While the main focus for Christmas should be family and friends, food comes a very close second. We want something special, but at the same time, we want a meal that isn’t going to tie us to the kitchen for most of the day. Here are a few recipes for a spread that should fit the bill.
The theme is seafood – always a winner during the festive season. The menu is designed so that most of the preparation can be done beforehand. The smoked salmon roulade can be made the day before and sliced just before serving. The spicy prawn dish, which can be served either with drinks or as an alternate entrée, is marinated over night, requiring just a quick toss in the wok or turn over the coals before serving. The entrée – a tasty mussel dish – is also partially prepared the day before.
The main course is an unusual and lovely salmon dish, scented with juniper and bay leaves. It’s cooked beforehand and then marinated overnight in the fridge and can be served either cold or warm. The spectacular dessert does take a few steps, but most of these can be done several days ahead of time, leaving minimal preparation on the day itself, allowing you to relax and enjoy your holiday.
All the recipes below can be doubled, tripled or more to cater for any number of guests.
Mussels with Beer and Chilli
Mussels are greatly underrated and this colourful dish, with its intriguing hint of beer and aromatic flavours, is sure to please. It can be served informally in a big bowl in the centre of the table, with plenty of crusty bread for the sauce (and serviettes for the guests) or, more formally, on the half shell with a little bowl of sauce.
1kg mussels, scrubbed and de-bearded*
3 cloves garlic, peeled
3 spring onions, roughly chopped
½ bunch coriander, roughly chopped
1 stalk lemon grass, roughly chopped
1 tblsp oil
250ml coconut cream
2 tblsp sweet chilli sauce
½ bunch coriander
1 red chilli, de-seeded and sliced
Put the garlic, spring onions, coriander and lemon grass in a food processor and pulse until a paste is formed. (This can be done beforehand and refrigerated, well wrapped in plastic film, until required.) Heat the oil in a wok and stir fry the garlic paste for a minute. Add the beer and then the mussels, cover and cook for 3-4 minutes or until the mussels open. Remove the mussels and stir in the coconut milk and chilli. Pour the sauce over the mussels and garnish with the sliced chilli and coriander. Serves 4.
*Once cleaned, the mussels should be refrigerated overnight in a bowl, covered by a clean, damp cloth. Organically-farmed mussels now come with a use-by date.
Prawns with Middle Eastern Spices
Although garlic prawns will always remain my favourite prawn recipe, Christmas calls for something a little more exotic. This recipe is very easy and very aromatic.
500g raw prawns, shelled and de-veined
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 tblsp coriander seeds
1 tblsp cumin seeds
2 tsp sweet paprika
1 tsp (or to taste) dried chilli
2 tsp turmeric
zest 1 lemon
2 tblsp olive oil, plus extra for cooking
Grind the seeds in a spice grinder then mix with the remaining ingredients to form a paste. Put the prawns into a bowl and toss in the spice mix. Marinate overnight. Film a fry pan with a thin layer of olive oil and toss the prawns over high heat until cooked. Alternatively, cook on the BBQ. Serves 4.
Salmon Marinated in Oil Infused with Bay Leaves and Juniper with a Crisp Green Salad
This is a great dish for Christmas – the fish is cooked the day before and marinated in the infused oil dressing overnight to develop a lovely flavour. It can be served at room temperature if the day is hot, or can be reheated in the microwave and served warm.
4 portions skinless salmon
300ml olive oil
1 tblsp juniper berries, slightly crushed
6 fresh bay leaves
6 spring onions, shredded
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
zest of 1 lime
100ml white balsamic vinegar
freshly ground pepper and salt to taste
Put the oil, juniper and bay leaves in a heavy-bottomed saucepan and place over the lowest heat possible. Let the oil infuse well below simmering point without cooking, for half an hour. (You may find you need to elevate the saucepan on an extra trivet or burner ring to prevent it from getting too hot.) Allow to cool. This can be done several days beforehand – keep the oil, juniper and bay leaves in a sealed jar in a cupboard.
Pour a little of the infused oil into a fry pan. Gently fry the salmon until cooked through. Make a dressing by combining 200ml of the oil with the spring onions, garlic, lime zest and balsamic vinegar. Season to taste.
Put the fish into a non-corrosive container and scatter over the juniper berries and bay leaves from the oil. Pour half the dressing over the fish (retaining the rest to dress the salad), cover with plastic film and refrigerate overnight. Allow to return to room temperature or warm in the microwave before serving. Place a generous portion of the salad mix on a plate, top with the salmon and drizzle over the dressing. Serves 4.
1 cup of rocket
1 cup of baby spinach
1 cup of coriander
6 spring onions
½ Lebanese cucumber
3 sticks celery
2 baby zucchini
100g snow peas
Several hours before serving, cut the spring onions into 6cm lengths and then shred vertically. Do the same with the cucumber, celery and zucchini. Top and tail the snow peas and cut them into thin strips. Place all these vegetables into a bowl of water and add a generous amount of ice cubes*. Just before serving, toss the rocket, spinach and coriander into a bowl. Drain the vegetables and dry thoroughly with paper towels. Toss with the rocket mix.
