Fresh - December Edition

Festive Christmas Recipes
Hi everyone, it's been a long time coming this little newsletter, but I've had to hunker down over winter — losing my dad and two dear friends this year made me lose my sparkle for a bit — but I'm back now readjusted and ready to rock on into the festive season.

It's summer downunder, and it's been an early one, which is great for most of us, except the farmers — drought has been declared north of the Harbour Bridge in Auckland. Well, I live a hop and a skip over the bridge, so I'm officially in drought (pour me another drink now, do y'hear!). I've got my garden well underway with new potatoes a dead cert for Christmas. They've been the fastest growing potatoes we've ever planted. Don't know if it was the seed potatoes themselves, the compost, the worms or the weather, but we're pleased about it. The birds got the strawberries, most of them anyway, and I've had to deal with sticky little things on the back of the kaffir lime leaves - I washed them down with soapy water and that got rid of them – and a pile of unwanted caterpillars motoring their way through the glorious leaves of the lime green Roman cauliflowers – do you know the type? They look like Jean Paul Gaultier designed them for Madonna (very pointy and breast-like!).

Moving on...Christmas dinner this year will be different because I'll have no dad and no daughter. Yes, she flew the nest about a week ago and is living it up in Tuscany with the Italian rellies, soon to head to the French boyfriend in France. Sigh. Though I have to say it is much easier these days to keep in touch with email, phones, Skype and all that at our fingertips. When Remo – my husband – first moved to New Zealand it was a real mission to make a phone call to Italy, and cost an arm and a leg, and trying to make a ‘collect' call — where the costs of the call got charged to the number you were calling, was near impossible.

My dad always liked baked ham, new potatoes, peas and baby carrots for Christmas lunch, so that's what I always made, year after year, along with turkey and other vegetables, but this year lunch will be lighter and we're up for an evening crayfish and Champagne soiree. I get excited just thinking about it.

If you're in colder climes there are some great recipes on my site for festive meals winter. Stick a leg of lamb on and let it cook to melting tenderness over 7 hours, filling the house with glorious hunger-inducing smells as it does so 7-hour lamb. Team it up with Leeks a la Grecque and Roast pumpkin and shallots. Or try one of my turkey winners from last year: Turkey breast in verjuice with green grapes and almonds or Turkey breasts stuffed with apricots, walnuts and lemon thyme. If you prefer beef, a Roasted eye fillet wrapped in bacon is melt-in-the-mouth tender and loved by all. Start with a contemporary salad of baby beetroot and goat's cheese and finish with all-time favourites of homemade mince pies.

I hope whatever it is you serve up, or if you are so lucky, have served to you, is delicious, and that the day is filled with fun and good cheer. Whether you're a believer or not, joining in the festivities with family or friends or going bush until the whole madness dies down, let's wish for peace in 2011. Remember kindness and good will has a ripple effect. Start it at home, with those close to you, and watch it spread.

Best Christmas wishes to you all


Raisin Bread with Ricotta, Honey and Barbecue Peaches
These sweet toasts can also be made with croissants or sliced brioche loaf. If peaches are out of season, use banana instead.


Mushrooms au Gratin
These retro-looking mushrooms are really easy to assemble and cook, but they’re so scrumptious everyone will want the recipe. There are lots of small ramekins around in kitchenwear shops, or you might find something as I did, in a second-hand store.


Pavarotti’s Ham
This is the very ham I served to Luciano Pavarotti when he visited Auckland in 1999, the one which he pronounced ‘magnifico!’, and the very one he devoured with such delight after which he hugged me and pleaded for la ricetta (the recipe).

Poussins with 40 Cloves of Garlic
New season garlic is delicious in this recipe – crisp and mild, but all garlic will cook down to a mild, sweet and nutty paste. I generally allow 1/2-3/4 of a poussin per person, but if the poussins are small, and you are serving hungry diners, allow one per person.

Leg of Lamb with Parmesan Crust and Crunchy Potatoes

Roast Fillet of Beef Stuffed with Mortadella and Pistachio Nuts
A fillet of beef is expensive, but Christmas is the one time of the year when you might splash out. The meat is easy to prepare, it’s quick to cook and there’s no wastage. Perfect festive food!

7-hour lamb
This lamb is cooked for 7 hours. I know it sounds outrageous, but believe me, it is utterly gorgeous, cooking to fork-tenderness. The juices are so full of flavor that they don’t need anything added to them, and they don’t need thickening either.

Chicken Bonne Femme
This is an all-time favourite in our family. We enjoy it with grilled or baked mushrooms and a fluffy potato mash.

Turkey Breasts Stuffed with Apricots, Walnuts & Lemon Thyme

Turkey Breasts in Verjuice with Green Grapes and Almonds
The match of tarragon and chicken is a classic, and it works a treat with turkey too. Lemon, verjuice, cream, grapes and almonds are the main flavours in this dish.

Roast Fillet Wrapped in Bacon


Classic Roast Potatoes
These are the best, crunchiest potatoes ever!

My Favourite Stuffing Balls
My family adores stuffing, but like it even more when made into crispy balls. We make these even when we are not having turkey!

Classic Gravy
Make the gravy from the sediment in the pan after roasting a whole turkey.

Cucumber and Pepper Salad
This colorful salad has quite a chili kick which livens up ham, turkey, pork and fish. If serving it with spicy food, leave out the chili.

Peppers and Pineapple Salad
This is gorgeously sweet and juicy and goes well with grilled chicken, pork, ham and duck.

Roast Pumpkin with Shallots

Baby Beetroot with Cream and Chives


White Xmas Tree

Meringue Mountain with Strawberries
If you want to make the meringues ahead for Xmas, they will keep well in the freezer, but keep them in a rigid container as they don’t freeze solid and are easily smashed.

Fresh Apricot Trifle
There's always someone who grizzles about the fact that there is not enough booze in the trifle and someone else who says there's too much! Making individual trifles solves that problem, as you can tailor them to people's taste. This recipe is alcohol-free but if you want to give it an alcoholic lift add a little brandy to the apricot syrup.

Fresh Cherry Trifle
This is designed for fresh cherries and the time to make it is mid-season once the price of cherries has dropped, but before the quality drops.

Fresh Strawberry Trifle
There's little point in making your own sponge for these trifles as it gets squished and squashed in the glasses. I buy mine freshly made by the supermarket! Don't leave out the grog - it makes them!

Choux Pastry Tree with White Chocolate and Raspberries

Pavlova with Raspberries

Feather-light Sponge Filled with Raspberries and Cream

Quick Mince Pies

Weeping Raspberry Fairy Cake
Although this cake is filled with lashings of cream, it is wonderfully light and the raspberries give a nice fresh edge - just the thing for a real summer treat. It will keep refrigerated for 2-3 days after making.

Mini Dundee Cakes
These are the answer for those of you who forgot to make a Christmas cake - mini fruity, buttery fruitcakes with an underlying warming alcoholic kick. They smell gorgeously tempting as they cook – bet you eat one while they’re still warm! Based on an idea by English chef Gary Rhodes.