This post is on behalf of Chadstone Shopping Centre, whom Nerida is a Food and Entertaining Contributor.
With Christmas just around the corner, it isn’t long now before we find ourselves rushing madly searching for the perfect gift for those we love. However, with a bit of forward thinking there is really no reason to be rushed or stressed this year. As I always say, “fail to plan, plan to fail”.
To help make preparing for the festive season as seamless as possible, I’ve pulled together my top tips and a list of key trends to serve as inspiration.
What’s HOT this year when it comes to festive feasting?
Australian’s today are much more aware of what they are putting in their bodies. They care about where the produce comes from and how it’s prepared and this is changing the way we feast.
The top three most popular cuisines in 2014 are: Italian, Asian and Mexican, however with the health conscious in mind, this festive season is all about locally sourced meats & seafood, sustainable produce, foods and snacks that are healthier for kids and gluten free options.
Here are my top meal suggestions:
Appetizer: house-cured meats/charcuterie & oysters
Charcuterie includes things like smoked or cured hams, sausages and terrines. I source mine from Colonial Fresh in Chadstone-The Fashion Capital. Also, nothing beats a platter of fabulous fresh oysters and/or prawns. Fisch can help you out with these.
Main dish: locally sourced meats and seafood
Meats, seafood, and even ingredients for delicious cocktails can all be sourced locally. The Aussie palate has become much more sophisticated in recent years, and I think there is a difference in taste and quality when it comes to meat & seafood that has not only been treated with respect whilst alive; is sustainable and is sourced & prepared locally. Rainbow Meats, Wishbone, or Fisch can sort you out here. I also recommend using chutney from Simon Johnson on your roast meat.
Side dish: Non-wheat noodles/pasta such as Quinoa (pronounced kin-wah)
You may have to explain that one to Grandpa, but ancient grains are incredibly popular. I often visit restaurants to try different types of foods, flavours and spices before replicating at home. One of my favourite recipes from Chef Travis McAuley of Hellenic Republic is his Cypriot Grain salad. Most of the ingredients to make this can be found at Jones the Grocer, or Coles.
Dessert: Vanilla and Lemon Pavlova
Basically anything that’s rich and decadent but also beautiful to look at will be a winner at the Christmas table. Edible flowers & micro herbs are always a popular addition to desserts, and now they are more readily available. Colonial Fresh Market has a great variety of these and Matchbox has some fabulous cake pans and gadgets that will help make your desserts look spectacular.
Of course, part of what makes your desserts (or any meal) look even more impressive, is fabulous plate ware. We tend to eat with our eyes, so a pretty dessert looks much prettier if the plate ware is interesting. Wheel and Barrow have a stunning array of fabulous indoor & outdoor plateware and other homeware accessories, and I can barely contain my excitement about Williams-Sonoma, West Elm, Pottery Barn and Pottery Barn Kids coming to Chadstone-The Fashion Capital! Not only will you be able to ace the gift-giving this year, but your dinner table should look like a little bit of heaven if you stock up on some stunning pieces.
Beverage: locally brewed beers & Australian wines
We are so lucky in this country to have some of the best wines in the world. My wine rack is never without a bottle of De Bortoli’s ‘Noble One’ – the perfect way to end any festive meal and readily available at Liquorland.
Pantry must-haves this festive season if a ‘party’ suddenly takes shape in your kitchen:
- A bottle or 2 of Champagne or Prosecco – these can be thrown in the fridge and chilled quickly)
- A few jars of roasted red capsicum, artichokes, mushrooms and olives – decant onto a platter and serve with crackers for an easy antipasto extravaganza
- A can of chickpeas, some fresh lemons, olive oil and garlic – whizz them up for an easy & healthy dip
- Salsa & corn chips – select mild for kid-friendly snack
- Party mix – because it wouldn’t be a party without party mix
- Good quality rice crackers – there is nothing more disappointing than a rice cracker that can’t take the weight of a scoop of dip or soft cheeses
Time-saving tips when preparing for the festive season:
- Clear out the fridge, freezer and pantry early in December to make space for holiday ingredients (a hideous job, but has to be done)
- Prepare meals and batches of pastry/dough early and freeze for later in the month. These are things like cookie dough (to make into cookies for gifts and entertaining), Sheppard’s pie and Bolognese sauce for quick easy mid-week meals
- Plan all holiday parties and meals well in advance
- Always write a detailed grocery list so you don’t forget anything, and try to stick to it. This will help you remain on task and on budget
- Shop local for great quality and competitive price. It’s also important to order all meats and seafood in advance
How can I achieve a festive ambience?
- Christmas carols. It’s the age old debate – to play or not to play? I must admit I do love Christmas carols, and I’ll definitely be playing them in my home during the festive season. I will however remain mindful that my guests may not feel the same way and I’ll mix them amongst general old favourites and new tracks. I have a pretty big collection of Christmas carol CDs, however I’ve also taken to purchasing from iTunes – here is the latest member to my collection. Note hot tip: those fabulous geniuses at the Apple Store can help you put your play-list together and you can purchase iTunes vouchers as gifts from them also.
- Candles and few fairy lights. I try to avoid candles that have a strong scent. If you have a few burning, they can be overwhelming and not everyone likes the same scents. I suggest opting for tea light candles which you can get at Dusk, and invest in a couple of lanterns as table features. I love this glitter reindeer lantern.
- A Christmas tree with beautiful decorations, of course. To me, creating family traditions is very important. Every year, I take Nana and the kids to Chadstone-The Fashion Capital, where we head to Myer and Target and hunt around for beautiful Christmas tree decorations. Each kid chooses one special decoration, and we mark it with their name and the year. 13 years on, we have a stunning collection of carefully chosen Christmas tree decorations that the kids still get excited about putting on the tree each year. Of course, we also swing by the food courts to have some lunch and a treat or two.
- Have fun with your theming and be willing to try that out-of-place dish— it could become a staple in years to come.