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Something different for Christmas

Thursday, December 16th, 2010
Chilli Beef with Lime and Palm Sugar DressingBored with hot traditional fare at Christmas time? While the sun is shining, enjoy life outdoors with these simple-to-prepare dishes — you’ll have everyone swooning and coming back for more. Start with a handful or two of Aussie prawns (I recommend them over Asian prawns) sizzled on the barbecue, then serve up a gobsmackingly gorgeous dish of tender beef dressed with lime juice, ginger, mint and coriander, with a selection of colourful and crunchy vegetables. Finish with a new take on plum pudding – crumble it up, toast it under the grill until crunchy and stir it through for Plum pudding ice cream. Yum-o!

Chilli Beef with Lime and Palm Sugar Dressing
Chilli Beef with Lime and Palm Sugar Dressing
Here’s the quintessential westernized Thai beef salad. It’s so good!

Plum pudding ice cream
Plum pudding ice cream
Christmas in a mouthful! And, a bonus, this can be made several days in advance, the problem being that you just might start tucking in! Time to prep 25 minutes plus chilling time.

A few rules for Christmas catering

  • Keep freshly cooked food at room temperature only as long as you need to, and keep it covered. Refrigerate it as soon as possible after serving.

  • Don’t reheat all the leftovers if they are not all going to be eaten in one meal, just serve up what you think you’ll eat and reheat it and keep the rest covered and refrigerated.
  • Watch out for full fridges — constant opening and closing and overloading can raise the temperature inside the fridge which can prevent food chilling quickly and cause spoilage.
  • Ensure all food is in leak-proof containers and covered with lids or food wrap to prevent leaking and contamination.
  • Food doesn’t usually improve in the fridge — it’s a slow death, so get to it before it dies!

Kids love water

Tuesday, January 26th, 2010

Carmelized Fruit Kebabs

Here we are at the end of January with Christmas just a memory. Many of us ‘down under’ are still on summer holidays, and desperately looking for ways to entertain clammy whiney kids. There’s just one thing that does it, and that’s water! Whether it’s a big bucket of water for toddlers that they can’t tip over or fall into, but can dip containers in and out of, or for older kids a quick hosing down with the garden hose, water offers the dual purpose of creating entertainment while cooling down hot sticky bodies and settling frayed nerves. On warm days herd them outside in a shady spot, put an old cloth on the ground, give them some fruit, a chopping board and a knife, just sharp enough to cut fruit like a banana and watermelon, but not so sharp so that it will cut them (or do the cutting for them), and show them how to stick cubes of fruit on toothpicks (or bluntish skewers). They’ll love doing it and will eat plenty of fruit…but, man, will they make a sticky mess! Hence having them outside – just hose them off once they’ve finished, rinse the cloth and hang it up to dry. You’ll feel pleased with yourself that you found an inexpensive and healthy way to fill in a hot afternoon.

Adults love fruit kebabs, too, and one of my favourite ways is from my book Sizzle Sensational Barbecue Food, with pieces of skewerd fruit sprinkled with a liqueur such as Cointreau, dusted with icing sugar and barbecued on the hot plate (or in a non-stick skillet) until lightly golden. Yum! Carmelized Fruit Kebabs

Ham again.

Tuesday, December 8th, 2009

I’m a great fan of Christmas because it gives the family a focus and brings everyone together – I uphold any celebration that does this.

And I have fond memories of my childhood – I’m the youngest of 10 children and our Christmases were amazing – we always had an enormous freshly-felled pine tree the tip of which touched the high-studded ceiling. More impressively for me and all my siblings, the presents stretched right across the room – you could barely walk in the large sitting room for fear of standing on something. I have no idea how my parents made their meager earnings stretch so far, but no one went without, and I always thought I was the luckiest girl alive when I received a new doll, or a plaything. One of the best presents I received was a golden-haired doll with eyes that blinked. My sister was jealous because, she’s a blonde and she was given a similar doll with blinking eyes but with short brunette hair. Oh the fights! The other best present was a toy cake mixer with a button that made little beaters go round and round. It was just gorgeous.

My father really came into his own at Christmas-time. Once all the glasses of milk and biscuits which dad eventually managed to persuade us to change to bottles of beer, had been left for Santa, and he had got us off to bed, we were usually helped on our way with a swig of something strong and ‘medicinal’, it was after midnight, and he sat up preparing bags and bags of sweets and surprises for our stockings. He got dressed up and darted in and out of our rooms delivering stockings – he never got caught – but his answer was at the ready had he been: there were so many of us that he had to give Santa a hand!

We also had the house decorated to the nines, with hand-made streamers strewn everywhere, and Xmas-tree lights, which were the bane of my father’s life, because, with old tree lights, you may remember, if one light went, it caused the whole string of them to go, so you had to methodically work through every light until you found the dodgy one. The lights were beautiful, bells and balls, all glass and painted, not like the plastic ones you get today. Dad also made a huge wooden Santa silhouette with ‘feet’ that he would ‘plant’ in the front lawn every Christmas. No one ever stole things in those days – the Santa was put out every year, and packed up safely at the end of the silly season, bikes were strewn on the front lawn and forgotten about until the following morning. It was safe back then and everyone knew their neighbours, especially the women because they chatted over the back fences while they hung up the washing.

