Christmas roast dinner

roasted beef bone marrow with caramelised onions roast beef (topside)

It was good to meet a group of Malaysians visiting London. They were elders of a little church in Johor Bahru and we had good chats about local issues. Then we had a stranded Brit to stay. She couldn’t get home because of the flooding around her house – loads to chat about living as a Christian in the workplace, and about love and marriage.

There is great joy in meeting fellow brothers and sisters for the first time and finding that, because of our common paternity, we are able, almost straight off, to speak intimately about various things (with or without several glasses of champagne).

(It was interesting to observe the vastly different food preferences of ethnic types/backgrounds: the Asians disliked cheese and cured meats, wanted only very little beef and carbs but very much preferred their meat well-done, and shunned dessert, mulled wine, and mincepies (“too sweet!”). Unfortunately, the host who has often been called a “banana” (yellow on the outside, white on the inside) by the Asian crowd hadn’t thought about this. Happily though, the said host accidentally stayed around chatting in church for far too long so the pot roast did emerge well-done afterall.)

For my own information – cost of Christmas dinner for 12 (£2.12 per person):
British beef topside (1.5kg) £13.55 (Waitrose, discounted)
Brussel sprouts on stalk (x3) £2.09 (Waitrose, discounted)
Smoked lardons £1.93 (Waitrose)
Carrots and parsnips £0.88 (Asda)
Bacon and sausage for pigs in blankets (£2.00) (Lidl)
Roast potatoes with goose fat £2.99 (Waitrose, discounted)
Yorkshire pudding £1.00 (Aldi)
Marrow £1.00 (Waitrose)

Holiday Hospitality and Holiness

December 28, 2013 Leave a comment

Crazy festive festivities, holistic holidaying.
orange pomander
Roast lunch and strawberry pavlova with a bunch of Aussies, as an honorary Aussie:

Sunday roast lunch
strawberry pavlova

One of many Christmas dinners, this one with the Romans bible study group:
small group Christmas dinner

This one was a an older couple’s large house. It took them 6 hours to properly decorate the place with large swaths of red, lots of tinsel, mistletoe, holly on the chandeliers, a large Christmas tree pine by the grand piano etc, and it was lovely:

Christmas dinner

Various people also kindly bought meals saying it was in gratitude for work done during the year:
Nando's chicken

And mixed in with all that, birthday brunches:
Breakfast at The Empress, Victoria Park

Christmas Day lunch at mine – we collected everyone who didn’t have a place to go after the Christmas Day Service and brought them home. Managed to squeeze 18 people around two tables in our small (and very messy) kitchen:
Christmas Day lunch
brussel sprouts in a wokcheese and chacuterie board

The first of many to stay in our living room this Christmas was a south-east asian girl – a friend of someone I’d met at New Word Alive earlier this year. She had a refreshingly bottomless stomach and there were good conversations over many 3rd/4th helpings:
chicken curry dinner for a Vietnamese girlOn Boxing Day, she surprised us by bursting into tears as she said her goodbyes, sobbing that she was overwhelmed that strangers would welcome her into their house, feed her so well, and take good care of her. Sensitive as ever, I just pointed at her and laughed. A housemate was kinder and explained that Christians show love to strangers because of the love first shown to us by Jesus, who loved the unloveable.

It hadn’t occurred to me that hospitality was a particularly Christian thing to do. But there it is in Romans 12:13 – “Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality” and in 1 Peter 4:9 – “Show hospitality to one another without grumbling”, the Greek for “hospitality” (“philozenia”), if the commentators are to be believed, being a portmanteau of philos (meaning “affection”) and zenos (meaning “stranger”).

Of course the glossies and foodie shows spur us to a form of hospitality that is more performance than service – the wonderful decor and table settings, the well-plated food, the atmosphere either of understated sophistication or carefully curated comfort. This entertainment is, in its way, delightful, but domestic goddess-ness is probably not the hospitality envisaged by the Bible writers.

In Scripture, hospitality:

  • seems to be directed in the context of love – an expression of having received God’s love and an expression of Christian love to others;
  • primarily to other Christians (though not of the same local church)(Romans 12, 1 Peter 4, Hebrews 13); and
  • appears to encompass the provision of lodging and food to strangers, tending to the sick, visiting people in prison (Matthew 25:31-46), and including aliens (not necessarily of the green-with-antennae variety) in communal meals.

If hospitality is about the home, the food may not be top quality (although one should probably not, as I accidentally did, feed expired milk to one’s guest…twice…). The house may be a bit of a mess, and the bedclothes mayn’t match. There will probably not be anything outstanding for one’s guest to tweet or blog or update their Facebook status about. The disorderliness of the house would preclude any interest from Pininterest. But the focus isn’t on the host(ess) but the guest and his/her comfort.

