Being raised in a pretty traditional Chinese household, Christmas was a time to look into how other families celebrated. We never really did the whole Christmas tree and Santa present rituals. We just ate and enjoyed time together. I look back quite fondly on these times and saw that the food we ate was primarily still Chinese and fitting for that time of the year.
Below is a recipe for an Asian-style prawn cocktail and a “tea-ramisu”, my take on the classic Italian dessert. They’re great options for Christmas Day, because the first is easy to put together quickly, while the second can be prepared the day before and kept in the fridge.
Chinese prawn cocktail
This is a version of a prawn salad my mum used to make. Present in a cocktail glass and serve alongside chilled sparkling shiraz for nostalgia points.
Prawns 1–2 tbsp mayonnaise of any kind (kewpie is good. I like Hellmans, and always have some on hand – this is not essential but adds to the richness of the dish.) 1 head baby cos lettuce, cut into wedges 1 baby cucumber, cut into quarters, lengthways 1 avocado, cut into 8 wedges 4 large purple shiso leaves 2 sprigs coriander leaves, picked 1 bunch dill, picked 1 bunch chives, cut into 2cm batons 20 cooked prawns, peeled (I love cooked prawns, preferably Australian prawns from Northern Queensland. They’re cooked on the trawler as soon as they are caught in the saltiest water and then frozen. The prawns are so firm and are fantastic eating. I find prawns cooked from raw are never quite as good.)
Garlic oil 200ml vegetable oil 20g garlic, finely chopped
Soy and garlic dressing 25ml rice vinegar 200ml Japanese soy sauce 200ml water 60g sugar 100ml garlic oil Half a bunch of chives, finely sliced
Garlic oil Heat oil in a saucepan until medium-hot (140°C). Add garlic and cook until light golden brown, strain off garlic and reserve oil. Once oil is cooled, add drained garlic back into the oil, keep in an airtight jar in the refrigerator for up to one month.
Dressing Stir all the ingredients together.
To assemble In four chilled martini glasses, spoon a small dollop of mayonnaise into the bottom of the glass. Stand up the cos lettuce pieces, cucumber and avocado. Garnish with the leaves and herbs. Hang five prawns off the rim of each. Serve immediately with the dressing in a small ramekin on the side.
I love matcha in all its forms. I also love tiramisu, it’s the perfect dessert for a large party and with the combination of coffee and green tea it’s a nice cleansing finish to a heavy Christmas feast. The addition of chartreuse will aid in the digestion and help bring out the herbal notes in the tea and the coffee. This recipe can be made up to five days in advance.
Cocoa glaze 8g gelatin leaves 120g water 100ml cream 150g sugar 50g cocoa powder
Matcha and chartreuse mousse 5g gelatin leaves 50ml chartreuse 500ml cream 75g sugar 75g egg yolks 30g matcha powder (I use teacraft matcha – they have a great online store) 20ml water 500g mascarpone
Base and garnishes Pot of strong coffee, unsweetened (I use Trung Nguyen brand as I love the aroma and it’s pretty easy to come by, if no Vietnamese coffee is available, a classic profile espresso coffee is as good, brands like old school Italian coffee romacaffe, vittoria or Genovese for example) 1 packet sponge fingers (savoiardi biscuits) Extra matcha powder, for dusting 1 punnet strawberries, sliced and mixed with a dash of grand marnier (optional)
Soak gelatin leaves in cold water until softened.
Bring the remaining ingredients to a boil in a saucepan, whisking to ensure there are no lumps. Once boiled and smooth, remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. Add softened gelatin leaves and stir to dissolve.
Note: This can be made in advance and stored in the fridge. To reuse, melt in the microwave in short low temperature bursts, the mixture should be liquid at 40°C and use when it’s 30–35°C for best effect. This is also an amazing chocolate glaze for cakes and parfaits
Matcha and chartreuse mousse Soak gelatin leaves in cold water until softened. Warm up chartreuse and melt the leaves of gelatin in the liqueur (don’t boil or it will ignite!) Once mixed together, set aside.
Whip cream until thick and soft peaks form, then set aside (not in the refrigerator or the cold cream will set the gelatin too fast when you fold it through at the end).
Whisk sugar, egg, matcha and water until the mixture has doubled and is pale and thick. It’s ready when mousse falls in thick ribbons from the whisk (this is called a sabayon). Add the mascarpone to the sabayon and beat until smooth and well combined.
Stir in the chartreuse mixture. Fold in the whipped cream until evenly mixed through. Transfer mixture into a piping bag and store in the refrigerator.
To assemble Pour coffee into a large flat dish. Place sponge fingers into the coffee to soak.
In a large dish (preferably glass and retro-designed for presentation ), arrange a layer of soaked sponge on the base, then pipe a generous layer of mousse to cover the sponge layer. Repeat the process so there are two alternating layers of sponge and mousse, finishing with mousse as the top layer. Smooth the top layer off with a palette knife and refrigerate for 2 hours until mousse is set.
Warm up cocoa glaze and pour over the chilled dessert in a uniform thin layer, return to the fridge and allow to set.
To serve, remove from the refrigerator and dust generously with matcha. Serve with strawberries if so inclined. Merry Christmas!