Traditional Christmas foods — chestnuts roasting on an open fire and all that — were always meant to be warming during the snowy Northern midwinter.
But if you’re not keen to gorge on heavy food just as summer is kicking off, there are other ways to do a Christmas menu. We asked Siostra chef David Bach how to put together a New Zealand-appropriate menu that still has some Christmassy touches.
What’s nice about New Zealand Christmas is there’s kind of no rules to follow, so everyone can do something they’ve been wanting to do.
Our menu is not traditionally Christmassy at all. We’re doing fish with pickled globe artichokes and a potato rosti; tortellini with courgettes, ricotta and fresh peas — our angle is more Spring than anything. The weather’s getting hot, and people are looking to eat fresher, colder, healthier.
Traditional Christmas food like warm ham or stuffed gammon, roast vegetables and bread sauce is far too heavy for this time of year, and it’s out of season. It would be silly for us to have mulled wine just because it’s a Christmas tradition.
We do Christmas mince pies, though, with cinnamon and nutmeg. You can buy a million of them from Countdown for nothing and they’re dry, with not much flavour to them, but we marinated the fruit for a couple of weeks, so it’s developing lots of flavour.
You really do associate those warming spices with Christmas, and you can still use them in your cooking in New Zealand. We’re braising lamb neck with loads of cinnamon so people get a little bit of those Christmas smells. We also do little baked pavlovas, then slice the top off and stuff them with a caramelized white chocolate mousse, put marinated fresh pomegranate seeds all over it and a mint leaf, so you get that red, white and green vibe.
For my family’s Christmas, we go to my uncle’s place on Waiheke and plan a Christmas lunch that no one could ever possibly eat. I like doing whole spatchcocked chickens on the barbecue and then there’s beautiful cold chicken in the fridge to have in rolls over the next few days. Unlike a roast chicken, you can’t really overcook it. Leftover meats with Best Foods mayo and a pack of bread rolls...
If you’re doing a ham, get a really, really good mustard. That’s a non-negotiable. I love to have buttered cabbage with ham. Boil a bunch of cabbage and dress it quickly in butter, salt and pepper. You can put some mustard through that, too. A little bit of Dijon goes a long way.