Recipes: Christmas Gear Up

Whether you like it hot or not, try to keep the stress low by preparing ahead of time, freeing yourself up to cook with a lighthearted spirit. Know what you love and spread it around with sweet and savoury dishes; it's as easy as icing a cake with smooth butter cream. 

We have put together the perfect summer menu to share with those you cherish most. Opt for family classics with a delicious lineage, pick new and funky dishes, or strike a balance between old and new. 

The Day Before Christmas:

Time to prepare your sweets, if not more (or all) of your meal, aside from the fresh picked berries and greens. 

Some of our suggestions are: 

Strawberries in Jelly - Unflavoured gelatine powder will help with consistency in what will be the next recipe you put on repeat. 
 
Rhubarb Crumble - Slightly bitter with a quiet intensity, this common dessert is one we crave for its nourishment, a reliable favourite in good company or sneaky solo snack afterwards. 
 
Maple Nut ‘Cheese’ Cake - Fresh cashew nuts are the key to this vegan cheesecake.  Topped with mango coulis, there’s nothing traditional about this recipe but once your guests try it they’ll never tire of requesting it year after year.
 
Tis the season for cherries and three unforgettable, elegant recipe concoctions for you to ease into:  cherry pie ice creamvery cherry trifle, and chocolate cherries. For those who love chocolate but can do without the cherries, conclude your festive food spread with deep, dark chocolate and almond praline mousse
 

Simple Celebrations and Christmas Starters:  

Good food and the Christmas colour theme can really go together and complete the picture.  If red and green didn’t scream Christmas once before, marketers have made it their mantra to ensure your mind goes straight to requisite seasonal shopping at first sighting of ruby and emerald reflections in coincidence. Brightening up your holiday spread with these two Christmas colours will add to the festival feel.  
 
Mexican Dip - With tomato, shallots and capsicum to boot.  'Ole' as the old Spanish say amongst cheers and applause. Kidney beans are king in this one so it’s low fat, high fibre and low GI.  
 
Cherry Quinoa Salad with Lamb - Tri-coloured quinoa offsets the cherries and parsley, and it’s as if this dish was created just to impress those guests you’ve welcomed in your home.
 
Beef Chorizo and Potato Tortilla - A legendary and flavourful combination that will win over everyone.  Be innovative with your garnish to embellish the red and green theme and allow the flavours to work their magic.


Christmas Snacks and In Between Nibbles:  

Besides unwrapping gifts, catching up on family goss, impromptu photo sessions with the in-laws and dusting off the backyard cricket set, a huge part of the holiday fun is eating all day long.   Depending on what part of the special day you’re in, a soup may hit the hot (or cold) spot.  Perhaps opt to follow the raving Mexican food trend.
 
Gazpacho - Straight from the refrigerator to the peckish mugs of your relatives.  Use Grandma and Grandpa farm tomatoes from your local market (or the true blue source) and opt for top quality sherry vinegar to ensure that country tang is just so.
 
Pumpkin Soup - This is a warm one and works as a starter, side or small bite.  Cooking the pumpkin or squash quickly releases its natural sweetness.  As you remain chatting and laughing well into the evening’s cool, this is the dish that will sustain you into nightlong fun.  
 
Duck Tacos - Cherries are ripe for the picking and when combined with lime salsa bring sweet zinginess to this popular dish that’s perfect as a hot tropical aperitif.   Smooth avocado soothes the spiciness of smoked paprika, ground cumin, and chopped coriander.  


We're not just talking Turkey:

Chances are you have a model turkey or tender ham recipe that’s been passed down through the generations.  If you alter any of the ingredients someone’s in an uproar.  Why not keep it simple and go a different route altogether?  We can’t guarantee this will keep the peace because someone’s sure to question the missing gobbler or general porklessness, but you can’t go wrong with this herb, garlic and lemon roasted chicken.
 
Rather than hamming it up on the roast side of things, consider picking pork spare ribs with an Asian style spin featuring barley malt, tamari, dry-roasted Sichuan peppercorns and dry sherry.  If serving roast is imperative, another alternative is lamb with preserved lemon and chargrilled vegetables.  If potatoes and gravy must be part of your annual meal extraordinaire, here’s a lamb back strap recipe with red wine jus and spicy garlic mustard mash.  
  

