Welcome to the December edition of The Omnivore – this last one for 2020 is also our Christmas edition... so apologies in advance if you are someone hoping to avoid mention of the festive season, but to anyone eager for fresh, fun Christmas eating inspo, we think you’ll love this quick read!
Christmastime can create tensions in the kitchen so we’ve put together a practical list of ways you can both get people helping, as well as offer your help, to make the prep and cooking on the big day a more relaxed and enjoyable thing.
We think it’s high time that dessert brought people together rather than divide them, so we’re throwing the ‘perfect pavlova’ book out the door, and instead focusing on pav topping ideas to love.
How to crew
Too many cooks spoil the broth...so they say. For most of us there’s not quite enough room in the kitchen to really put that idiom to the test! In any case, a crowded kitchen isn’t conducive to a pleasant cooking experience, especially when trying to get a memorable Christmas dinner on the table.
But stoicism isn’t much fun, either… not for the stressed-out cook knocking back the brandy before it makes it to the pudding! There are plenty of ways kitchen tasks can be delegated to spread the load and make the day fun for everyone.
Chief of the kitchen:
- Before the big day, spend a quick ten minutes or so drawing up a list with the names of people you trust to help, and what duties they’re on.
- Take it online – create your list a spreadsheet on a cloud platform so you can easily make edits and fire it out to everyone via email – this is especially useful if you have family members travelling from afar.
- Make it fun – award spot prizes for best in show… and booby prizes for ‘more hassle than help’!
- Stake your claim in the kitchen – delineate areas you want to have to yourself so that you’re not tripping over one another. You can be as obvious as setting up workstations outside your area – one section of benchtop, a tabletop, or a workstation out on the deck or patio if the weather is fine.
- Write down clear instructions – each on a separate piece of note paper to be placed at each workstation… it’s especially helpful if you’re delegating to folks who aren’t as adept in the kitchen. For example: “Rinse beans under running water. Chop off and discard the stem end, put trimmed beans in a bowl and hand to cook”.... “Put ½ cup or so of each of these condiments into small serving bowls, pop in a serving spoon and arrange on the dining table”. Or even type instructions to share digitally with helpers, so they can access them on their phones.
- Hold fast to that old adage about the cook getting a pass off dishes.
- If you’ve got a chief of staff who has delegated tasks, you don’t need to do much thinking, just plenty of doing. Enjoy not having to organise, and throw yourself into your jobs.
- If you’re helping out in a more ad hoc scenario, you can take some of the pressure off the head chef by anticipating tasks and then completing them, rather than by asking “What can I do?”... because too often the answer is “Oh nothing, I’m fine…” (lies).
- Give the boss plenty of space.
- Offer to be on prep dishes duty, or just wash your own dishes as you go when prepping.
- Repetitive but undemanding tasks can be relaxing: peeling potatoes, trimming beans, shelling peas, decorating dozens of canapes… look for the zen in it.
- It’s not so common in our busy way of living these days, but in many cultures food prep is done not at a kitchen counter, but sitting down comfortably at a table – preferably with company and banter. In this way, you can get all the ingredients chopped and arranged in advance so that the actual cooking process is straightforward.
- Respect whatever kind of table setting the host is keen on and lay it accordingly, whether it’s formal with multiple layers of cutlery, or casual help-yourself from a pile.
Pavlova palaver? Not here!
We’re calling it! How to make the perfect pav is… well, it’s simply a matter of personal preference. Sorry! We just don’t believe there’s such a thing as the perfect pavlova recipe that works like magic every time. Life, weird ovens, humidity... all get in the way. We reckon too much time and effort is spent debating the merits of adding the sugar incrementally versus an all-in approach, of debating whether the crust should give way to marshmallow or whether there’s room for a bit of chew. We say just make a pavand go to town topping it with a whole lot of delicious things. Here are some ideas we’re dreaming of tasting this Christmas:
- Whether you’re not keen on the dairy or just keen to try something different, there are topping options beyond whipped cream. Whip up coconut cream, make a cashew nut-based cream or slap on thick coconut yoghurt straight out the jar.
- Combine half sweetened whipped cream and half Greek yoghurt for a luscious tart-sweet combo.
- Spike the cream element with a liqueur – Cointreau, Bailey’s, Amaretto, Frangelico, or limoncello.
- We love the range of Fresh-as premium dried fruit – whole, sliced or in powdered form, they add instant vibrant fresh flavour and eye candy to a pav. The whole raspberries are a classic, while sliced plums give height and a modern look, arranged spiking upwards. Sprinkle one or more of their fruit powders all over the top of the decorated pav as a final touch.
- Nothing wrong with straight-up fresh fruit as a topper, but consider, too, adding extra dimensions of flavour by spending a bit of time on the fruit first. Brush halved limes, yellow peaches or apricots with a blend of melted butter and brown sugar (you can also add spices like cinnamon or nutmeg if desired) and cook fruit, cut side down, until caramelised in a hot pan or on the barbecue. Serve these limes on a tropical-themed pav, with coconut yoghurt, toasted coconut flakes, dollops of passionfruit pulp and a dusting of Fresh-as passion fruit powder. Pair the peaches with brandy and vanilla-infused cream, and shards of caramel. The grilled apricots work wonderfully with cream or yoghurt spiked with orange flower water and cardamom, toasted pistachios, and chopped Medjool dates.
- Pashmak, known as Persian fairy floss, is a delicately hand-spun confection, AKA your fluffiest best friend when it comes to pimping a pav. Pashmak adds instant visual impact and comes in a range of flavours, such as rose, chocolate vanilla, orange, to pair with whatever other toppings you have in mind. You can find it at certain specialist food stores, including Farro.
- Flowers! A punnet of edible flowers goes a long way; you’ll grace a pav and have some leftover to pretty-up place settings. Or buy seedlings from the garden centre and start your own supply – violas, snapdragons, pansies, borage, pineapple sage, calendulas, bergamot, angelica and more
Toasties to the day-after rescue
There aren’t many foods more comfortingly satisfying than a piping hot toasted sandwich. Toasties also happen to be great for using up leftover ham from Christmas lunch. Here are a few ideas to set you on your Boxing Day way. Butter thick slices of bread on both sides, and fill with slices of ham, and...
- Havarti, Gruyere, and Jenny’s Tamarind Chutney
- Mozzarella, a sprinkling of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, sliced Roma tomatoes, basil leaves – drizzle your best olive oil over the toastie to serve.
- Vintage cheddar, mango chutney, thinly sliced onion rings – dust the toastie with Cassia at Home chaat masala spice blend to serve.
- Grilled bacon, havarti, kimchi, baby spinach leaves, and a drizzle of sesame oil.
- Provolone dolce, a bit of crumbled feta, ajvar (Balkan red pepper spread), a few chopped kalamata olives, and thinly sliced red onion rings.
- Mild cheddar, a little crumbled blue cheese, and honeycomb or a drizzle of honey.
We’ll be sharing plenty of tips and ideas on how to make the most of Christmas leftovers over on freedomfarms.co.nz – keep an eye out over the festive season.
As this is our last edition of The Omnivore for 2020, we wanted to take this opportunity to say thank you for all your support. We feel very fortunate to have made it though this year largely unscathed – in no small part because you continued to buy, share and support our products. We are humbled to have been part of so many lockdown meals, and shared meals with friends and family as New Zealand got going again. It’s been heartening to scroll back and see how many delicious things we’ve been tagged in over on Instagram!
We have some exciting new things in the works for 2021 and can’t wait to share them with you. In the meantime, please have a joyful and delicious summer break.
Keep scanning in and eating well,
Anna, Hilary, Gregor + Cameron