Christmas is a time for bringing together the people you love and creating special memories together. Food is often the centre of these memories and at Christmas, there is no better time to enjoy the fresh produce that Australia has to offer. Jonah’s Executive Chef Rey Ambas has put together 5 top tips to help you plan out your Christmas menu.
1. Keep it simple
Christmas time is about spending quality and fun times with family and friends. So, try not to make it too stressful. Home cooking should be easy and fun. I would suggest planning prior.
Pre-cooked, Pre-prepared and plated meals in the fridge ready to go, desserts are ready to go such as Christmas puddings or spiced cakes. This means more time with the family and less time in the kitchen. Things like pre-sliced salami, antipasto vegetables, pickles, cheeses, fresh fruits all plated on platters ready to go. Cooked seafood, such as cooked prawns, with cocktail sauce and nice leafy greens all dressed and ready to go in the fridge.
2. Use your Local
Keep it fresh and local. There are plenty of butcheries, seafood shops around the northern beaches. I live local to Bayview, so a short trip to Mona Vale there’s plenty of fresh produce. So don’t need to travel too far and always support and purchase from your local!
A trip to Harris Farm can get you some amazing heirloom tomatoes, some artisan cheeses like a favourite of mine is fresh heirloom tomato salad with mozzarella, fresh basil, some nice, marinated olives and aged balsamic served with some sourdough bread. Local fisheries include some cooked prawns, pre-made seafood sauces, fish which you can ask the fish mongers to fillet and portion for you to make it easier.
OR for the adventurous, some lobster tail and bugs are always available through Christmas – Quickly boiled in salted water, then peeled and then sautéed in lots and lots of butter, bit of fresh lemon juice and parsley will always be impressive at the Christmas table.
3. Include your Christmas Favourites
Don’t be shy to think back to your childhood memories of Christmas time. If there was a roast turkey, then do a roast turkey! If there was a whole baked fillet of salmon, then include it to the meal. I was born in the Philippines, so my memory always had the famous “Lechon” over the festive period. A whole spit-roast suckling pig, yum!
So, every year in my household, we try to include a nice pork roast, or a rolled pork belly roast to the meals.
4. Share the load.
You don’t have to do all the cooking yourself. You will be surprised how amazing a collection of food can be rather than planning a menu by yourself. Especially if you have friends or family from different cultures. This always brings an amazing array of dishes to try, and even better, if you have lots of Chef friends or foodies wanting to outdo each other!
5. Stress less over Christmas
As a chef I know very well how busy it can get over the holiday period, so my final tip is to stress less, breathe, enjoy the moment with friends and family and I encourage you to be comfortable! As suggested before, keep it simple, plan it. Don’t travel too far to get amazing produce, use your locals! Include family Christmas favourites and share the load between friends and family, let people do their part and let them have their input to the table! And of course, treat yourself to a nice glass of sparkling wine or an ice-cold beer.