- Michael McHugh Editor-in-Chief michael@mindfood.com Instagram@michael.mchugh.art

For us here at MiNDFOOD, Christmas actually starts way back in June with the planning of the Christmas Cookbook and meetings, mood boards and recommenda­tions from the food team. I have to be honest – in June it takes a while to switch my thinking into Christmas mode as it’s so cold and wintry. The range of recipes and food ideas the team presents are always fantastic and immediatel­y transport me to Christmas Day sitting around the family table, celebratin­g another year.

This year’s Cookbook is outstandin­g. I have tried some of the dishes already and I know many of the recipes will become family favourites. I can’t wait to make the buttermilk brined lamb with mint and pistachio relish again (see page 32), and the pavlova on the cookbook cover, although I haven’t made it, is on my list for Christmas Day dessert. Yum.

This will be the first Christmas in four years our family will be all together under one roof. Since then, a new baby has been born, and new relationsh­ips have begun so there will also be new faces around the Christmas table, including guests from overseas, for us this year. The day normally starts with present giving with just our family in pyjamas and then breakfast. I then start reworking the many different tables to fit everyone for Christmas lunch. I always hated being on the children’s table on Christmas Day as I always felt I was missing out on the main action, so I try and avoid that and include everyone on one big, long table. Here’s a tip: If you throw a sheet over the mismatched tables it always looks like one long dining table.

There’ll be a trip to Michelle’s parents’ place midmorning to pick flowers, then back to set the Christmas table, create a drinks station and then we all start cooking. The list is often long with lots of different jobs handed out to whoever is staying with us. By the time everyone rolls in, it’s getting close to midday; we start with drinks and nibbles and then hand out presents around the tree.

I love that smell of pine, and what has become a bit of a tradition is that around a week before the 25th we go in search of a real Christmas tree. Some years have had better results than others. One year I drilled the tree into the new carpet which didn’t make me popular with my wife. It also tore, leaving quite a big gash across the carpet when trying to get the tree out of the room. Another year, I scratched the entire ceiling that had just been freshly painted – as the tree was too tall for the room, leaving an unfortunat­e green skid mark across the ceiling for some years. As I write this, I’m thinking I might leave the tree to someone else to sort this year.

By the time we sit down for lunch, it’s hot. I normally have turned into a human sieve at this stage of the day and need constant wiping down and cool drinks so I don’t pass out. After the main course, we pull our Christmas crackers, read out the corny jokes, compare what little gifts everyone got and start wearing the truly tiny coloured crowns that are folded and jammed into the cracker. Unfortunat­ely, the cheaper the cracker, the more questionab­le the trinket.

Some years due to the heat I have had the coloured paper crown in garish colours tear and somehow ‘bleed’ down the side of my head, making for much hilarity around the table. One year, a guest thought I might need surgery due to the horrific ‘scarring’ down the side of my face.

We always wait for some time to have dessert, which I love but am often still too full to really enjoy properly. To be honest, one of my favourite courses of the day – if you can call it a course – is often leftovers. Once everyone has gone and much time has passed after lunch, I cut slices of the ham or lamb, and have it on toast with mint sauce. It doesn’t get much better than that. Just delicious.

Wherever you will be, and whoever you will be with this festive season, have a lovely day and celebrate just being together. I have missed that feeling for too many years, and can’t wait.

Merry Christmas, everyone.


 ?? ??

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia