Christmas feasts don’t always have to be about sitting down to a roast turkey with all the trimmings.
Between the heat of the Aussie sun and wanting to have a relaxing day that’s not spent entirely in the kitchen, many people are warming towards having a non-traditional Christmas spread.
“I’ve always wondered why Australian’s cook traditional Christmas feasts because you’re not meant to have turkeys, hams and stodgy gravy in the heart of summer,” Chef Warren Mendes says.
Now, more families are embracing lighter meals such as prawns, cheese platters and oysters.
“People are moving away from ham being the hero meat, to using fish, oysters or prawns as the hero and adding fruit and veggies,” he says.
Putting on a non-traditional lunch or dinner also has other perks.
“It’s easier for time-poor people and for those who don’t have enough oven space to do ham, chicken, turkey and roast vegetables,” Warren says.
Here are Warren’s tips for hosting the perfect non-traditional Christmas:
Take advantage of the produce around you
If you’re lucky enough to live either by the coast or near a fish market, Warren says that using fresh seafood as the hero element is a no-brainer.
“Roasting a whole large fish can be an impressive centrepiece,” he says. “A lot of food is frozen and sold defrosted around Christmas, in order to keep up with demand, so put an order in for something that is fresh - speak to your butcher and fishmonger.”
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Put a little twist on your classics
If you can’t give up a classic ham, Warren suggests spicing things up for an unusual twist.
“Add a hit of chilli to your glaze or even go for a full on Asian-inspired glaze,” Warren recommends. “Kecap manis is a great trick for an instant Asian glaze on a ham. Even try a great roast lamb shoulder as your centrepiece, but roast it with Christmas spices like cinnamon, ginger, mixed spice and bay leaf.”
Fire up your barbecue
Don’t limit cooking to your kitchen.
“The thing about Christmas meals is that a lot of dishes rely on the oven and there can be a queue to cook and warm everything,” Warren says.
Instead, try grabbing a disposable foil tray and glaze your ham on the barbecue over a low heat with the lid closed.
“This also gives the ham a great extra-smokey flavour,” he says. “Throw a few bay leaves into the barbecue and let them smoke up a little.”
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Since it’s hot outside, why not serve up some delicious cold dishes and platters.
“Cheese boards, cured meats, cooked prawns, oysters and breads all work really well,” Warren suggests. “All that’s left for you to do is make the platters look great! Spend your time mixing up great dips and sides.”
Turn it into brunch
Instead of running around the kitchen all day, why not put on a brunch and leave the rest of the afternoon to relax?
“That way, you can still glaze a whole ham and serve it up with eggs, great bread and of course, Champagne,” Warren adds.