At Christmas, the kitchen becomes the most important room in the house – so we’ve rounded up a list of things to stock it to bursting.
Champagne is as essential to Christmas as ham or turkey, and there’s no better time to get stuck into something a little nicer. Here are three great varieties to try, which you’ll find at Toorak Cellars, Milton Wine Shop and Blackhearts & Sparrows.
Borgo Molino Prosecco, 2008 – $25
Domaine Vincent Carême Vouvray l'Ancestrale, 2013 – about $55.
Chartogne-Taillet, Sainte-Anne NV Champagne – about $75.
Toorak Cellars, 18 Beatty Avenue, Armadale
Milton Wine Shop, 1427 Malvern Road, Malvern
Blackhearts & Sparrows, stores in Fitzroy, Fitzroy North, East Brunswick, Richmond, Windsor, Kensington, East St Kilda.
Parties mean cocktails, be it a simple mixer or something more complex. If you’d prefer the latter without the trouble of making it from scratch, get yourself some pre-batched cocktails from the Experimental Spirits Co. For $15, try the Smoked Bacon & Maple Manhattan or the Coconut & Banana Rum Old Fashioned.
If a G&T is more your poison, or you want to build the cocktails yourself, both Four Pillars Gin and the Melbourne Gin Company make an excellent base.
Gins available at Dan Murphy’s and other select stockists (see individual websites for details). Cocktails from experimentalspiritsco.com.au.
3) Jock’s Ice Cream & Sorbet Christmas ice cream pudding
Plum pudding might be a Christmas tradition, but a dense, boozy cake can be the last thing you feel like eating after a big meal – especially in the middle of summer.
Jock’s has a delicious frozen alternative: plum pudding ice cream, loaded with candied fruit.
Pop into its store to order, or call on (03) 9686 3838. The store will need about three-to-four days notice. One is $28 and feeds six people.
Jock’s Ice Cream & Sorbet, 83 Victoria Avenue, Albert Park
4) Millstone’s unbaked croissants
Malvern’s Millstone Patisserie is freezing unbaked croissants for you to take home and bake yourself. All you need to do is take them out of the freezer before you go to sleep and then bake them in the oven as soon as you wake up. Perfect for Christmas morning or for unexpected guests. A packet of six is $24. It also has glazed hams and mince pies. Order via email or phone until Friday December 18.
5) Mince Pies
In the 17th century, mince pies contained real meat. Minced cooked mutton and beef suet were mixed with candied fruit, sugar and spices and encased in pastry. Thankfully, the meat is gone and we’ve been left with tasty spiced fruit tartlets. Here are two of the best:
Phillippa’s traditional mince pies are made with organic fruit and house-made candied peel ($15.90 for six). This year, there is also a cardamom and dried plum variety ($4 each).
Tivoli Road Bakery’s mince pies are plumper than Phillipas’, with a delicious, crumbly sweet pastry. They are $4 each, or six for $20.
If you haven’t had panettone before, think of a croissant crossed with a sourdough hot cross bun – but lighter, sweeter and full of dried fruit and spices. It’s originally from Milan, Italy, but is traditionally enjoyed throughout all of Europe at Christmas time. It can be eaten by itself, but it is often served with mascarpone cream. It’s also great with custard.
Baker D. Chirico, stores in St Kilda, Carlton and South Yarra. One kilogram for $52. Best to preorder. Simon Johnson, stores in Chadstone, Toorak and online. One kilogram for $59.
7) A basic custard recipe
Sure, you could buy a carton of ready-made custard from your local supermarket. But this is a recipe you should have in your repertoire. It’s quick, easy and infinitely better than anything you can buy in a packet.
• 250ml milk
• 250ml cream
• 1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped OR 1tsp vanilla extract
• 5 egg yolks
• 80g caster sugar (you can add more if you prefer a sweeter custard)
Bring milk, cream and vanilla to a simmer in a heavy-based saucepan. Set aside.
In a bowl, whisk egg yolks and caster sugar until thick and creamy.
Pour half the milk mixture into the yolk mixture, whisking constantly. Pour the yolk mixture back into the saucepan so it combines with the remaining milk mixture.
Cook the mixture over a low heat, stirring continuously with a wooden spoon, until it is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon. If you have a thermometer, about 80–82 degrees is perfect – any higher and the eggs will scramble.
Strain the custard into a bowl. Serve warm or cold, with a tablespoon of brandy stirred through if you choose.
8) Shortstop’s Christmas Doughnut
Shortstop Coffee & Donuts is getting into the spirit with a Christmas-themed Eggnog and Candied Pecan Raised Star doughnut: made with vanilla, rum and cinnamon-spiced crème anglaise and topped with candied pecans. Just $5.
Shortstop Coffee & Donuts, 12 Sutherland Street, Melbourne
9) Butterbing Gingerbread Cookies
Butterbing’s cookie sandwiches have taken on a festive edge with its new Gingerbread flavour. Get four online for $18, or at selected cafes. Butter-boom!
See website for stockists: butterbing.neto.com.au/stockists-list
Recently Koko Black announced it was going into voluntary administration, so it might be your last chance to indulge. It has an excellent range of festive chocolates, including chocolate snowmen and stars. The collection can be viewed online.
Haigh’s also has a Christmas chocolate collection. Try the Christmas pudding brandy truffles for $4.60 each or $24.50 for six.
11) Ye Old Dart Christmas Cheese Hamper
World-class cheesemonger Anthony Femia of Maker & Monger has put together a selection of fine British cheeses for you for Christmas. For $80 you’ll get hunks of Montgomery’s clothbound cheddar, Tunworth of Hampshire camembert (the best outside of France, apparently) and Colston Bassett traditional Stilton – over 750 grams in total – plus oatcakes, fresh cherries and dried muscatels.
As Femia says: “It cannot be Christmas unless there is Stilton on the table.”
Available in store from December 17. To order, email Anthony Femia at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Maker & Monger, Stall 25, Prahran Market. 163 Commercial Road, South Yarra