A Christmas Family Get Together: The Main Event


Today’s post follows on from Monday’s. Over the Christmas break, housemate Miss R and I hosted a combined family dinner for both our families. Following some Christmas-themed starters we served up a buffet-style feast, served outside in the garden.

With 14 people to seat, we decided we wouldn’t be able to fit everyone inside our little unit. Instead, we decided to seat everyone in our back garden over two trestle tables. The night was a balmy 35C degrees and while a little warm, it was an otherwise perfect night to be eating outside.


We set the table using cheap beige sheets I bought from Safeway, finished with a white table runner made from a roll of wrapping paper. Places were designated by writing peoples names on their hand-made bon-bons, which we filled with carefully selected gifts for each person. Various sized vases were filled with white and green flowers, and placed at random along the length of the table, while a few golden reindeers we picked up from Riot Art gave the table a subtle Christmas theme.


The menu Miss R and I planned consisted of roast meats and vegetable sides. My younger Sister-E was adamant about having a roast turkey some time over Christmas, and as the big day was set to be a small one, I decided now was the time. I wanted to keep it simple though, so made a sage butter which I spread under the skin and over the breasts to keep them moist. I then filled the cavity with segments of orange, giving my bird a citrus tang while allowing the air to flow through the bird, cooking it evenly.


As in previous years, after preparing the turkey I then handed it over to Father-T to cook, freeing up my oven for other things. I really suggest doing this if you’re cooking for a lot of people, as not only does it free up oven space, but it’s also one less thing to worry about. I worked out a cooking schedule for Father-T so that he took the bird out of the oven as he was walking out the door, allowing it to rest as he made his way to our house. Ingenious. R’s Father, Mr J also kindly offered to carve the bird, since I was running around getting everything else together. Really, when it comes to a big meal like this, designation is key.


Since I’m not a huge fan of turkey myself (terrible I know..) I decided I also wanted to cook a Donna Hay recipe I’d found for roast pork belly cooked in bourbon and malt vinegar. I took some bourbon from Bf-B, and the rest was really very simple. The recipe said to uncover the pork at the end so that the liquid reduces, but I found I didn’t need to as it was thick enough already. Once cooked, Father-T sliced it thickly and poured over some of the bourbon and malt vinegar juices.


For sides, I struggled to find anything I liked. I read my Gourmet Travellers, Delicious and Donna Hay mags over and over, but couldn’t find anything simple yet interesting. Of course I had to do my usual roast potatoes cooked in goose fat, but other than that, I had nothing. That was until I read the Cumulus Inc. book mum gave me for Christmas the year before. I literally turned each page saying “I want to make that, I want to make that, I want to make that”. So from it I chose 3 side dishes I thought would create a well-rounded menu.


A simple salad of green beans with an anchovy dressing first caught my eye. While I do like green beans Miss R is a big fan of asparagus, so I decided to replace them with the asparagus to make her happy. The resulting dish turned out well, though the 4 bunches of asparagus I had were spread tight over 14 people, so I’d suggest upping it to 6. Make sure you cut the radishes as finely as possible, using a mandolin if possible.


I usually always make roast pumpkin at Christmas since it’s my favorite, but lately I’ve been getting a bit tired of it. So when I saw the recipe for carrots in harissa and almond butter I knew I had found a great replacement. It went down a treat and was probably my favourite of the sides. Use the best quality carrots you can get, organic if possible, as the recipe really hinges on the quality of the carrots. I got some purple carrots to mix things up a bit, but feel free to stick to regular ‘ol orange ones if you can’t find purple. They taste the same anyway.


To round out my side dishes, I thought we needed some sort of greens. I recently visited an amazing deli hidden near the Safeway on Glenferrie rd that had a huge selection of cheeses. When I saw the recipe for radicchio and rocket salad with candied walnuts and salted ricotta, I knew instantly where to get the salted ricotta from. If you can’t find any, don’t fret: use parmesan instead. Since Bf-B is allergic to some types of nuts though, I swapped the walnuts for almonds with great success.


Everything turned out well and while it was a bit hectic getting everything out at once from our little kitchen, it was well worth it in the end.

Wondering what we made for dessert? That post still to come…


5.5kg turkey
10g sage leaves
4 cloves of garlic, crushed
1/3 cup (75g) butter, softened
1 orange
1 1/2 tbsp cornflour
chicken stock
3 tbsp port, or to taste (I like to add a lot!)
salt and pepper
olive oil

  1. Preheat oven to 200C.
  2. Finely chop 6 large sage leaves. In a small bowl, mix together chopped sage with garlic, butter and a generous amount of salt and pepper.
  3. Rinse your turkey under cold water, cleaning out the cavity, and dry with paper towel. Using your hands, gently separate the turkey’s skin away from the breast meat. You can do this via the main cavity, but may need to go down the neck cavity as well, depending how large your hands are.
  4. Take the sage butter, and spread it evenly underneath the turkey skin, over the breast meat.
  5. Cut the orange into quarters and place in the cavity with the remaining sage leaves.
  6. Wipe down your turkey, and rub over a little olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.
  7. Place turkey in a baking tray and cover with foil. Place in a hot oven and reduce temperature to 180C. Cook for 2 hours, then remove foil and cook for a further 1 1/2 hours*. Turkey is done when juices run clean when you prick the leg with a skewer.
  8. Allow turkey to rest for 1 hour, wrapped tightly in foil and covered with a towel, before carving. While the turkey rests, make the gravy.
  9. FOR THE GRAVY: Strain the juices into a saucepan. Add enough chicken stock to make 500ml. Take 1/2 cup of the juices and stir together with the cornflour until smooth. Pour back into the saucepan with the port and whisk together until it thickens and begins to bubble rapidly. Season to taste and serve hot with the turkey.

