Talk­ing turkey

Ju­dith Elen gets the low­down on what some of the na­tion’s lead­ing chefs will be eat­ing at home this Christ­mas

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Front Page -

ONJURING up fas­ci­nat­ing dishes and menus for oth­ers year round, chefs across the coun­try turn to their home kitchens for that im­por­tant end-of-year feast. Their di­verse back­grounds re­flect our com­mu­nity and, no mat­ter their her­itage, all have fam­ily as their fo­cus.

Cheong Liew from The Grange at Ade­laide’s Hil­ton ho­tel cel­e­brates Christ­mas with a foot in two worlds. On Christ­mas Eve, with his Lithua­nian wife, We nor­mally have Lithua­nian-style dishes on the ta­ble,’’ he says. Then on Christ­mas Day it’s lunch at his mum’s place, with 40 to 60 peo­ple, all fam­ily and rel­a­tives, and lots of chil­dren. He has four sis­ters liv­ing in Ade­laide and they all bring the favourite Malaysian dishes they miss: chicken curry, ren­dang, a plat­ter of nasi lemak, which is

re­ally a good com­bi­na­tion of things to eat with rice’’: it’s co­conut rice cooked with pan­dan leaves and served with prawn sam­bal, boiled eggs and fried peanuts.

Liew’s mother’s con­tri­bu­tion is surely the cen­tre­piece: turkey coated with a paste of ground turmeric, galan­gal, le­mon­grass, chilli and other spices, stuffed with rice, chest­nuts and dried shrimp. It is a beau­ti­ful, bright yel­low bird,’’ Liew says, and very fra­grant.’’

For his con­tri­bu­tion, I al­ways make my style of food that will give them some­thing dif­fer­ent to try.’’ It may be the pas­try-en­cased sal­mon dish, couli­b­iac. We do ours in brioche,’’ he says, with lob­ster risotto in­side.’’ SHAN­NON Ben­nett of Mel­bourne’s Vue de Monde has two fam­i­lies to think of at Christ­mas. With bistro and restau­rant both open, there are 80 staff, many from Europe, who cel­e­brate to­gether at a break­fast be­fore the day’s work. They pre­pare ev­ery­thing the night be­fore and come in early Christ­mas morn­ing.

Ben­nett’s wife, Made­line, and their two small chil­dren join the party. There will be scram­bled duck eggs with the restau­rant’s house-smoked ocean trout and caviar, and prob­a­bly Dom Perignon to sip and Lar­mandier Bernier, the cham­pagne bot­tled spe­cially for Vue de Monde. Roast goose is planned for the restau­rant, so there’ll be a con­somme of mush­room stock and roasted goose bones, maybe with ravi­oli. ALAIN Fabregues from The Loose Box in West­ern Aus­tralia has done his shop­ping al­ready. Hav­ing dis­cov­ered a farmer who raises guinea fowl, which his fam­ily in Bor­deaux eats ev­ery Sun­day, he bought six of the birds to run among his truf­fle trees and in­tends to

bump two off’’ for Christ­mas, so fam­ily will be close, de­spite be­ing in France. What’s im­por­tant is the way the bird is killed, he says: if the blood is drained, it’s white like a chicken, so what is the point?

Fabregues soothes the bird with a lit­tle co­gnac and does the deed, and it is not hung. The blood stays in the flesh, leav­ing it dark and gamey. It’s more earthy than seafood and he reck­ons turkey is too big. He’ll roast it briskly with gar­lic, shal­lots, a strip of lard for moist­ness, and a glass of co­gnac doesn’t go astray’’, but you have to look af­ter it’’.

His wife, Lizzie, will prob­a­bly de­mand mar­ron or lob­ster for en­tree’’, and she will do the (sur­prise) dessert.

