The Australian - Wish Magazine - - Tropic of Christmas -

have a rep­u­ta­tion for buck­ing tra­di­tion, find­ing our own iden­tity and way for­ward, so why should Christ­mas be any dif­fer­ent? It’s a time for cel­e­bra­tory fun, catch­ing up with friends and fam­ily, trav­el­ling. It’s hol­i­day mode for many.

The food you choose to cook and eat can cer­tainly give a nod to tra­di­tion with­out turn­ing you into a slave to your kitchen. Think of food that is ap­pro­pri­ate to your cli­mate, your mood, your bud­get, your favourite flavours and get or­gan­ised ahead of time so it all ap­pears seam­less and so easy. Make sure you can achieve what you set out to do with­out caus­ing a melt­down.

When it’s hot, start with food that is equally flavour­some to those cold coun­try tra­di­tions but in an en­tirely dif­fer­ent way. Change your mind­set and pre­pare a menu that is burst­ing with sum­mer sun­shine. I am al­ways drawn to the beach in sum­mer and a dreamy trop­i­cal es­cape suits the fes­tive sea­son per­fectly. I adore the re­laxed in­for­mal­ity of the beach, the al­lure of a fun-filled few days on some trop­i­cal is­land where a lan­guid pace reigns supreme.

My code this Christ­mas is beach-chic and this menu is full of flavours that sing, that are punchy yet re­fined, that tit­il­late the taste­buds. It ex­udes fun in a sunny, beachy at­mos­phere; and I think cap­tures the essence of Christ­mas in Aus­tralia.

Wher­ever you are – bush, beach or city – the sense of oc­ca­sion is what mat­ters most. Apart from these recipe sug­ges­tions, if you can get your hands on soft-shell crabs from south­ern Queens­land at your fish­mon­ger, grab them – they are an in­cred­i­ble treat and so easy to pre­pare – dip in tem­pura bat­ter and deep fry for a few min­utes in hot oil till crisp, eat im­me­di­ately with a chilli rel­ish, a spicy pickle or horse­rad­ish may­on­naise. Other­wise, a freshly cooked mud crab served with a large nap­kin for mop­ping up the juices is equally de­li­cious and ap­peal­ing.

The fol­low­ing recipes can be pre­pared ahead of time and eaten cold. Per­fect if you choose to cel­e­brate this Christ­mas with a pic­nic. I thought it may be time to spice up the meat of­fer­ings on the groan­ing buf­fet ta­ble. Pur­chase shav­ings of leg ham if you don’t have the time or in­cli­na­tion to glaze your own ham and pep­pery salami, sausage and cured meats, choos­ing three or four of the best you can find, and serve them with pick­les – cor­ni­chons, hot mango pickle (ei­ther home­made or bought) or with these slightly spicy, sweet and sour toma­toes that take only a few min­utes to pre­pare.

Have other sta­ples on hand so you’re not kept man­a­cled to the stove when you should be in­dulging, kick­ing back and tak­ing it pretty easy. Pot­ted yab­bies or prawns (try the trop­i­cal red spot prawns from Queens­land or the royal reds from Ul­ladulla) are great with toast or brioche, or you could make a spiced co­conut broth – adding aro­mat­ics like lemon­grass, gin­ger, chilli, galan­gal

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