This festive season, my family and I will be adopting a ‘white Christmas’ theme. We’ll combine the pure shades of soft cool white, silver sparkle and a gentle touch of gold to perfectly evoke the spirit of Christmas in all its sparkling glory, and it will be elegant and full of style. After all, it’s summer and the days are long and warm, and this is the perfect way to cool things down.
As with many things, planning is the key to achieving a stress-free run on Christmas Day. Get stuck into all the preparation the day before and you’ll find yourself taking time out to savour the pleasures of relaxed summer dining at its best on the big day.
The Christmas menu I have created here represents the foods that we love to eat, all packed with bold flavours, nicely balanced and very healthy. It’s all about combining fine foods, family and friends. The perfect Christmas meal should leave you feeling fully relaxed, contented and not bloated.
The salmon starter can be portioned and marinaded overnight, then simply flash-grilled on the day. The accompanying salad can be made a day before and chilled, then presented and dressed at the table. The starter is packed with bold flavours; it shines with the chilli paste glaze and the salad dances on the taste buds.
You need to concentrate when scoring the ham and be precise with your cuts. When marked correctly, the cloves will all line up perfectly and you’ll end up with a beautiful, glazed centrepiece. Do all the preparation the day before, but glaze and bake the ham on Christmas day. It should be presented warm so the beautiful bouquet wafts around the room. The rice noodle salad and the dressing can be made a day ahead and simply dressed at the table.
For the turkey stuffing, I make several batches weeks ahead and freeze them. I recommend the stuffing be inserted frozen into the turkey breast, which is the easiest way to do it and takes just seconds. Stuff the turkey the day before and have it trayed up and oven ready. Allow about 45 minutes to one hour in the oven set at 185C. Cook until the internal temperature of the centre reaches 78C. Then cover and rest for at least 30 minutes, which will result in a turkey that’s moist, tender and succulent.
Here’s a pudding that just sings summer and all the preparation can be completed several days ahead. I have made mine using plastic tubes before simply un-moulding them onto serving plates. You could use ramekin dishes or coffee cups, then once chilled and set, simply hold in a hot water bath for 20 seconds, then gently turn out.
The tiny blueberry meringues are sandwiched together with a little lemon curd, which is done at the last minute. This dessert is smooth and rich, matched with a tangy clear glaze and sweet summer mango. The meringues offer a welcome contrasting crunch to the total effect.
So here’s cheers to you all; have a fabulous Christmas and I wish you all the very best for the New Year.
Salmon with chilli paste and green mango salad
The salmon is flavoured by two ingredients: chilli paste with soya bean oil and mirin. Pantai brand chilli paste by can be found in most Asian grocery stores and it’s well worth the hunt. Grill the salmon for only a few minutes, keeping the centre moist and glossy.
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 5 minutes
Serves: 4 portions
4 x 150g fresh salmon portions
4 tblsps chilli paste with soya bean oil, Pantai brand
3 tblsps mirin
2 tblsps extra virgin olive oil
Salt, to taste
1 cup coriander leaves
½ red onion, sliced thin
½ red capsicum, sliced thin
1 small carrot, grated into long slivers
30g palm sugar
30ml fish sauce
100ml lime juice
2 red chillies
1 clove garlic
1 coriander root
Make the dressing by pounding together with a mortar and pestle the chillies, garlic, salt and coriander root. Then add in the palm sugar, fish sauce and the lime juice, combine well and put aside until required.
Combine together all the salad ingredients and dress with some of the dressing.
Using a whisk, combine together the chilli paste with the soya bean oil, mirin and olive oil.
Place the salmon pieces into the mix and coat well.
Heat a heavy non-stick frypan and add in one tablespoon of olive oil. When moderately hot, place the salmon pieces in and cook until the bottom side is golden. Turn gently and cook for a further minute, keeping the centre slightly rare and glossy. Place three pieces onto each serving plate and finish with a handful of salad placed into the centre of each.
Glazed Christmas ham
The preparation for the ham can be done the day before the event, but glaze and bake it on Christmas Day for stunning results. It should be presented on a platter and carved to order at the table.
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 50 minutes
Serves: 20 or more
1 x 5kg leg of ham
1 orange, both the zest and juice
1½ cups brown sugar
1 cup orange marmalade
2 tblsps Dijon mustard
½ cup whole cloves
Pre-heat the oven to 180C and set the shelves to accommodate the leg of ham.
Combine in a saucepan the orange zest and juice, brown sugar and orange marmalade, Dijon mustard and 1½ cups of water. Bring to a boil, stir well and simmer on low for five minutes.
Carefully remove the skin from the ham and discard. Using a sharp knife, cut long diagonal lines across the whole length at 2cm intervals, going 1cm in depth. Then do the same in the other direction until there is a diamond pattern of cuts all over the ham.
Press a whole clove into the centre of each diamond shape and place the ham onto a roasting rack in a large baking tray.
Brush the glaze evenly over the ham and roast for 45 minutes or until golden. Basting every 10 minutes will produce stunning results.
Cool slightly and present at the table.
Kahlua-glazed turkey, with a sage and apricot stuffing
This has to be just about the best way to cook a stuffed turkey. The flavours are amazing, it’s a breeze to portion out and everyone gets the same amount of meat and stuffing. Also, it will be fully cooked in just over 90 minutes.
