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What better way to smooth over any Christmas cooking confusion that by getting the experts’ opinion? Julie-anne Sprague gets the goss.

FOR those of you unlucky enough to be cooking up the big Christmas feast this year, Gusto has asked some of Perth’s top chefs to lend a helping hand (but no, we can’t get them to your kitchen ... sorry).

First and foremost is the preparation. Good cooks are good organisers and the Gusto Christmas Chefs Team recom-mends using Christmas Eve for all your preparation.

Bruce Chapman, Star Bistro: “Be organised in a military fashion. Assign missions to friends and family members so you don’t do all the running around.”

Darren King, C Restaurant: “Seasoning. I can’t emphasise how important it is to bring out the flavours of the produce. You can really taste the difference – and what a difference it does make.”

Brad Ford, Frasers:

“Try not to make your dishes too complex. For example, appreciate the flavours and textures of a nice piece of dhufish for what it is.”

Clyde Bevan, Friends:

“Christmas Day is the ideal day of the year to eat cold meals – preparation is minimal, the cook of the house should not have to work hard on such a special day, and our climate is certainly conducive to cold meals at that time of year.

“I have a penchant for oysters and a dish that I have taken a liking to lately is simply a champagne vinegar granita topping fresh oysters in their shells. This is a delicious way to start a meal with tantalising, refreshing flavours that excite your palate in readiness for the rest of the meal.

“That’s what I’ll be having for dinner on Christmas Day. Don’t forget the champagne to go with it.” See the recipe on the following page.

As it’s one of the year’s very special days, the team is in agreement that quality fresh produce is essential. Here are some places suggested by the team:

Darren King: “Remember, fresh is best.”

Larners Oysters – Jewell Parade, North Fremantle.

The Grocer – for all those gourmet delicacies – 145 Stirling Hwy, Nedlands.

Kailis Bros – for a wide range of local seafood treats.

Mondo Di Carne – Gourmet meat cuts, hams, turkeys, 824 Beaufort St Inglewood

Bruce Chapman:

“Plan what you are going to cook in advance. Pre order meat and seafood and everything else you can, to be collected on the Monday before the big day. Do your fruit and vegetable shopping on the Sunday prior.”

Vegetables: Boatshed markets, Claremont fresh and Herdsman fresh.

Bread: Jean Claude patisserie and New Norcia bakeries.

Butchers: Torre’s, Terranova and Princi usually do special Christmas meats and smallgoods to be ordered in advance.

Seafood: Kailis in Leederville and Seafresh Innaloo.

Gourmet items: Ogilvies, The Grocer and Lamonts have large ranges of gourmet produce and Christmas food items

The Re Store in Leederville is a good place to get smallgoods, cheeses and other supplies, and also has wine and spirits

Provided you’ve got this far, you should have all the necessary ingredients, and time, to create the main course. But to make sure it’s sensational, our chefs recommend the following:

Darren King:

“Trial recipes before Christmas so you know exactly what you are doing and not wasting precious time in the kitchen. Choose recipes that you can prepare a day or two in advance.”

Bruce Chapman:

“It will be hot, so plan on having a nice range of salads and cold dishes. A simple fresh Asian salad is an excellent way to start.” Bruce also suggest the following for your main course menu:

Warm roast turkey, a cold meat platter and selection of salads for main course

Fresh fruit or a frozen dessert to finish.

A cheese platter to nibble on during the afternoon.

And if you’re not full after that lot, dessert should see you through.

Darren King:

“Cheese boards are great and a good time-saving course if you’ve been in the kitchen all day. Also, puddings are great and can be made well in advance to keep with tradition.”

Brad Ford:

“Something light is the order of the day and, as there are so many nice stone fruit available in Perth around December, it makes perfect sense to use these.

“A simple fruit compote and a good vanilla ice cream, possibly with a splash of Drambuie over the top before serving, will go a long way. It is nice to finish off any meal, especially Christmas, with a decent coffee. So spend a bit of time on this. Perhaps serve a nice bite-sized lemon and cream cheese filled vanilla cake to go with it.” See the recipe on the following page.

We hope your Christmas dinner is a resounding success and wish you all the very best culinary luck!

n n n

Just a little correction to last week’s story on Freo’s Sail & Anchor refurbishments.

While a great deal of effort has gone in to the hotel’s overhaul, the $100 million we said they’d spent was about 100 times too many.

The refit cost the hotel’s owners $1 million … and $1 million well spent, too.



Gustochef

Fancy giving the family something nice for Christmas? How about a smoked almond salad or, for a little more titillation, champagne vinegar granita on oysters. No matter which way you look at it, it’s hard to go past the lemon and cream cheese filled vanilla cakes.

Friends Restaurant

Gwenael Lesle Champagne Vinegar Granita on Oysters

100ml Champagne Vinegar

300ml water

2 tablespoons sugar

Method

Boil all ingredients until sugar is dissolved and then pour into a wide, flat tray. This is then placed in the freezer and regularly scraped with a fork to gain the granita-like consistency. Serve each oyster with a scoop of granita on top.



Star Bistro

Bruce Chapman’s Smoked Almond Salad

Serves 4

Ingredients

400g Butternut pumpkin

16 Asparagus spears

100g Fetta cheese

80g Smoked almonds

Rocket leaves or other salad leaves you prefer

Dressing

1 tspn Dijon mustard

40ml Red wine vinegar

80ml Extra virgin olive oil

Shallots, chopped finely

1 Garlic clove, minced

2tble Chives, sliced

Method

Peel and cut the pumpkin into large chunks, toss in some olive oil and season with sea salt, pepper and nutmeg. Put into a fairly hot oven and roast until golden and tender. Peel the asparagus, remove any woody stalks and slice diagonally into sticks. Blanch the asparagus in plenty of rapidly boiling salted water until tender, then refresh in ice water.

To serve

This salad tastes a lot better when the pumpkin and almonds are slightly warm or at room temperature.

Place the pumpkin, asparagus and almonds in a bowl. Crumble in the fetta, add salad leaves and drizzle with enough dressing to moisten. Taste for seasoning and pile neatly onto plates or onto a serving platter.



Fraser’s Restaurant

Brad Ford’s Lemon & Cream Cheese Filled Vanilla Cakes

(makes approximately 18 mini cakes)

Ingredients

50gm plain flour

1 vanilla pod

160gm icing sugar

110gm almond meal

stiffly beaten egg whites

120gm unsalted butter

Grated rind from three lemons

Method

Sift icing sugar and plain flour together.

Scrape the vanilla pod into the flour.

Mix in almond meal and lemon rind.

Stir in melted butter.

Fold in beaten egg whites gradually until all is combined.

Spoon this mix into mini muffin tins and cook at 180 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes.

Let the friands rest in the tin for five minutes before placing them on a wire cake rack.

Cream cheese mix: ingredients

250gm cream cheese

50gm castor sugar

50ml double cream

grated rind from 1 lemon

juice from one lemon

Method

Break up the cream cheese and allow to reach room temperature.

Add castor sugar and lemon rind and mix with a spatula until smooth.

Add the double cream and fold into the cheese mix.

Add the lemon juice last and fold into the mix.

To serve

Slice the top of the friand (not quite through) and lift the lid, just enough to get a nice dollop of the cream cheese filling into the cut. Press the lid down so the filling oozes out slightly. Dust with a little icing sugar. These friands are a perfect accompaniment to a good espresso for afternoon tea.

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