Interview: Gearing up for the 2015 AGFG Chef Hats

With the new year approaching, AGFG is getting ready to announce their Chef Hats for 2015. With that notion we spoke to Hadleigh Troy a 4 Chef Hat winner for Restaurant Amusé in East Perth, WA.

Hadleigh's menu is influenced by long forged relationships with West Australian growers and producers, their products inspire dishes such as Marron, carrot, fennel and quinoa as well as beef, beetroot, black garlic and salted plum. Restaurant Amusé will be closing in 2017, so if you haven't yet been it's an experience of which you cannot miss. 

Beef, beetroot, black garlic and salted plum. 

AGFG: Which dish at Amusé, so far, has been the most fun to create?

Hadleigh: I would have to say one of our amuse-bouche that has been on and off the menu since our early days. It combines white chocolate, black olive toffee, red wine vinegar, chicken liver parfait and salmon roe. It's Fun for me as it’s a combination of some of my wife Carolynne’s favourite flavours. It was a nice challenge putting it together for her and the reaction that it gets from our guests is always rewarding.

AGFG: What is your favourite way of combining chocolate into a dish?

Hadleigh: My name is Hadleigh and I am a chocoholic… seriously I am! I love any excuse to work with chocolate however it’s always fun to use it when its least expected such as in savoury salty combinations like the one above.

AGFG: We’ve heard you’re wrapping up Amuse in 2017, what’s your vision for your last three years?

Hadleigh: Yep 2017 will be when we close our doors. Until then, our commitment is to our loyal guests, delivering on their expectations of us and sharing special nights and memories with them. We are so fortunate to be the ‘special occasion’ destination for so many people, many of which have been dining with us since the start. We feel so privileged to be a part of their celebrations and look forward to celebrating with them all for a few more years before the curtains close.

AGFG: If you could dine anywhere in the world where would you go and why?

Hadleigh: Burnt Ends in Singapore. The chef/owner David Pynt, is a great mate and a brilliant chef.  For me it is everything that I look for in a restaurant.

AGFG: What has been your proudest moment and why?

Hadleigh: Every time we host a ‘get together’ for our team I have a moment when I take a step back and take in all the people that make up the ‘Amusé Family.’ I am proud that I run a business that can provide for them and hopefully inspires them.

Food for Thought - A Read for Every Foodie

Just as there’s a plate for every palate, so there is a cookbook for every culinary creator. Seldom beats a brand new read that you can experiment year round with, so what better gift to give than one that will yield delicious, delicious results. We have compiled a list of our favourite cookbooks making an appearance in our kitchen this year, so whether you’ve got a sweet tooth or a global culinary connoisseur on your hands, we’ve got the perfect solution.

For the serious foodie

Sepia; the Cuisine of Martin Benn – Martin Benn

Menu example: Scarlet prawns with shellfish jelly, white cucumber crème fraiche, tempura batter and matcha tea oil.


Get on board with world renowned chef Martin Benn as he takes you on a global culinary journey, ending with a menu of upmost refinement. Not for the casual kitchen dweller, this read will be most appreciated in the hands of a serious foodie, looking to recreate Discover the back story behind Martin’s passion for cooking, his penchant for perfection and his journey to creating one of Australia’s most successful restaurants.

Presented in five different menus, with around fourteen dishes in each menu, each dish within Sepia has made an appearance on the restaurant’s menu throughout the last five years. Basically, if you give this gift, it’ll be like having Sepia in your very own kitchen. 

For those with an insatiable sweet tooth

Dessert Divas – Christine Manfield

Menu example: Honey trap – cider poached pear, honey mousse, pear cream, elderflower yoghurt and pear sorbet with almond meringue.


Ripe with seduction, Dessert Divas doesn’t shy when it comes to the art of indulgence, welcoming you to the ‘pleasure dome’ from the very first page. Carefully crafted by the Dessert queen herself, Christine Manfield steps into the kitchen to give you the 101 on desserts; namely, that dessert shouldn’t take a back seat to a meal and deserves the aftermath of praise rather than guilt.  

Divided into seasons and finished with a platter of phenomenal photography for your eyes to feast upon, this timeless hardback looks just as decadent as it sounds, perfect from the inside out.  

