Everyone's favourite food icon, Maggie Beer, shares her fondest Christmas memories and top tips for Christmas lunch.
1) What are your memories of Christmas growing up?
When I was a child in Sydney, our Christmas lunch was casual but wonderful. Both my parents were great cooks but very little work was done on Christmas Day. When I was very young, the pride of the table would be a roast chook. It’s hard to remember just what a luxury that was. Our food became more lavish as the years progressed, and goose became the star of the table. For me it has been so ever since - Christmas without goose just doesn’t seem right. Having inherited the tradition of a feast of beautifully simple food from my own parents, it is so important to me to continue that tradition for my children, and now my grandchildren. We keep it really simple so there is no fuss or bother, with everyone chipping in so that much of the preparation is done the night before.
2) What do you love most about Christmas?
There are so many choices for how to spend Christmas Day, but for me the best option is one based on simplicity and style with the people I care about. The sleep after the long late lunch where everyone has helped to clean up is always special. Our favourite Christmas’ are when we all sit under the pear tree at the bottom of the garden, or in the courtyard under the umbrella of what must be a hundred year old wisteria, whiling away the time eating and chatting and being entertained by the grandchildren’s antics, which always seem to be extra spirited at Christmas time!
3) Do you have any yummy suggestions of homemade Christmas gifts for LifeStyle FOOD fans to give to friends and family?
I think anything made by hand makes for a beautiful gift; jams, chutney, sauces, and if you’re especially keen, individual Christmas cakes are a lovely option for beyond Christmas day. I love the idea of homemade biscuits to have with cheese, or a jar of home pickled olives is something really special to me. Anything that takes time to make is a precious thing in my books.
4) What will you be cooking for Christmas lunch this year?
It doesn't change much from year to year and is all about everything ready thats possible on Christmas Eve so that the day itself if just a joy. Seafood forms a large part of our Christmas fare. We usually start with fresh oysters, if we can find non spawning ones; a sentimental favourite from my childhood that for some reason still evokes the ‘special-ness’ of Christmas. Although not really ‘seafood’, yabbies are always on the menu too if our dams are in a giving mood. I love serving them with a walnut dressing. Then onto roast goose and one of Sas’s Barossa chooks with our traditional stuffing of dried cumquats and morello cherries, walnuts, heaps and heaps of fresh herbs and Black Pig belly bacon. So scrumptious it doesn't matter if there isn't enough poultry. We have a glazed leg of ham too, and plenty of salads. And to finish a a huge dish of jelly from sparkling shiraz filled with fresh raspberries. We never make it to the pudding so that is always there for later in the afternoon or as a lovely treat with a cup of tea the following day.
Click here for Maggie's Roast Chook with Chestnut Stuffing recipe
5) What are your top tips to cook the perfect turkey (or goose or chicken)?
Best tip I can give is to cook low temperature in an oven bag and go to friends for drinks. It’s a 30 year tradition to our friends the Schuberts on Menglers Hill, every couple taking a bottle of French.... and so the goose is doing its thing even if we're not back till 1 p.m. or so. I quickly split the bag, collect the juices and put in a tall jug to solidify the fat (for cooking potatoes in later) and having jus for a warm vinaigrette. Then the oven is turned up so I can brown the skin of the goose and glaze the ham which is only 20 minutes work.
Roast Barossa Chook. Photo Credit: Tony Lewis
6) What delicious products from your Maggie Beer range do you recommend?
Any of the sauces or chutneys come in handy across the holidays when lunch can be as simple as cold meat and salads or a thick cut sandwich. I use my Quince Glaze on our ham every year, it makes for a wonderful result that suggests far more effort than actually required. We wouldn’t be without Barossa Tomato Sauce across summer - who could imagine a sausage in bread without good sauce?
7) On a more general note, what projects are you working on at the moment?
There is always something on the boil! We have just finalised a new ice cream flavour due out next year and after buying the property next door to the farm, we now have an orchard with thousands of fruit trees ready to create an entirely new line for our short run Pheasant Farm label. I have so many ideas for that fruit, I can’t tell you!!
8) Who or what inspires you in the kitchen?
Seasonal produce, picked at the peak of its ripeness. There is nothing more engaging for a cook than to work closely with the freshest of fresh produce. To me, there are few things more important if you are interested in seeking out the natural flavour of fruit and vegetables.