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Last Minute Foodie Christmas Tips from Australia’s Finest Chefs

I don’t know about you, but we haven’t done anything about preparing for Christmas lunch yet. We’re at Lara’s uncle’s house in Bendigo in rural Victoria, Australia, and if this Christmas is like others, there’ll be friends and neighbours dropping by.

If we’ve left it so late to start thinking about what to cook, we figured there must be others out there like us, right? So we thought we’d consult the experts for some last minute Christmas tips from some of Australia’s finest chefs, chefs who we’ve been fortunate to meet on recent magazine assignments.

We wanted to get their advice on what people like us should do, and if it all goes horribly wrong, how can we save the day. We’ve also left it late to do our Christmas shopping — hey, it’s been a busy week — so we also sought tips in that department. Hope this is helpful to you too.

Merry Christmas everyone!

NEIL PERRY

Rockpool, Rockpool Bar & Grill, Spice Temple

Q. What are you cooking on Christmas Day?

A. Stuffing a turkey under the skin and doing lots of beautiful seafood on the barbie — plus pavlova!

Q. Advice for people still panicking about what to cook?

A. Cooked seafood from the fish markets with a great aioli — and summer pudding.

Q. Tip to save the day if it all goes wrong?

A. If there is a great cold ham in the fridge and some cooked prawns, you can’t go wrong — no cooking involved. Follow up with fruit, ice cream… and hopefully the pavlova you haven’t destroyed.

Q. Last minute gift ideas for foodies?

A. A wonderful pannetone or hamper from Simon Johnson.

Q. Christmas at home or away?

A. Lunch at home then off to Aspen December 29!

Last Minute Foodie Christmas Tips from Australia's Finest Chefs. Copyright 2014 Terence Carter / Grantourismo. All Rights Reserved.

TETSUYA WAKUDA

Tetsuya’s and Waku Ghin

Q. What are you cooking on Christmas Day?

A. No fuss one-pot braised spatchcock with capers and olives.

Q. Advice for people still panicking about what to cook?

A. Keep it simple.

Q. Tip to save the day if it all goes wrong?

A. If you keep it simple — for example, serve smoked salmon slices — there should be no mistakes.

Q. Last minute gift ideas for foodies?

A. Good quality olive oil or a grater.

Q. Christmas at home or away?

A. Staying home and catching up with friends.

PETER GILMORE

Quay

Q. What are you cooking on Christmas Day?

A. We will be enjoying fresh seafood and salad.

Q. Advice for people still panicking about what to cook?

A. Keep it simple — enjoy the day with your family and friends.

Q. Tip to save the day if it all goes wrong?

A. I tend to share the cooking with my Mum to take off some of the pressure.

Q. Last minute gift ideas for foodies?

A. The Quay cookbook is always a lovely gift.

Q. Christmas at home or away?

A. Heading to my parents who live near Coffs Harbour with my wife and two children where we’ll be meeting my sister and her son for a family luncheon.

DAN HUNTER

Brae (formerly Royal Mail Hotel)

Q. What are you cooking on Christmas Day?

A. Hopefully nothing. This year Christmas day will be lunch with my wife’s family, then dinner with mine. Julianne’s family have the Ital-Anglo theme — lasagne and probably ham, tiramisu and also Christmas pudding. Dinner will be turkey and baked ham with the trim at my parents’ house. Plenty of celebratory drinks at both.

Q. Advice for people still panicking about what to cook?

A. Too late now — go to a large retail store and grab a hamper. It’s hopefully going to be warm, so fresh fruit, champagne, cold meats, and a pudding will be fine.

Q. Tip to save the day if it all goes wrong?

A. BBQ — have some steaks in the fridge as back up.

Q. Last minute gift ideas for foodies?

A. Handmade Laguiole wine knife. Unless some pinches it, they’ll have it forever.

Q. Christmas at home or away?

A. Travelling — 7 hours with my wife, the dog and an 11 month-old baby (should be fun!) to be with both our families who live in East Gippsland, Victoria — about as far as you can go from Dunkeld and still be in Victoria.

