Christmas entertaining - a delicious and easy menu

Pork shoulder

Pork shoulder

Christmas is coming and the goose is getting fat…….well not really. This year is going to be one of my all time favourite Christmases – extremely low key with just my little family of five. We fly out on Boxing Day for a family adventure overseas, so we are staying put in Sydney for the big day.

On the food front, I am keeping it super simple. I am planning to slow roast a shoulder of pork on the bone, and then crisp it up at the end so that we get crackling too. There'll be an apple mayo to go with it, my red cabbage salad, a really beautiful soft, melty French brie, some fresh artisan bread, good quality pickled cucumbers and everyone can make their own pulled pork Christmas sandwiches. Yum!

For dessert, I have one of my mum’s famous Christmas puddings that has been sitting in my fridge for a few years now – apparently the older they are the better they taste. To go with that, I will make our family’s traditional brandy cream – I have to confess, this is really the only time I really enjoy eating cream, it tastes delicious!

I might even make up another dessert for the kids – something along the lines of a trifle/Eton mess: think homemade meringue, flour-less orange cake, fresh mangos and raspberries, mascarpone and jelly.

Hopefully, Sydney will put on a spectacular day and after Christmas stockings have been explored by the kids, we will meander down to Bondi beach and go for a Christmas swim and hunt down a coffee while the pork is slow roasting in the oven.

I love a Christmas day like this – completely casual with no pressure to baste the turkey or roast any veggies. And with any luck, you might even get leftovers.

Christmas day menu

Pork shoulder

Red cabbage salad

Pickles

Slow roasted pulled pork sandwiches – constructed or de-constructed, whatever floats your boat, with the following accompaniments:

• Slow roasted pork shoulder (recipe below)

• Crusty artisan bread (or bread rolls)

• French brie (splurge on a really good one, and ensure the brie is taken out of the fridge between 3 and 5 hours before you intend to eat. if it’s really hot, reduce the time out of the fridge. The aim is for it to be really gooey and oozy).

• Pickles (I bought mine from the Bondi markets from some local dudes called Westmont Picklery – they are really good).

• Red cabbage salad (from our cookbook – see page 146). You want something very simple, clean and fresh to cut through the richness of the pork.

• Apple and wholegrain mustard aoili (recipe below)

• Christmas pudding (David Jones has a good selection, including gluten free options, or a good gourmet deli)
• Brandy cream (recipe below)

 

Slow Roasted Pork Shoulder

Pork crackling

Ingredients

1 piece good quality pork shoulder with bone in (3 - 4kg will feed 8 - 10 people with leftovers. Ask your butcher to provide the right size for your audience and make sure you ask him/her to score the meat).
2 generous tablespoons fennel seeds
1 generous tablespoon sea salt flakes
1 bunch sage – ½ finely chopped and the other half kept whole
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 lemons sliced
2 bulbs fresh fennel sliced thickly on the vertical
1 red onion sliced thickly
Pepper to season
3 - 4 cups water

Method

Pre-heat oven to 150 degrees.

Combine the fennel seeds and salt in a mortar and pestle and pound to release the aromas. Add the chopped sage and olive oil and mix/pound to combine.

To your roasting pan, add the lemons, fennel and onions.

Rub the underside of the pork all over with the fennel seed olive oil mixture and crack some black pepper over the meat too. Also rub the sides of the meat but avoid the skin.

In a roasting tin or baking tray, line the tray with foil (for tenting) and a sheet of baking paper. On top of the baking paper, add the lemons, fennel and onions with sprigs of the sage leaves. Sit the meat on top of the of the lemons, fennel and onions. Pat dry skin of the meat.

Carefully add the water around the meat and then tent it.

Cook the pork for 8 or more hours. Check it at the 5 hour mark to see if you need to top up with more liquid. If I am serving the meat for lunch, I would put the pork in the oven the night before – any time around 8pm on about 100-110 degrees. When I wake up in the morning, I would take a peek, probably add more liquid and turn the heat up to 150 degrees. Keep checking the meat every 2 hours to see if the liquid needs topping up, as you don’t want it to dry out. When topping up with liquid, boil the kettle and pour from the hot jug. If the top of the meat is starting to look brown then turn the oven down to 70-100 degrees until you’re ready to crisp up the skin.

Provided the meat has been cooking for at least 8 hours, you can take it out of the oven an hour before serving and keep it wrapped in foil.

