Bendigo, Victoria.

Christmas Tips from Food Writers and Editors

As our Christmas tips from the best chefs in Asia are proving to be as popular as the last minute Christmas tips from Australia’s finest chefs we ran, we thought we’d seek some Christmas tips from food writers and editors from around the world.

It made sense to consult our colleagues and seek some Christmas tips from food writers and editors around the world, seeing, like us, these people spend all day every around food, cooking it, eating it and writing about it.

If these fabulous Christmas day cooking ideas and suggestions as to what to buy your foodie friends aren’t enough, let us know who else you’d like us to reach out to for some last minute advice.

And if you do find these Christmas tips from food writers and editors helpful and you end up taking some ideas on board we’d love to know how things turned out.

Merry Christmas!

Christmas tips from food writers and editors around the world

Anthea Loucas

Editor, Australian Gourmet Traveller magazine

Q. What are you cooking on Christmas Day?

A. We’ll start with prawn cocktail and salmon gravlax. For mains, I’m doing an orange, cinnamon and mustard glazed ham; slow-cooked lamb shoulder with Italian flavours like garlic, anchovies, capers, lemon rind, and vermouth; a rice salad with cranberries, pistachio and soft herbs; sadza (a cooked cornmeal dish from Africa – my partner is Zimbabwean); coleslaw with vincotto-soaked sultanas, parmesan and parsley; and a daggy mango and avocado salad with bacon and walnuts and a mustard vinaigrette that’s a bit of a family classic. For afters, Christmas pudding with ice-cream and my mother’s home-grown berries.

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

A. Keep it simple and plan a menu where you can prepare a few things the day before to take the pressure off. Keep it concise and do a few big dishes that go a long way – it will save you time and it looks impressive to have a big centrepiece. A glazed ham is so simple and it feeds so many.

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

A. Pour more Champagne and make toasted sandwiches.

Q. Last minute gift ideas for foodies?

A. I gave my team bottles of raisiny Rutherglen muscat, which will be nice slightly chilled with Christmas pudding. It would make a fun affogato, too.

Q. Christmas at home or away?

A. It depends how you define home. I live in Sydney but still consider Melbourne my home. We’ll be in Sydney for the first time in 15 years. My fiance’s stepmother is here from Zimbabwe so we are cooking for his family at our house.

Anthea is the editor of Australian Gourmet Traveller, our favourite culinary travel magazine (for which we also write and shoot). She edited Good Living in the Sydney Morning Herald, which we read avidly when we lived in Sydney years ago. A Gourmet Traveller subscription makes a fantastic Christmas gift. The AGT website also has loads of delish Christmas recipes.

Jane Lawson

Cookbook author and editor, food and travel writer, culinary tour guide

Q. What are you cooking on Christmas Day?

A. I haven’t had Christmas at home for the last five years as I’ve been in Japan for the winters, so I was going to go all out, but it has been a seriously crazy year so the family has been instructed to make it as easy as possible. I’ve ordered a porchetta roast and turkey breast from the fabulous Feather and Bone and while they are in the oven we’ll throw rosemary potatoes into the barbecue to roast. I’ll do a couple of simple salads and I’ll finally crack open the jar of homemade apple jelly a friend gave me a few months ago.

As we will be at my brother’s place from mid morning till eve with various randoms dropping in, there will be a few grazing plates – excellent prosciutto and salamis, good cheese, summer fruits etc, and I’ll do some sugar and spice nuts. My English sister in law bought one of Heston’s Christmas puddings with clementine and some Gü chocolate puddings for dessert and I was instructed not to cook anything!

But I ‘m defiantly going to make my giant fruit mince tart anyway. I’ve already prepped the fruit – including dried cherries, homemade glace ginger, walnuts, almonds, figs, dates, currants, raisins, mixed peel etc with plenty of brandy and a little good cocoa – I guess it’s not exactly traditional but it tastes bloody great. Maybe I’ll just eat the filling with a spoon and forget the pastry.

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

A. Take a deep breath and have a few cocktails… seriously there is still time – there’s nothing wrong with roasting a couple of chooks or doing the barbie thing. And the old prawn and mango salad is always a crowd pleaser! Apparently…

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

A. Whip up something very simple but full of flavour from ingredients you have on hand – Xmas pasta perhaps? A giant bowl of good quality pasta with a fresh tomato sauce, extra virgin olive oil and basil – it’s red, white and green – surely that’s appropriate? Some store-bought Xmas pud or cake crumbled and mixed through softened vanilla or chocolate ice cream with a glug of brandy then re-frozen into a pudding shape is a very easy dessert.

