Christmas is just around the corner, bringing with it the fun filled madness that is hosting Christmas Lunch. In this three part post we take you behind-the-scenes of David Jones Ambassador Neil Perry’s Christmas Menu, showing you step by step how Neil plans to entertain those that are dearest and nearest to him. Part one features a letter from Neil to our readers and the recipe for his Christmas entree: King Prawns with Dried tomato, White Bean and Olive Salad. Tune in to parts two and three for the main and dessert. So settle in, take notes and enjoy Christmas with Neil.
Christmas is such a great time to get all the family together and, for me, it is the presents that grow on the trees, not just underneath, that are the real cause for excitement. It’s the one time of year my fruit bowl is laden with the most deliciously juicy stone fruit: peaches, apricots, plums, cherries and mangoes. We are equally spoiled by the treats plucked from the earth and the vines: the last of the spring asparagus, the sun-ripened tomatoes (tomatoes always taste better when they have struggled for their life in our harsh sun), the peas, zucchinis and cucumbers.
Come Christmas, I like to create big salads that celebrate these ingredients in all their simple elegance. If I’m not serving them raw, I will braise the greens along and slow with anchovies, garlic and chilli, and then serve them at room temperature.
Of course, there are always potatoes, whether it’s a big bowl of mash, or spuds roasted with olive oil, rosemary and whole garlic. Everything’s designed for sharing; that’s how Christmas should be.
Summer’s also a great time for the barbecue and celebrating all the excellent seafood from our waters: prawns, whole fish, squid and octopus. I find a simple homemade aioli is a great addition to the festive table – it’s just as good with all the delicious raw vegies as it is with the seafood. Aioli has the added advantage of being a brilliant accompaniment to the Christmas ham.
When it comes to dessert, we tend to shun the plum pudding in order to celebrate summer’s abundance in fruit jellies or a trifle, served with mascarpone or a delicious Sauterne custard – all the required excitement without the weight.
Here, I’ve created a menu that mixes both the traditional and contemporary; paying heed to the Australian summer. Whatever you do, make sure to complete as much as you can in advance, so that you can enjoy the day with your family and friends.
Wishing you a very merry Christmas,
Sam, the Girls and Me
King Prawns with Dried Tomato, White Bean and Olive Salad Serves 4
- 2 punnets of cherry tomatoes cut in half on the equator
- 80g (4 tbsp) quality extra virgin olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled, cut in half and sliced thinly
- ½ bunch thyme, picked
- Set gas oven on pilot. Line an ovenproof tray with baking paper.
- In a large bowl, mix the tomatoes with the olive oil. Arrange tomatoes on the prepared tray, cut side up.
- Place the cut garlic in the bowl and coat in residual oil. Place 1 small piece on top of each tomato.
- Sprinkle thyme over tomatoes and garlic. Season with sea salt and freshly cracked pepper.
- Place in the oven on pilot and leave overnight.
- Once done, store in a suitable container in fridge for up to 5 days.
For electric ovens, preheat to 120C, then when tomatoes are ready, bake in the oven for 1.5 hours, then turn off oven and leave for a further 2 hours. Times and temperature may vary (as indicated) based on your oven.
Prawns and Salad
- 16 large king prawns
- 40g (2 tbsp) quality extra virgin olive oil
- 1 bunch dill, picked
- 1 bunch parsley, picked
- 2 bunches chives, cut into 30mm lengths
- 1 bunch chervil, picked
- 1 tin quality white beans, drained
- 40 pieces dried cherry tomatoes
- 2 eshallots, sliced thinly on a mandolin and washed in cold water (this will get rid of the harsh onion flavor)
- Cabernet sauvignon vinegar
- Heat barbecue on a medium-high heat. Soak bamboo skewers ready for use.
- Peel the king prawns, then cut out the black vein along the back of the prawn. Run your knife along the underside of the prawn, cutting the muscle that makes the prawn curl when cooked. Skewer each prawn to help keep them straight while cooking.
- Season prawns, drizzle with olive oil and cook on barbecue until just done.
- In a large mixing bowl place the soft herbs, olives, white beans, dried tomatoes and eshallots. Dress with vinegar, olive oil, sea salt and freshly cracked pepper, mix well.
- Arrange salad on a dinner plate next to the prawns, drizzle a little olive oil on the prawn and season with a small amount of sea salt and freshly cracked pepper.
Words and recipes by Neil Perry
For Part Two click here.
For Part Three click here.