Summer Is Here
I always find this time of year the most relaxing, the pressure is off and everyone is in holiday mode, regardless of whether actually on holidays or not, there’s a definite ease into things. That carefree attitude spills over into my style of cooking at this time of year too, and I find myself relying heavily on produce that needs very little done to it – salads of fresh vegetables and herbs with only the need for a slick of oil and Verjuice, anything that can be thrown onto the barbecue and cooked as part of a social gathering with drinks in hand, and piles of the darkest cherries and perfectly ripe stonefruit to fill the place of dessert.
My tips for Christmas are the same as at anytime you find yourself wanting to create beautiful food to share…
Shop and be seduced by what looks the freshest, the most vibrant and then find a good recipe to follow if unsure of how to cook it. That way your food will be at the peak of its season, at its most affordable, and most of all full of flavour.
The next step is to keep it simple.
Good produce needs so little doing to it, so don't overcomplicate things. Follow the principle that less is more... the more being your enjoyment in sharing your table, and having everyone in the family involved.
Get to know the rhythm of the seasons, how to delight in fruit and vegetables picked at their best, truly ripened. Feel your way into cooking, recipes are only ever a guide, cooking from the heart is the most inspiring way to create your favourite dishes.
I always love making things from scratch, especially for Christmas, and so when I’m setting out to make my own mayonnaise, I’m already planning what I’ll do with the leftover egg whites. Pavlova! Pavlova was the first dessert I ever made whilst still in my teens, and today I still love it, although my tastes have become more ‘grown up’ as I often mix some creme fraiche into the whipped cream to add a little tang. My pavlova will be part of our Christmas Day lunch, but to start I’m thinking of Avocado & Verjuice Jellies, such a fresh flavoured beginning, and easy because they can be made ahead of time. To make good use of my homemade mayonnaise; Kingfish Sashimi, another great make ahead option. Then we’ll have our traditional Goose with Apple, Onion and Sage Stuffing, and perhaps a Glazed Ham too depending on how many of us will be at the table. I love having a decadent choice of side dishes, so I’ll do my Christmas Salad of mango, avocado, rocket and papaya, a big bowl of freshly steamed green beans with lashings of butter, and roasted potatoes are a must, with lots of herbs and plenty of extra virgin olive oil. Along with the pavlova will be Christmas Pudding and Brandy Butter, but we all know even as I put it out, that dessert will be pushed back well into the evening, if at all, and the pudding will most likely become a treat for Boxing Day with a pot of tea.
Bring the Season to the Table
My idea of decoration for any special occasion is to bring the season to the table, finding beautiful foliage from my garden or foraged from roadsides. Roses are always my number one choice for any meal, but especially at Christmas I like to find other choices of flora too. Olive branches always look striking on a table, and are in abundance at home with our olive grove just outside the door, but I also love having branches from trees that offer both greenery and produce - figs, almonds, lemons, even immature pears and pomegranates are a wonderful addition if I can bare to sacrifice a few for the sake of beauty! Then again, if ever there was a time to do so, it's surely Christmastime. I'd like to wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas, full of all the things that make this time of year so special,