Food is top of the list when it comes to planning Christmas celebrations. Maybe you’re returning to those favourites that are non-negotiables on the family Christmas menu. Or you may want to wow the crowd with something new and on trend. The best Christmas foods are the ones that work both ways so you can go traditional or try a fresh twist on a classic. From glazed ham to fresh seafood and summer produce bursting with flavour, these are the most popular Christmas foods on Aussie tables, so your guests are going to be happy however you serve them.
Once you know the top dishes for your menu, you’re going to need the right drinks to enjoy them with. A lot of effort goes into putting together a great Christmas spread, so the drinks list deserves just as much attention. Fortunately, finding great festive drink and food pairings is easier than you think. Get started with these matches.
Ham is Australia’s most popular Christmas main for good reason – it’s ideal for feeding a crowd and it comes pre-cooked, so the only tricky part is deciding which delicious glaze to go for. A full leg ham with a dark, jammy glaze makes a spectacular centrepiece, so you’ll need a mighty Aussie red to match. Our pick is rich, savoury St Hugo Cabernet Sauvignon. Elegant and fruity, it has floral aromas with blueberry, cocoa and dried herb notes.
Everyone knows sparkling wine goes well with freshly shucked oysters, but there’s another kind of fizz you should consider when planning what to serve with your seafood platter – beer. The brine from the oyster enhances the flavours in the beer, while the bubbles ensure a clean finish after every bite. Dark stouts and crisp lagers are known to be good matches for oysters, but the extra fruitiness and complexity of Australian pale ale is a sure-fire winner with this Christmas seafood favourite.
Oysters Kilpatrick is a local crowd-pleaser, but you don’t have to grill your oysters to enjoy the same punchy flavour on your platter. To make a quick Kilpatrick dressing, pan-fry chopped streaky bacon rashers until crisp, drain then combine with 2 tbs Worcestershire sauce and ¼ tsp Tabasco sauce. Spoon over the oysters and enjoy them with our pale ale picks below.
A golden brew from Marrickville, NSW, Grifter Pale Ale (selected stores only) has a zesty finish that’s great with oysters.
With citrus peel and grapefruit notes, Green Beacon Calypso Hazy Pale Ale (selected stores only) is a refreshing pick from Brisbane.
Brewed in Margaret River, WA, Eagle Bay Pale Ale (selected stores only) is aromatic with hints of caramel.
Prancing Pony Blaze Of Haze Hazy Pale (selected stores only) is an Adelaide Hills brew with a creamy mouthfeel and fresh berry aromas.
Clean and crisp tasting Wolf Of The Willows XPA (selected stores only) is easy to drink with passionfruit and tropical fruit notes.
An Aussie Christmas wouldn’t be the same without juicy cooked prawns to share. Keep it simple and classic with a peel-your-own prawn platter and a bowl of mayo, aioli or seafood sauce for dipping. Or go retro with a 70s prawn cocktail – all you need is peeled prawns, lettuce and a tangy cocktail sauce. To make a modern cocktail sauce, combine 1/4 cup (60ml) mayonnaise and 1/4 cup (60ml) crème fraîche in a small bowl with 1 tbs tomato sauce, 3 tsp finely chopped tarragon, 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce, 1/2 tsp Tabasco sauce and the finely grated rind and juice of half a lemon, then season with salt and pepper.
Enjoy your prawn feast with a chilled glass of Petaluma Riesling – its floral citrus flavours and aromas complement the prawns while the acidity helps cut through the creaminess of the sauce. If you fancy giving your seafood platter an upgrade, lobster is another great match for this wine.
So you want to go all out and serve up a traditional roast turkey with all the trimmings – crispy roast potatoes, green veggies and maybe a stuffing studded with dried fruit, nuts and pancetta. What will you choose for the wine? You have two paths to take with turkey, each equally delicious – a ripe and peachy white wine, or a fruity, spicy red. Why not pick up both to cover all your bases? Forester Estate Premium Chardonnay is a worthy pick from Margaret River, while Clare Valley standout Taylors St Andrews Shiraz is a great one for the decanter.
