we’re here to help
Want more insider tips? Our foodies offer their best festive hacks for easy entertaining.
For turkey and stuffing without hours in the kitchen, make stuffing muffins. Prepare your stuffing mix and bake it in muffin pans. Use quicker-cooking turkey cuts, such as boned breast pieces, to cut cooking time down by hours. You can even cut down on oven time by cooking turkey breasts on the barbecue. And haven’t made a pudding in advance? Don’t panic. Grab a jar of fruit mince and stir through some softened vanilla ice-cream. Add a few candied nuts for crunch, and refreeze. Serve scoops of ice-cream in tall glasses or set in a loaf pan, like the recipe on p92. Decorate with extra toppings, if you like.
Crispy roast potatoes are a must for Christmas lunch – but how do you get the ultimate crunchy coating? Instant polenta is the answer. Par-boil your potatoes first, then drain and return to the saucepan with a little dried polenta, some crushed garlic and sea salt. Shake the pan to coat the potatoes. Place on a baking tray, drizzle with olive oil or duck fat and sprinkle with rosemary sprigs. Bake in a hot oven until golden and crisp. Also, if you don’t have a rack to cook your turkey on, make your own from chopped vegetables, such as onion and carrot, and chopped turkey off-cuts (such as the wings and neck). Not only does this help the whole turkey skin crisp up, it also makes for a very flavoursome gravy.
Surviving party season is all about preparation. I love to stock my freezer full of all manner of Asian goodies that can be baked, grilled or fried at a moment’s notice. The usual suspects for me are vegetarian spring rolls, pork money bags, crumbed prawn cutlets and Thai fish cakes. They don’t even have to be homemade if you don’t have the time (no-one needs to know!). For something a little more substantial, I’ll freeze a batch of chicken satay skewers that can be defrosted the day before. And I always have a batch of homemade seafood sauce in the fridge because there’s nothing easier than laying out a cold seafood platter for everyone to dig into (see ours on p99).
With a few tweaks, your menu can be delicious and good for you! Opt for 2-3 vegie salads, rather than energy-dense pasta or rice salads. Drizzle with citrus, vinegar or yoghurt dressings rather than heavy mayo versions. When it comes to the main event, grilled seafood, roasted turkey breast or lean leg ham are all great choices (flavour with fresh herbs, dried spices, garlic and lemon). And in-season summer fruits are a must, served with natural yoghurt and nuts.
This simple pumpkin hummus is so easy to make and skips a few corners to make a starter in no time at all. Roast wedges of pumpkin with the skin on then peel and mash or blend until smooth. Transfer to a bowl. Stir in a tub of store-bought hummus. Serve with your favourite crackers. And to make your punch feel a little more special, place berries, herbs, edible flowers or even wedges of citrus in ice-cube trays and fill with water then freeze. Pureed fruit can also be frozen, to match with cocktails.