For those who need to be where it’s at

Flavours of Sydney – Jonette George

Menu example: BBQ Hawkesbury calamari with Balinese sambal matah and pork scratching.


Why limit yourself to a single venue when you can bring the whole city into your kitchen? ... figuratively speaking. Go big with this impressively sized hardback, taking you on a historical tour of the big smoke before delving into the delights that Sydney city has on offer. From pearls of wisdom from the city’s top chefs through to a comprehensive restaurant timeline, Flavours of Sydney ensures you a thorough journey throughout the city’s culinary culture, with a smorgasbord of venue reviews accompanied by their signature recipes.

Categorized into suburbs, each of the venues and accompanying recipes are tied together with a captivating collection of cityscapes, food culture and delectable recipes just waiting to be recreated.

For the weekend host

Easy Weekends; Food by Neil Perry – Neil Perry

Menu example: Chargrilled baby octopus with olives and hand pounded pesto.


When summer weekend gatherings come in droves, allow award winning chef Neil Perry to assist. Easy Weekends celebrates the flavours of home cooking, featuring over 100 recipes that will take your next weekend get together to the next level – unexpected guests included.

Whether it’s an intimate Friday night in for two (featuring roast lobster with butter), lazy weekend breakfast, or a classic Sunday family roast (roast pork shoulder with mustard fruits and aged balsamic vinaigrette), these easy and approachable recipes make dining in at home an enjoyable experience to be shared and savoured with your loved ones.   

For the fun, casual foodie

What Katie Ate; At the Weekend – Katie Quinn Davies

Menu example: Buffalo inspired wings with blue cheese mayo.


The second cookbook of very talented food blogger and photographer Katie Quinn Davies, What Katie Ate is a light, bright cookbook full of fun flavours. All about the joy of eating, sharing and creating the perfect plate to share with your dearest, this delightful hardback is a staple for the kitchen, resulting in a feast of decadent homemade goods that look as good as they taste. Inspired by Katie's travels around Tokyo, the US, Italy, London, Ireland and around Australia, the recipes are infused with international influence, perfect for a global gastronomic feast.

It goes without saying that the photography in this book alone is reason enough to purchase, but try your hand at the likes of spiced apple and salted butterscotch pavlova – we guarantee that what Katie eats on the weekend will take you through every day of the week with ease. 

Thriving Office Christmas Parties

A Real, Live & Interactive Social Scene


Tempting as it is to offer accessible tips for “surviving” office Christmas parties, where’s the fun in that?  Let’s take it one step further with a positivist approach and envision ourselves effortlessly “thriving” at this year’s festivities amongst colleagues sans cubicle or kitchen counter.

First things first, it’s never too early to set the scene.  Our AGFG Restaurant Guide offers a fantastic selection of venues, ensuring that the annual staff Christmas bash is easier to organize – booking way in advance is advantageous and highly recommended.

Australian companies and businesses enjoy the lightheartedness and jovial spirit of the office Christmas party tradition.  In our busy world where customary rituals have become few and far between, this is an opportune time to meet, mingle and bond with other employees. Once the location, theme (modern, outdoor or seafood?) and menu are in place, the key is to keep it festive, frivolous and maybe even flirty (but not filthy).  If pressies are part of the package, tasteful is the name of the game and you must resist playing off people’s sensitivities. 

In our social media dense world we’re more apt to Facebook or Instagram than we are to connect face-to-face.  These days it’s more than just the IT Manager who feels a bit out of place at a larger sized professional get-together.  Let’s face it, the best parties are those where everyone is enjoying themselves, so here are few tips that you can take with you to thrive in your interactions.

Don’t sweat it… think of the office Christmas party as an enormous photo opportunity for your social side; you always look better if you smile and sound great when spouting compliments.  Would rather be at your computer?  Too bad, the point is to have fun so keep your complaints to yourself (especially about the food) and pretend.  Check your whinging at the door, engage in superfluous grinning and play make-believe, just like kids do.  It’s about more than surviving; it’s about thriving in your connections with colleagues, embracing this casual social scene as an opportunity for developing relationships.

 

 


Office Christmas Party Etiquette

From the tame and timid to the wicked and wild, there are some well documented suggestions out there to ensure you make the most of the Christmas time festivities.  It’s free but don’t get pissed and don’t drive home. There are many reasons but here is the main one:  colleagues are constantly evaluating you and will remember (especially the sober ones) naughty mannerisms or bad behaviour.

