Christmas is as much about eating as it is about giving and when you think about Christmas, what’s the one thing you couldn’t do without in the kitchen or on the table every year. We asked some friends of Broadsheet to tell us theirs.
Andrew McConnell - SPICE
Executive Chef and Co-owner of Cutler & Co and Cumulus Inc.
By spice I mean spices I don’t usually use. At Christmas, I put cloves on ham, then glaze it; make bread sauce and use nutmeg in it; and there’s the spices in the Christmas pudding. I also make pickled cherries with cloves, allspice and black pepper. Through the year I might taste something and I’ll think ‘that tastes Christmassy’ – it’s those kind of flavours. Christmas is also the time of year I don’t feel bad about going back for seconds.
If I put my English hat on it has to be the classic Boxing Day feast my dad has at the pub after lunch closes. I used to spend Christmas with mum then Boxing Day with dad. He’d do a banquet table of pheasant, cold turkey, lots of pickles but especially Delia Smith’s recipe for honey-roasted ham with pickled red cabbage, chunky bread and some English Stilton... the bomb.
My Australian hat has to be cherries. They come they go as fast as you can say them and they are a favourite fruit of mine. Cherry clafoutis rocks or a boozey cherry trifle.
Ronnen Goren - SALT, SUGAR, SPICE
Director, Fabio Ongarato Design
My traditional thinking circles around things more warming and nourishing: glazed ham, cloves, baby chicken/poussin, cranberries, dried fruit and brandy butter. My Australian thinking circle things light, fresh & airy in keeping with our climate: crustaceans, citrus, oysters, mint, fennel, fresh cherries.
I feel perhaps my answer lies somewhere in between, considering things 'cured', to encompass dishes like San Danielle prosciutto, Stefano de Pierri orange-cured kingfish or a Stephanie Alexander recipe for turkey ham (cured turkey breast that ends up like proscuitto) that I've made before for Christmas. All these involve salt, sugar and spice in some way, shape or form, but result in something light that might go well with delicious salads.
Spike Hibberd - CHAMPAGNE
Director, Spike Hibberd Design
I would have to say in more recent years, it’s been champagne. My father buys a really nice bottle that we have late morning, just before lunch. We have a toast and, to me, that is the start of our Christmas day celebrations. Straight after having that glass I go to my father to see what he has cooked that year for our lunch – he's a pretty incredible chef and plays with different dishes each year.
Christmas has always been a bit schizophrenic for me. I have a Spanish Christmas with my kids and my wife, Vanessa, at my parents’ with sisters and cousins, and then I have a traditional Australian Christmas at Vanessa’s family’s place on Christmas day. Christmas Eve is usually spent with my family in Geelong. We have friends at our house for dinner, then we might head off to friends’ places for supper. There is always a bit of moving around. In the evening we always have a bottle of Spanish anise liquer, as well as Mantecados – Spanish spiced, crumbly Christmas biscuits, which are often flavoured with aniseed as well.
When you go to another Spanish person’s home on Christmas Eve there is always the bottle of Anis and Mantecado biscuits as a sign of hospitality.
Lobster reminds me of Christmas as a kid. My brother, my dad and I just love it. So does mum and she would buy them live and boil them. We had them with lemon and mayonnaise, as simple as that. It’s lobster at Christmas time for me.
Christmas always seems to be the day of excess, Champagne for breakfast with fruit loops and cream (not me, but I have seen it done); too much wine and way too much food at lunch; then leftovers for dinner with that uncle who has had an excessive amount of Port. For me Christmas is all about the excess leftovers, and in particular the Christmas ham. Nana's pickles, cheddar cheese, yesterday’s bread toasted, that great ham and the Boxing Day test – what more could a boy want?
Lasagne is our family dish, even though I'm not of Italian heritage. This is for three reasons: firstly, it is Garfield the cat’s favorite food (that cat would do anything to get his paws on lasagne) and I loved Garfield as a child. Secondly, because my dear grandmother Elaine adored the dish as well (and she was a cat lover), so we always made it for Christmas lunch for her. Thirdly, it really comforts me and brings back the incredibly happy memories of my childhood. Lasagne was our special occasion dish and my mother Kaye always makes the best (of course).
Dan Sims - TURKEY
Project Manager The Wine Guide
In terms of a dish for Christmas, as tacky as it may sound I love roast turkey. I only eat turkey once a year and love it when I do; must be something about my British heritage that makes it so. Last year, for example, I was in Thailand visiting my brother – who lives there with his wife and kids – and he cooked a roast turkey in honor of a 'traditional' Christmas. It was pretty funny considering where we were, the climate and the type of food it is but we loved it. It just reminds me of Christmas as a kid, and those spent in the UK.
As for wine, champagne (of course), some Riesling (‘cos it’s hot) and plenty of medium-bodied reds, followed by beer and a nap.
Kosta Kalogiannis - LAMB ON THE SPIT
Beverage Manager Longrain, Melbourne
In my family, and growing up in Brunswick, Christmas was never about a roast turkey or a glazed ham; the treat for us was lamb on the spit. Mum would prep it up the night before, then dad and I would pop it on the spit early on Christmas morning, keeping a watchful eye on it and, of course, picking off all the crispy bits as it was ready. [There’s] something so festive about lamb on the spit.
It’s got to be my mum's Christmas pudding with my granny's brandy sauce. Mum always makes the pud a year in advance, and I have very fond memories of helping her make it (and licking the bowl). It is deliciously dense and richly textured with chopped almonds, whole dried apricots, figs and vine fruits. We always enjoy with grandma's (wicked) brandy sauce. This year I think I might brew up some of our Costa Rican La Lajas from Market Lane to accompany with it; it is deliciously rich, with notes of ripe cherries and strawberries – what a match!
It's a bit boring but I would have to say Christmas fruit mince pies. I am a massive sucker for them and stuff my face with them as much as possible.