Our Xmas-day feast was all about roasted meats, roasted vegetables, new potatoes and fresh peas and beans from the garden. My sisters and I would sit in the sun – it was always sunny on Xmas day – shelling peas, eating as many as we shelled. There was usually a roast of lamb or pork, roasted kumara and pumpkin, and always a ham. My father would scrub out the old stone ‘copper’ in the wash house and cook the ham in it by lighting a fire underneath it and keeping the fire ticking along for the several or so hours it took to cook the ham. He loved ham. And that brings me to traditions.

My dad is now 96- 97 this coming Februrary. He still loves ham. He spends Christmas day with us every year. I gather together the stray ones in the family, those who have lost their loved ones, or those who are now single. This year it’s just a small group of 8, but dad will at least get to spend the day with 4 of his children, and that’s what he loves.

Whenever I think about what to cook for Christmas day, the starting point has to be the ham. I sometimes think I’ll flag it, but then I think of dad. I sometimes think we’ll have the ham then, and anything else I care to cook, but then I think of dad, and I always come back to what he loves most, that is, ham with plenty of mustard, new potatoes, fresh peas and beans. I usually get carrots in there, too.

I still cook a turkey, sometimes, depending on how many I am cooking for, a leg of pork, or other meats – I have done little baby chickens before – but turkey seems to be the most sort after dish. And I’ve started a tradition of my own which I guess now I will never be able to break: the stuffing. I make double quantity of a really delicious stuffing and use some to stuff the turkey and the rest I shape into balls and cook quickly until they’re golden and crunchy. My children beg me for them. They go nuts about them. They love stuffing balls more than anything in the world. So, of course we will have stuffing balls.

I also make some little sweet bits and pieces, such as German almond biscuits cut in the shape of stars and glazed with egg white and icing sugar which puffs up as they cook and looks like snow. These are actually called zimsterne, but we just call them star biccies because that’s what the kids called them when they were young. I also make some gorgeous walnut and chocolate balls the recipe given to me by a Czech woman years ago. And I make mince pies and a Christmas cake.

On the surface it may seem a bit ho-hum – nothing exceptional here, but it is so steeped in years of family love and tradition that I can’t waver from it. I am not sure what I will do when dad is no longer with us.

On reflection, in my magazines, I do all manner of non-traditional Christmas menus, and these we eat with relish, but I’m usually preparing these in September or October, so it’s like we’ve had ten Christmases by the time it really does come around. This year I have done an all-seafood menu, which is stunning, and various dishes with veal, chicken, lamb and pork in the magazines, but we’ll be eating traditional food in our house. We usually start with a bit of Italian flare, with melon and prosciutto, good croissants, panettone, and maybe a glass of light bubbly, just my husband and two children. This is around 11.00am, then the family arrives about 2.00pm the main meal is served about 5.00pm – and we party into the night, sending dad home in a cab, and the others staying over.

Boxing day is different, we spend it with our closest group of old friends (truly old, now!), and we do a joint-meal, with leftovers. It’s always interesting to see what they’ve had at their various family celebrations. They’re all great cooks, but mostly, they have traditional fare.

For something different, try this stunning Fillet of beef studded with mortadella and pistachio nuts, and finish with the most impressive dessert I’ve ever created, Choux pastry tree with white chocolate and raspberries.

There are heaps more Christmas recipes on my site, including Pavarotti’s ham – the ham I cooked for Signor Luciano Pavarotti when he came to NZ in 1999 – turkey breast in verjuice with green grapes and almonds,quick mince pies, chocolate mince pies and my stunning meringue mountain with strawberries.

Video Demonstrations of Recipes from Never-ending Summer

Monday, November 9th, 2009
Julie Biuso’s new cookbook; never-ending summer. Breakfast One.

Pork Balls with Sweet Chilli Sauce

These are just the thing when you want a substantial and scrumptious nibble watch them disappear! Serve hot, wrapped in lettuce leaves, with a smattering of fresh herbs, sliced chilli and a splash of sweet chilli sauce.

Crunchy Potato Cakes with Avocado Salsa

These are great for brunch or as an accompaniment to fish or bacon.

Grilled Aubergine Rolls Stuffed with Feta

These are a little messy to eat as finger-food, but they’re so good that nobody minds the dribbles! Serve them on plates as a starter, or cut them in half or into thirds to serve with drinks.

Grilled Pizza

Pizza on the barbecue – if you don’t have a pizza oven, this is the way to go. You’ll get a crispier base browning it on the barbecue grill than cooking it in the oven. If you want to make meatless pizzas, substitute grilled artichokes for the chorizo or sausages.


Bread is a great addition to a salad, especially if its crunchy. It may not be authentic to toast the bread for this Lebanese salad, but it tastes so much nicer! Extend the salad by adding canned or barbecued fresh tuna or other barbecued fish or chicken fillets.

Easy Coffee Semifreddo

This is a cheats Semifreddo (theres no gelatine used) but the texture of the little turned-out desserts is velvety and smooth. And, yes, they wobble just as they should (like a young womans breasts).


This Syrian walnut and roasted red pepper dip is utterly delicious. Serve it as a dip with hot puffy pita breads at the start of a barbecue gathering, or to accompany barbecued chicken or lamb dishes.

Fish Kebabs on Warm Tomatoes

The briny taste of green olives goes well with avocado oil and is offset with the sweet taste of tomatoes and peppery anise flavor basil. The kebabs can be skewered several hours ahead. Serve them with crusty bread and a rocket salad.

Lamb & Aubergine Salad with Chick Peas & Roasted Tomato

Lamb and aubergine is a legendary combination think moussaka but its even better with the tang of tomatoes and punch of garlic and lemon. Lamb backstraps arent cheap (theyre a prime cut), but in a salad like this, a little goes a long way.