The following collection of Christmas table recipes are kind of like old and new family members. Some I’ve returned to many times over the years. Others new that have definitely migrated to the ‘keeper file’. I hope they bring you as much pleasure as they have served on my family’s table over the years – particularly the Spiced Nuts and Pickled Cherries. Pantry staples that have the culinary superpower ability to accompany and lift what they sit alongside from the ordinary to the extraordinary. Merry Christmas!
1 tspn black peppercorns
8 green cardamom pods, seeds only
1 ½ tbsp coriander seeds
2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp nigella seeds
1 x 5 cm cinnamon stick
300 gm raw cashews
350 gm raw peanuts
300 gm almonds, skin on
6 tspns spice mix
½ tsp crushed dried chilli
1 tbsp salt flakes
2 cinnamon sticks
4 small dried bay leaves
small dried chillies
vegetable oil for frying
- Gently dry roast the spices in a pan until slightly brown and fragrant. Grind in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle to a fine powder.
- Heat a good amount of vegetable oil in a deep frying pan or wok. Fry the nuts on a medium heat, keeping each variety separate and only a handful at a time.
- Remove the nuts with a slotted spoon when light brown, as the residual heat will continue to cook the nuts. Drain on absorbent paper.
- Mix the nuts with the spice mix, salt and crushed dried chilli. Coarsely crumble the cinnamon sticks, and toss through the nuts together with the bay leaves and small dried chillies.
- Cool completely before storing in a air tight container.
This recipe makes enough for 6 – 8 as a nibble with drinks.
Sour Cherry Pinenut Christmas Dolmades
30 preserved vine leaves
1 lrg onion, finely chopped
2 tbsp + extra olive oil
1 tsp salt
3 tsp ground allspice
150 g medium or long grain rice
2 cups water
4 tbsp toasted pine nuts
50 g dried sour cherries, roughly chopped or currants
2 tbsp lemon zest, finely grated
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp + a little extra fresh dill, roughly chopped
¼ cup parsley, finely chopped
¼ tsp black pepper, freshly ground
lemon wedges, to serve
1 tsp toasted sesame seeds, to garnish
- Soak the vine leaves in cold water.
- Gently fry the onion in 2 tbsp olive oil with the salt and ground allspice until softened. Stir through the rice and then the water.
- Cook on very low heat with the lid on for 10 – 15 minutes until the rice is tender. Transfer to a bowl and allow to cool.
- Stir through pine nuts, dried sour cherries, lemon zest and juice, dill, parsley and black pepper.
- Preheat oven to 160˚C.
- Lay the vine leaves out on 2 layers of tea towels and roll to dry.
- Facing each vine leaf smooth side down, place a large teaspoonful of filling in the centre and tightly roll, tucking in the sides to form small log shapes.
- Pack them side by side in a heavy-based oven-proof pot and pour over enough cold water to come half way up the side of the dolmades.
- Drizzle with a little olive oil, cover with baking paper and lid and bake for 45 minutes.
- Allow to cool before chilling.
- Serve garnished with a drizzle of olive oil, toasted sesame, chopped fresh dill and lemon wedges.
10 – 12 garlic cloves, peeled
full cream milk
20 sml canned anchovy fillets in oil, drained
300 g best-quality unsalted butter, softened
200 ml extra virgin olive oil
100 ml pouring cream
Selection of vegetables:
stringless green & yellow beans, baby radishes, baby carrots, celery hearts, cos lettuce hearts, witlof, boiled globe artichokes, fennel & asparagus
- Place the garlic cloves into a small saucepan and cover with milk. Simmer until the garlic is soft and the milk has reduced to a small creamy amount.
- Puree the garlic and anchovies into the reduced milk until smooth.
- Whisk the butter and olive oil into the puree, occasionally warming over a low heat while whisking to amalgamate.
- Add the cream, gently warm and then pour into a pre-heated ceramic dish.
- Serve on a platter surrounded by fresh seasonal vegetables.
Marron, Walnut, Avocado & Pear Salad
with Candied Garlic & Verjuice Dressing
1 cup walnuts
6 cloves garlic
extra virgin olive oil
4 x 300 g marron (purged)
¼ cup salt
400 ml verjuice
80 ml walnut oil
2 handfuls salad greens that include bitter varieties
3 stalks celery, thinly sliced
1 avocado, sliced
2 sml Bartlett pears, thinly sliced
1 sml bunch fresh dill, the tips plucked from the stalks
- Dry roast the walnuts in a 200 c oven for 20 minutes until just brown then transfer to a dry tea towel. Gather the corners of the tea towel together and rub the skins away from the walnuts. Transfer to a coarse sieve to separate the skins from the roasted walnut. Reserve to the side.
