Lanterns, light and winter’s longest night

A celebration of light is at the heart of Dunedin’s Midwinter Carnival. I had been really looking forward to the festival for weeks as we had planned such an evening of great food and cheer.  We were but a few of the many faces gathering to celebrate the shortest day and longest night of the year. It was a special thing to be part of.

The day had started, for me, like my family’s version of Christmas Eve – Well-spent hours of preparation so that later we might enjoy a relaxed evening meal. Early in the day I met up with my fellow Our Kitchen bloggers and we shopped, prepped and cooked the day away, while I dreamt of the fireworks that would provide a fitting finale to the carnival.

By 5.30pm, the tartiflette was cooked (it tastes better when made in advance), our sumac-rubbed chickens were on the rotisserie, and our venison shanks were slowly simmering their way to tenderness. The Baumkuchen was baked, awaiting a drizzle of chocolate ganache before serving. Feeling very pleased with our efforts we wrapped up warm and set off on the short walk into town. As we approached the Octagon, the heart of the city, hoards of people were gathered vying for a good spot which would allow unobstructed viewing.

The theme for this year’s carnival was ‘Night Creatures’ which drew on New Zealand’s diverse nocturnal wild life. Giant Lanterns in the shape of an owl, a moth and a glow-worm were the main focus, along with hundreds of smaller lanterns hand-made by children, representing returning light, creativity, and community.

Walking home and opening the front door, we were greeted by the most incredible smells. The beauty of all the food we had cooked was that it could be prepared in advance – leaving little to do until we ate, except laying the table, making sure everyone had full glasses and preparing a large winter salad.

This was my first time experiencing the lantern festival, followed by a fantastic dinner party; I am hoping we can make it something of a tradition.

 However, without further ado, I present to you the menu for the first of this month’s two dinner parties (how lucky are we?). Look out for the new recipe posts over the next couple of weeks.

Baked ricotta topped with char-grilled pepper and a balsamic oil
Seared beef, blue cheese crème and pear crostini
Sara’s delicious peach, walnut ricotta and prosciutto on croute – check out the recipe here.
Celeriac veloutè with truffle foam
Spicy sumac rubbed rotisserie chicken
Susie’s Venison Shanks – a great hearty winter’s dish – check it out here.
Roast veggies, big winter green salad, and sour cream mashed potatoes
Baumkuchen with chocolate ganache
Followed by a selection of local cheeses – yum!