Prep time: 25 minutes
Cooking time: approximately 90 minutes
1.5kg – 1.8kg turkey breast, raw with skin on
Sage and apricot stuffing
100g unsalted butter
1 clove garlic
1 medium onion, finely chopped
150g lean bacon pieces
100g dried apricots, roughly chopped
90g dried sweetened cranberries
50g pecans, roughly chopped
10 slices Turkish bread, crumbled
½ cup fresh sage leaves, chopped
1 cup Italian parsley, chopped
Seasoning, to taste
4 tblsps apricot conserve
60ml Kahlua liqueur
30ml extra virgin olive oil
30ml white wine
Preheat oven to 185C. To make the stuffing, heat the butter in a saucepan and add the garlic and onion. Cook for one minute then add the bacon. Cook for several minutes then remove from the heat. Cool slightly, add to the remaining stuffing ingredients and season well. Place the stuffing onto a sheet of aluminium foil, roll up and twist the ends to make a tight roll. Freeze until required.
When ready to stuff the turkey, unwrap the stuffing but keep frozen. Using a sharp knife cut a pocket in the breast and fill with the stuffing. Close with metal pins.
Place in a baking dish and brush all over with the glaze. To make the glaze combine together the apricot conserve, Kahlua, wine and olive oil.
Roast, basting every 15 minutes, for 45 minutes to one hour (depending on size) until juicy and tender. If the turkey browns too quickly, cover the browned areas with aluminium foil.
To test if the turkey is fully cooked, insert a skewer into the middle of the turkey breast and if the juices run clear, the turkey is cooked right through. Better still, use a probe thermometer and cook until the centre reaches 78C.
Remove from oven, cover and rest for 10 minutes before slicing.
The rice noodles just need a minute’s soaking in a bowl of boiled water, then drain, rinse and put aside until required. The dressing is sweet and sharp and brings everything alive.
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 2 minutes
100g vermicelli rice noodles, softened in a bowl of boiling water for one minute
½ cup coriander leaves
½ cup mint leaves
1 cup rocket
¼ cup green onions, angle cut
12 slices glazed ham
30g palm sugar, grated
2 tblsps Spanish sherry vinegar
1 clove garlic
3 coriander roots, washed well
½ tsp salt flakes
30ml red wine vinegar
60ml extra virgin olive oil
½ cup macadamia nuts, chopped
Make the dressing by melting the sugar in a small saucepan and heat until it turns a deep golden colour. Carefully pour in the sherry vinegar and stir until all dissolved (it may spit a little). Cook for one minute and set aside to cool.
Pound the garlic, coriander and salt in a mortar and pestle, then add in the palm sugar mixture and the red wine vinegar. When well combined, whisk in the olive oil and set aside.
Combine together the rinsed and cooled noodles, coriander, mint, rocket, and green onions with a little dressing.
Place a portion onto a plate, top with three slices of the glazed ham and sprinkle some chopped macadamia nuts around the plate.
Preparation time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 5 minutes for the glaze
Serves: makes 6 puddings
75g palm sugar, grated
250ml thickened cream
5 x 2g gelatine leaves
1 lime, zest
For the glaze
120g palm sugar, grated
2 cinnamon sticks
6 whole cloves
2 star anise
5 cardamom pods, bruised
2 tblsps fresh lime juice
1 medium mango, diced
6 mint leaves, torn small
1 cup blueberries
To make the puddings, combine in a small saucepan the 75g of palm sugar, the lime zest and half the cream (125ml). Heat the mix to a simmer and stir until the sugar dissolves.
Place the gelatine leaves in a bowl of cold water and allow to soften for several minutes. Gently squeeze out the excess water and place them into the warm cream mix. Stir until dissolved, then add in the buttermilk slowly. When well combined, allow to cool to room temperature.
Whisk the remaining cream until soft peaks form, then fold into the buttercream mixture. Divide evenly into six moulds, cover with cling film and refrigerate for several hours until set.
To make the lime glaze, combine all the ingredients except the lime juice into a small saucepan and bring up to a simmer. Stir until the sugar has completely dissolved and simmer for five minutes. Cool to room temperature then add in the lime juice and refrigerate.
Carefully remove the puddings and place onto a chilled bowl or plate. Surround with the torn mint and diced mango, then pour a little glaze around the plate. Finish with a layer of blueberries placed on top and dust with a little icing sugar.
This recipe makes the most beautiful meringue with a super crunch and delicate flavour. It’s a recipe I learnt to make in Paris and it requires the use of two different sugars: caster and icing. The oven should be pre-warmed to exactly 80C.
125ml free-range organic egg whites, at room temperature
150g caster sugar
200g caster sugar
150g fine icing sugar
24 fresh blueberries, chopped
Place the egg whites and 150g caster sugar into a mixer and beat with a whisk attachment on high speed until well mixed and frothy.
While mixing at high speed slowly add the 200g of caster sugar until all incorporated. Continue until firm and peaky.
Remove the bowl and fold in the sifted 150g of icing sugar and the chopped blueberries.
Pipe, spread or spoon the meringue mix onto baking-paper-lined oven trays and bake with the fan off at 80C for two hours or until firm and dry. Turn the oven off and allow the meringues to cool in the oven.
When cooled, transfer to air tight containers and store.
4 egg yolks
125g caster sugar
1 lemon, zest only
½ cup lemon juice
185g unsalted butter
Combine together in a deep bowl the egg yolks, caster sugar and lemon zest. Place above a saucepan of simmering water and whisk until white. Add the lemon juice and blend in well. Slowly whisk in the butter, a piece at a time until mixture is thickened.
Remove from the heat and cool. Do not let the mixture boil.