By Freya Ensbey.
The lead up to Christmas is undoubtedly one of the busiest
times of the year, however, Christmas Day feasting doesn’t need to be stressful
if you are savvy and plan ahead.
As Christmas falls within the warmest months of the year, many
Australians steer away from the hot and steamy European traditions of roast
meats and instead opt for light and fresh servings of seafood.
We have all been in the situation where we have left buying
the crucial seafood stock up until the last minute, only to be met with bare
ice when arriving at the market. Or planning an entire menu around dishes
containing certain seafood species only to be disappointed when the local fishmonger
tells you they are not in season, having you start from scratch with the menu
planning at the last hour.
Christmas at the Sydney Fish Market. Photo: James Horan.
We spoke with those in the know, the Sydney Fish Market and Chef,
Ross Lusted from acclaimed Sydney restaurant, The Bridge Room, to get their
professional tips on planning ahead for a stress-free seafood feast.
The Sydney Fish Market is the largest of its kind in the
Southern Hemisphere, trading over 13,500 tonnes of seafood annually from its
Pyrmont Bridge Road location. Over the Christmas period the market extends
their hours to accommodate for the larger volume of customers entering its
doors, trading for an impressive 36 hours straight, from 5am Saturday the 23rd to 5pm Sunday the 24th of December.
Blue swimmer crab on ice at the Sydney Fish Market. Photo: James Horan.
This year De Costi Seafood’s at the Sydney Fish Market will
be launching an online purchasing and delivery service for those residing in Sydney, just in time for Christmas.
The majority of the seafood retailers at the Sydney Fish Market offer a range
of pre-order and pick up options, inviting customers to communicate with their
opted fishmonger as to what they are needing or wanting for the weeks ahead to
ensure they are stocked up with the right varieties to avoid any
For those who are not Sydneysiders, the Sydney Fish Market have
shared with you a few of their must know tips when choosing seafood from your
local co-op, fishmonger or deli.
When searching for a whole fish, seek out a lustrous skin
and scales, you want a firm flesh that springs back when touched and has bright
pink or red gills. If its fillets or cutlets you are after, there should be an
absence of discoloration, gaping or bruising and a pleasant fresh sea aroma
instead of smelling "fishy.” Whilst shopping for prawns, look for a vibrant
coloured shell, with firm, intact shells, heads and tails, again with only a
pleasant fresh sea aroma present.
Another imperative tip the Fish Market suggests when doing
your seafood shopping is to come prepared with a chiller bag or esky and some
ice to keep your seafood as fresh as possible upon departure. Once home, keep
your crabs in a cool place on ice and covered with a damp cloth, whilst prawns
and fish should be kept in the coldest part of the fridge covered in plastic
wrap and mussels covered with a damp cloth and stored in the warmest part of
If you are purchasing a seafood species you are a little
intimidated by, simply ask the fishmonger their advice on how to prepare it or
search the Sydney Seafood School’s compilation
of recipes to find the perfect dish to make.
Chef, Ross Lusted.
Sydney based Chef, Ross Lusted, explains that Christmas to
him is all about two things; family and seafood. Migrating to the golden
beaches of Byron Bay for three weeks over the Christmas period, Lusted and his
family enjoy the warm sunshine of Northern NSW along with its bounty of local
Donning shorts and hovering around the backyard barbeque, he
enjoys nothing more than sitting with family on Christmas Day and enjoying simple,
fresh mud crabs.
"Seafood is about not having to do too much in the kitchen
or spend all of your time cooking,” says Lusted.
And what might you ask is the go-to Christmas crab recipe
that one of Australia’s most celebrated Chef’s creates?
"For me steamed mud crab, burnt butter and lemon juice is
the best way to do it. Paired perfectly with a glass of Chablis or an
Australian Chardonnay,” he says.
Another Christmas time favourite among his family is panettone,
toasted most mornings of the holidays for breakfast to accompany a plate of
seasonal stone fruit like cherries, lychees and pan-fried peaches, which he
explains is more Christmas to him than sitting down to pudding and custard.
Ross Lusted's red claw yabbies with tamarind, chilli, pomelo, cashew nut butter and palm hearts at The Bridge Room.
Highlighting that the biggest mistake people make when
sourcing seafood is leaving it to the last minute, Lusted explains that the key
is in the planning. He recommends visiting your local fish monger a week or two
before the big day and communicating with them as to what you are looking for
as it may not be in season or available at all.
"Some people may want Kingfish, but it’s just not the best
time of year to get it, for example. So I think the key is to have a couple of
options with whatever you are cooking. Flexibility is the key to not being
disappointed,” Lusted explains.
Lusted recommends also doing your research on what is
readily available during the month of December. Blue Swimmer crab for example, is
usually in abundance during Summer so you can begin basing your menu around the
For more Christmas Day menu inspiration, peruse
our collection of favourite seafood