It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas – beautiful colourful Australian gumtree flowers snapped on my morning walk, a sure sign Christmas is close

Remember- scroll down as this newsletter is full of info wherever you are in the world!

It feels like the calm before the storm. I am feeling remarkably unfazed by the time of year. I’ve ordered some books online for gifts and also bought things during my travels which always makes it easier. I still have a couple to get but there’s no end-of-year frenzy as there is when you have school children at home. I used to make Christmas goodies for them to give their teachers which was lovely, if time-consuming. I have some ideas further down in this newsletter,
Mind you I have done nothing about Christmas cards or my annual Christmas letter yet but hopefully there’s still time, along with a delightful raft of Christmas festivities.
Next week will be a Christmas newsletter, jam-packed with gifts, recipes, hints, tips and hacks to have a really enjoyable unstressful time. You may care to share the link to subscribe to family and friends?

Jump ahead to see:
New Youtube video
Christmas Gifts with a Purpose

This Week’s Best Fruit and Veg
Recipe of the Week

All About Peaches & Nectarines

Peach & Nectarine Recipes
Christmas Gifts to Make
Tip of the Week
How to’s?

Interesting Reading
The Gift of Travel for Christmas?

New Youtube Video

Here’s my latest food hack. A healthy alternative to chicken nuggets. 5 minutes to put together then bake for 10. Kids love them but also popular for pre-Christmas entertaining. It is ridiculously easy so spend 45 seconds to watch it here or Full recipe here.

Christmas Gifts with a Purpose

#BUYANOTHERBALE a great Christmas gift you can purchase from the comfort of your own home. No crowds.

In 2018 / 2019 over 90,000 Australians bought a bale of hay for our farmers. This provided more than $30m worth of hay, water and financial assistance to farmers in the worst hit areas.
But the drought isn’t over, in fact our farmers are currently experiencing the worst drought in recorded history. So, It’s time to Buy another Bale.
Show our farmers that we are all in this together. $20 buys a small bale, $100 one large bale, $450 provides a rural family with a truckload of water and $5,700 buys an entire truckload of hay for a farmer’s precious livestock.  What a lovely gift this Christmas for family, friends – and farmers. You will be sent a lovely certificate for your gift. And it’s tax deductible!
Information and donation page here.

Rural Fire Service volunteers

While there are several Bushfire relief charities, I like to give directly to the NSW Rural Fire Service. I am in complete awe of these brave men and women who risk their lives to save lives and property. Donations made to the NSW Rural Fire Service (NSW RFS), or your local Rural Fire Brigade, directly benefit volunteer firefighters. What magnificent people they are. 
You can make a donation in support of Rural Fire Service volunteers here.

I’ve written about this cookbook before, created by talented volunteers to benefit famers suffering from drought, floods and now bushfire. I have been proud to be a part of it and so for $150,000 has been raised to donate through Country Women’s Association (CWA)  to farmers affected. In its 3rd print run $24 from the $30 sale of each book bought from this website goes directly to the CWA. Of course, you can also buy from Booktopia.com.au and Amazon.com.au and all good bookstores, it is just that the donation is a little less.
Donations go to essential services that are so desperately needed and so far have been used to assist with broken fences, paying outstanding electrical bills, repairing equipment and machinery and to help with counselling services, family groceries and nappies.
The book is loaded with stunning recipes and stories – a gift which is beautiful to give and also receive which in turns gives back to farmers.Buy here.

Also watch The Morning Show on Channel 7 next Thursday 19 December where I will be cooking some festive recipes from the book.

Mangoes, Apricots and Watermelon

FRUIT

The festive season is sweeter with glossy, flavoursome cherries. They can brighten up any table or lunchbox.

Pop a few juicy limes in your trolley or some greengrocers will offer a bag for around $3-$5 a kilo. A squeeze of  lime juice over seafood gives a refreshing tang or use in BBQ marinades or for a festive season cocktail.

Golden velvety skinned apricots are coming into season. Choose firm, evenly coloured apricots with a sweet fragrance; this indicates optimum flavour. Colour varies from pale to deep apricot, the deeper the colour, the higher the content of beta carotene. Refrigerate ripe fruit and use within 2 days.

Creamy Queensland bananas team well with tangy passionfruit. One passionfruit yields approximately 2 tablespoons of pulp and juice.

Flavoursome, aromatic and ultra-juicy peaches and nectarines are well supplied. Select from white and yellow flesh fruit many varieties are now the slip-stone varieties making them ideal for summertime desserts like this poached spiced summer fruits. 

Sweet and juicy mangoes bring a lush tropical taste to your summer table. Mangoes are ideal on their own or in tempting chilled summer desserts. Choose firm mangoes with a fresh sweet tropical fragrance. Ripen mangoes at room temperature until the fruit yields to gentle pressure around the stem. It’s the perfect time to enjoy this mango & corn salsa with sticky pork tortillas.

