Ever since I can remember, Christmas has been very traditional, and a time to share my passion for food with friends and family.
Before I became a chef, it was my Grandmother that took charge of the Christmas feast and what a feast it was!Glazed ham, roast turkey, braised beef, green beans, minted peas, honey-glazed carrots, roast potato and pumpkin, homemade cranberry sauce and gravy made from pan juices… she would spend days preparing. By the end of the meal you could hardly move!But it never stopped there. Just as you thought you couldn’t possibly eat any more, desserts like trifle and ice-cream or fruit pudding with brandy and cream would emerge from the kitchen and you would somehow find some more room. I can still remember the smells from all those dishes of my childhood; they bring back wonderful memories of times shared with those closest to me.
These days I prepare the food for my family. Although some dishes and flavours have changed over time, I still love to incorporateelements of my Grandmother’s cooking into our Christmasmeal.
I begin preparations on Christmas Eve, with an early morning visit to the Sydney Fish Markets, where I buy prawns, crab, oysters and mussels. The next stop is to the local butcher to pick up the suckling pig (you will need to order in advance), ham and chicken. Finally, all the vegetables are bought from the local green grocer and I head back home to prepare the meal.
I braise the suckling pig with stock and herbs and put it out on a spit. The ham is glazed in apricot sauce, the chicken is filled with stuffing and both are placed in our huge oven to roast. I serve the meats with potato bake, potato salad, a green salad with roasted veg, plus the seafood served with lemon (tip: wrap the lemon halves in muslin cloth so you can easily squeeze without the seeds) and the mussels which are cooked in cider. And of course, I never forget dessert, which is usually a Tim Tam cheesecake and Pavlova covered in fruit.
After dinner we all play games as a family and hand out our Kris Kringle gifts. It’s a magical time of year where we chat about oldtimes and make some new memories. Christmas always reminds me how lucky I am to have such a loving family as I know that’s not the case for everyone. For this reason I have made it a tradition, ever since I was a teenager, to help out at a soup kitchen over the festive season. Whether donating time, food, or money, it feels wonderful to do something charitable for someone who needs it, and it gives us a chance to realise how fortunate most of us are this Christmas.