It is very different as it is usually around 30ºC outside and most of the cooking is done on the barbecue. On top of that, shorts, flip-flops and sunglasses are the Christmas outfit of the day (you would not dream of wearing a Christmas jumper with this kind of weather).
I thought I would ask my good friend Lauren-Anne (she goes by L.A. so I will use it this way here) to tell me about her Australian Christmas. L.A. is a wonderful actress and lives in Melbourne. She is also a very good cook. My last birthday in Australia, she baked me thirty delicious cupcakes. It was such a surprise (and they were gorgeous!). And despite all the food intolerance she has, her dishes are always very creative and flavoursome (I would find it hard to cut out of my diet all the things she cannot eat anymore).
When I told her about the Six Christmases Project, she was really fast to answer and so happy to participate in it.
They start the meal with seafood cooked on the barbecue. The men of the family take care of that part of the dinner. The seafood consists mainly of prawns and calamari marinated with garlic, chillies and lemon juice.
For the main part of the dinner, they eat a roast turkey, a glazed ham and vegetables. The ham is usually prepared by L.A.'s aunt. The vegetables are roasted pumpkin, potatoes, parsnips and blanched green beans (last year, the latter was served with roasted almonds and bacon).
At the table, they also always have Christmas crackers. They pop them open, then read the jokes and wear the hats (and they keep them on until the end of the meal).
For dessert, there is a lovely selection of delicious sweet things. There is a Christmas pudding (that L.A. and her aunt try to 'set alight' every year) served with custard and cream. L.A. told me she made the Christmas pudding a couple of weeks ago. She used a new recipe by Maggie Beer.
There are also mince pies and rum balls shaped like Christmas puddings. These delicacies are sourced by her aunt from a great bakery.
There will also be some pavlova (a dessert that consists of meringue topped with cream and pieces of fruit) as they started serving it at Christmas for those who do not eat pudding.
L.A. also makes a Christmas cake and a White Christmas (I made a variation of the latter here). They have other things like shortbread and what L.A. is hoping to start doing as a tradition from now on: delicious buckwheat and ginger reindeer cookies.
I love that some of L.A.'s recipes for Christmas sweet things come from the 1960's. It is great to carry food traditions year after year.
L.A. and her family will also all sit around the room where the Christmas tree. Each family takes it in turns to pass out their presents.
I decided to create two recipes taking L.A.'s diet into account so she can also enjoy them. I cooked the prawns in the oven as I do not own a barbecue (first of all, it is not allowed in my building; second of all, who wants to stand outside in Ireland when it is 1ºC ?). I also decided to roast a gammon as I think it can be a nice alternative to a whole ham.
250g fresh peeled prawns (also known as shrimps)
250g cherry tomatoes
2 tbsp olive oil
pinch of sea salt
pinch of cracked rainbow peppercorn
For the marinade
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 red chilli (finely chopped)
1 garlic clove (finely chopped)
sea salt, pepper
To make the marinade, put the olive oil, lemon juice, chopped chilli and garlic in a bowl. Add a pinch of salt and pepper and stir well. Add the prawns and toss them with the marinade until they are coated evenly. Cover the bowl and leave in the fridge for 20 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 180ºC.
Cut the tomatoes in half and lay them in a small oven dish (skin side down). Drizzle the olive oil over the top and sprinkle with sea salt and rainbow peppercorn (you can also use regular cracked pepper; the rainbow peppercorn gives a lovely aroma to the tomatoes). Put the dish on the middle shelf of the oven.
After 10 minutes, take it out of the oven. Lay the marinated prawns on top of the tomatoes. Put it back in the oven for 5 minutes (until the prawns are pink and cooked through).
When cooked, remove from the oven. Then, using a slotted spoon, put the tomatoes and prawns in a serving dish (discard the watery juice).
They can be served as a starter with an accompaniment of other seafood such as scallops and calamari.
The prawns can also be cooked on the barbecue. They would take only a couple of minutes to cook on the grill (you can also put them on skewers).
800g pork gammon
1/2 tbsp dried juniper berries
3 tbsp cider vinegar
3 tbsp maple syrup
3 tbsp caster sugar
Preheat the oven to 180ºC.
Put the cider vinegar, maple syrup, caster sugar, a pinch of salt and pepper in a small bowl. Mix the ingredients together with a spoon.
Score the the fat on top of the gammon in diamond patterns and insert the juniper berries in the intersections.
Place the gammon in a roasting dish. Pour the glaze evenly over the fat and meat. Then add the water at the bottom of the dish (this will prevent the caramelised glaze from burning; it will create a delicious juice).
Put the dish on the middle shelf of the oven. The cooking time for the weight of this joint is 1 hour and 20 minutes (the cooking time varies with the weight of the meat so the best thing is to ask your butcher for advice on cooking time if your joint is smaller or bigger).
Baste the joint with the juices every 20 minutes.
After 40 minutes in the cooking process, cover the joint with aluminum foil. Remove it 5 minutes before the end of the cooking time in order to crisp the top of the gammon.
Take the gammon out of the oven and let it rest on a board for 10 minutes before carving it in slices.
Pour the juices in a sauce dish and leave it on the table for whoever wants to add some lovely caramelised juice to their slice of gammon.
You can serve it as a side meat on your Christmas plate with the vegetables of your choice (mashed potatoes and green beans tossed with garlic are lovely with it).
Bon appétit and Merry Christmas!