This is how we do Christmas feasting Down Under.
It’s hot. It’s humid. The sun is out in full force, the sky is a pristine, postcard perfect blue. Christmas jingles are playing in the background. Glasses are instantly frosted with condensation the moment chilled wine is poured in. And it’s mandatory to use stubby holders* for beers – not just for practical reasons, but because it’s oh-so-Aussie.
Our Christmas’ are the polar opposite of the traditional White Christmas. It’s smack bang in the middle of summer. Up where I live in the Northern Beaches of Sydney, groups of families and friends flock from wide and far all across the greater Sydney area to gather for Christmas Day BBQ’s and picnics at beaches and parks.
It’s basically un-Australian to spend Christmas Day holed up in the kitchen with the oven going all day. Our Christmases are focussed on menus that can be prepared in advance, or with minimal cooking on the day. A consequence of which is that it’s usually very seafood heavy.
So here’s what I think makes for a very classic, Very (Easy) Aussie Christmas Feast, suited to hot weather and to spend more time with friends and family gathering around tables laden with food instead of in the kitchen!!
* Do you have Stubby Holders where you are?? It’s un-Australian if you don’t have a selection of stubby holders with tacky / inappropriate prints. The official definition is “an insulated sleeve into which a beer bottle may be inserted to be kept cool”. 😂
VERY (EASY) AUSSIE CHRISTMAS FEAST
1. Piles and Piles of Prawns with Sauces – Buy ’em freshly cooked, loads and loads of ’em. If you can bear the crowds it’s certainly an experience to brave the Sydney Fish Markets. If you go during “normal” hours (ie 8 am – 8 pm), be prepared to be stuck in traffic queues all the way across Anzac Bridge!!! If you want to avoid this, do it the RecipeTin Family way and go at 10 pm on Christmas Eve (yes, we do, we take turns each year!).
Otherwise, order in advance at your local seafood store. Around Christmas, the prawns at Woolies and Coles are good quality too. And pick up no earlier than the day before!!
Getting your hands dirty peeling the prawns is all part of the experience. Here are my 5 favourite Prawn Dipping Sauces.
coming to you next week. (I absolutely swear to you, they are so super simple and so much better than store bought, having bought jars just so I could do side-by-side taste testing. For Christmas Day, it is worth spending 5 minutes to make a couple of sauces!).
2. That Maple Glazed Ham – Always steals the show. Always!!! I won’t dribble on any more about the ham. I did plenty of that on Friday when I shared this recipe. 🙂 Make it the day before – or even 2 days before. Or fully prep ahead and just bake on day (this is what I do). So easy. SO EASY. Serve at room temp or reheat. Oh – and the pan juices make the most awesome sauce.
3. Oysters – I contemplated sharing some Oyster recipes, like Kilpatrick and Mornay. But the truth is, my favourite is plain jane all the way. Little squeeze of lemon, that’s all. Suck it out of the shell (ok, use a tiny fork if you must be civilised), just one or two bites (not too many!) then slurp it down. Lip smackingly good!
4. Side of Salmon – This is my “thing”. I just adore making sides of salmon for gatherings. Ask my friends, I’ve been doing it ever since I started hosting gatherings. 🙂
Why? Well, it looks great and it’s something special because my friends aren’t making whole sides of salmon on a day to day basis. Plus, salmon is Australia’s favourite fish, and with a teeny bit of effort, it’s so easy to make something that looks and tastes incredible.
For festive feasting, this is truly my favourite – Parmesan Crusted Salmon with Lemon Cream Sauce. Everybody loves the sauce!! It’s simple to make and can be prepared ahead, then is quick and stress free to cook on the day. Also, I have a great tip to take it to picnics!! Bake the salmon and crumb separately, take to picnic with a jar of mustard. Then just spread the salmon with mustard, sprinkle the crumb over and serve with the sauce at room temperature. It’s fantastic. This salmon is truly so great at room temperature when assembled like that.
TURKEY, TURKEY, TURKEY!
Turkey isn’t in my menu depicted in the main photo, and the reason is that I wanted to share a hot-weather Christmas menu. However, turkey is a firm Christmas favourite in many Aussie households and funnily enough, I think we’re doing turkey for our family Christmas this year! Here’s a run down of the turkey recipes on my site.
From top left, clockwise:
Garlic Herb Butter Roasted Turkey Breast – Current favourite, I plan to do a whole turkey using this recipe for our family Christmas! The garlic butter is rubbed under the skin and drips into the pan, making the most incredible browned butter sauce.
Slow Cooker Turkey Breast – The easiest and safest way to cook turkey breast and ensure it comes out juicy even without brining. Ideal for those less confident in the kitchen OR if you need to free up your oven for other things. *Very popular recipe!*
Cajun Turkey Breast with Sausage Stuffing – The stuffing for this Cajun rubbed turkey is baked around the turkey (so it’s technically called Dressing) so it sucks up all the turkey juices. The golden brown crust on the top of the Dressing is sensational, as is the Cajun rub on the turkey!