- Blanch 6 cloves of garlic in boiling water before peeling. Using a simmer pad, gently warm the garlic in enough extra virgin olive oil to just cover, until the cloves just start to turn a warm blond colour. Leave to cool before removing the garlic & reserving the olive oil for another dish.
- Place the live marron in the freezer for 20 – 30 minutes until the marron no longer moves but is not yet frozen. Bring a large stockpot of water to the boil and add the salt. Gently put the marron in the boiling water, cover immediately and cook for 3 minutes. Remove from the pot and plunge into iced water. Twist and pull the head away from the tail. Using a kitchen scissors cut up the middle of the inside of the tail and ease the flesh away from the shell. Pull back the flap from the top of the meat and gently remove the alimentary canal. Slice the marron meat in halves.
- In a shallow pan, simmer the verjuice until reduced by half. Add the marron halves to just warm then remove with a slotted spoon reserving to the side. Whisk the garlic cloves and walnut oil into the warm verjuice.
- Compile the salad by scattering the salad leaves on a platter, topped with the celery slices, marron halves, sliced avocado & pear. Drizzle over the dressing and garnish with the roasted walnuts, fresh dill tips & freshly cracked black pepper.
Roast Chicken, Apple, Leek, Juniper,
Speck, Bay & Apple Saba
1 x 2kg free-range chicken
30 g butter
salt flakes & freshly cracked black pepper
2 med leeks, the white section thickly sliced
1 ½ tbsp juniper berries
150 g speck or pancetta, sliced
1 ½ cups apple cider or apple juice
6 fresh bay leaves
3 Pink Lady apples, cored & thickly cross-section sliced
1 tbsp apple saba or Balsamic vinegar
- Preheat oven to 220 c.
- Coarsely crush the juniper berries in a mortar & pestle. Generously season the chicken with salt flakes, cracked black pepper and 1 tablespoon of juniper berries including the cavity.
- Place 2 bay leaves inside the chicken and then evenly overlap the speck slices over the top of the chicken to cover.
- Sit the chicken on top of the remaining 4 bay leaves on the bottom of a heavy-based roasting dish.
- Pour in 1 cup of the apple cider before roasting in the oven for 15 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 180 c and cook for 1½ hours.
- Transfer the chicken to a plate and loosely cover with foil to rest for 15 minutes.
- Pour off the roasting juices through a sieve into a small bowl, scraping the bottom of the pan as clean as possible. Reserve the bay leaves for garnish.
- Gently heat the roasting dish with the butter and sauté the leek with the remaining ½ tablespoon of juniper berries until the leek has softened.
- Deglaze with the remaining ½ cup apple cider and reserved roasting juices.
- Bring to a simmer before adding the apple slices. Simmer until the apple has just started to soften and then reserve to the side.
- Reduce the liquid until a syrupy consistency before stirring through the apple saba.
- Remove the speck slices and roughly chop into bite-sized pieces.
- Carve the chicken and arrange on a preheated platter together with the apple slices and speck.
- Spoon over the sauce and garnish with the reserved bay leaves before serving.
Strawberry & Blueberry Trifled Tiramisu
2 x 250 g punnets strawberries
3 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp water
1 x 125 g punnet blueberries
1 cup mascarpone
1 cup Greek yoghurt
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp honey
100 g (5 lrg) Sponge Finger biscuits
3 tbsp Campari (optional)
- Roughly chop 1 punnet of strawberries. Mix with the sugar and water and then bring to a simmer.
- Cook for 2 minutes and crush lightly with a fork.
- Thickly slice remaining strawberries before stirring through the cooked strawberries with the blueberries.
- Fold the mascarpone, yoghurt, vanilla and honey together until combined.
- Crumble the sponge fingers on to the base of one large bowl or 6 individual glasses. Drizzle over the Campari.
- Reserve a little of the berry mixture for garnish before spooning over the sponge biscuits.
- Smooth the top.
- Top with the mascarpone mixture, cover and chill for 1 hour.
- Garnish with the remaining berry mixture spooned over top.
- Use Elderflower cordial instead of Campari
- Substitute the berries & Campari for fresh cherries & Kirsch, feijoas & gin or peaches & brandy
- Garnish with grated chocolate or toasted almond flakes
- Substitute the yoghurt for custard for a richer deluxe version
700 g sugar
850 ml apple cider vinegar
24 black peppercorns
6 bay leaves
1 clove garlic, unpeeled (optional)
1kg sweet or sour fresh cherries, rinsed
- Dissolve sugar in vinegar in a large saucepan over a gentle heat.
- Add all other ingredients except cherries and simmer for 10 minutes.
- Allow syrup to cool a little.
- Trim stalks to 1cm and pack fruit into hot, sterilized preserving jars.
- Pour the vinegar syrup over fruit and seal.
- Best to leave for a few weeks before eating but can be enjoyed the next day.