30 mins prior to eating, unwrap the meat. Turn the oven up to 250 degrees. You want your oven really hot. Pat dry the skin and add about 2 tablespoons of sea salt and rub this on the skin with a little drizzle of olive oil. Pop the meat back into the oven to crisp the skin. If the pan has little or no liquid, add some boiling or hot water – you don’t want to burn the pan or dry out the meat.

After 15 mins check the meat to see if the skin has crisped. If it has to your liking, take it out of the oven. Should you wish for your crackle to be really crispy, remove the skin from the meat and put it in a separate tray or transfer the meat to a board or platter and put the skin back into the pan. Pop back into the hot oven for a further 10-20mins – keep and eye on it – you will know when it’s ready. 

The pork should pull very easily from the bone. You can either make sandwiches using all the accompaniments or eat it deconstructed. Just remember to have a little bit of everything in one mouthful as the flavours all work so well together and is not to be missed!

Apple wholegrain mustard aioli

This is based on my homemade recipe in our cookbook on page 104.

Ingredients

One egg (room temperature – this is essential)
250mls of grapeseed oil
A squeeze half a lemon
A good pinch of sea salt
1 small apple peeled, simmered in a pan with a little water and made into a smooth apple puree – be sure to allow it to cool completely before adding it to the mayonnaise.
1 generous teaspoon wholegrain mustard

Method

To make the mayo, put all the ingredients aside from the apple and mustard, into a plastic measuring jug and use a stick blender to blend (I have only ever made this using a stick blender). Yes, it’s that easy! Don’t be fooled into using your good olive oil to make this, as it won’t taste good. You must use a bland oil and grapeseed is perfect. And you also need to ensure your egg is at room temperature - otherwise it won't work. Once the mayo is made, fold in a few teaspoons of the apple puree and wholegrain mustard. Taste and season if required – it may need more apple, more wholegrain mustard, salt and pepper, up to you.

The Holberton’s famously delicious brandy cream 

Ingredients

One egg (at room temperature)
½ cup raw caster sugar
300mls whipping (or thickened) cream
3-4 tablespoons brandy (more if you wish)

Method

Separate egg and beat egg white until stiff. Add sugar and beat until nice and glossy. Add egg yolk and beat to combine.

Whip your cream until soft peaks form and fold whipped cream into your egg and sugar mixture. Once combined, fold through the brandy. Serve with Christmas pudding or fresh berries and mangos.

Christmas pudding tips

We are lucky enough to always have a “family” pudding – my grandmother use to make this and now my mum makes it. If you don’t have a “family” pud, then go and buy a good quality one.

Growing up, the first thing we did on Christmas morning (even before presents) was to begin steaming the pudding. My mother (who is an awesome cook) imparted the wisdom that the longer it steams, the better it tastes. So please do try it - it really does taste melt in your mouth once it's been steamed for many hours. The one we used for this shoot steamed for about 5 hours on a low simmer.

We prefer to wrap our puddings in cloth for steaming, rather than plastic. Unwrap the pudding (take all the plastic out), then line the cloth with a square of baking paper. If it didn't come in cloth, just use a tea towel. Wrap it all up tightly, then put it in the steamer.

So you have the water in the pot, steamer basket on top, pudding in the basket and lid on top. Once the water comes to the boil, turn it down to a really low heat and steam until your guests are ready to eat it. Remember to keep topping up the water in the pot.

Part of the theater of our family Christmas day lunches is when the pudding is ready to be served. Everyone sits at the table whilst mum is in the kitchen heating about ½ cup of brandy or rum on the stove until shimmering – lighting it in the pot and then carefully pouring the flaming liquid all over the pudding. The lights go out and there is a “hip hip hooray” of joy as she comes into the room with said pudding alight in all it’s flaming glory!

As a quantity guide, a 2kg pudding will feed 8 guests with plenty of leftovers. Serve with brandy cream and good quality vanilla ice-cream if you wish. 

It's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas.....

We’re almost ready to dress the tree and play Christmas tunes……literally around the clock. I love the traditions involved with Christmas. The music, dressing the tree, the advent calendar, Santa Claus and of course the food. 

The first Christmas ritual in my family is to dress the tree. This dates back to my favourite end of year holiday activity with my mum and sisters. We would all get together, play Christmas carols and deck the tree with our beautiful Christmas decorations that mum had collected over the years.

Now it’s my turn to establish my own family’s Christmas rituals. The first is to add to our Christmas Playlist with a new album – last year it was Michael Buble, the year before that, it was Rod Stewart! We also shop for a few new decorations to add to our tree. For me, dressing the tree and adding to my Christmas sing-a-long is like cutting the red ribbon to a jolly good time.

