What is the ultimate Christmas dinner? Where to start? It’s a meal that means so much to so many different cultures and generations.

For me, growing up in a European household meant embracing a little English tradition, Christmas dinner was an eclectic mix of free-range roast chook straight from my aunty’s backyard, prawn cocktails, Polish kielbasa (Polish sausage), potato salad, home-made pickled herring, beetroot, fruit salad and Christmas pudding.

Dad was a keen fisherman and would take me prawning, dragging the net in the estuary the day before, so mum could make her famous prawn cocktails.

I still love making them, but instead of the mayonnaise and cream base, I give them a healthy touch (see recipe below) and mix up my prawns with fresh lime juice, avocado, coriander and mint then pile them into individual lettuce cups, just like a san choi bau.

Roast chicken always replaced the traditional turkey when I was growing up and I can honestly say I never had roast turkey until I started working as a chef.

I try to continue the family tradition and make a roast organic chicken stuffed with pear, pistachio and cranberry.

What I love about this festive feast is that the stuffing is so moist and full of great chunky, tasty bits you can see.

It’s gluten-free and my husband is mad about anything cranberry, so I make a double mix so he can enjoy a big pile of it on his plate.

The stuffing is also a great base for the perfect nut roast, for all the vegetarians in the family.

Christmas pudding cake was always a must at home. This is a dense and moist fruit cake with a high ratio of fruit, which means I don’t need to use any extra sugar in the recipe.

I’m also using ground almond meal, which is gluten free and adds moisture. Serve in small portions after Christmas lunch or dinner or warm it up and serve as a pudding with vanilla bean custard or thick natural yoghurt and orange blossom honey.

ORGANIC ROAST CHICKEN

1 organic or free-range chicken (about 1.5kg)

Olive oil

Salt and pepper

1 cup apple cider

1 cup low-salt chicken stock

Pear, pistachio and cranberry stuffing

1 onion, finely chopped

2 pears, finely diced

80g pistachios, chopped

80g dried cranberries

Pinch of cinnamon

1 tsp fresh thyme

1 lemon, zest and juice

1/2 cup almond meal

Preheat oven to 180C. Caramelise onion in a little olive oil, then add pears. Cook for 10 minutes until golden and soft. Combine in a bowl with the pistachios, cranberries, cinnamon, thyme, lemon zest and lemon juice and almond meal. Stuff into chicken cavity.

Rub chicken with one tablespoon of olive oil then sprinkle with sea salt and white pepper. Place chicken in a shallow baking tray with apple cider. Roast for 90 minutes, remove from the oven to rest for 20 minutes covered with foil.

To make gravy, pour chicken juices from the baking dish into a saucepan, skimming off fat. Add stock and warm. Thicken if needed with arrowroot or gluten-free cornflour.

PRAWN COCKTAIL

400g prawns, cooked and peeled

1 avocado, finely diced

2 tablespoons mint, chopped

2 tablespoons coriander or parsley, chopped

2 spring onions, sliced

60ml lime juice

1 clove garlic, smashed

1 teaspoon honey

2 tablespoons fish sauce

 

Whole lettuce leaves (iceberg, butter lettuce or baby cos)

Combine prawns, avocado, mint, coriander and spring onion in a bowl. In a separate bowl, combine lime juice, garlic, honey and fish sauce to make the dressing.

Pour dressing over prawns and toss through. Separate lettuce into cups and spoon in prawn mixture.

CHRISTMAS PUDDING CAKE

600g mixed dried fruit (or a mix of raisins, prunes, figs, apricots, currants, sultanas and dates)

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

2 teaspoons vanilla-bean extract

zest and juice of 1 orange

3 tablespoons olive oil

3 eggs

200g (2 cups) ground almonds

50g walnuts

Preheat oven to 160C (fan forced), or 180C (no fan). Prepare a 20-centimetre round cake tin with baking paper lining the sides and the base. Combine dried fruit, spices, vanilla, orange zest and juice, olive oil and eggs.

Add the almonds and walnuts and mix. Spoon batter into the cake tin. Bake for one hour and 30 minutes. Check with a skewer to see if it comes out clean. Cool cake, remove from the tin and store in an air-tight container in the fridge for one month. This cake can also be served as a pudding.

~SMH

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