Q. Last minute gift ideas for foodies?

A. Of course I’m going to say one of my books! Snowflakes and Schnapps has a whole Christmas chapter and is perfect for those enjoying, or craving, a northern hemisphere Christmas. But a copy of my book Zenbu Zen – Finding Food, Balance and Culture in Kyoto is the perfect choice for foodies who love to read, cook and travel. Double up with a ticket to my ‘Japanese winter comfort food’ cooking class at Essential Ingredient in Melbourne and you can’t go wrong. A little serve of self-promotion on the side isn’t too much for Xmas is it? (GT: not at all! You’ll find all over Jane’s cookbooks listed on www.eatyourbooks.com.)

Q. Christmas at home or away?

A. Home, then running off to my home away from home, beautiful wintery Kyoto, for a short break before I host my Kyoto Cuisine and Culture tours.

Jane is an Australian cookbook author and editor, food and travel writer, publishing consultant, culinary tour guide, and Japanophile. Her delicious books include Zenbu Zen, Snowflakes and Schnapps, Cocina Nueva, Grub, Yoshoku, and A little taste of Japan. Jane blogs at Eatspeakjl where you’ll find information about her wonderful tours.

Emiko Davies

Food writer, food photographer and cookbook author

Q. What are you cooking on Christmas Day?

A. My husband and I are doing an easy menu this Christmas. It’s been a busy year and we haven’t had much time to plan or think about it too much! So rather than do big mains, we’re going for a mix of some of our favourite sharing plates to have a big spread that lets everyone just graze so we don’t have to be madly rushing back and forth from the kitchen!

There’ll be fresh oysters (a must), vitello tonnato (rare roast beef sliced thinly with a dressing of homemade tuna mayonnaise) and we’re also doing a colourful beetroot-cured salmon with horseradish sauce and what we call “Fergus’ salad” – raw beetroot, red cabbage and red onion salad from Fergus Henderson’s Beyond Nose to Tail Eating. And we’ll also make some little potato gnocchi (the Florentines call them topini) with chickpeas and clams.

I prepared dessert a few weeks ago with my first ever steamed christmas pudding following the recipe of a good friend and pudding expert, Regula Ysewijn (better known as Miss Foodwise). It’s been marinating in lots of brandy, I am pretty keen to crack it open on Christmas day and see how it turned out!

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

A. Keep it simple! Things that can be prepared in advance (or even better, that are tastier when done in advance!) are always helpful in my book, as it leaves you more time on the day. Also I find there’s always too much food at Christmas and it’s hard to fit dessert in, so even something small to nibble on is fine – some dark chocolate, walnuts or other nuts to crack open, fresh fruit, or biscotti to dip in some dessert wine, like my Tuscan in-laws would do.

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

A. Insert a course of some delicious cheeses and a platter of good prosciutto or other cold cuts. Serve it with slices of baguette and plump it up with some marinated olives or some sliced fruit like pears or peaches (depending what season you’re in) or dried muscat grapes and walnuts. It’s great either at the beginning as antipasto or even to end a meal. If dessert has all gone wrong, keep in mind the wonderful Eton Mess. (GT: Also see Emiko’s post on The Simplest Dessert.)

Q. Last minute gift ideas for foodies?

A. Some really good quality, possibly single-origin, artisan chocolate. It’s always a winner and there are so many great ones to choose from now, with pretty packaging too!

Q. Christmas at home or away?

A. We’re at home for Christmas this year, but it may be our last Christmas in Australia for a while as we’re moving to Italy next year! So we’ll make the most of a summery Christmas with plenty of fresh stone fruit and cherries to nibble on and keeping cool with seafood and things that don’t need much cooking.

Australian-Japanese Italophile Emiko contributes to The Locavore EditionField Guide to NSW Produce, The Age Good Food Guide and The Age Good Cafe Guide. Emiko blogs about regional Italian food on Food52 and at www.emikoedavies.com. Emiko’s photography has appeared in Kinfolk and The Cheese Mag. Her first cookbook will be published in 2015.

Victoria Stewart

Food Editor, London Evening Standard

Q. What are you cooking on Christmas Day?

A. This year we’re going to a friend’s house so we’re bringing the sides only. I’m hoping we get to do the roast potatoes, best cooked in goose fat.

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

A. First, buy the stuff you don’t really need to make, like Christmas pudding. Second, this is basically just a Sunday roast with extra pressure on it, and who panics about one of those? So to ease it up just make sure you delegate: one person to chop the tatties and the Brussels, etc, another to make the bread sauce, another to lay the table, and so on. Anyone who is worrying that they need to do it all on their own is wasting their time!

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

A. Have some food in the freezer from COOK. These are the loveliest ‘ready meals’ I know of, and have saved many an emergency in our house. I’m sure they have some with Christmas flavours so you’re not too short changed if all turns chaotic.