From this moment, the festive season has official begun! You can feel the buzz of excitement and anticipation in the air – people getting ready for end of year parties, pre Christmas festivities, the end of one year and the promise of a new year, and for those with children or at university, the start of the long awaited summer holidays.

It’s that time of year when you like to have your pantry stocked for friends popping in, or to have a homemade gift at the ready for that favourite person or teacher.

With this is mind, I have created two recipes – one is a “festive” variation on the Ginger nuts (page 204 of our cook book) and the other is a “festive” variation to my raw chocolate brownies. With both recipes, I have added some Christmas notes to them – orange zest, cranberries, cloves, ginger, cardamom and cinnamon.

These treats are also gluten, sugar and dairy free. I love them, Ness loves them and so do our kids. They are a perfect sweet treat for after school and during the holidays.

Raw chocolate festive brownies

Base ingredients

1 cup roasted hazelnuts
1½ cups pitted Medjool dates (approx. 275g)
½ cup raw cacao powder
1½ teaspoons pure vanilla bean paste
¼ teaspoon Himalayan salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ cup raw cacao nibs
Zest 1 orange
½ cup cranberries

Top ingredients

½ cup virgin coconut oil
½ cup raw cacao powder
¼ cup raw coconut nectar or other sweetener of choice
Pinch Himalayan salt
½ teaspoon pure vanilla bean paste

Line an 8-inch square tin with baking paper. In a food processor, process the hazelnuts so they resemble bread crumbs. Add the pitted dates, cacao powder, vanilla, salt, cinnamon and orange zest. Process until thoroughly combined. You will have something resembling sticky crumbly earth. Stir or pulse in the cacao nibs and cranberries until combined.

Evenly press the mixture into your prepared tin until smooth. Place into the freezer for at least 15 minutes.

For the chocolate topping, in a metal or heat resistant bowl, add the coconut oil, cacao powder, coconut nectar, salt and vanilla bean paste. Put the bowl on top of a saucepan filled with simmering water. The coconut oil should melt quickly. Using a whisk, mix all the ingredients until thoroughly combined and smooth. Take off the heat. Remove the brownie from the freezer and pour the chocolate on top.

Pop the tin back into the freezer.

After about 30 minutes remove from the freezer and from the tin. Using a sharp knife, slice the brownie into whatever size you wish. Store in the fridge or freezer for a really delicious and awesome treat. Perfect to have with coffee. Good enough to eat for breakfast!

Festive spice biscuits

Ingredients

1½ cups gluten free flour
½ teaspoon Himalayan salt
1 teaspoon gluten free baking powder
3 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
¾ teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
Zest 1 orange
1 cup almond butter (you can buy this in jars at the health food shop or make your own if you have a high powered blender)
1 cup maple syrup

Method

Pre heat oven to 180 degrees. Line 2 baking trays with baking paper.

In a large bowl mix together the almond butter and maple syrup.

In a smaller bowl, mix together the dry ingredients – the flour, salt, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, cardamom and zest of orange.

Add the dry mixture to the wet mixture in several batches. Stir to combine. You should have a sticky dough. Use a dessert spoon to make small balls or your hands. If the mixture is too sticky, flour your hands with gluten free flour.

Once your baking tray is full, wet your fingers and press down on each ball to create a disc. Place in the oven for 10-12 minutes or until brown on top.

Let the cookies cool on a wire rack.

Makes about 20 to 30 small cookies.

Our book launch

On the evening of Wednesday 21st October, we finally launched our cook book. What an incredible moment it was for Ness and I. To finally see our book on the shelves of one of Sydney’s most eminent book stores was pretty awesome. Thanks to the wonderful team at Harry Hartog for making the night so special. We were lucky to have so many of our supportive friends and family attend the evening - it was wonderful to see everyone there.

Creating our book has been a 2-year love project. What started as a one-off cooking class for dear friends, with Ness volunteering to take photographs of my dishes, culminated in us jointly producing Our Tamarama Kitchen. Our book is really a celebration of where we live and how I cook.

My passion is food and bringing people together. I love to create delicious healthy food for my friends and family – for me, it is my way of embracing people and showing my love for them.

Working with Ness has been a journey that I have found immensely joyful. I am sure you will all agree when you read our book that the photographs are phenomenal and that Ness is truly a rare talent behind the lens. After each shoot, I would always be gobsmacked at how talented she was and how amazing all her shots of my food were. I feel very lucky and blessed to have teamed up with Ness and to have her as a close friend. We have had so much fun in creating this book and we hope that you enjoy reading and cooking from it as much as Ness and I have had in bringing it to life! Enjoy!