MARTIN BENN

Sepia

Q. What are you cooking on Christmas Day?

A. I’ll be doing what Australians do best on Christmas Day and having a barbecue. I’ll be searing scampi tails over the charcoals so that they become sweet and smoky, then make them into a traditional prawn cocktail with a cocktail sauce made from my own spicy tomato sauce. Then I’ll cook a grass fed Angus rib eye really slowly until evenly pink inside, and serve it with fresh Tasmanian wasabi.

Q. Advice for people still panicking about what to cook?

A. My tip is don’t make it too complicated and share the workload.

Q. Tip to save the day if it all goes wrong?

A. Have lots of small things to nibble on so people don’t get hungry while they wait.

Q. Last minute gift ideas for foodies?

A. My gift idea is always a handcrafted Japanese knife. What else could anyone need?

Q. Christmas at home or away?

A. Off to Japan for the holidays, a place far enough to get away from it all and the best food culture. Inspiration and rest.

JACQUES REYMOND

Jacques Reymond Restaurant

Q. What are you cooking on Christmas Day?

A. Lots of fresh seafood — ocean trout, oysters, etc — and duck.

Q. Advice for people still panicking about what to cook?

A. Cook something you enjoy and are comfortable with cooking and it will be pleasurable for everyone.

Q. Tip to save the day if it all goes wrong?

A. Get a better bottle of wine from your cellar and see what’s in the pantry.

Q. Last minute gift ideas for foodies?

A. A good knife sharpener.

Q. Christmas at home or away?

A. At home — because January is nice and quiet for us so we can relax with the family.

IAN CURLEY

The European, Siglo, City Wine Shop, Melbourne Supper Club

Q. What are you cooking on Christmas Day?

A. I roast a whole fillet of beef and serve it with mushrooms, roast potatoes, and red wine sauce, lots of green vegetables, and just put the whole thing in the middle of the table and everybody just dips into it at their leisure. For starters, we have jamon iberico, buffalo mozzarella with basil and tomato, and grilled sourdough bread.

Q. Advice for people still panicking about what to cook?

A. Nothing worse than panicking about food for friends, so do try and do as much the day before so you have as much free time as possible when you come to serve it. If they love you they won’t mind if it’s not chef standard. If you’re still not relaxed, I find champagne works really well.

Q. Tip to save the day if it all goes wrong?

A. If it all becomes a nightmare, and the champagne’s not helping, just go back to nice and simple. Sometimes a great omelette is all you need to get through and then it gives you time to get the champagne.

Q. Last minute gift ideas for foodies?

A. Who doesn’t love Laguiole wine knives? But all my sommeliers love the Code 38 wine knives — very stylish and pros use them.

Q. Christmas at home or away?

A. On Boxing Day I head to Cape Schanck on the Mornington Peninsula and play golf for three days, and I just love it. Three days doing that is like a week on a beach for me. I never think about work as I have enough problems with my golf swing, and it recharges my batteries for the onslaught of New Year.

RICHARD PTACNIK

Otto Ristorante

Q. What are you cooking on Christmas Day?

A. I’ll be cooking a seafood dinner. We’ll start with crab consommé with crab, mussels and prawns, then move on to spaghetti with lobster, cherry tomatoes and basil, accompanied with freshly made foccacia.

Q. Advice for people still panicking about what to cook?

A. The best thing is to not stress and keep it simple — fresh ingredients and simple dishes. No one wants to spend the whole day in the kitchen — Christmas is about spending time with friends and family, drinking, and celebrating the time off.

Q. Tip to save the day if it all goes wrong?

A. No one is perfect — you are generally around friends and family, and they will forgive you. Go with what you’ve got.

Q. Last minute gift ideas for foodies?

A. Cooking classes, knives, and cookbooks always keep them interested.

Q. Christmas at home or away?

A. Usually we stay at home, but lately we’ve been heading down the south coast, spending time on the beach, having barbecues, and spending time in the sun. Getting away from the city for a few days, especially after the busiest time of year, we find so much more relaxing.