Q. Last minute gift ideas for foodies?

A. I’ve done various gift guides this year and some of my favourite things are Falcon enamelware or tea from Prince & Sons. I’m loving the blood orange and also the mulled Christmas flavours at the moment.

Q. Christmas at home or away?

A. Home on Christmas Eve, to family friends on the day and to our cousins on Boxing Day. Then a few days of rest with my family. I can’t wait!

When London food editor Victoria is not reviewing posh restaurants and writing about all things foodie for the London Evening Standard, she is tracking down the newest food trucks, carts and vans, and writing about everything from burgers to churros on her blog London Street Foodie.

Thang Ngo

Food writer, restaurant reviewer and food blogger

Q. What are you cooking on Christmas Day?

A. Christmas lunch with my partner (travel writer Walter Mason) and his extended family is a tradition since they moved down from far north Queensland. Everyone brings a dish. Australia is so unique and wonderful in so many ways, firstly it’s a summer Christmas and we’re one of the most multicultural countries in the world. Each year we bring goi cuon, Vietnamese fresh rice paper rolls as our contribution. For me, that one dish says so much about Christmas in Australia.

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

A. Keep it simple. Freak out and you’ve lost the spirit of Christmas. If you’re ever in doubt make sure there’s plenty of wine and beer – it’s a perfect social lubricant. It’s hot, so make sure there’s plenty of ham and other cold meat and salads for them go graze on throughout the day.

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

A. Alcohol and ham.

Q. Last minute gift ideas for foodies?

A. A food magazine subscription.You can get it fast on the internet, no crowds, no queuing, and it lasts for the whole year. Every time the mag arrives, they’ll think of you.

Q. Christmas at home or away?

A. For the past decade or more, I usually spend Christmas Day with family and then fly to Asia, Hong Kong, Thailand or Vietnam, though last year it was Myanmar. This is the first Christmas in a while that I’ll be in Sydney.

Australian food writer-blogger Thang writes for Feast and Tiger Tales and is a Good Food contributor, writing for Sydney Morning Herald’s Good Food, Epicure in The Age, and Good Food Under $30 guide. On his blog Noodlies, one of Australia’s most read, he reviews ‘ma and pa’ eateries in the multicultural suburbs most publications ignore.

Lindsey Tramuta

Food and travel writer and food blogger

Q. What are you cooking on Christmas Day?

A. Linzer cookies, one of my favourite holiday treats. The rest of the preparation – turkey with stuffing and small plates – I leave to my step-mother whose biggest gift to us all during the holidays is assuming most kitchen duties. It makes her happy, us happy and everyone well-fed.

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

A. Don’t over-think it! Plan for something that is manageable, likely to please the whole family no matter how simple, and doesn’t require you to be relegated to the kitchen the entire day. Another solution: ask everyone to contribute to relieve some of the pressure.

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

A. Take a deep breath and ask yourself: does it matter? Salvage what you can, have a laugh, and pop open one of the many bottles of wine (I hope) you have on hand to ease any disappointment. And certainly there is chocolate lying about in case of emergencies, right?

Q. Last minute gift ideas for foodies?

A. My go-to gift in a bind is always artisanal chocolate and since I’m based in Paris, the picking is vast. Very few people would gripe about receiving an assortment as it can always be added to the robust holiday spread. In Paris, I’d opt for Patrick Roger, Jacques Genin (whose caramels and candied fruits are equally suitable gifts if you know your receiver isn’t a chocolate fan), Le Chocolat Alain Ducasse or Pierre Marcolini. Outside of Paris, aim for locally produced chocolate.

Q. Christmas at home or away?

A. Home – but in my case that could either be Paris or Philadelphia. Wherever I am, the crucial elements are family, a decorated tree and a home-cooked meal (which absolutely must include cookies).

An American expat in Paris, Lindsey has written on food and travel in Paris, France and beyond for The New York Times, AFARWall Street JournalFrance Magazine, and Fathom. She writes about “food, love, life, and struggles in Paris” on her blog Lost in Cheeseland.

Alec Lobrano

Food writer, restaurant reviewer and author

Q. What are you cooking on Christmas Day?

A. Christmas dinner with friends will be scallop carpaccio with blood orange vinaigrette made with pecan oil, then roasted capon with chestnut-sausage stuffing, and bouche de Noel from patissier Gerard Mulot in the 6th Arrondissement, Paris.

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

A. When it comes to Christmas, keep it simple. No one’s ever unhappy to be served a feast of smoked salmon and really good oysters, for example.

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

A. Keep some really good quality tortellini in the fridge, maybe stuffed with prosciutto or wild mushrooms. Hopefully you won’t need it as a failsafe meal, but you’ll be awfully glad it’s there when you wake up at noon on December 26 feeling a little rough. Poach the pasta in a good rich chicken stock and serve with lots of freshly grated Parmesan. A perfect feast whatever hemisphere you’re living in, too.