Dry Brined Whole Roasted Turkey – Forget wet brining a whole turkey. THIS is the best way to brine and roast a whole turkey – by rubbing with salt and dry brining. It works so well, it’s practical, it’s sensational!
Here are the other things you spy in the main photo at the top:
Mrs Brodie’s Famous Potato Salad – I swear, it just gets better and better as the days go by. Her secret? Dowsing the hot potatoes with French Dressing. They suck up the flavour and take the humble potato salad all the way up to a totally new level. I never make potato salad any other way. Thank you Mrs Brodie! (The mother of a good friend❤️)
Festive Wild Rice Salad – Bugger. Realised this is out of frame in every single photo of the feast!! I just adore this salad, I’ve made it way too many times in recent months. Not only does it look fabulous, it’s been declared by some as the best salad ever (truly, read the post!) and it can be assembled the day before then just tossed on the day. All my boxes – ticked!!
More Great Salads – these aren’t pictured, but here are some more great summer salads to serve as a side:
- Corn Salad with Avocado – chop the avo at the last minute or if you squeeze over lemon juice, it will keep for a few hours in airtight container in the fridge without browning. Everything else can be prepared in advance, then tossed before serving;
- Pumpkin, Spinach & Feta Salad with Balsamic Dressing – one of my personal faves! All prepare ahead;
- Lemon Parmesan Cabbage Salad – skip the chicken. This is a great Karen Martini inspired fresh salad with flavour oomph from the parmesan;
- JP’s Iceberg Lettuce Dill Salad – honestly, iceberg lettuce was never so tasty. My friend is famous for this salad;
- Strawberry Salad with Strawberry Balsamic Dressing – so pretty, and that dressing is incredible!
- Coleslaw – everybody’s favourite!
- Pasta Salads – try this Italian one, Greek one, or a classic Macaroni Salad. YUM.
Homemade Gourmet Crackers with cheese – because they taste better and are 80% cheaper than buying the ones you see “everywhere” nowadays, even at Woolies and Coles!
Hummus Dip with Crudites which is a fancy way of saying veggie sticks. So learn how to say it (croo – de – tays) so you can impress the pants off your family and friends. (I love how they have a British and American pronunciation! Ba ha ha!!) If you want to get real fancy, try your hand at it with a French accent. 😜
I know it’s Christmas, but I do think it’s always good to have freshness on the table to break up all the richness and nibbling on veggies with a great dip is my favourite way of dealing with that. Crudites with a dip are great because you can prep it all the day before. Also I find that at large gatherings, there’s always someone pretending to be healthy. All bases covered!!
PS I made the most awesome version of this Hummus recipe the other day just by adding an entire jar of sun dried tomatoes. I used all the oil in the jar and then added about 1 tbsp olive oil, plus water to get the consistency right. Bright red, tastes amazing, makes loads, just do it in the blender instead of food processor so the sun dried tomato gets blitzed smooth. Am officially addicted.
AND TO FINISH….
Christmas Trifle!!! It took me years until I was happy with my trifle. I don’t do flavoured aeroplane jelly but I don’t do gelatine leaves. This is easy, you will get neat gorgeous layers, it’s make ahead (except the cream) and let’s be honest, it just looks absolutely smashing on the Christmas table!
Recipe coming your way on Friday. (PS It’s made with cranberry juice jelly, pound cake (on base), custard, lots of cream and lots of berries. All essential food groups, covered!
Never Ending Meringue Tart – Woah, the dark horse!!! I didn’t expect such a response when I “casually” mentioned that I made this when I catered my mother’s Christmas Party. I’ve even had people writing in begging me to send the recipe asap even if I don’t get around to doing proper photos and videos!! 😂 UPDATE: The recipe has been published along with a video! Find it here.
To all those wanting this recipe, I’ve been working my butt off to get the recipe complete with the video and photos to you by Friday but there is a possibility it may be delayed until early next week. I promise, you will get it.
PS It’s named as such because you can make it as long as you want. Make the meringue days and days in advance, this is super easy to make. The hardest part is making sure you have a table long enough to assemble and serve it!
The Great Aussie Pav – A staple summer dessert, firm favourite, with good reason! Read my tips to make your Pav life easier, I promise you won’t regret it. Or just follow the recipe exactly. 🙂
PS New Zealanders, we can battle it out next year about who created the Pav!
I’ve created a recipe collection for Christmas recipes, find them all here!
Funnily enough, I was speaking to a friend at the beach just on the weekend about her Christmas Day menu. She wanted exactly what I’ve catered for in this menu – absolutely bare minimal prep on the day, seafood heavy, enough of a range to impress, suitable for hot hot weather. She’s pretty much making this exact menu!!
Oh, and of course, to finish off the feast……..
LIFE OF DOZER
Honestly, what were the chances that:
1. He would be bought by a corporate gal who had an early mid life crisis and became a food blogger; and
2. He would grow to be the exact size so his line of sight is table height.
So he lives his life being scolded and shooed away from tables laden with food, and especially so on Christmas Day!!!