December is a great time for luscious berries, in particular strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, boysenberries, blackberries and red currantse. There is no better time to enjoy berry desserts like poached berries with easy pancakes

Watermelon is picked ripe and ready to eat. Choose cut watermelon with bright pink flesh. A rich colour is a good indication of sweetness. If whole, tap the watermelon and it should sound hollow. For a simple summer dessert, serve a platter of chilled juicy watermelon wedges with cubes of luscious Turkish delight or for watermelon appetizers, top cubes or watermelon with feta, olives and mint. I like to put chopped watermelon into summer fruit punches – with or without alcohol. See my  Tip of the Week for more.

Broccolini, Sweetcorn and Eggplant

VEGETABLES

Now at their seasonal best, vibrant tomatoes come in many shapes, colours and sizes. For maximum flavour, leave tomatoes in a cool place to fully ripen before using. They are best stored and served at room temperature. Grape and cherry tomatoes are rich in flavour and inexpensive right now.  Look out for Truss tomatoes,  Ox-heart varieties,  Salad  and Roma tomatoes.

Sweet flavoured and low GI, kumara is delicious roasted to serve hot with roast turkey or serve cold in a salad like this Roast kumara, chickpea & baby spinach salad. With pumpkin prices up this year, try kumara, as it adds colour and is good value.

Sweetcorn is a family favourite that is fast to cook. Wash corn cobs, place in a single layer in a microwave-safe bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Microwave on high for 2-3 minutes (per cob) until just tender. Stand to cool for 5 minutes before serving. 

A kilo bag of versatile carrots is a bargain.. Add grated carrots to coleslaw, juice carrots (they are delicious teamed with orange and ginger) roast carrot batons with a sprinkling of fresh thyme and a drizzle of olive oil.

Summer is the time to enjoy eggplants. There are so many ways: roasted, grilled, barbecued or baked. . Adding barbecued eggplant to home-made burgers imparts and pleasant texture and extra smoky flavour. Eggplant & mushroom lamb burgers.

If you like crunch in your summer salads, add celery.  Whip up a whip and easy Rocket, celery & chicken salad with lemon mayonnaise. I buy the whole bunch and make the tops into a low-fat low-carb soup.

Broccolini is a top buy, fast and easy to cook. Serve it  warm with a dressing or toss cold through a salad.

Tender, juicy and full of flavour Lebanese cucumbers are a top buy. Combine diced cucumber with ripe tomatoes, olives, thinly sliced onion and feta cheese to make a traditional Greek salad.

Hot summer days are the perfect time to enjoy crisp, vegetable-rich salads. Start with an iceberg or Cos lettuce  or try watercress. Its small dark green leaves have a mild peppery flavour and team deliciously with cucumber, seafood, eggs, oranges, tomatoes or roasted capsicums.

Choose firm, rosy-red radishes  that are free from cracks with fresh-looking leaves attached. Trim leaves and gently scrub before using. For ultra-crisp radishes, place them in iced water for 30 minutes just before serving.

Top ideas for using red radishes;

  • Serve halved radishes with a spread of salted butter.
  • Combine thinly sliced radish in a salad with thin strips of Lebanese cucumber, cooked and peeled prawns and baby salad greens.
  • Add coarsely grated radish into coleslaw.
  • Team thinly sliced radish with rare roast beef, baby salad greens and mayonnaise on a crisp baguette.

Recipe of the Week

Smoked Duck with Christmas Spiced Pickled Cherries

Christmas Canapé – Smoked Duck with Christmas Spiced Pickled Cherries
You could buy ready-smoked duck as a shortcut to make this recipe, or make extra cherries to put in an attractive jar as a gift. Best to keep them in the fridge.

Makes: 24
Preparation Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 15 minutes

2 x 200g duck breasts, skin on

Smoking Mixture
1 tablespoon black tea leaves
1 tablespoon herbal tea (eg an earthy, spicy herbal tea such as cardamom and cinnamon)
2 tablespoons dried orange peel
4 tablespoons jasmine rice
2 tablespoons brown sugar
4 star anise

Christmas Spiced Pickled Cherries
4 cardamom pods
4 cloves
1 cinnamon stick
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ cup (60ml) red wine vinegar
1/3 cup (50g) fresh or frozen cherries, pitted and halved

  1. Line a wok or stir-fry pan with two pieces of heavy duty foil. Place smoking mixture on top, mix to combine and place over high heat. Place a rack in the wok and duck breasts, skin side up, on top. Cover with a lid or tightly with foil.  Once it starts to smoke, reduce heat to low and continue to smoke the duck breasts for a further five to ten minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, prepare Christmas spiced pickled cherries by bruising cardamom, cloves and cinnamon in a pestle and mortar. Add to a small saucepan with nutmeg, ginger, red wine vinegar and cherries, bring to the boil then simmer for four minutes.  Set aside to cool.
  3. Remove duck from wok and place skin side down in a cold frying pan. Place pan over medium heat and cook for 6 to 8 minutes or until the fat renders and the skin is crisp. Turn and cook for a further one to two minutes. Rest in a warm place for five minutes.
  4. To serve, thinly slice each duck breast into twelve slices. Place one slice on each serving spoon and top with a cherry half.