Pavlova is the queen of the Australian dessert table and the variations are endless, so she never goes out of style. Choose your base of plain or flavoured meringue, baked in a classic nest shape, spread into a slab or as thinner discs to layer. If you don’t want to turn on the oven, substitute store-bought meringue and save all the flair for the fillings and toppings. Keep the whipped cream classic or marble it with lemon curd or berry jam to suit your toppings. For the fruit, go for anything fresh and seasonal – mixed berries, cherries, mangoes and stone fruit all look and taste amazing on pavlova.
The best drink match for a fruit-laden pavlova is a classic Aussie sticky, so pick up a benchmark bottle of botrytis semillon, De Bortoli Noble One. Going strong after four decades, this multi award-winning dessert wine is also a brilliant match for a traditional Christmas pudding with brandy butter or custard, or that crumbly blue on your after-dinner cheese board.
The sweetest way to end your Christmas feast is by passing around a plate of homemade chocolate truffles or rum balls and pouring a glass of something special to sip with them. The beauty of chocolate truffles is you can change the flavour simply by changing the liqueur you add to the mix. Baileys Original is a Christmas classic, but this year’s flavour twist is Baileys Australian Rivermint Chocolate Liqueur. For easy choc-mint truffles, process a 175g packet choc-mint Tim Tam biscuits in a food processor until finely crushed. Add 2 tbs condensed milk and 1 tbs Baileys Australian Rivermint Chocolate Liqueur. Process until the mixture comes together. Roll 2-tsp portions of the mixture into balls and place on a lined baking tray in the fridge to set. Dip truffles in melted dark chocolate to coat, then drizzle with melted white chocolate and leave to set. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks. They make a perfect edible gift, too.
Or, for an easy dessert to enjoy with your chocolate Baileys, make a mint ice cream bombe. Combine 2L softened vanilla ice cream in a large bowl with 2 tsp peppermint essence, ½ tsp green food colouring, 200g finely chopped choc-mint biscuits and 35g chopped mint-flavoured chocolate bar. Spoon into a lined 2L pudding basin, cover and freeze for 6 hours or until firm. To serve, uncover and invert onto a serving plate, covering the upside-down basin with a hot damp cloth if necessary to help release the bombe, then decorate with more chopped biscuits and chocolate.
Trifle stands alongside pavlova as the ultimate show-stopping dessert for Christmas Down Under. This traditional English dessert has an Italian counterpart known as zuppa inglese, another go-to chilled dessert for the Aussie Christmas table. If you’re looking for a dessert to showcase summer fruit, trifle is your friend. And, if you need the perfect drink to sip in between spoonfuls, try a refreshing limoncello. Made in the Mornington Peninsula to an Italian heirloom recipe using organic lemons and spring water, Bass & Flinders Limoncello is delicious chilled on its own or with a mixer. Take the lemon flavours further and use it as the liqueur to soak the cake layers in your trifle, as in this easy recipe for lemon and peach trifle.
Lemon & peach trifle
Ingredients (serves 8)
225g sponge cake, cut into 2cm pieces
¼ cup (60ml) limoncello
Peach and nectarine wedges, to serve
300ml thickened cream
¼ cup (80g) lemon curd
4 egg yolks
2 tsp finely grated lemon rind
¼ cup (60ml) lemon juice
½ cup (110g) caster sugar
2 tsp gelatine powder
1 tbs boiling water
3 egg whites
1 To make the lemon chiffon, whisk egg yolks, lemon rind, lemon juice and half the sugar in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water for 3-4 mins or until the mixture thickens. Remove from heat. Stir gelatine and boiling water in a heatproof jug until the gelatine dissolves. Stir into the egg yolk mixture. Cool for 10 mins.
2 Use an electric mixer to beat egg whites in a bowl until soft peaks form. Add remaining sugar, 1 tbs at a time, beating until sugar dissolves. Fold into the lemon mixture in 2 batches.
3 Arrange half the cake in the base of an 8-cup (2L) serving bowl. Drizzle with half the limoncello. Top with peach and nectarine. Spoon over lemon chiffon. Place in the fridge for 3 hours, or overnight, or until just set.
4 Top with remaining cake, limoncello and more peach and nectarine. Use an electric mixer to whisk cream in a bowl until soft peaks form. Fold in half the lemon curd. Spoon onto the trifle. Top with remaining lemon curd and use a skewer to marble. Top with raspberries and more peach and nectarine.