1. You’re known for making the perfect pie - what would be your choice of pie for the Christmas season?
Pies should always be seasonal, so beautiful stone fruit like peaches, plums, nectarines and gorgeous summer cherries (and maybe a little whiskey because I’m feeling festive) are my go-to fruits for Christmas.
2. Which sweet treats remind you most of Christmas?
My family is big on trifle – I grew up with a very health conscious mother so there was lots of carob and cacao in our house but trifle was her one indulgence. It was very old school, jelly, custard and tinned peaches. I love these nostalgic flavours but like to up the anti with fresh, made from scratch versions of the elements. I’ve also got a soft spot for lebkuchen (a German type of gingerbread) – our family friends have it sent from Germany every year and they always share!
3. Name one Christmas go-to dish that’s easy to pull together with affordable ingredients and foolproof. You can’t mess up BBQ prawns right?
I love marinating prawns in chilli, garlic and lemon then barbecuing them so they’re nice and charred and serving them with a tangy garlic and parsley aioli.
4. What’s your secret to making the perfect meringue?
Rub a teaspoon of meringue between your fingers when you’ve finished whisking – if it’s still grainy, your sugar hasn’t dissolved properly, which means the sugar will seep out as it cooks. If it is still grainy, keep whisking until it’s all completely dissolved. This will give your meringue the perfect crisp outside and soft, pillowy inside.
5. What would you suggest for a quick and easy festive canapé?
I love buckwheat blini’s – they’re so easy and fast and you can make them look really impressive so easily – invest in beautiful quality toppings like ocean trout rillettes, duck liver pate or some silky salmon roe pearls with crème fraiche.
6. Do you have a favourite festive season cocktail?
Don’t get me started! I love making fresh peach puree for bellini’s to kick Christmas day off. Negronis are definitely on the menu, as well as a few old-fashioneds for a nightcap.
7. What are your essential kitchen tools when preparing a large meal?
Don’t use every tool in sight! I use my KitchenAid Stand Mixer and KitchenAid Food Chopper in basically any way I can. For a large meal, I will always make a showstopping cake, and it’s usually some kind of layered sponge so my Stand Mixer is crucial here, for batters, fillings and icings. My Food Chopper is for everything else – chopping, making pestos, sauces, mayonnaise – if it will fit in there, I’ll put it in!
8. Do you have any tips for styling the Christmas table?
I love native Australian flowers and branches such as Eucalypts as centrepieces. They’re a great symbol of the beautiful land we live in and how unique our hot, dry Christmas days can be, plus they smell amazing. Paired with linen in charcoals and whites, all you need is your showstopping trifle in the centre.
9. Are you a ‘cook on the day’ or a ‘start preparing days in advance’ kind of chef?
I always cook on the day but I’ll start marinating meat the day before, because almost everything tastes better the longer it’s marinated! I’m pretty calm in the kitchen and I love making everyone breakfast first thing (we have briochy cinnamon monkey bread) and then chilling out in the kitchen for 4 or 5 hours making a late lunch.
10. And finally, what’s on your Christmas menu this year?
My family love light Christmas menus so lots of nourishing grainy salads, and I’m marinating a whole skirt steak in chimmi churri to BBQ. I’ll also be making a side of roast ocean trout with salsa verde, my go to sauce! To finish – there have been demands for my pavlova that I designed for KitchenAid – with spiced peaches and passionfruit and vanilla mascarpone.