Christmas is nearly upon us so it’s time to start thinking about your festive menu. To help you in your planning I have helpfully and definitively rated 10 of our most popular and most classic Aussie Christmas foods.
There is no sadder sight than a poor child’s face after they’ve tried their first candy cane. Candy canes are the ultimate bait-and-switch. They look festive. They’re the colours of Christmas. They’re literally candy. The poor child is expecting so much and then *BAM*, it tastes like toothpaste but like, weirdly hot (?) and may even burn your mouth. Plus it’s bad for you. Sucked in, kid. You lose. Merry Christmas.
On paper it sounds great that we have a home-grown Australian Christmas sweet that is coloured white, red and green, and is literally called White Christmas, but frankly the slice is just trying to do the job that pavlova and cherries already did 100 times better. And nobody knows what Copha is anymore anyway.
Ice-cream stuffed panettone with cherries (recipe here). Photo: William Meppem
This gets a range because panettone can be great, but it can also taste like it’s been left over from the previous year’s Christmas in Italy and shipped over to us hapless Australians who don’t know any better. When you find a good one, however, it can be a great gift as well as a Christmas food.
Not sure what to do with it? Just have it with a little butter, or treat it like raisin bread. Or turn it into a Christmas version of trifle or tiramisu (aka Chrisssamisu!).
I get it. It looks like a little turkey and it costs $10 from the supermarket and you don’t even have to cook it. But is it festive? The answer is no. Your Christmas centrepiece should be an occasion, not something you buy to put in sandwiches on any given Wednesday. (And yes, I’m aware that the leftover Christmas ham and turkey will eventually end up in sandwiches anyway.) Try a little turkey roll instead.
There’s nothing wrong with Christmas pudding per se, I actually really like it. It’s just that it’s hard to get excited by warm brandy custard when it’s the middle of the day and 35 degrees. Yeah, nah.
Don’t worry if you don’t like turkey. That’s not the point of turkey. I get that it’s a bit hard to cook and a little dry, but the point is that it’s something you only eat once a year. (Unless you’re in the USA, a country that inexplicably has two “roast turkey with all the trimmings” celebrations within a month of each other.)
It’s an adventure. Nobody’s supposed to know how to perfectly cook it. That’s why you see the Americans exploding their backyards by trying to deep-fry them every year. The charm of a turkey is in fumbling your way through making it, arguing with the family over whether it’s ready, and then inevitably aplogising when it’s too dry.
Think of it like a puppy. You don’t love a puppy because it’s the smartest dog in the world who does all the things a dog should do. You love a puppy because it’s an awkward, adorable, big old dork. Turkey is a Christmas dork.
Strong approval. They only lose a point because my kids keep squashing them into the carpet.
Adam Liaw’s prawn party. Photo: William Meppem
We have great quality prawns in Australia, and clever prawners who catch and cook them on the boats to keep them as fresh as possible. Christmas is a great time to eat them, too. Make a tartare sauce, or cocktail sauce, or add a few sides to turn it into a real Christmas prawn party.
Prawns are brilliant for an Aussie Christmas, so strap on a helmet and stick in your mouthguard and get ready to fight your next door neighbour to the death at the fish market on Christmas Eve. And make sure you buy Australian.
In the Liaw household, it’s just not Christmas without a ham. It’s the ultimate Australian Christmas centrepiece.
It’s already cooked (the whole baking thing is just warm it up a bit and caramelise the glaze), so you can’t really stuff it up, it can sit on the table for the duration of a long lunch (and turn into great sandwiches for days afterwards), and it tastes great both warm and cold, so Dad can just keep strolling past it all day and cutting off another slice.
Embrace pavlova’s perfect imperfections. Photo: William Meppem
The GOAT. End of story. There is nothing more perfect for an Australian Christmas than a pavlova. They can be a bit of a pain to make perfectly, but honestly, you don’t even have to.
I’ve made dozens of pavlovas in my time and more have been imperfect than perfect. The best parts is that the imperfect ones – with their gooey centres, syrupy weeping, and too-thick crusts – often taste as good (or even better) than the perfect ones. No matter how much you mess up a pavlova it’s still amazing.