And so how one views one’s God-given accommodation and assets would also be different – not a little Hobbit-hole into which we retreat to and jealously guard from the world but a sacrificially open door for brothers and sisters and so treated as such: a living room fitted with ugly but practical sofa-beds, a cumbersome but good stash of folding chairs and stacking stools for large gatherings, etc.

grilled pork ribsAs a housemate and I were eating the leftovers with a rack of grilled ribs the day after, we chatted about this whole hospitality thing, understanding that it was the outflow of a relationship with God would require different changes of mindset from different groups of people. The housemate serves a group that consists of young working adults who are ethnically Chinese, most Mandarin-speaking; I serve people who range from their 20s to 80s, and are mostly ethnically Caucasian and from the United Kingdom. It could be that one group would have to be encouraged to keep showing hospitality but be made to understand that this isn’t just courtesy and a sign of a well-brought-up individual but a command from God. And the other group might have be to encouraged to look at their living space and other assets (including time, energy, comfort) less self-centredly. But of course, courses for horses.

Christmas Day in London

December 26, 2012 Leave a comment

Back home after 9 hours of eating and drinking and laughing. Now to open the rest of a pile of Christmas presents over mulled wine and hot mince pies!

Christmas in London Christmas in London
Christmas in London Christmas in London

Thank God for a church community loving enough to look after the foreigners in their midst during the festive season, with an impressive number of invites to open homes and open lives.

Christmas in London Christmas in London
Christmas in London Christmas in London

Thank God for his Son born into this world, to save sinners from the just wages of their sin, and to bring them not just in intimate relationship with God, but in intimate fellowship with each other (John 17:21-22).

The Ministry of Mince Pies

December 1, 2012 1 comment

Realised to my horror at the end of the week that there was a talk and a Bible study yet to be prep-ed for next week. So settled down for an overnighter in the kitchen, just as the temperature dipped below freezing point.
Freezing Temperatures in London and Mincepies
Various people came through the kitchen at various points and we had very good chats (over mince pies) about the wonderfully faithful lyrics of old hymns and students being amazed by the real story of Jonah (vs the Sunday school faff about him being the hero), and hilarious speculations about what we might say to people when we meet them in the New Creation (me to mousy little man:”Oh, you’re Moses? I thought you were supposed to be big and tall with a white beard and curtains for clothes.”; someone:”Oh so when did you become Christian? Oh you’re Paul? Oh this is sooo embarrassing. I would be sooo embarrassed with what little I’ve done with my life…” The Tutor:”I will ask the author of 1 Samuel – what were you trying to do there? Why did you keep repeating yourself?”; someone else (probably in a long queue of complainants):”Hey Paul, why couldn’t you have been slightly more clear in your letters? I mean, did you really have to add “because of the angels” (1 Corinthians 11:10)?” )

When everyone had left and gone to bed, I managed to put in the requisite 8 hours of prep and knock up a decent first draft for John 21. Great stuff! John could have ended his Gospel in John 20, but John 21 is a marvellous re-commissioning of the unfaithful disciples. This is not just of historical importance but vital to our acknowledgement that the Gospel of John is exactly what Jesus wanted us to have and that the Spirit he promised to leave the disciples did help them remember and understand what he said (John 14:26, 16:13-15) and convey this truth to us accurately. Also vital is to realise that the obsession with God’s word isn’t just the quirk of a few “evangelical churches” but, hey, everyone has their own traditions; rather, Jesus’ own priority for his disciples – to feed his people with his word – communicating the truth about who Jesus is and his works and calling them to him/to keep on in him (cf. John 14).

Or at least this is the preliminary bleary-eyed conclusion.

And as is the case with these overnighters, other brainwaves at 5.30a.m. included trying all decently-priced mince pies in England (or at least, those that are available in London). And with all the traffic through the kitchen, any excess could/would be eagerly dispatched (in)to passing tummies (especially of the bottomless pit student variety):

(NB: all samples were heated in the oven for 6 minutes at 180°C.)

Mr. Kipling – Exceedingly Good Mince Pies (£2 for 2 boxes, Tesco)

Mr. Kipling Exceedingly Good Mince Pies
Mr. Kipling Exceedingly Good Mince Pies Mr. Kipling Exceedingly Good Mince Pies

Summary of listed ingredients: Mincemeat filling (sugar, bramley apple, sultanas, glucose syrup, raisins, apricot filling, citric acid, preservative, acidity regulator), currants, candied mixed peel, vegetable oil, treacle, maize starch, acetic acid, ground mixed spice, wheat flour, vegetable oil, glucose syrup, butter oil, sugar, dextrose, salt, whole milk powder, flavouring, raising agents, preservative.
Pastry case: embellished with simple pine tree design. negligible sprinkling of sugar, not too keen on the faint taste of flour.
Filling: very moist – see syrup in the photo above. distinct taste of citrus peels.

