Now, I know that any well organised person will have their Xmas menus well sorted by now. So, just out of interest, what are you whipping up this year in your household? And, is it the same every year or do you pore over the foodie magazines and newspaper articles looking for something new and exciting for this year’s festivities? I must admit, I tend to stick to the tried and true, but I do try at least one new thing – which rarely comes off and tends to disappear into the “well, I gave it a shot, but that number has now been consigned to the ‘never again basket’”.
Dishes like my individual Peach Melba Tarts, which were bloody delicious, took hours to make and were mostly scoffed by a particularly greedy member of the family. Or the couple of roast gooses that were wonderful on the trial run, but tough and chewy on the big day.
Actually, talking about tough birds, my mate tells the story of his father coming home a couple of days before Xmas with a giant turkey that he had won at the Chook Raffle at the local pub. But, when they cooked it on Xmas Day, they were dismayed when it was tough and stringy, had a weird flavour and was basically inedible. (But he said the stuffing and other accompaniments were good.) All was revealed, because the next day in the paper there was an article about a number of swans disappearing from the local park in the week before Xmas – enough said!
When I was a kid, Xmas lunch was a special affair. If we were lucky enough, there might be a chicken as the star of the show. Isn’t it amazing to think that chickens were actually a special treat and normally involved a layer from the egg farm, which was over the hill and needed to be boiled before roasting, but the vegies (picked that morning from my Dad’s garden) were really the stars – beautiful, tender young peas along with the tiniest green beans and REAL new potatoes, which Aussies just don’t seem to understand – these are NEW potatoes, not baby potatoes, and are just the young, small numbers of a normal spud, which have feathery skins that can be rubbed off with your fingers – bloody wonderful! (And, if you have never tasted a fresh pea straight from the garden, you don’t know what you’re missing.)
Then, of course, there was me Mum’s magnificent Pavlova and homemade Mince Pies to follow. A great feast!
I must admit these days a Bird, and definitely not a turkey (dry), rarely makes it onto our Xmas table – unless, like last year, as part of a Thai Chicken Slaw. But, a ham with a glaze made from pineapple juice, brown sugar and Dijon mustard is a fixture, as is a Trifle of some sort or other (no bloody awful sweet sherry in this though). And, in recent years, vegies and interesting salads have played a larger role, as the guests are more interested in same – a salad of roasted pumpkin with fresh figs, sautéed grapes, walnuts and Persian feta in the style of Ottolenghi will certainly feature, as will a roasted beetroot salad with spiced yoghurt and a mixture of green and butter beans (and maybe asparagus) blanched and tossed in a hot wok with plenty of good parmesan and, if George from Georgie’s Harvest at South Melbourne Market can manage it, lots of the aforementioned ‘new’ potatoes (and, if not, her tiny tiny kipflers simply roasted in duck fat).
And, let us not forget the leftovers – a well wrapped small parcel of ham for each guest to take home, leaving just enough for a sanga or two for me – and not enough to get bored with the blessed stuff.
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ICE CREAM XMAS PUDDING
Mix together 2 cups mixed dried fruits, 100 gm each chopped glace pineapple and cherries, 50 gm chopped glace ginger, finely grated zest of 2 oranges, ¾ cup chocolate bits, 2 tbsp brandy and 2 tbsp Grand Marnier.
Add the mixture to 2 litres softened, bought vanilla ice cream and mix well.
Line an extra large bowl with clingwrap, spoon in the mixture and cover with more clingwrap. Put in the freezer overnight and, when ready to serve, remove the top piece of wrap, invert the ‘pudding’ over a serving plate and wrap a hot towel around the bowl to help it come out.
Serve with a selection of berries sprinkled over and around with a little extra Grand Marnier and icing sugar.
A very popular recipe, one Xmas on Melbourne radio, I made the mistake of telling a listener that the producer had the recipe (he didn’t). the Melbourne radio phone lines were blocked for well over an hour, as seemingly everyone and his dog wanted the recipe. The producer (and Host) were not terribly happy, as there was little talkback that morning, because the lines were taken up with requests for my ‘bloody Ice Cream Pud’.
Who Is Iain “Huey” Hewitson
Born 4 October 1948 (age 69)
Otaki, New Zealand
Iain “Huey” Hewitson (born 4 October 1948 in Otaki), is a New Zealand-born chef, restaurateur, author, and television personality who moved to Australia in 1972. He is best known for his television involvement with Network Ten. He was also the face of supermarket chain BI-LO.
image for illustration only.