Wishing you all the best 

Lucy Sparkles and Friends Virtual Christmas Choir (Lucy middle top row with garland and her husband Toby in the red jacket)

In what has been a challenging year for all, something I hope to bring you some joy. My daughter Lucy Sparkles and her Virtual Choir singing White Christmas with some of the Sparkles team half a world a part. I am immensely proud of her and her beautiful work with children. Pretty chuffed to see my son-in-law joining in the fun. You can watch and hear the whole song here. I love that it is in sign language too.

It will be a very different Christmas for most people this year. So many of us are separated from family and loved ones. I have not seen Lucy and my adorable grandchildren in over a year and I can’t see that happening in the forseeable future. While we are keeping it smaller, I will be seeing most of my siblings and their families on Christmas Day and the next generation have issued a stern instruction that they are “hijacking Christmas” and we are banned from doing anything other than bringing drinks. And no washing up either! My sister, however, has to make her fabulous duck fat roast potatoes. Yum!

While I am taking a break from my Facebook Live sessions until the New Year next Monday night 21 December, I am joining Joe and Scott’s Trivia. My friend, entertainer, consummate actor, singer and comedian Scott Radburn invited me to join them for one hour from 8:00 pm AEDST (7:00 pm QLD, 5:00 pm Singapore and 9:00 am London). I hope you might join us – I’m still working out what I will cook.

That same morning I am cooking on The Morning Show on Channel 7 and will be showing how to glaze a ham. It’s scheduled around 10:35 am AEDST.

Here in Sydney, we have a new Covid cluster and I am grateful I had the foresight to cancel visiting friends in Dee Why yesterday morning. John is back in hospital, hopefully only overnight for a blood transfusion which we hope will pep him up and see him in good shape for the week ahead.

Christmas, Hannukah, New Year mean different things to different people so whatever it is for you, I hope the time will be happy and full of love and joy. This will be my last newsletter until after the New Year so I truly hope it will be a better year for everyone.

Warm wishes,

Do you feel like this?

Now read on or scroll down, remember there’s something for everyone in this newsletter wherever you are in the world.

Jump ahead to see:
Recipes of the Week
Facebook Live
Christmas Drinks

Christmas Recipes
“Free-from”Artisan Breads
Next Week and Last
Travel with me?

Recipes of the Week

Spiced Quail with Nam Jim

I really love Nam Jim, it’s a wonderful cold sauce and is so adaptable – great with grilled fish, chicken or meat as well as quail. Here I pair it with quail for Spiced Quail with Nam Jim.

For a quick cheat’s recipe, you can’t go past Roast Duck with Cherry Sauce, Spiced Carrots & Asparagus. It is incredibly easy, using a whole Chinese roast duck to save time and effort while being amazingly delicious.

Roast Duck with Cherry Sauce, Spiced Carrots & Asparagus

Facebook Live

Festive cheese biscuits

Last week I made three different nibbles for Christmas entertaining or gift giving: Brown Sugar Shortbread Stars, Cheese biscuits and White Chocolate Rocky Road. You can watch all the fun here.

White Chocolate Rocky Road

Christmas Drinks

Aperol and Red Grapefruit Cocktail

I thought I’d follow up on last week’s Dolce Vita Cocktail, with my Aperol and Red Grapefruit Cocktail. It works just as well with pink grapefruit or orange juice. Find the recipe here.
And while we’re on drinks, here is a great Christmas tip for keeping punch cold.

Champagne and Sparkling Wine
Regular readers will know I am a fan of sparkling red wine – any time of year, but at Christmas especially. For me it goes with everything from breakfast, to the ham, turkey or salmon on to the pudding. Sparkling red can be made from different red wines, and when looking at food matches it is the base wine that should be considered. A cabernet with minty, chocolate overtones could go well with chocolate. A pinot-based wine may go better with lighter food, such as seared tuna, perhaps with native pepper, as it can handle the spice. Wineries of all sizes are now making sparkling reds, and at all price levels.

Champagne and sparkling wines are ever popular at Christmas so you may like to read my blog about Champagne and sparkling wine.
Aside from that I love the modern style of Australian Rosé which finishes dry and on a hot day, the heaviest red I can go is a Pinot Noir, which can still go with everything from oysters and seafood to ham and turkey.
And if you’re not drinking sparkling red, the match for Christmas pudding is Pedro Ximenez, a style of sherry with rich caramelised, toffee flavours.