All About Peaches & Nectarines

L: Yellow-fleshed peaches and R: white-fleshed peaches

PEACHES AND NECTARINES
Sweet, juicy and fragrant, peaches are one of the most beautiful fruit around at this time of year. Around the size of a tennis ball, they are covered with a velvety down, and most commonly have a red-blushed yellow skin and golden yellow flesh, apart from white peaches, which have a pink-blushed cream skin and pinky white flesh. There are also donut peaches which are flat and disc-shaped.
Peaches and nectarines are both stone fruit and are similar in taste and texture – they can even grow on the same tree. Nectarines are actually a variety of peach native to China. The main difference is that nectarines have a smooth skin and slightly more acidity. Both come in either clingstone or freestone varieties – the name indicates how easily the stone is freed from the flesh.
Good for you
A source of vitamin C, which contributes to the normal functioning of the body’s immune system. A source of dietary fibre (especially if eaten with the skin on) which contributes to the normal function of the intestine.Peaches and nectarines have a low GI (42 and 43) which means their natural sugars are broken down slowly for absorption into the bloodstream.
Peaches and nectarines  with yellow flesh have some beta-carotene which the body converts to vitamin A. Nectarines also are a source of potassium that may help balance the sodium from salt.
Nectarines are also high in vitamin B and are lower in calories than peaches
.
Buying and storing
Choose peaches and nectarines that have a fragrant aroma as this means they’ll have a well-developed flavour. Select firm and plump fruit which is yellow around the stem, and avoid fruit that’s green as it means it has been picked too early and while it will soften at room temperature, the flavour will not develop any more.  Store at room temperature or if perfectly ripe, place  in the fridge in a perforated bag, where they’ll keep for a couple of days.
Preparation
Always wash peaches and nectarines before eating or cooking. You can also rub off the fuzzy bloom on the peaches if preferred. To remove the stone, use a small knife to cut around the seam of the fruit. Twist to separate the fruit and I use a melon baller or use the small knife to gently cut around the stone and remove.
To peel, drop  into boiling water for around 15 or more seconds then plunge immediately into cold water. The skin should then come away easily.
If you are not going to eat cut peaches straight away, brush the cut sides with lemon juice or acidulated water to prevent them going brown.
Eat raw as they are, slice to add to fruit salads, pavlovas and trifles, bake in a tar, poach or roast.

L: Yel;ow-fleshed nectarines and R: White-fleshed nectarines

Peach & Nectarine Recipes

Poached Peaches

Poached Peaches
Peaches with Strawberry Sauce

Summer Fruit & Ginger Beer Ice Blocks
Summer Fresh Fruit Salad
Summer Fruit Frangipane Tart
Little Festive Summer Stonefruit & Ricotta Cakes
Nectarine & Macadamia Tart
Here is BBC Good Food’s collection of Peach recipes and Nectarine recipes

Christmas Gifts to Make

A home-made gift is always appreciated, plus it saves on the budget. Here’s a selection:
Lightly Spiced Toasted Muesli
Cheesey Oatcream Crackers
White Chocolate Rocky Road
Chocolate Truffles
Watch my Chocolate Truffles with a Twist on Youtube
Little Christmas Cakes with Eggnog Buttercream
Little Christmas Cakes with Royal Icing
Double Chocolate Macadamia Biscuits
Rum Balls
Panforte
Here is my UK foodwriter friend Xanthe Clay’s piece in The Telegraph with eight recipes Nothing Beats Home-Made: Incredible Edible Gifts to Make this Weekend
Women’s Weekly shares 16 edible gift ideas for the festive season

Tip of the Week

I always like to serve a non-alcoholic fruit punch along with other drinks for Christmas entertaining. My Mum and Dad had a great technique to keep your punch cold through the hot weather. Cut up some fruit & place it in a ring cake tin, fill the tin a quarter way with fruit juice & then place in the freezer.
When it is time to make your punch, warm the outside of the tin slightly so it will just pop out & then place into the punch bowl! It will keep the punch cool and melt very slowly, just adding to the flavour.

How to’s?

Easy Gingerbread House

Women’s Weekly says ” Gingerbread houses can be notoriously fiddly, which is why we chose to decorate with our favourite store bought treats! This easy gingerbread house is still the real deal, so you will need to bake the gingerbread pieces ahead of time and stick them together with icing. It’s the perfect marriage of baking and crafting that is guaranteed to impress this Christmas.” Here is their Easy gingerbread house recipe.

