Aussie foodies' tips for a Christmas feast

MELISSA JENKINS
Last updated 05:00 21/12/2013

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Some of Australia's favourite chefs and food authors share festive cooking tips and what they will be tucking into Christmas Day: 

MATT PRESTON - MasterChef Australia judge and food author 

WHAT'S ON THE MENU FOR YOUR CHRISTMAS LUNCH?

We will be having the classic blend of Aussie and Anglo-Celtic. Xmas Eve will be seafood, prawns (and) oysters. Christmas Day will be turkey cooked on the kettle barbecue with English bread sauce, and tomatoes and onions baked with breadcrumbs on top.

There will be brussels sprouts for sure and there will be Christmas pudding and English-style brandy butter. There will be my mother-in-law's Christmas pudding ice-cream, which is all the brandy-soaked fruit mixed into vanilla ice-cream and set in a pudding bowl, which is dead simple and dead delicious.

And there will be ham. I am a big believer in getting a small turkey and a big ham.

FAVOURITE FESTIVE FOOD?

If you just gave me the peas, the brussels sprouts, the gravy, cranberry sauce and the bread sauce, I'd be happy. I don't really need the turkey. And I do love the brandy butter - brandy butter and vanilla ice-cream, delicious.
There is another one which my father used to love: you claim a slice of Christmas pudding and on Boxing Day morning you fry your Christmas pudding in butter for breakfast.

WHAT DO YOU DRINK WITH YOUR CHRISTMAS LUNCH?

What we will be making this year is Sgroppino - it's sparkling wine, lemon sorbet, fresh lemon juice and vodka. You puree it all together and it's like an Italian daiquiri. 

CAN YOU SHARE SOME TIPS TO ENSURE CHRISTMAS LUNCH SUCCESS?

The reason why turkey has a bad reputation is because I reckon 99 per cent of turkeys at Christmas are overcooked. You want to cook it until it is almost cooked because when you take a big chunk of meat like that out, it's going to continue to cook through when you rest it. The idea is you want that turkey cooked when you cut it, not cooked when you take it out of the oven.

For those people who haven't bought a turkey yet, honestly, have chicken.

FOODIE GIFT IDEAS?

A subscription to a food magazine, meat thermometer, pink Murray River salt.

ADRIANO ZUMBO - patissier

WHAT'S ON THE MENU FOR YOUR CHRISTMAS LUNCH?

Mum's ravioli and plenty of fresh seafood. 

FAVOURITE FESTIVE FOOD?

Definitely fruit mince pies, custard, Mum's ravioli and panettone. 

WHAT DO YOU DRINK WITH YOUR CHRISTMAS LUNCH?

Negroni or Aperol Spritz is what I'll be drinking. 

CAN YOU SHARE SOME TIPS TO ENSURE CHRISTMAS LUNCH SUCCESS?

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The best save-the-day tip I can offer is to keep it simple. Use fresh, local produce - you can't go wrong. People over-commit themselves. They get too creative and over-complicate their dishes. 

FOODIES GIFT IDEAS?

Kitchen utensils, maybe a decent non-stick baking mat like a Silpat. A gift voucher for a restaurant is always a winner. Otherwise a hamper of regional produce would also be a great gift for a foodie.  


COLIN FASSNIDGE - chef

WHAT'S ON THE MENU FOR YOUR CHRISTMAS LUNCH?

I am going to do a glazed Kurobuta ham. I've got a potato dish that we do at the restaurant, which is sweet potato that we bake and salt, and then we smoke the whole potato and chargrill it. Prawns and light salad.

FAVOURITE FESTIVE FOOD?

The Christmas ham. The glaze is ginger beer, soy, cinnamon, star anise, a little bit of honey, hot mustard and then you just reduce all that until it cooks down. 

WHAT DO YOU DRINK WITH YOUR CHRISTMAS LUNCH?

Rose and then I go pinot and then shiraz. And then it's all over. 

CAN YOU SHARE SOME TIPS TO ENSURE CHRISTMAS LUNCH SUCCESS?

Start two days before. It's like a real kitchen (and) that's the way kitchens work. If you are going to do roast potatoes, you peel them and you cook them two days before and then you roast them on the day - they come out better anyway. If you are doing roast carrots you can roast them the day before and reheat them with butter, herbs and garlic on Christmas Day.

FOODIE GIFT IDEAS?

A Microplane is a great one for grating lemon zest over fish and horseradish over meat - it's like one of the easiest ways to get super flavour onto meat. And it's cheap.  

LOUISE FULTON KEATS - food author

WHAT'S ON THE MENU FOR YOUR CHRISTMAS LUNCH?

We will all descend on my mum's house. My dad, despite being the only member of the family who is not a professional foodie, he makes the best ocean trout gravlax (vodka-cured trout), which we eat on top of little buckwheat pancakes. We have freshly shucked Sydney rock oysters. We have the full-scale traditional English-style Christmas.

We will have the roast turkey with grandma's pistachio, prune and green apple stuffing. Grandma (Margaret Fulton) also has her famous baked Guinness ham recipe and so we will do that as well. My mum for as long as I can remember has made a dish called petits pois a la francaise, which is slow cooked peas with lettuce. The pudding was made months ago and that is something grandma takes quite seriously.

Often she will put a little silver threepence in... and someone will find it and can make a wish. We always flame the pudding, so we have to draw the curtains and turn the lights out and grandma will walk in with her flaming pudding, served with brandy butter. 

FAVOURITE FESTIVE FOOD?