Tesco Finest 6 Deep Filled Mince Pies with Courvoisier VS Cognac

Tesco Finest 6 Deep Filled Mince Pies with Courvoisier VS Cognac
Tesco Finest 6 Deep Filled Mince Pies with Courvoisier VS Cognac Tesco Finest 6 Deep Filled Mince Pies with Courvoisier VS Cognac

Summary of listed ingredients: mincemeat (49%), wheat flour, butter (14%), sugar, dextrose, salt, raising agents. mincemeat contains: sugar, mediterranean sultanas, bramley apple puree, glucose syrup, mediterranean raisins, greek vostizza currants, sunflower oil, Courvoisier VS Cognac, italian orange peel, almonds, italian lemon peel, french brandy, glace cherries, port, corn starch, glucose-fructose syrup, acidity regulators, mixed spice, walnuts, malted barley extract, vegetable oil, orange oil, preservatives. (Am amused how they’ve justified the “Finest” label by describing the vague provenance of some ingredients.)
Pastry case: crimp design with steam holes. not too keen on the lingering taste of flour. appreciated the light crunch of the unevenly sugared top.
Filling: less sweet than most so was able to taste slightly more of dried fruit and the hint of cognac and port.

Waitrose Christmas 6 All Butter Mince Pies

Waitrose Christmas 6 all butter mince pies Waitrose Christmas 6 all butter mince pies

Summary of listed ingredients: mincemeat (50%), wheat flour, butter (15%), sugar, salt, raising agent. mincemeat contains: sugar, mixed vine fruits, apple, glace cherries, vegetable suet, candied mixed peel, almonds, apricot puree, wheat glucose-fructose syrup, brandy, cornflour, mixed spices, acetic acid, palm oil, ascorbic acid, barley malt extract, orange oil.
Pastry: a good looking pie with the crimp design right at the edge. slightly buttery as advertised. and thinner, for a better filling:crust ratio. evenly sprinkled was very fine so contributed only a minute crunch to the texture.
Filling: less sweet, pleasant mix of flavours – mincemeat, citrus peels, almond bits worked well together.

Heston from Waitrose: 4 Spiced Shortcrust Mince Pies

Heston from Waitrose, 4 Spiced Shortcrust Mince Pies
Heston from Waitrose, 4 Spiced Shortcrust Mince Pies Heston from Waitrose, 4 Spiced Shortcrust Mince Pies

Summary of listed ingredients: mincemeat (36%), wheat flour, sugar, concentrated butter, mixed spices, almonds, dried maize glucose syrup, dextrose monohydrate, pasturised free range egg yolk, soya flour, flavouring, raising agents, emulsifier, salt, preservatives, colour carotenes. mincemeat contains: mixed vine fruits, sugar, apple puree, lemon curd, butter, water, chopped orange zest, lemon zest, lemon juice from concentrate, orange juice from concentrate, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, gelling agent pectin, ground cloves, orange oil, rose water
Pastry: open top with some lattice work. sprinkled with slivered almonds and there was a little packet of tangerine scented to sprinkle on post-oven. gingerbread-ish but a little dry and rather overwhelmed the filling at the edges where the pastry was very thick.
Filling: rather liked the strong spices with the nutmeg and orange standing out a mile. probably not to everyone’s taste, though.

ASDA Extra Special 6 All-Butter Mince Pies (created with Leiths School of Food and Wine)

ASDA Extra Special 6 All-Butter Mince Pies - created with Leiths School of Food and Wine
ASDA Extra Special 6 All-Butter Mince Pies - created with Leiths School of Food and Wine ASDA Extra Special 6 All-Butter Mince Pies - created with Leiths School of Food and Wine

Summary of listed ingredients: Mincemeat (48%) [Sugar, Bramley Apple Puree, Sultanas, Currants, Glace Cherries, Glucose Syrup, Brandy, Mixed Peel, Sunflower Oil, Port, Tapioca Starch, Mixed Spice, Acidity Regulator, Colour, Wheat Flour, Unsalted Butter, Sugar, Dextrose, Salt, Raising Agents.
Pastry: embossed stars. slightly buttery with good crunch from the sprinkled sugar
Filling: not too sweet, well-balanced

Heston from Waitrose 6 Puff Pastry Mince Pies with Pine Sugar Dusting

Heston for Waitrose 6 Puff Pastry Mince Pies with Pine Sugar Dusting
Heston for Waitrose 6 Puff Pastry Mince Pies with Pine Sugar Dusting Heston for Waitrose 6 Puff Pastry Mince Pies with Pine Sugar Dusting

Summary of listed ingredients: mincemeat (39%), wheat flour, butter (25%), sugar, free range whole egg, salt, pine oil. mincemeat contains: mixed vine fruits, sugar, apple puree, lemon curd, butter, chopped orange zest, lemon zest, lemon juice from concentrate, orange juice from concentrate, salt, ground cinnamon, nutmeg, acetic acid, gelling agent pectin, ground cloves, orange oil, rose water
Pastry: puff pastry squares with two slashes
Filling: enjoyed the very very faint whiff of pine from the pine sugar

Konditor & Cook Mince Pies

Konditor & Cook Mince Pies

Pastry: buttery with good crumble, a little too small to even tuck in one cheek like a chipmunk
Filling: not too sweet, enjoyable though with no outstanding flavours

to be continued…

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