Christmas Recipes

Rillettes of Salmon with Horseradish Creme Fraiche and Mustard & Dill Pikelets

There are so many different tastes in food and celebration for the festive season.
For seafood here are some of my picks:
Rillettes of Salmon with Horseradish Crème Fraiche and Mustard & Dill Pikelets
Grilled Salmon on lemongrass skewers
Smoked trout mousse with cucumber salad
Seafood platter with chimichurri sauce and chipotle mayonnaise
Roast salmon fillets with salsa verde, potato and rocket salad and heirloom tomato salad
Snapper in a Salt Crust with Gremolata

L:  Roast salmon fillets with salsa verde, potato and rocket salad and heirloom tomato salad and R: Roast beef rib with spiced salt and anchovy and parsley bearnaise

Meaty Mains
Honey glazed ham with mustard fruits & cranberry relish
Roast beef rib with spiced salt and anchovy and parsley béarnaise
Roast turkey with Italian sausage seasoning and vegetables
If you want to keep the heat out of the kitchen, try cooking your turkey on the BBQ. For a gas BBQ, place the turkey in the centre of the BBQ with the two most outer burners set to medium (on a 4 burner BBQ) and close the lid. Allow 20 minutes per 400g for unstuffed, 25 minutes per 400g for stuffed. We cover ours with the ham skin to baste as it cooks

And here are some step-by-step guides
Crackling Christmas roast pork – step-by-step guide
Read my Christmas ham – tips and tricks blog
and Let’s Talk Turkey – everything you wanted to know about roasting a turkey, different recipes and some left-over ideas.
Also read my Ten Top tips for Making Christmas Day Easy.

Christmas Zabaglione Semi-Freddo

I really love this recipe for Christmas Zabaglione Semi-Freddo which I developed some time ago for Pace Farm eggs. The joy of a Semi-Freddo is that unlike an ice-cream there is no need for an ice-cream churn. The unique properties of eggs made this a rich and lovely frozen dessert, based on zabaglione. It is the ideal festive do-ahead dessert.
Italian Panettone Ice-Cream Cake
Sago Christmas pudding with custard and brandy butter – best made on the day you eat it.

Frozen Christmas pudding
Summer pudding

Slablova with Strawberry Curd
White Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse with berries in sparkling shiraz syrup
Raspberry Ripple Nougat Parfait

“Free-from” Artisan Breads 

Gluten Freedom Broken Black Rice & Polenta Sourdough platter

I find the search for gluten-free bread to be a challenge. There are some stunning boutique bakers and restaurants who make a really good product – but you have to travel to find them. However, most of what is available in supermarkets and the like bears a closer resemblance to cardboard than bread and usually comes in only one or two varieties.

I well understand the limitations of gluten-free baking, so, it’s good to see an artisan range now nationally available. Tim Grainger, founder of Venerdi Breads compares the bread revolution to that of craft beer as both require a lot of trial and error in experimenting with new and unusual ingredients in the creation of innovative flavours and textures. they have released a full range of gluten-free products  – along with keto, vegan and paleo. The gluten-free bread passed the toast and vegemite test for me. They are available from health food stores, Bio-Living and are also available to order online.

Now they have come up with four platter ideas  starting with bread as the foundation including (pictured)
Gluten Freedom Broken Black Rice & Polenta Sourdough
–    Sliced pear
–    Pâté
–    Fresh figs
–    Homemade basil pesto
–    Cured meats (salami, prosciutto)
–    Dried apricots

Next Week and Last

Back of house of the Theatre Kitchen at the Easter Show with a surprise guest

With the wonderful news that the Sydney Royal Easter Show will proceed in a Covid-safe way next year, I posted a flashback photo from when I met Nicole Kidman there.

I also shared a whole Christmas menu on Happy-Ali with recipes including my cheese biscuits (above), Roast pork, pea medley, parsnip and pumpkin purees and a Large summer pudding.

Next week I’ll be posting a blog on how to handle all those Christmas leftovers,  so please do join me on Facebook and Instagram!

Roast Loin of Pork with Crackling

 Travel with me?

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

Covid vaccines are now a reality so I am optimistically planning my tours to Morocco and Puglia for late next year. If we deem it not safe to travel, we will postpone to 2022, but I think accompanied tours with well-reputed and experienced companies will be the safest way to go.

Morocco culinary tour new dates – begin in Rabat on Friday 29 October until 9 November 2021 – some information here.
Read Where to Eat Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner in Rabat.

Culinary Adventures in Puglia and Basilicata: 10-16 October 2021
Full details and prices here,

Sea urchins fresh from the sea in Puglia

Stay safe, healthy and happy especially at this time of year. Keep up to date  on all my social media channels: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter Pinterest and my YouTube channel.

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