christmas in july – a time for mates

super moist turkey with cranberry sauce & stuffing

OK – for those of you living in the Northern Hemisphere – you’re probably going to think that this is a very weird concept so it might be a good idea to bookmark this page and come back in early December when you’re starting to think about planning your Christmas feast. For the rest of you – my fellow Southern Hempisphere cousins – gather around.

When I was little I remember coming across the concept of ‘Christmas in July’ advertised as a luncheon at the only restaurant in Gunning. I disctinctly remember thinking what a rediculous concept. As my English butcher said the other day, when I picked up my fresh turkey

‘Why on earth would you want to celebrate Christmas at the wrong time of year?’.

When I explained just how lovely it is to eat turkey and ham when it’s actually cold, rather than melting though a Sydney Summer and that you get to hang out with your mates rather than dodging the minefield that can be family gatherings often become – he started to see the benefit. Then I threw in the clincher – that it’s a great excuse for opening some seriously good bottles of vino – and my butcher agreed – what a brilliant idea.

The other upside, I later realised is that it’s a chance to get everyone to contribute. To be honest it was the least stressful and best tasting Christmas meal I’ve ever prepared. For our Christmas in July I decided to get a little help from my friends. The lovely Mands had already generously offered to provide not only the venue but her delicious glazed ham. So all that remained was to pop out an email calling for volunteers to chip in with the remaining categories.

Living in Glebe – just a stone’s throw from the Sydney Fish Markets – Liz & Simon volunteered to cover off our starter with a very modern version of Christmas sashimi. Simple but a real crowd pleaser.

I had decided to look after the cooking of the turkey and all the trimmings so just needed a sponsor to cover the cost of the turk. Too easy. Then there was dessert. I had some individual puddings in the freezer left over from Christmas last yeat so all that we needed was someone to make custard and procure some icecream.

Then last but not least we needed someone to look after table setting and ambiance. With Missy Helgs visiting from Melbourne I knew we would be in good hands. Especially when she rocked up with special candles and vases for the table in her suitcase. You’ve gotta love a girl who travels prepared. Add in my favourite Irishman with his playlist of Christmas jazz tunes and we were well organised.

Like I said, it was easily the least stressful Christmas meal I’ve pulled together. Don’t ever underestimate the power of delegation and team work. But I think the thing that made it especially successful was that it was a chance to get into the Christmas spirit with your mates. Something that we normally never get to do. Well at least until next July. Merry Christmas everyone.

christmas in july – a feast for mates

sydney fish market sashimi
apple glazed ham
succulent roast turkey
cranberry, sausage & macadamia stuffing
cranberry sauce
crispy nicola potatoes roasted in duck fat
pan fried bussels sprouts
christmas salad of radicchio & basil
little christmas puddings with vanilla custard & icecream

For the apple glazed ham check out Gourmet Traveller. The pan fried brussels sprouts were a big hit from my book ‘and the love is free’ available exclusively through my online book store with FREE shipping anywhere in Australia.


succulent roast turkey

serves 10-14

Turkey has to be up there as one of the most difficult meats to get right. It wasn’t until I discovered the art of brining that I felt like I was able to cook a half decent turk. The brine makes for beautifully seasoned meat which keeps it’s mositure aswell.

You’ll need to start this the day before you want to cook your turkey. It may feel a little fiddly to be brining your turkey first but trust me, you’ll never have such a succulent bird.

7.5kg turkey
1C sugar
1C salt
4L water
1/4C peppercorns
1 quantity stuffing (recipe below)
250g butter, softened

In a large stock pot combine sugar, salt, pepper and half the water. Bring to the boil and simmer for 5 mins. Remove from the heat. Stir through remaining water and allow to cool. Place turkey, breast side down in the brine. Cover and refrigerate for at least 24hours and no more than 48 hours.

Remove turkey from the brine, drain and pat dry. Allow to come to room temperature for 5 hours.

Preheat oven to 180C (350F). Place stuffing in turkey cavity and tuck wings behind the back. Tie legs together at the ankles with string. Stuff some butter under the skin on the breast and smear the rest over the surface of the bird. Cover the breast with foil and cook for approx 4 hours (see note below).

Allow to rest for at least 10 minutes before carving.

Note. Allow 30mins per kilogram (15mins per pound) + 15 mins and at least another 10 minutes to rest but preferably longer. If you have a meat thermometer – cook until the internal temperature reaches about 85C (185F).

cranberry, sausage & macadamia stuffing

serves 10-14

This makes more than you’ll need to stuff the turkey but I find it’s always a good idea to bake a dish of extra stuffing on the side. I’ve been playing around with cranberry & macadamia stuffing for as long as I’ve been cooking turkeys. I think the first version even had couscous involved. But it wasn’t until Christmas just past that I felt that I’d found my perfect stuffing. You can imagine how worried I was when I started to plan this meal and realised that I hadn’t blogged or recorded the stuffing recipe at Christmas. Luckiy I managed to find some notes – but really a great lesson in the value of blogging.

The secret to this stuffing lies in the sausages. To be honest it’s so moreish you’ll be wondering why you even bothered with the turkey.

3T olive oil
3 brown onions, peeled & diced
225g (8oz) macadamias, roasted
6 pork sausages
125g (4 1/2 oz) sweetened dried cranberries (craisins)
1/2 bunch thyme, leaves picked
1 bunch sage, roughly chopped
650g sourdough or other rustic bread
2 cloves garlic, peeled & finely chopped

Heat oil in a large frying pan. Add onion and cook over a medium low heat stirring occasionally until the onion is soft but not brown. Reserve 1/3 onion for the cranberry sauce. Place remaining ingredients in a large bowl and squash to combine with your hands. Season well.

Place stuffing in turkey cavity as above. For the remainder place in an ovenrpoof dish and bake alongside the turkey for approx 40mins or until cooked through and golden brown on top.

cranberry sauce
serves 10-12

I’ve been perfecting my cranberry sauce for a while now. I think the secret is to use the neck from the turkey to beef up the meaty flavours and be generous with the Worcesteshire sauve to further maximise the umami and contrast the sweetness. Perfect on bxing day sandwiches with turkey and stuffing.
500mL (2C) chicken stock
1/4C worcestershire sauce
275g (10oz) commercial cranberry sauce
300g (11oz) sweetened dried cranberries (craisins)
1 turkey neck (optional)
1/2 bunch thyme (leaves picked)
1-2T brown sugar (or to taste)

Place all ingredients in a large frying pan. Bring to the boil and simmer until the cranberries are plump and juicy and most of the stock has been adsorbed. Season and taste for sweetness, adding more brown sugar if desired. Discard turkey neck if using.

christmas salad of radicchio & basil
serves 10-12

I’m absolutely loving radicchio this winter. There’s something about those beautifully ruby coloured leaves that gets me excited. This has been my favourite dressing for over a few months. If you can’t find any caramelised red wine vinegar substitute in 1T honey and 1T red wine vinegar.

2-3 head radicchio, leaves picked washed & torn
1/2 bunch basil leaves picked
2T caramelised red wine vinegar
2T seeded mustard
6T extra virgin olive oil

Combine vinegar, mustart and oil. Season well and toss through leaves. Serve immediately.

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Preview or pickup a copy of my new cookbook ‘and the love is free’ by clicking on the cover below

The perfect gift for beginner cooks looking to master the basics.
A lovely way to celebrate the mums who bring so much joy to our lives.

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