*You can do this the night before – just remember to replenish the ice the next day.
Japanese Potato Salad
The Japanese have enthusiastically embraced Western dishes, but not without giving them their own unique twist. The delicate, creamy oriental flavour of this potato salad goes particularly well with the aromatic salmon and crispy green salad.
500g potatoes, peeled
½ a continental cucumber
1 cup good quality egg mayonnaise
2 tsp sesame oil
½ tsp mustard
4 spring onions, finely chopped
salt and pepper to taste
Cook the potatoes in boiling water until just tender. Drain and leave to cool. Cut the bacon into thin strips and cook on a paper towel in the microwave for about 1-2 minutes or until just cooked. Peel alternate strips off the cucumber skin, then cut into small dice. Combine the mayonnaise, mirin, sesame oil and mustard in a jar and shake until well combined. Cut the potatoes into large dice. Put the potatoes, bacon, cucumbers and spring onions into a bowl. Pour the dressing and toss gently. This can be made well beforehand and refrigerated – bring to room temperature before serving. Serves 4.
*Mirin is Japanese cooking wine and can be found in the Japanese section of large supermarkets or Asian groceries – substitute white balsamic vinegar if unavailable.
Smoked Salmon Roulade
These easy little morsels can be made in advance and sliced just before serving. You can vary the fillings – capers or roasted skinned capsicum slices instead of the rocket work well, too.
250g smoked salmon
125g creamed cheese, softened
2 spring onions, finely chopped
zest and juice of half a lemon
1 cup rocket
Beat the cream cheese, spring onions, lemon juice and zest in a food processor or mixer until soft and smooth. Lay a sheet of baking paper on a board. Put the salmon slices on the paper in a roughly rectangular shape, overlapping the slices a little. Spread with the cream cheese mix and cover with the rocket. Use the baking paper to roll the spread salmon up into a log, starting at the short end. Wrap up in the baking paper and refrigerate until firm. Cut into slices about 2 centimetres wide. Serves 4.
Truffle Bombes with a Strawberry and Balsamic Salsa served with Honey Mousseline and Chocolate Sauce
This dessert sounds complicated, but it’s actually quite simple. The bombes can be made well beforehand, as can the truffles and the chocolate sauce (or you can buy them if you’re pressed for time). The strawberry salsa and honey mousseline can be made several hours before serving. If you’re entertaining a crowd, make one large bombe rather than individual ones – a sensational dessert with very little effort!
1 litre of vanilla style ice cream*, softened
Fill four 1-cup moulds 3/4 full with the softened ice cream. Push a shot cup or other small container into the centre of the ice cream (this will form the cavity into which the truffle mix will be inserted). Cover tightly with plastic wrap and freeze for up to 3 days.
The bombes need to be unmoulded several hours (or even a day) before serving. To do this, remove them from the freezer and pour a little hot water into the small container. Let sit for about 30 seconds and then remove. Fill the cavity with chocolate truffle mix. Dip the moulds into hot water for about 30 seconds. Run a knife around the inside edge and turn out onto a serving plate. Return the bombe to the freezer.
To serve, spoon a little honey mousseline and chocolate sauce around the bombe, top with a spoonful or so of strawberry salsa and drizzle over a little extra chocolate sauce. Serves 4.
*We used a crème brûlée flavour, which combined very well with the other ingredients.
250g dark, good quality chocolate, roughly chopped
150ml thick cream
50g unsalted butter
2 tblsp brandy or liqueur of choice
Place the chocolate, cream and butter into a microwave-proof bowl and microwave on medium for one minute at a time, stirring each afterwards until the chocolate is melted. Add the brandy and stir until smooth. Refrigerate until firm. Any unused mixture can be made into truffles simply by rolling pieces of the mixture into walnut-sized balls and coating in cocoa powder. Refrigerate for up to a week.
1 punnet strawberries
1 tblsp balsamic vinegar
caster sugar to taste
Dice the strawberries. Place them in a bowl and sprinkle with the balsamic vinegar. Toss, adding sugar to taste. Refrigerate for up to 4 hours.
250ml cream, whipped
Warm the cream over a low heat. Put the honey into a small saucepan and cook over a medium heat until it just begins to darken. Whisk the honey into the warmed cream and leave to cool. When cold, whisk the honey mix into the whipped cream. Cover and chill. May be made several hours before required.
1 ½ cup cream
250g good quality chocolate, roughly chopped
Put the chocolate and cream into a microwave-proof bowl and cook on medium for 1 minute at a time, stirring after each interval until the chocolate is melted. Then, stir until smooth. May be refrigerated for several days. Allow the sauce to return to room temperature before serving or warm gently in the microwave on medium for about 1 minute.