By Leigh O'Connor.
"Happy cooking – I believe through that; a happy and healthy
life can be achieved.” – Neil Perry.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, chances are you know
who Neil Perry is. Even those on a desert island, probably got there by Qantas
and devoured Neil’s decadent sky menu en route.
The culinary visionary of the Rockpool Dining Group,
lifestyle television show presenter and cookbook author, Neil has been dishing
up innovative dishes at Australian restaurants for decades and his partnership
with Qantas has seen him designing inflight fare since 1997.
His trademark ponytail was once considered taboo in the
kitchen, but now it is hard to imagine this Chef without it. Although Neil did
leave his private high school in his teenage years, as it wouldn’t allow male
students to have long hair, it didn’t slow him down.
So, what does Neil have planned for this festive season, you
ask? We find out what Christmas means to him and give you the keys to
recreating his roast
pork belly with balsamic-marinated red onions and slow-roasted
rack of lamb with quinoa salad and tahini sauce, to wow friends and family
gathered around the celebration table.
AGFG: When you’re celebrating Christmas with your
family, we know the food would be awesome, and we love your roasted pork belly,
what else would we see on your dining table?
NP: I love to
serve tomato salad at this time of year, as they are really coming into season
and asparagus is great as well. Add some freshly shucked oysters and cooked King
prawns and that might just about do me for lunch.
AGFG: Christmas in Australia for some includes a
beautiful Aussie lamb, in your book ‘Good Cooking by Neil Perry’ you have a
great looking slow roasted rack of lamb, do you have any special sides you
recommend to serve with it?
NP: My recipe
has sides of quinoa salad, tahini sauce and loads of roasted garlic. These
flavours work just as well with chicken too. When I roast garlic at home, I
always roast a bulb or two – I can never get enough of it, it’s so addictive.
AGFG: What ‘Neil Perry secrets’ can you share with us
on how to get the best crackling ever on your pork this Christmas?
NP: Just make
sure the skin is super dry, so get the pork a couple of days before and leave it
on a rack in the fridge with no cover, the air flow will help dry the skin. Make
sure the oil is superhot when spooning it over the pork skin – this is the key
to crazy-crisp crackling.
Marinating the red onions for this recipe takes away their
harshness and the combination of the sweet-savoury vinegar and the texture of
the onion is perfect with the crisp pork.
AGFG: With everyone so busy, what’s a couple of tips
for preparation, or how not to get flustered this festive season?
NP: Keep it
simple, let the produce talk and use lots of Summer fruit in desserts - no
AGFG: Christmas means something different for each of
us, what does Christmas mean to you?
NP: Family and
the end of the most hectic four weeks you could ever imagine.
On that note, we wish Neil and all our readers a Merry
Christmas and a safe and Happy New Year!