Spacing your bevies with a water or soft drink is a great way to stick to your limits and still guarantees that you’ll smoothly navigate those interpersonal waters with ease and grace.  When you manage unusual situations in a relaxed and social manner, your reputation will flourish and that often translates to increased business opportunities. 

Have Fun & Fit Into the Work Social Scene

What to wear? - Guys consult with the ladies, they’ll know. Also, make sure your shirt has a collar in case you hit the clubs later on with the boys, or the girls (wink, wink…).  Ladies, leave the LBDs on the side of smart casual and save your skin for a hens night then note: upon selecting footwear, always remember what high heel hell feels like.

Get a taxi. Get a room. - Take advantage of the fact that the venue will happily book transport home for you.  Should you and the office hottie find the need to heat things up, politely resist the urge to make out anywhere around your colleagues, and take it to the accommodation nearby your restaurant.

Work is over! - The office Christmas party is a chance to explore common interest points beyond workplace topics and make no mistake, your higher-ups know better than anyone that work is better left at work.   This is your chance to actively engage in real live social interactions (leaving a much more memorable impression than either Facebook or LinkedIn), so be attentive, make acquaintances, smile and say cheese.

The AGFG Restaurant Guide is full of venues that will be perfect for the silly season.

Hellyers Road Distillery: A Review

Built on Tasmania's reputation for producing high quality food and beverage, Hellyers Road Distillery started producing boutique Whisky in 2006. 

Tasmanian single malts have quickly become a major force domestically and internationally, company director Laurie House had the foresight in 1999 to begin distilling single malts in Burnie (North West Tasmania) and the venture has proven to be very successful. 

Hellyers' Whisky varieties are now available in 21 countries in Europe such as Holland, Belgium, Sweden, UK, Romania, Greece and France. Their peated single malt was recognised as Australia's best in 2010. 

Hellyers Road Distillery has released their original single malt whisky aged 12 years just in time for Christmas. As their most significant milestone to date, this superb whisky has calming softness to the palate - much reflective of it's age it is a gentle spirit that has sweet tones of vanilla and citrus.

An excellent Christmas gift for any whisky lover - RRP $99.50 for a bottle that comes in it's own canister for perfect display on your bar. 

Be Prepared for Christmas

Our What's On Guide can help you out this festive season. 

There's nothing worse than realising that there's only three weeks until Christmas and you haven't had the chance to plan anything - so save some time and hassle this year and book your family's Christmas lunch at a nearby restaurant or venue. 

To make your day special, most restaurants have their own set menus or 5+ courses for you to choose from. As always don't fill up on the mains as decadent desserts are sure to follow. 

This week will be your last chance to book because spots are sure to fill up fast - check out our What's On Guide for Christmas Day and save yourself some unnecessary stress this festive season. 

As Boromir so eloquently puts it: 

Heavenly Dishes from Thailand

Thailand's National Day and the celebration of His Majesty The King's birthday both land on December 5th in a charming display of food, fun and festivities, so let's get celebrating.  

Thailand is a country of endless summers and a shared food culture.  Tourists are regularly captivated by charming ancient cities, glorious sunkissed beaches and memorable floating market places, as in Damnoen Saduak showing a bygone way of life.   

Be it for elephant trekking or experiential dining, holidaying in Thailand for Christmas would be the perfect destination, but if you can't make it why not enjoy the tastes of Thailand throughout Australia with our restaurant guide? Don't fret you'll be looking at recommended restaurants by AGFG and other readers. 

For those looking for the simplicity of Thai food in their very own kitchen the AGFG recipe section is full of tasty ideas inspired by Thailand. Take Pad Thai by Chill on Tedder or Coconut Curry with Tofu by Amanda Battley. Light meal starters like Thai Pumpkin Soup with coriander stand out while this Oven Baked Fish recipe is a zestful dish. 

Give into your sweet temptations and enjoy a Mango and Coconut Rice Pudding, with fresh tropical fruit on the side. 

Book Review - The Food of Thailand; a Journey for Food Lovers

Step from the pages of this glossy page cookbook onto the bustling paradise of Thailand and immerse yourself into a culinary tropicana that stretches from street (food) to sea (food).

