Ten easy recipes for a Christmas feast with friends and family

With Christmas less than a month away, The Newsroom’s resident chef Jesse Mullens takes away the stress of deciding what dishes to serve friends and family.

As a former chef, I share with you 10 easy recipes that will make Christmas day cooking less stressful.

To start, natural freshly dry-shucked oysters

Try Pacifics, Sydney Rocks or if you want something fancy, head to the Fish Markets in Pyrmont for Merimbula oysters. There are so many options for dressings but simplicity is key.

Just a squeeze of lemon and a touch of salt and pepper will make the natural salty taste of the oyster shine.

Scallops with garlic butter

Aim to buy scallops in the shell, preferably diver scallops which do not have orange roe. Place on a lined baking tray and paint sparingly with garlic butter. Pop into a hot oven for five minutes until they turn opaque. If you overcook, they will taste like a rubber ball.

Prawn cocktail

An oldie but a goodie! Start with a martini glass, chop up some avocado, cos lettuce and cherry tomatoes. Add your prawns and then smother with cocktail sauce, which you can make yourself by mixing good quality mayo with a tablespoon of mustard, a squirt of tomato sauce and a couple of drops of tabasco. Season with salt and pepper. To add some zing, lime zest would be nice as well.

prawn_cocktail-b-24nov2016
Prawn cocktails.

Quinoa, kale, flathead, and halloumi salad

First, you’ll need to go to your local fishmonger and ask them politely to dry fillet (meaning use no water) and pin bone your flathead. Buying it whole will make the most of the taste.

Breadcrumb the fillets with Panko and turn them into little nuggets. To cook these, I suggest coconut oil because of the low burn content and it will give extra flavour.

For the base of this salad, take leafy robust kale and add finely sliced cherry tomatoes, green grapes, pomegranate and crispy croutons. Then add your flathead nuggets. Next, the quinoa. For this, rehydrate the grains with water and cook them until soft.

While the quinoa is cooking, grill halloumi and add to salad.

Finally, add a dressing of white balsamic vinegar of sherry vinegar, dijon mustard, and extra virgin olive oil.

Cured meat board with sourdough bread

You can choose any meat you like to use in this recipe, but I like to use black pig prosciutto (Jamon Iberico), bresaola, and sliced leg honey ham. Next, I add a jar of assorted pickles, cipollini onions, gherkins, pickled corn – sounds weird but trust me, they are the perfect complement to the meat. You can make the bread yourself but I suggest you buy a loaf from your local bakery to save some time.

The main attraction: roast turkey or chicken with homemade stuffing and gravy
Ask your butcher for a rolled turkey breast – it is a lot better and easier to cook than putting a whole bird in the oven. Keep your marinade simple: slather it with butter and plenty of salt and pepper. Salt draws out the moisture in the skin and makes it crispy.

Turkey is best friends with fruit and grainy mustard, so go to a supermarket and find some mustard fruit and chop it up finely and place it under the skin of the bird. Stuffing is simple: garlic and onion sweated in butter in a hot pan, toasted bread crumbs, herbs (please don’t use dried herbs) such as parsley, mint and basil all mixed together. For the gravy use the pan juices, and then add your favourite red wine to it (and, as Jamie Oliver says, you must cook with alcohol you would drink yourself!) Then add butter and whisk until dissolved. Strain and lift all impurities and you’re ready to go.

If you don’t eat meat, the roast veggies, and quinoa salad will be just as satisfying.

Roast vegetables with tahini dressing

Jazz up summer vegetables like carrots by glazing with maple syrup and caraway seeds, cauliflower with fennel seeds, and sliced Queensland blue pumpkin with a sprinkling of paprika and extra virgin olive oil.

Next, make a Tahini dressing. You can buy tahini at most supermarkets in a jar. Place in a bowl and add lemon juice, salt, pepper and a touch of water and mix through. You can add seeded mustard for an extra dimension. Ultimately, veggies are endless and I recommend visiting a farmers market for yours as they are usually organic and preservative free.

Put all your veggies on a big china platter and place in the middle of the table.

Christmas pudding pannacotta

Pour 500ml of milk and 500ml of cream into a pot. Add a cinnamon quill, a handful of cloves, grated fresh nutmeg and bring to the boil to infuse the flavours. Strain the milk and then place four gelatine leaves in the milk and cream mixture and stir until it is dissolved. Mix sugar in and a dash of brandy. Pour into individual ramekins, place in the fridge until it sets and has a slightly wobbly consistency. Then macerate some raisins in brandy to make them soft and sprinkle them over the top. Add a couple of raspberries and mint for garnish.

chefjesse
The writer as a trainee chef.

Homemade pistachio biscotti

A simple Italian biscuit like this goes down a treat with tea, coffee or a swig of cognac. You start with one cup of pistachio kernels, one cup of plain flour, 1/4 teaspoon baking powder, 1/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda, 1/3 cup caster sugar and two tablespoons of Manuka honey. Combine ingredients and bake in a low oven to keep the biscotti blonde. Use a serrated knife to slice 1cm biscuits for the whole family to enjoy.

To finish, chocolate hazelnut truffles

Find the best chocolate at your local deli or if that’s not possible, Lindt dark chocolate will work because the lower the sugar content the better. The hazelnut aspect comes from using a dash of hazelnut oil. It is quite expensive but it just adds that extra extravagance.

Pour melted good quality chocolate into a bowl and mix in some cocoa and plain white flour. Stir until incorporated and start rolling. This is a perfect recipe for kids as well if they like to get their hands dirty.

All done? Now you can sit down, relax and enjoy the festive season.

Bon Appetit! – Jesse Mullens 

Photo of a Christmas bauble from the ChristmasCount Twitter feed. Other photos by the author and his family.