This year Colin and I celebrated our first Christmas in Brisbane. We spent the afternoon and evening with friends, but the morning was ours alone. It was a lovely restful day, quite unlike our usual Christmases back in NZ, which generally involved travelling for hours between various family members. In our whole adult lives we’ve only had Christmas at our place once before. I felt then, as I did this time around, that there is something very special about making your own house cosy and Christmassy, placing presents under your own tree, and finding room in your own fridge for one more indulgent treat.
Part of the pleasure of Christmas is enacting the myriad little rituals that mark the occasion as special. In my family we always had a paper-fight as present-opening drew to a close. I remember that it was usually my quiet and reserved grandfather who generally started it, gently letting loose the first sly paper wad upon some unsuspecting relative. A paper frenzy would reliably erupt, with everyone doing their best to hit someone who was looking in another direction, and to identify (and retaliate against) any thrower of balls that took you by surprise. Dad would always exclaim “you rotter!” if you managed to get him good.
I completely forgot about the paper-fight ritual on our Christmas morning, although in truth, a paper fight between two wouldn’t be quite the same. Besides, Colin is currently recovering from surgery, and while I normally relish any chance to gain the elusive physical upper-hand, on this occasion it probably would have been a little unfair. But what we did do after opening our presents was enjoy a special breakfast of Blueberry and Lemon Yoghurt Parfaits, on our balcony in the sun.
I don’t ever remember a special breakfast featuring as part of Christmas when I was growing up. I think we were lucky to get a piece of toast down in the pre-present excitement, before living on chocolates and lollies for the rest of the day. Christmas dinner was always the main affair, which in those years meant a full roast dinner, and I suspect that this usually monumental undertaking absorbed all the available food preparation energy.
Colin and I both wondered a little how we would feel on Christmas Day so it was pleasing to discover our satisfaction in making the day our own. In one sense it even felt like (yet) another part of adulthood was being accomplished in this claiming and rendering of Christmas. I have a feeling that in our breakfast lie the seeds of our very own Christmas ritual. I may not make Blueberry and Lemon Yoghurt Parfaits again, but Christmas at our place, that is, the marker of a Chez-Colin Christmas, could indeed be a fanciful and festive breakfast, something special to elevate this day.
I do not normally experiment with breakfast, although I admire people who do (e.g. Jennifer Causey of the wonderful simply breakfast). I know that I need a filling combination of protein and healthy carbs to fuel my day and I rarely deviate from this formula. Eggs typically feature, and my current favourites are either scrambled eggs, basil pesto and avocado on wholegrain toast, or hardboiled eggs sprinkled with olive oil and dukkah on sourdough. In the winter I sometimes switch to porridge, but eggs on toast remain the beloved cornerstone of my breakfasts.
So this Blueberry and Lemon Yoghurt Parfait was a fairly major departure for me. It’s sweet, which I virtually never go for, and it contains multiple components that must be prepared in advance. But there the drawbacks end, because this Parfait looks beautiful, tastes delicious and is well worth the effort for a special occasion. It could also make a lovely dinner party dessert; perhaps adding a splash of limoncello to the curd and cutting the yoghurt with whipped cream.
The recipe comes from an Australian food blog that I have recently discovered, Delicieux, which contains a wealth of mouthwatering and decadent recipes that frequently catch my eye. Although the author, Jennifer Schmidt, appears to share my own sense of routine concerning breakfast, luckily for me, she recently posted a recipe for Honey Nut Granola then followed this with the Parfait recipe, which uses the granola as one of the components. I have only made minor adjustments to Jennifer’s recipe, mainly reducing the amount of honey in the compote because I wanted a bit of tang to offset all that sweetness, and doubling the amount of lemon juice in the curd.
This recipe isn’t the hassle that it may appear to be at first glance. The compote and curd come together in under ten minutes each, and the quantities given for the granola make enough for about 8 servings, leaving plenty left over to enjoy for future breakfasts. And if you already have lemon curd in the fridge and a granola that you love in the cupboard, then these Parfaits will practically make themselves…why wait for a special occasion?
Blueberry and Lemon Yoghurt Parfaits
For the Honey Nut Granola (click here for the original recipe)
1 cup rolled oats
1/3 cup shredded coconut
10 Tbsp nuts and seeds. I used a base of roughly chopped almonds and cashews, with a sprinkling of sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds (pepitas). Any nuts are suitable (pecans, pistachios, walnuts) so use whatever you have on hand
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp grated fresh nutmeg (or ground)
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/3 cup runny honey
1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp boiling water
Preheat the oven to 120 Celsius. Measure the oats, coconut, nuts, salt, nutmeg and cinnamon into a bowl and toss together until combined. Measure the honey into a small bowl, add the boiling water and stir until the honey warms and liquifies. Pour the honey into the oats along with the oil. Stir the mixture well until lightly coated.
Spread the mixture out on a tray lined with baking paper. Bake for 1 hour, stirring every 20 minutes to ensure that the mixture browns evenly. At the end of 1 hour the oats should have turned a light golden colour. The mixture will still be soft, becoming crisp as it cools. Leave to cool completely then store in an air-tight jar.
For the Blueberry Compote
300g blueberries (I used frozen)
2 Tbsp honey (if desired – I left this out)
Juice of half a lemon
Combine the blueberries, honey (if using) and lemon juice in a small saucepan and place over a medium-low heat. Cook for 10 minutes or until the berries have become juicy. Place in a small bowl, cover and chill overnight.
For the Lemon Curd
1 egg, plus 1 egg yolk
3 Tbsp runny honey
40g salted butter
Zest and juice of 1 lemon, plus extra lemon juice as required
Place the egg, egg yolk and honey in a saucepan and whisk until smooth. Add the butter, lemon juice and zest and place over a medium-low heat. Keep whisking as the mixture heats. After 5-10 minutes, the curd will have thickened, and it is ready when you can see a slight trail from the whisk in the mixture. At this point, taste and add further lemon juice and a pinch of salt if you feel the mixture requires more punch (lemons can vary significantly in flavour and acidity – I like a tangy curd). Cover and chill overnight.
To assemble the Parfaits
Unsweetened, plain Greek yoghurt
Honey Nut Granola
If possible, choose glass vessels so that the individual layers of the parfaits are visible. Start with the yoghurt, placing two or three spoonfuls into the bottom of each glass. Top with some lemon curd, followed by some blueberry compote, and then a sprinkle of granola. Repeat the layers. Finish with a final dollop of yoghurt and some fresh blueberries.