image of fennel and juniper cured bonito ©HollyDavis

I love to feed people well and enjoy the entire process of creating menus: shopping for the best produce, preparing and serving the food, washing up- not so much and I got good at cooking with the idea that the cook doesn’t have to wash up? Not true, as I seem to spend an inordinate amount of time at the sink. As Christmas is oh so near now, I thought you might enjoy to see a menu I have created for a celebratory Christmas lunch I am catering this week. The menu has been designed to celebrate the season and cater for a broad range of dietary needs. My wish in sharing this is that it serve as food for thought and your own creativity. If you are up in Palm Beach NSW through January and you are in need of catering assistance, do drop me an email and I will take on the task, if I am available when you wish.

I love menu’s that enable people to ‘graze’ and find what they would most love to eat. When designing a menu I consider a wide range of things, who am I feeding, do they have particular dietary needs – if so I like to create dishes to suit those needs which all the guests can enjoy. I also consider if there is a theme? Right now the theme is clearly Christmas and as we move into December in Australia, it is likely to be warm maybe stinking hot. This is helpful when catering for large numbers as it allows for preparing ahead and serving the food cold or at room temperature. It’s worth remembering though, that if pre preparing, all dishes need to be held below 5˚C or above 60˚C, to be kept safe to eat. If the fridge is filled to bursting point, ask your local green grocer for a broccoli box with a lid, these make excellent impromptu cooler boxes, just add plenty of ice to the top, cold air sinks…

Start the meal with bright, fresh produce, the best quality you can find and afford and then the rest is not too hard. I suggest serving the oysters, marinated tofu and the beet soup straight from the fridge, in small bowls or in shot glasses. The cured fish is so simple to make and always impresses. Depending on the size of the fillets it need only cure for 2-4 hours or so, then you can brush off the cure, slice and contain until you re ready to serve it. The recipe for this cured bonito is in my book which I might add would make a fine Christmas gift and also on the liveability website where you will find this and many other of my recipes including my fabulous Christmas cake which, you could make this weekend, it is an excellent keeper. Sparkling sake is worth trying, there are several on offer now, a good Japanese grocery or your bottle shop may be able to supply or look online. I would choose a dry style and serve just a small glass to each guest with the canapés.

The mains are rich but still fresh with lots of crisp textures. It is cherry season here and organic cherries are beautiful right now. So duck loves something both sweet and a little sour to cut its richness, plump cherries doused in orange juice with a glug of good, preferably aged, balsamic vinegar is the perfect thing. I wouldn’t use the caramelised balsamics, I find those way too thick and overly sweet.

The filmjölk ice-cream is nothing like store bought, that recipe is also in Ferment, it is not overly sweet and the perfect compliment to this poached peach or a bowl of fresh cherries, mangos and lychees, yay for summertime not too far from the tropics

Canapés, with a glass of sparkling sake

Sydney rock oysters with cucumber, shiso, yuzu & umeboshi dressing

Fennel, juniper and orange cured bonito with beni shoga

Ponzu marinated iced tofu with green chilies & garlic chives

Small shot of cold beet soup with crispy diced cultured cucumber and radish and a splot of heirloom yoghurt

On the table-

Crispy skinned, rare duck breast with balsamic & orange cherries, red & bitter greens

Tempeh with red jasmine rice, ketchup manis & mustard dressing 

Duck fat roasted potatoes

Many a green bean, with verdant booch dressing

Dessert-

Mirin & vanilla poached peaches with filmjölk & honey ice cream, Christmas ginger shortbread, served with a tot of mead

Safe and happy holidaying all, may every mouthful you share bring you and those you love, joy and deliciousness.