Gourmet shares Flour and Stone’s guide to making the perfect pavlova.
And also How to put together an impressive seafood platter.

Interesting Reading

The Guardian in the UK looks at the changes in food in the last decade

Good Food declares 10 Restaurants That Define Australia
Gourmet Traveller reviewed The Best Hams for 2019
A friend in London (thank you Helen) shared this thoughtful piece from The Guardian From Avocados to Instagram: the decade in food. Subtitled The 2010s brought seismic change to the UK’s culinary landscape says critic and restaurateur Tim Hayward.

I am thrilled to see Josh Niland’s Whole Fish cookbook on The Guardian’s list of The 20 Best Food Books of 2019 and closer to home, the round up in Good Food. The New Yorker list is quite different and quite US-centric but I was interested to note thatWhere Cooking Begins: Uncomplicated Recipes to Make You a Great Cook,” by Carla Lalli Music made the cut. I wrote about it quite some time ago.
In London, read this review of London’s Most Instagrammable Restaurant, Circolo Popolare. Is it as good as it looks?  In summary the conclusion: “Let’s just get one thing straight – you don’t come to Circolo Popolare purely for the food. You come for the decadent décor; the eccentric staff; the in-your-face cocktails. Granted, with pasta coming in at £12-£20 each, quality should be better, especially for a restaurant labelling itself as Sicilian. But with flavour-packed cocktails, mac ‘n’ cheese cubes and a dessert so good that I still dream about it, I really couldn’t care less.”

The Gift of Travel for Christmas

In front of trulli in UNESCO site Alberobello, Puglia

Why not treat yourself with a very special tour next year?
I love hosting tours and have done a lot in the last five years. All the organisation and stress is removed while lifelong friendships are made. What’s not to love? I am with my guests 24/7 and am able to offer visits and experiences both on and off the beaten track.
The next tour I am escorting is with By Prior Arrangement to Morocco 16-27 April 2020. This is an extraordinary destination, but one best visited with specialised knowledge and contacts to ensure a happy and seamless experience. Carol Prior of By Prior Arrangement focusses only on Morocco, a country she has known for 30 years and where she lived for over a decade.  I could think of no-one better to plan the tour with.

This trip will see us travel from Rabat the capital, to spiritual Meknes and Fes, and to Marrakech the red city. On the way you will explore the archaeological site of Volubilis, visit a Berber village in the Atlas Mountains, and relax by the coast in tranquil Essaouira. You’ll discover the delicacies of Moroccan and French food, dine in local eateries through to upmarket restaurants, and experience the making and flavours of Moroccan dishes during cooking classes. Luxury accommodation is in charming, authentic riads. sometimes in exclusivity. Only 10 – 12 guests$8850 pp shared, or $10,550 single.
Details here
Read my article Where to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner in Rabat
Read
Off on The Road to Morocco in this Magnificent Life
Read
Lyndey Takes Us On a, Exotic Food Journey Through the Cobbled Streets of Morocco.

Wonderful sublty spiced traditional Moroccan dishes. The salads (left) really transform seemingly ordinary ingredients like carrots

Culinary Adventures in Puglia 30 September – 6October 2020.
Puglia is a relatively undiscovered part, in the boot of the heel of Italy, it’s where Italians go for holidays! 

“I loved every moment of the tour, Lyndey is an excellent host, great fun & very  knowledgeable in wine & food while our tour guide, Max, knows the history of Puglia so well, which was great as we visited lovely old towns with amazing old buildings.Our accommodation was 4 to 5 star & wonderful & we had some truly amazing meals & wines.” writes Julie Tulloch, a fellow traveller in May last year.
It was such a fabulous experience, we are repeating it in October 2020 to share an unforgettable week of culinary and cultural exploration. Think hands-on bread, cheese making and cooking class; visits to wineries, olive farm, tours of UNESCO sites Alberobello & Matera & other cultural centres with local guides. All sensational meals and wines included. You only need money for the very inexpensive shopping you will find there.

Group size: an intimate 8-16 places only
Price: $5499 per person for all ground arrangements (single supplement $799)
Lodging in authentic, family-run noble estates and palaces
Operated by: Local Puglia specialist Southern Visions Travel: the leading experiential travel company in Southern Italy
Full brochure 
here

Read more about my adventures in Puglia
Explore Puglia in House & Garden Magazine
Seven dishes you must try in Puglia, Italy in the Sydney Morning Herald
Puglia, the undiscovered heart in Selector Magazine

Sea urchins fresh from the sea, ready to eat and a happy group last tour in Alberobello, Puglia

Keep up to date with my travels on all my social media channels: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter Pinterest and my Youtube channel.

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Lyndey

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