TEAGE EZARD

BLACK, Ezard, Ginger Boy

Q. What are you cooking on Christmas Day?

A. Roast suckling pig, glazed ham, and a cold seafood buffet.

Q. Advice for people still panicking about what to cook?

A. Get online!

Q. Tip to save the day if it all goes wrong?

A. Focus on the quality and quantity (!) of the beverages you are serving. I always serve Negroni — because it’s a festive party drink and much loved. Who doesn’t enjoy it?!

Q. Last minute gift ideas for foodies?

A. My latest cookbook Gingerboy, which is all about South-East Asian hawker-style food, designed to share. Perfect for the festive season.

Q. Christmas at home or away?

A. Heading away to a beachside location to recover from the madness that is always the last few weeks of December in the hospitality industry!

ROSS LUSTED

The Bridge Room

Q. What are you cooking on Christmas Day?

A. It’s going to be our first family Christmas back in Australia for years, so I simply can’t go past king prawns, David Blackmore’s beef flank, and nut roast for my wife, Sunny, as she is vegetarian.

Q. Advice for people still panicking about what to cook?

A. Some fantastic cold seafood from the Sydney Seafood Markets and cherries on ice.

Q. Tip to save the day if it all goes wrong?

A. Head straight to Victor Churchill for provisions.

Q. Last minute gift ideas for foodies?

A. A Japanese charcoal grill and a box of Binchu-tan.

Q. Christmas at home or heading away?

A. We’ll be spending Christmas up at Pittwater with family, catching Whiting off the front lawn!

DONOVAN COOK

The Atlantic

Q. What are you cooking on Christmas Day?

A. The Atlantic opened in March and we’re open on Christmas Day in our first year. With my team, we’re cooking lunch* for 300 plus guests! Freshly shucked oysters upon arrival; a tian of spanner crab, apple, basil, and cantaloupe melon gazpacho; Queensland jumbo prawns with garlic, olive oil, white wine, and parsley; smoked steamed barramundi with Oscietra caviar, and champagne foam; and vanilla pannacotta, pina colada salad, and granita.

Q. Advice for people still panicking about what to cook?

A. It’s Australia and usually warm, so stick with simple, fresh ingredients like a whole fish on the barbecue with a green leafy salad, and finish with seasonal berries for dessert.

Q. Tip to save the day if it all goes wrong?

A. Delegate to family members — get others involved in the preparation of the meal and get the job done. Ultimately it is about being together. Alternatively, find a restaurant to take the stress away completely!

Q. Last minute gift ideas for foodies?

A. To really spoil the foodie who has everything, a thermo circulator! Or a voucher to their favourite restaurant. Or who can beat a really good bottle of olive oil?

Q. Christmas at home or away?

A. At the helm at The Atlantic in my custom made kitchen — it is really my home away from home!
*If you can’t face cooking Christmas Day, lunch at The Atlantic is $200/$90 adults/children for a 5-course menu.

So what are you cooking for Christmas?




There are 6 comments

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  1. Jen Laceda

    Man, I wish I can experience a Christmas where I am barbecuing under the sun! #@%$!

    Hopefully, my husband is reading this. A Japanese knife or a pastry marble would be a nice last minute Christmas gift for me :) LOL!

    Happy holidays, Lara and Terry!

  2. Lara Dunston

    Well, you’ll have to celebrate Christmas down under some time! You want me to email this link to your hubbie? ;)

    Thanks for dropping by, Jen! Enjoy the holiday season xx

  3. Petulia

    Wow, these are great! Even if my Christmas dinner will not take place in sunny Australia all these recipe and gift ideas are very useful. Thanks for posting and Happy Christmas!

  4. Lara Dunston

    Most chefs/foodies would think it’s the best present ever. Guess it depends on whether you’re superstitious or not. Surely you wouldn’t turn down a beautiful handcrafted Japanese knife? ;)


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