Then clafoutis-style cherry tarts, with brandy­mac­er­ated cher­ries, cloves and cin­na­mon. Af­ter work, when the team heads off to the pub to­gether, Ben­nett is plan­ning to have the wood-fired oven and char­grill go­ing at home. He in­tends to search out a good free-range turkey, in­spired by the beau­ti­ful fresh turkey he ate in Italy re­cently, and will serve thin slices, warm, with po­tato gnoc­chi.

There’ll be lamb cut­lets, but the bar­be­cue will be used for pan-fry­ing and there’ll be burnt but­ter, sage and lemon: echoes of Rome. JAMES Mus­sil­lon, owner-chef at Sabayon, Courgette and Wa­ter’s Edge restau­rants in Can­berra, says Christ­mas is the one time of year he closes his restau­rants. It’s about be­ing with fam­ily and friends. There will be a buf­fet with a cou­ple of slow-cooked In­gle­wood chick­ens, a baked whole snap­per or red em­peror, oys­ters, prawns and a suck­ling pig on a spit in the gar­den. From his mum’s French-Moroc­can side of the fam­ily, there’ll be the sago pud­ding she makes ev­ery year. She mar­i­nates the fruit in win­ter, then steams it in a cloth; it’s a tra­di­tion that con­tin­ues from child­hood.

First there’ll be cock­tails, per­haps Suzy Wongs (with wa­ter­melon), then lo­cal white wines, fin­ish­ing with shi­raz. Some­times we pull out some French bur­gundies.’’ Pre-prepa­ra­tion, less fuss and shar­ing the oc­ca­sion, that’s what’s im­por­tant. TRA­DI­TION­AL­IST chef Thierry Galichet of Mon­tra­chet Brasserie in Bris­bane is plan­ning to be in Phuket this year, en route to Europe. Nor­mally, be­cause his wife is Aus­tralian, they have two cel­e­bra­tions: the tra­di­tional French Christ­mas Eve and Christ­mas Day. There have been about 20 peo­ple in the past few years, in­clud­ing his wife’s fam­ily, and they drink Dad’s spe­cial blend; he makes a red wine and we drink it for him. We make a san­gria, which helps it out.’’ SEAN Con­nolly from As­tral restau­rant at Syd­ney’s Star City thinks he’ll prob­a­bly fo­cus on seafood for Christ­mas with his wife (they came here to­gether from York­shire 20 years ago) and their three chil­dren. We’re big fans of Mohr smoked sal­mon.’’ And there’ll be Yamba prawns and prob­a­bly some nice po­tato salad, with chives, pars­ley and chardon­nay vinai­grette. And a salad of Johnny Love Bite toma­toes with span­ish onion, olive oil and torn basil.’’

As for cheese: Bril­lat Savarin, with a fruit loaf, from Keith and Jackie at Fuel Bak­ery, a whole­saler in Cam­per­down. Be­ing without rel­a­tives in Aus­tralia at Christ­mas is a chal­lenge, he says, but our friends are our fam­ily’’. Ten or 12 peo­ple, and their chil­dren, will come to the house.

We’re big on bub­bles, too,’’ he says, and will prob­a­bly have cham­pagne most of the day, Moet and maybe Veuve. And with dessert (‘‘a nice rasp­berry tri­fle’’), they’ll have Moet Nectar Im­pe­rial. I re­ally like that dessert wine.’’ There will also be plum pud­ding if any­one wants it’’. This year he’s been too busy to cook one him­self, so it’ll be a lovely Si­mon John­son one’’.

Mul­ti­cul­tural meal: Kylie Kwong, at Billy Kwong Restau­rant in Syd­ney, shares Christ­mas with as many as 60 rel­a­tives, Chi­nese and Aus­tralian born

Coun­try fare: David Pugh of Restau­rant Two will eat lo­cal pro­duce cooked sim­ply IT’S a big fam­ily do for Ge­orge Calom­baris of Mel­bourne’s The Press Club. To give you an idea, there are 21 first cousins.’’ His mum (from the Cypriot side of the fam­ily), four sis­ters, aunts and his 80-year-old grand­mother, all in the south­east­ern sub­urbs, work it out among them­selves. I get to step out of the kitchen,’’ he says. The cliche is that Greeks eat lamb, but we don’t; only at Easter and Christ­mas.’’