 

From roadside green papaya salads, sticky rice and skewered roast chicken, frog’s legs and insects dished out by the street vendors in the North East, through to the thriving abundance of fresh seafood and coconuts in the South, every detail of culinary culture is captured within 290 pages of stunning photography and delectable recipes that seamlessly blend together hot, sour, salty and sweet seasonings.  

Perfect for beginners, this cookbook takes you on a step by step tutorial of how to choose and identify the essential elements of Thai cuisine, from picking the perfect market fresh produce through to the best street buys. Snacks and street bites like chicken wrapped in pandanus leaf and sticky rice with shrimp topping welcome you upon the front, leading through to a collection of fresh seafood, meats, curries, noodles, vegetables and desserts.

 

 

Built on a large number of highly flavoured and fragrant ingredients, Thai cuisine’s signature aromas are a careful balance of sophistication, balance and subtlety. Fresh is best, so grab your mortar and pestle and grind up a concoction of dry chilli, garlic, shallots, lemongrass, kaffir lime zest and tamarind – and then brag over culinary delights like spicy lobster and pineapple curry, and Chiang Mai pork curry.

 

 

When it comes to the sweet stuff, an abundance of fruits, rice, coconut, crushed beans and palm sugar combine into a myriad of delicious desserts. Crisp rubies – aka, water chestnuts covered with tapioca and served with sweetened coconut milk and shaved ice – and hollowed pumpkins filled with creamy coconut custard are just a few recipes to make a tempting appearance from page to page. 

Visit Canberra: the Heart of Australia

There's nothing more exciting than finding hidden gems in new cities and Canberra is just another city you need to check off your list of exploration. 

Experience Australia's history through the National Museum of Australia, the National Gallery of Australia, Parliament House and the Australian War Memorial. 

On your way you will discover an eclectic mix of restaurants and bars that will have your foodie senses whirling.  


Take bar Molly for example, Canberra's very own speakeasy, with a single naked bulb hanging over the doorway you're transported into a world of amazing warmth and charm, reminiscent of all those 1920's movies that we lust for.  
 

With seductive jazz in the background as well as rich timber and burgundy furnishings it's hard not to take on your best Gatsby impression and order a martini. 

The extensive selection of high quality spirits will have you questioning which drink you want first and for those that don't like to dabble  without a few appetizers, you will be able to graze on a European-style characuterie platter topped with cold meats and cheese. 

Head over to our restaurant guide for more suggestions on hidden gems in Canberra, from chef hats to your local seafood restaurant there's plenty to explore. 


~~~Molly is located in Hobart Place.  

Margan Wine Goes Back to the Future

By David Ellis from vintnews

Many years ago before wines were identified on labels by their grape varieties, they were named after their place of origin – quite often down to the actual block within a vineyard, which could contain several grape varieties.

In a somewhat back to the future move, the Hunter Valley’s Andrew Margan has released a white and a red emulating this old practice, labelling them Field Blend White – Block 8 and Field Blend Red – Block 11.

The white comprises predominantly Semillon and smaller amounts of Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio from a vineyard planted with these mixed varieties 40 years ago, all the fruit from the 2014 vineyard had been and vinified together in a single batch. The red is predominantly Shiraz with some Mataro and Tempranillo, and underwent the same process.

We loved the white it’s wonderfully fruity with forward citrus and tropical characters and crispy dry on the palate. It’s also nicely soft, and a great drop at $15 to enjoy at this time of year with a whole host of summery seafood ideas.

One to note: If you’re looking for a stand-out drop as a gift for a wine-loving family member or friend this Christmas, can we suggest Rosemount Estate’s 2012 Balmoral Syrah – then watch their reaction when you tell them not to open it until at least 2020, or if they’re really patient not for another 15 years beyond this.

Made from tiny quantities of exceptional fruit off a range of Rosemount’s best McLaren Vale vineyards, this is a ripper drop already, but will only get better and better over those years in the cellar – we’re prepared to suggest anything up to 25.

Black fruit flavours are to the fore with nice tannin and fruit acid. Pay $75 and if your Christmas recipient can’t keep their hands off opening it in the immediate future, recommend that they match it with the best beef cut their butcher can offer them.