Photo credits: many thanks to Liz Farquharson and Mark Davis for the fantastic shots of our launch night.

Exploring our neighbourhood

If you ever happen to be in our neck of the woods here are some of our favourite things to do, see and experience……

Markets

Bondi Farmers Markets are held every Saturday down at Bondi Beach Primary School. The vibe here is so special. We love it. I buy all my ingredients for my green smoothies from Field to Feast and my beautiful fresh flowers from Chris. It’s a Saturday morning must for us. We love the community spirit.

Bondi Beach Public School
Campbell Parade, NSW 2026
Australia
www.bondimarkets.com.au/farmers/

Galleries

Aquabumps is such a favourite place of ours. The gallery features the work of talented photographer Eugene Tan (Uge), who has been taking early morning shots of Bondi and the surrounding beaches for over a decade. Uge has a special, inspiring way of capturing the beauty and rawness of the ocean, along with an insight into the vibrant beachside culture. The perfect place to visit to take home a piece of Bondi, or for gift shopping. The friendly team there can help you select the perfect piece - go check it out!

Aquabumps Gallery
151 Curlewis Street
Bondi NSW 2026
Ph: 02 9130 7788
www.aquabumps.com

Beaches

We love Tamarama beach and the rocks surrounding it, and are truly blessed that we have this at our doorstep. You will often spot dolphins and whales in the bay here – especially around Mackenzie’s.

North Bondi is the perfect family beach, especially for really little ones as there is pram access at the end with an enclosed sea pool.

Bronte is also another great beach with a fantastic rock pool at one end that is great for taking little kids. There is often big surf at the other end, which is perfect for keeping bigger kids entertained.

Keeping fit

You can walk or run the 5km North Bondi to Bronte track, but try going a bit further (if time permits) all the way to Coogee. To get there you go past Clovelly and Gordon’s Bay, which are really beautiful and both have some great snorkeling, so pack your goggles.

Another bit of exercise we love doing at sunrise in the summer, is soft sand running along Bondi Beach. One length of the beach is just under 1KM, we feel we’ve achieved a great work out when we’ve done about four laps!

The perfect green smoothie

Jo

Smoothie ingredients

I am addicted to my green smoothies and need to drink one for breakfast everyday. Drinking it makes me feel so alive. Many people are turned off by the colour, but please give this one a go. I’ve managed to convert quite a few family members with this delicious and energising recipe. My kids now demand one for breakfast. It would be ideal if you had a powerful blender as you can put all the ingredients in at once. 

I go to the Bondi Markets on a Saturday morning, and just love the people from whom I buy my fresh organically grown herbs and greens. When in season, I love to add purslane, gotu kola, chocolate mint, pineapple sage, nettle and any other wonderful greens to my smoothies. Often the market growers have great suggestions. If I am using fresh nettle, I steep it in boiling water overnight. In the morning I bottle the liquid and discard the nettle – give this a try as it goes a fabulous deep bottle green, and is a great tonic for the blood.

Ingredients

2 handfuls of any variety of kale leaves (about 2 - 4 pieces with stems torn off) or any other green leafy vegetable such as baby spinach

½ or 1 whole lemon – skin, pips and all

A handful curly leaf or flat leaf parsley

15-20 soaked almonds (soak them overnight in filtered water in the fridge. This re-activates the vitamins inside them and make them easier for you to digest).

1 handful mint leaves

2 frozen mango cheeks, or a whole apple or pear cut in quarters

1½ cups of your favourite milk (I use Coco Quench)

½ - 1 cup filtered water

Optional

5 stems dandelion leaf

2 tablespoons yoghurt (ie: sheep, cow or coconut)

1 baby avocado or ½ a normal sized avocado

1 handful ice

Maple or rice malt syrup

Note: if using avocado, skip the yoghurt and vice versa.

Variation

Replace the almonds with soaked or raw cashew nuts.

Method

Whiz all ingredients in a powerful blender until green and smooth. If it’s not sweet enough, you can always add a teaspoon of maple or rice malt syrup to taste. You can also throw in a prune or date to sweeten.

If you don’t have a powerful blender you can use a food processor or normal blender but be sure to process the greens first with the liquid of your choice. Don’t add the lemon whole, add the zest and juice only. Add all other ingredients and blend until smooth.

Serves 2, generously
Gluten free
Dairy free (if dairy free milk and yoghurt are used)
Vegetarian