His dad is in charge of the whole baby lamb, which he mar­i­nates well be­fore­hand and roasts on a spit in the back­yard; start­ing at 6.30am, it’s ready be­tween 1pm and 2pm. There’ll be his mum’s co­rian­der and cous­cous salad, baby cu­cum­ber salad with dill and lemon, and whole snap­per cooked in a bag with onions, toma­toes and herbs. And lots of sweets: a rich semolina seed cake

They also drink a crisp, fresh ries­ling. But the tem­per­a­ture doesn’t in­flu­ence the menu: smoked sal­mon (rye bread and lemon), snails (bour­guignon-style with but­ter, gar­lic and pars­ley, nice and hot’’), char­cu­terie (saucis­son sec, pro­sciutto crudo, parma ham, pate, cor­ni­chons, spiced olives), turkey stuffed with chest­nuts with ch­est­nut puree on the side, and France’s tra­di­tional Christ­mas cake, bouche de noel. with cloves, and his mum’s rice pud­ding with rose­wa­ter and toasted al­monds. NEW Zealan­der David Pugh, chef at Restau­rant Two in Bris­bane, will be cel­e­brat­ing with his wife, their chil­dren and his wife’s fam­ily. It’ll be coun­try food, we like it sim­ple.’’ And it’s all about lo­cal pro­duce. There’ll be Sut­ton’s her­itage toma­toes, beef­steak (ox­heart) is his favourite; buf­falo fetta from Ban­nella in the Ather­ton Tablelands; smoked Dor­per lamb from Goondi­windi, shaved thinly like a parma ham, with crushed po­tato salad (John Cutts’s or­ganic pota­toes grown at By­ron Bay); bar­be­cued cut­lets and Mediter­ranean veg­eta­bles.

It’s been a shock­ing sea­son for crabs here,’’ he says, but for about six weeks up to Christ­mas, we get sen­sa­tional oys­ters from More­ton Is­land, in a marine park so pris­tine, from Jane Clout at Koorin­gal.’’ Desserts will be man­goes (with a good squeeze of lime) and cher­ries, with home­made ice cream us­ing Fiona Ge­orge’s Bro­ken Nose vanilla from north Queens­land.

They’ll prob­a­bly drink Robert Shan­non’s viog­nier, which he thinks is the pick of the wines here’’; it won gold in Lon­don and suits the cli­mate. SYD­NEY chef Kylie Kwong, of Billy Kwong restau­rant, says her Christ­mas Day re­flects her mul­ti­cul­tural Eurasian fam­ily. There are about 60 of us, half of them chil­dren, and we al­ways get to­gether at one of my cousin’s places in South Syd­ney. My mum, who was born in Aus­tralia, has 10 sib­lings who all mar­ried Aus­tralians,’’ she says. Her mum, Pauline, thinks Kwong cooks all year, so she says to her: Just bring some home-made pick­les and sauces from the restau­rant.’’ Pauline cooks Chi­nese white chicken with Kwong’s gin­ger and shal­lot dip­ping sauce and the Aus­tralian aun­ties and un­cles make things such as glazed leg ham with cloves and pineap­ple, and coleslaw salad.

Un­cle Lionel goes to Chi­na­town and brings the roast duck and bar­be­cued pork. Mum does her fa­mous but­ter­fly cakes and jelly cakes and pavlova.’’

They spend a lot of the day in the kitchen. Aunty Con­nie al­ways brings a flask of chicken stock with choy sum. Kwong says it’s like (nov­el­ist Amy Tan’s) Joy Luck Club, every­one laugh­ing. And the chil­dren play cricket, eat­ing Aussie bread rolls filled with Chi­nese roast pork. There’s beer to drink and Kwong brings bio­dy­namic wine from the restau­rant, and her mum drinks end­less cups of tea.

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