*If your bird isn’t exactly 5.5kg, cook it for 40mins per kilo, removing the foil for the last 1 1/2 hours.

Serves 14 as part of a banquet


2.5kg pork belly
1 cup (250ml) bourbon whisky
1 1/2 cups (375ml) malt vinegar
2 cups (500ml) water
3 cups (525g) brown sugar
10 cloves of garlic, bruised and peeled
1 cup (350g) golden syrup
2 sticks of cinnamon
4 bay leaves

  1. Preheat oven to 180C.
  2. In a large saucepan, combine all ingredients except the pork. Stir until the sugar had dissolved.
  3. Place pork, skin side down, in a large, deep baking tray and cover with the marinade. Cover with tin foil, and place in a moderate oven for 3 hours until the pork is cooked and the liquid has thickened.
  4. When cooked, remove pork from tray and slice thickly. Spoon over the cooking liquid before serving.

Serves 14 as part of a buffet


1 large bunch (750g) of baby orange carrots
1 large bunch (750g) of baby purple carrots
3 tbsp of harissa paste (or other chilli paste)
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp flaked almonds

100g almond meal
200ml olive oil
1 egg yolk
1 tsp sherry vinegar
salt and pepper

  1. FOR THE ALMOND CREAM: place the almond meal, 75ml of oil and 150ml of water in a saucepan and heat over low heat until just warm, stirring continuously. Place mixture in a food processor, and with the motor running add the egg. Then, with the motor still running, gently pour in the remaining oil in a slow steady stream, similar to making a mayonnaise. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Allow to cool before refrigerating until needed.
  2. Meanwhile, for the carrots, remove leaves leaving 2-3cm of stem (don’t worry if yours don’t have the stems attached). Scrub them clean (don’t peel) and place in a boiling pot of salted water and cook until just tender, about 5 minutes. Drain and place in a bowl with harissa and butter. Toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Spread almond cream over the serving plate. Top with the carrots and sprinkle with flaked almonds.

Serves 14 as part of a buffet


1 small head of radicchio, torn into pieces
100g baby rocket
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
50g salted ricotta (or use parmesan)
salt and pepper

1 tbsp liquid glucose
1 tbsp sugar
150g almonds
salt and pepper

  1. FOR THE CARAMELISED ALMONDS: Preheat oven to 160C. Line a baking tray with baking paper. In a small saucepan, stir together the glucose and sugar until the sugar has dissolved. Add almonds and stir to coat the almonds in the sugar mix. Transfer to the lined baking tray and place in a moderate oven for 5 minutes until golden. Season with salt and pepper and allow to cool.
  2. In a bowl, combine the radicchio, rocket, olive oil, vinegar, and season with salt and pepper. Transfer half to a serving plate and grate over half the salted ricotta and sprinkle over half the almonds. Place remaining salad on top, grate over remaining ricotta and sprinkle with remaining almonds.

Serves 14 as part of a banquet


6 bunches of asparagus
1 clove of garlic
12 anchovy fillets
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp dijon mustard
1 egg yolk
6 tbsp olive oil
basil leaves
4 radishes, super finely sliced
salt and pepper

  1. In a mortar & pestle, crush the garlic to a fine paste. Add half the anchovy fillets and pound to a smooth paste. Transfer paste to a bowl. Add the vinegar, mustard, and egg yolk and whisk until thick. While whisking, add the oil in a steady stream. Season well with salt and pepper.
  2. Snap the ends off the asparagus, and place in a pot of boiling salted water. Cook until just tender, about 5 minutes. Drain and run under cold water to stop further cooking. Drain well.
  3. In a bowl, toss asparagus with the dressing. Transfer to a serving plate, scatter over a few basil leaves, the radishes, the remaining anchovies and a grinding of fresh pepper.

Serves 10 as part of a banquet


3kg golden delight potatoes, peeled and cut into small chunks
6 tbsp goose fat

  1. Preheat oven to 180C.
  2. Parboil potatoes in boiling, salted water until just tender. Test with a knife, potatoes should just give way.
  3. Drain potatoes and let sit for a few minutes so that all the water evaporates (wet potatoes equals soggy potatoes).
  4. Meanwhile, place goose fat on a baking tray and place in the oven to melt, about 5 minutes.
  5. Once the fat has melted, carefully transfer potatoes to the tray and gently toss them in the goose fat to coat. Season well with salt. Cook for 1 hour or until golden and crunchy. Season with more salt before serving.

Serves 14 as part of a buffet

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3 Responses to A Christmas Family Get Together: The Main Event

  1. Pingback: A Christmas Family Get Together: Miss R’s Pav | the MELBOURNE FOOD FILES

  2. Pingback: A quaint little Christmas Day for 2012 | the MELBOURNE FOOD FILES

  3. Pingback: Housemate Christmas 2013 | the MELBOURNE FOOD FILES

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