Cooking for a downunder Christmas

TPP Culinary Arts Tutor Evelyne Baumgartner

Ambrosia 

Christmas is just around the corner and we’ve suddenly got a letterbox or inbox stuffed with promotions for turkey, hams, Christmas puddings and all the traditional European or North American trimmings – a stuffed turkey would probably be handier!

Now we have to make the big decision: what to cook that makes sense for a summertime Christmas?

I come from Switzerland, where ham, cheese-fondue or Raclette was the Christmas feast. Then, after arriving here in New Zealand and preparing to enjoy ‘Christmas on the Beach’, it was a real eye-opener to try to eat food in 30 degree weather that was been designed for cold climates.

So, how can you make your Kiwi Christmas less stressful – both on your stomach and your time?

Ham or turkey

If the ham and/or turkey belongs to your Christmas, why not cook it the day before and serve it up cold with fresh salads? There are plenty of choices, from basic lettuce and cherry tomato mix dressed and a light vinaigrette, to a roast vege salad (with plenty of fresh herbs), or a classical Waldorf Salad (celery, apple and walnuts with a mayo-yoghurt dressing) or even a spectacular pink raw mushroom-strawberry salad (both finely sliced, then dressed in a dressing made of lemon juice, a pinch of salt, pepper and a light oil).

Leftovers

Any left-overs (except for the dressed lettuce) will make good sandwich or roll fillings for the next day’s picnic on the beach. Alternatively, you could serve leftovers up for the BBQ the next day, quickly rewarming and crisping up the ham slices. Be careful with the turkey as the meat can go dry quickly. To prevent this pack it in tin foil (or banana leaves if you are lucky enough to have any) and reheat it like that

Dessert

Now what about dessert? If you have really love a Christmas pudding think about about mixing it with vanilla ice cream (break up the pudding into small bits and mix in a very clean bowl with the ice cream, then if you like set in a jelly or silicon form to refreeze). You can put this form quickly into hot water and tip the pudding-ice cream onto a nice plate. To make it even more spectacular light some sparklers which are stuck in the item just before serving it up).

If the traditional desserts are not absolutely necessary, leave them in the shop and try:

  • Berries (250 g of fresh or frozen if no nice fresh ones are available – just defrost the frozen ones or wash and chop the fresh ones like strawberries, or use raspberries and others whole), natural sweetened yoghurt (500 g), cream (300 ml whipped), a packet of small marshmallows (optional) and some dark chocolate chips. Mix all together in the order above place into glasses or a large bowl and chill. And yes, you guessed it, voilà your Ambrosia is ready! Be warned, with some little and large children around the above will not be enough! And if you want to make it extra special, layer the Ambrosia in a glass in between some berries so you have a stripy dessert.

Food safety

A little bit of caution: when working with perishable foods (anything that normally requires chilling) be aware of the time frames and keep your food cold. Nothing should be at room temperature – especially on a warm day – for longer than four hours, but if you want to be safe stick to two hours only.

Above all: Christmas is a time to spend with people that matter! Food plays an important part in socialising, however this also means caring for each other. When food preparation gets to the stage where it creates a lot of stress, think about whether you really need to go all-out

And last but not least: January is looming with the common New Year’s resolution of losing weight. Why not make the best of the time you have, enjoy each other without feeling sick because you thought you have to eat all that (and more!). If you can have time outdoors, go for a walk on the beach or in the forest, a bike ride in the park, even a good workout in the garden all helps to make you feel good. After all not just food but also exercise contributes to releasing the happy hormones!

As we say in Switzerland ‘En Guete’ meaning ‘Enjoy your meal’ – with or without all the trimmings!