Q. Last minute gift ideas for foodies?

A. A really good bottle of olive oil is the ultimate one-size-fits all gastronomic gift. This year I’m giving Rincon de la Subbetica, Priego do Cordoba, a superb organic oil from Andalucia.

Q. Christmas at home or away?

A. This year it’s Christmas in Paris for me and my partner, which is lovely, since it’s been such a busy year. One of the nicest Christmases I’ve ever had was in Palma di Mallorca, though – gorgeous candle-lit mass at the cathedral on Christmas Eve and then a whole bunch of brilliant tapas.

Alec is an American food writer, restaurant reviewer and author who has lived in Paris since 1986. He has written for Gourmet, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Guardian, Bon Appetit, Food & Wine, Travel & Leisure, and Conde Nast Traveler. He is the author of Hungry for Paris and Hungry for France and blogs at www.alexanderlobrano.com.

Felicity Cloake

Food and drink writer and author

Q. What are you cooking on Christmas Day?

A. My family are creatures of habit; we always, always have smoked salmon with brown bread and butter, followed by the usual turkey-based extravaganza complete with apricot sausagemeat stuffing, pig in blankets, roast potatoes, sautéed sprouts with toasted almonds and butter, bread sauce, cranberry and orange relish and – my bete noir – glazed parsnips, followed by Christmas pudding, vats of custard and a large amount of Stilton. There would be a riot if I dared go for anything different, but I might try and sneak some ground walnuts into the bread sauce this year, when no one’s looking.

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

A. Don’t panic – at its heart Christmas dinner is just a Sunday roast with silly paper hats, and once you realise that, it starts to feel a lot less scary. Stuff tradition; choose something you like to eat and enjoy making, keep it simple, prepare as much as possible ahead, and don’t be afraid to buy in a good quality dessert or starter to make life easier for yourself. Christmas isn’t a cooking competition.

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

A. In an ideal world you’d have a back up plan; a Boxing Day ham you can put to use early, or a decent pie in the freezer, but if not, don’t panic. Decent sauces (cranberry and bread sauce for turkey, horseradish or mustard for beef etc) hide a multitude of sins, and if things are really bad, you can’t go far wrong with frying up the salvageable bits in a pan with a little goose fat, sticking a fried egg on top and calling it a festive bubble and squeak. And if there’s nothing salvageable, pretty much everyone loves cacio e pepe; spaghetti with cheese, olive oil and black pepper, which takes all of 10 minutes to make.

Q. Last minute gift ideas for foodies? 

A. Lots of great gifts will start to be reduced in the last days before Christmas – truckles of cheese, sides of smoked salmon, legs of ham, big jars of boozy fruit – and you really can’t go wrong with something edible for the enthusiastic greedy guts. That said, every cook needs a decent knife, so that’s usually a safe bet (if potentially a slightly sinister present) – less interesting than a selection of flavoured oils or an ornamental pepper grinder, perhaps, but infinitely more useful.

Q. Christmas at home or away?

A. At home, all the way. Christmas should be all about people – the company is even more important than the food, and that’s saying something. That said, if anyone wants to ship my family out to the Alps next year, I’d love to ski up an appetite for my Christmas feast!

Felicity specialises in writing on food and drink for The Guardian, where she has a regular series on ‘How to cook the perfect…‘, for which she tests out quintessential recipes. She’s authored two books, Perfect: 68 Essential Recipes for Every Cook’s Repertoire and Perfect Host: 162 easy recipes for feeding people and having fun.

If you found these Christmas tips from food writers and editors helpful, and are looking for some Christmas drinks ideas to go with that food, you might also like to check out these Christmas cocktail recipes and tips from Sydney’s best bars and these recipes for the best Asian inspired cocktails from Bangkok’s best bars.

UPDATED: December 2016

Note on pics: the images above by Terence were taken at our Christmas lunch at my uncle’s home in Bendigo, Australia, a couple of years ago: gazpacho with watermelon topped with tuna tartare (left) by Terence, and my prawn cocktail with guacamole (right). In Australia, where it’s usually sweltering on Christmas Day, we have traditionally feasted on fresh, light dishes, including plenty of seafood. In Dubai, where the icy air-conditioning had us dreaming of Europe, where we usually spent part of January, we’d opt for warming dishes like duck confit and potatoes roasted in duck fat. We’re still deciding what to make this Christmas in Cambodia. Ideas?



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  1. Lara Dunston

    Thanks for the kind words, Ian! We like to go to the experts for advice. It’s good to see a similar message coming from them all: keep it simple and focus on spending time with loved-ones on Christmas Day.


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