I do love the mince pies, they are particularly good and Mum and I make them. We often have the fruit mince prepared months before, so it's really developed a lot of flavour. I also love the leftovers. Sometimes if we have too much turkey my husband will make a Vietnamese sweet-and-sour soup and it's really nice to move from that traditional, English-style food into Asian style. He also likes to slice the ham and barbecue it as a Boxing Day breakfast. 

CAN YOU SHARE SOME TIPS TO ENSURE CHRISTMAS LUNCH SUCCESS?

If the thought of a whole turkey is too much, doing a turkey breast roll is quite a saviour because it cooks evenly and you don't have to deal with this big bird that can't fit in the oven. You can make the stuffing the day before, or even the day before that, and then it's ready - all you have to do is roll it on Christmas morning and pop it in the oven. Even using an oven bag is quite good because it keeps it all moist and delicious.

If you are doing smoked salmon pancakes with crepes, you can cook the crepes the day before. If you are having a pavlova, you can make the base a couple of days before, keep it in an airtight container and all you have to do on Christmas Day is load it up with cream and fruit. Eton Mess is a perfect dish for a timid cook because you can make the funniest looking meringues you want a few days before and all you do is crumble them in a glass and when you spoon though some fresh fruit, cream and a bit of raspberry sauce. They always look so beautiful.

WHAT DO YOU DRINK WITH YOUR CHRISTMAS LUNCH?

We always have French champagne with our starter, my dad's trout gravlax. I might make a white peach bellini. Grandma is a diehard whisky fan, so she will always have her whisky at some point in the day.

FOODIE GIFT IDEAS?

Home-made mince pies and nougat make a very popular gift. It's hard to go wrong with the best quality extra virgin olive oil you can buy. It's like giving someone a beautiful bottle of wine - you know they are going to use it, you know they are going to love it, you know it's something they might not buy for themselves.

RICH CHRISTMAS PUDDING

Left your Christmas pudding until the last minute? No sweat. It's not too late to steam a beauty.

The traditional pud - with ingredients such as dried fruits, egg, suet and spices - dates back to medieval England. It's almost certainly the part of the festive feast that's most rooted in history.

Even though many people opt for pavlova, trifle or fruit, a great pudding is a classic, the true taste of a traditional Aussie Christmas.

Here's Margaret Fulton's recipe for Rich Christmas Pudding (with brandy sauce and brandied butter):

Serves 8, prep 45 minutes (plus overnight marinating time), cooking time 8.5 hours

INGREDIENTS

Pudding:
250g raisins
60g mixed peel
250g sultanas
250g currants
125g chopped blanched almonds
60ml (1/4 cup) rum or brandy, plus extra for flaming
250g unsalted butter, at room temperature
205g (1 1/4 cups, lightly packed) light brown sugar
1 orange, rind grated
4 eggs
150g (1 cup) plain flour
1 tsp mixed spice
1 tsp ground ginger
125g soft white breadcrumbs 

Brandy sauce:
45g unsalted butter
40g (1/4 cup) plain flour
55g (1/4 cup) caster sugar
1 tbspn golden syrup
125ml (1/2 cup) pouring cream
125ml (1/2 cup) milk
60ml (1/4 cup) brandy 
Brandied butter:
250g unsalted butter, at room temperature
125g (3/4 cup) icing sugar
1 tsp grated orange rind
1/4 whole nutmeg, grated
1 tsp Grand Marnier
60ml (1/4 cup) brandy 

Pudding:

Place all the fruit and almonds in a large bowl. Sprinkle with the rum or brandy. Cover and set aside to marinate.
Grease a 1.7-litre pudding basin with butter. Line the base with greased baking paper. Use electric beaters to beat butter until pale and creamy. Add sugar and orange rind. Beat until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Sift the flour, mixed spice and ginger into a bowl. Fold into the butter mixture. Add breadcrumbs and marinated fruit mixture and stir until well combined. Spoon the mixture into the prepared basin and smooth the surface.

Place an upturned heatproof saucer in the base of a large saucepan. Cut a 30cm-square piece of baking paper and a 30cm-square piece of foil. Place paper on top of foil and fold to make a wide pleat in the centre. Place over basin, foil side up. Tie a double piece of kitchen string under rim to secure.

To make a handle, tie a double piece of string loosely over top of basin. Scrunch paper and foil around rim so they don't get wet. Use the handle to lower basin onto the saucer in the pan. Add enough boiling water to come two-thirds up the side of the basin.

Simmer, covered, adding more boiling water when necessary for six hours. Remove from the water. Cover with fresh baking paper and string. Sore until needed.

To serve, place pudding in a saucepan and add enough boiling water to come halfway up the side of the basin. Simmer, covered, for 2.5 hours. Invert the pudding onto a heated plate. To flame, warm about 1 tbspn of rum or brandy, light and pour over pudding at the table. Turn the lights low first to enjoy the spectacle. Serve with brandy, brandied butter, custard or cream. 

Brandy Sauce:

Melt butter in a small saucepan and stir in flour. Cook for one minute without colouring, then add sugar, golden syrup, cream and milk. Stir to combine and continue cooking over a low heat until thick and creamy. Stir in brandy and serve hot with Christmas pudding. Makes 1 1/2 cups.

Brandied Butter:

Use electric beaters to beat butter until pale and creamy. Beat in icing sugar. When creamy, beat in orange rind, nutmeg and Grand Marnier. Add brandy, drop by drop, beating constantly so the mixture doesn't curdle (a liqueur brandy is best if you have it). This may be made the same day as the pudding.

Spoon into a container and cover with foil. Seal with a lid and store in fridge. Remove from fridge well before using on Christmas Day. Spoon into a bowl and fluff up with a fork. If you prefer firm brandied butter, leave in the fridge until serving. Makes 1 1/2 cups.

- AAP

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