The Hobart

Tassie Chefs Share Their Ultimate Christmas Kitchen Secrets

by Zilla Gordon
Tassie Chefs Share Their Ultimate Christmas Kitchen Secrets

With Tasmania’s borders open for the festive season, chances are you’ll be welcoming more than just warmer weather this Christmas. We chatted to some Tassie foodies and chefs on planning the perfect stress-free festivities now you can kick back and celebrate – with up to 40 of your nearest and dearest.

Massimo Mele, Tasmanian Chef
Buy your produce from trusted suppliers – a local butcher, fishmonger and vegetable supplier goes a long way to eating well and delicious results. Seafood is always served and a personal favourite is boiled and marinated Tassie octopus. Very easy to do and can be prepared well in advance. Porchetta is always on our table. Get your pork already rolled and trussed from your butcher, I get mine from Vermeys which has a little fennel and garlic on the inside. Ask your butcher to leave it overnight uncovered in the fridge to dry the skin. My hot tip for perfect crackle is to pour boiling water over the pork over the sink. Pat dry and rub olive oil all over then salt. Leave in the fridge overnight and next day pat dry and cook.

Hill Street Grocer
It can be tricky at Christmas or when you’re entertaining to find room in the fridge for all the food and drinks. If fridge space is limited, make sure food is given priority for space over drinks, because nobody wants to spend the festive season with food poisoning. Get creative and keep drinks cool on ice in buckets, an esky or even the bathtub. If you’re hosting Christmas at home, do as much preparation in advance as you can. Set the table the night before, prep vegetables and salads, whip the cream – basically do any jobs in advance that you can that will make the big day easier.

William Muller, Head Chef, St Albi Bar + Eatery
Plan ahead – write a list of everything you’re making and all the ingredients that you need and do one big shop. This will help you be organised and save time!

Cohen Donald and Sam Cooper, Dāna Eating House
When cooking the Christmas turkey in the oven, cover the turkey’s body in a wet tea towel and then aluminium foil and whack her in. That way the breast stays moist and doesn’t dry out, whilst the legs roast off nicely! Serve with cranberry jam and pumpkin dust.

Mathew Evans, Fat Pig Farm
We’re great fans of summer fruits. And because of the surfeit, we end up with more than we can gobble in the garden. More than we can have with honey and raw jersey cream. So we make a very refreshing summer drink called a shrub. It’s like a grown-up cordial, where some of the water is replaced with vinegar.

Willie Smith make a cracking cider vinegar, which is ideal in a drink such as this. It has to be good vinegar, and it has to be ripe berries. And, of course, you finish the day on a shrub, too, laced with one of those amazing Tassie gins. Shrubs can be made from elderflower, from peaches, but our favourite is probably strawberry. Though my favourite is always the next one.

Sushil Karki, Birdsong
You don’t need to spend money on a premium Christmas ham – any supermarket-bought leg ham will work with a good recipe. Not sure if you should order a half or whole-leg ham? A half-leg would be ideal for 15 to 20 people, and it’s easier to work with, especially when cooking at home where ovens are a bit smaller than a commercial one. A great tip is to roughly pierce the meaty parts of the ham with a knife – this will make sure the glaze can run inside and all the way through. And make sure you save the leftover glaze to drizzle onto the carved ham.

Rodney Dunn, The Agrarian Kitchen
My tip for summer in the kitchen is to make granita. We have such an abundance of fresh fruit here in Tasmania. What I love to do is make a 50/50 sugar syrup. Puree your fruit, be it apricots, cherries, peaches, berries, melon etc, add a squeeze of lemon or lime juice then add sugar syrup to taste. Pour this mixture into a relatively shallow container and freeze. When frozen using a fork scrape into flakes. Cover and store in the freezer until ready to use. It will need to be scraped again. I love to serve this at Christmas on top of the trifle, and it’s also great on its own, but my favourite way is with some whipped sweet cream or icecream, this combination of ice and cream is a classic… think Splice!

James Ashmore, Ashmores
Get your fishmonger to pack your Christmas seafood in a poly carton with ice and seal up. Store in a cool place at home (like the garage) and it keeps for 24 hours. It saves fridge space, and afterwards, I fill the poly carton with soil and plant summer lettuces.

When I take fish home I take out of plastic and place in a Tupperware container, I place some Chux cloth under fillet to soak up juices. Store in a cooler place, like the fridge.

I buy my prawns frozen and partially thaw at home in salted water, I normally do this two hours before using them. I then store in a colander strainer inside a bowl with a damp cloth on top. I only use live oysters and keep them in the fridge in a bowl covered with a damp cloth. I then open as needed. They will keep for up to three days that way.

Frogmore Creek, Mark Burne
Frogmore Creek Head Chef Mark Burne is gearing up for a busy summer at the vineyard, ready to welcome interstate friends of Frogmore back for long lunches and lots of wine. At home, during summer, Mark says fresh salads are his go-to; “this time of year I lean into the stone fruits and add them into fresh salads, perfect for entertaining, pairing with a homemade burger”.

Mark also suggests heading to the Hobart waterfront and seeing what fresh fish comes in, easy to grill with a wedge of lemon. “I can also recommend pouring yourself a nice glass of 42 Degrees South Riesling. It’s fresh and zippy with hints of nectarine”.

When he’s not working, Mark will be spending time with his wife Sarah and their two girls.

For those still hungry for more, you can find a few additional recipes here.

Main image, Massimo Mele’s delicious octopus.

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November 2021

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