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Cook and author Julia Busuttil Nishimura knows that the secret to successful entertaining is all in the planning. “If you’re cooking for a lot of people, my tip is to make fewer dishes in larger quantities,” she shares. “This means you’re not buying a huge number of different ingredients and can focus on a few things and doing them well.” It makes sense. As Busuttil Nishimura reveals: “prepare and cook as much as you can the day before.” For her, dessert is made in advance and the prep is finished long before guests arrive.
Internationally acclaimed Tasmanian-based chef Analiese Gregory knows that it’s all about managing hungry guests. “I approach entertaining the same way as having a meal in a restaurant. I have a drink on arrival and some form of snack out, even if it’s just bread or raw veg with dip. That puts everyone at ease and softens the blow that I'm a really slow cook!”
Dessert in Australia has become almost synonymous with Donna Hay, who has provided the perfect cake recipe to cook in advance.
And as for their Christmas Day beauty prep? Busuttil Nishimura’s planning on a creamy, peachy NARS Barbarella lip, Gregory wears Stila Stay All Day Liquid Lipstick in Beso year-round in the kitchen, and Donna Hay’s latest obsession is Westman Atelier Super Loaded Tinted Highlighter for a little sparkle on lids and cheeks.
Happy cooking and feasting!
Ingredients(serves 4)500g plain yoghurt30g (1/3 cup) flaked almonds6–8 figs (about 300g in total), cut in half or into quarters10 basil leaves
Honey dressing1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra if needed1 tablespoon honey, plus extra if neededSea salt and black pepper
To make the labneh, line a sieve with a clean piece of muslin or cheesecloth. Spoon in the yoghurt, then bring the edges of the muslin together and tie with some string to secure—it should resemble a sack. To hang, you can either suspend the tied-up yoghurt from a hook or similar, or tie the ends of the muslin to a long wooden spoon and prop up with some tall jars.
Place a bowl underneath to catch the whey. The thickness of the labneh will depend on how long you leave it to strain. I prefer it to be not too firm for this salad, so I leave it for just 3–4 hours at room temperature, but if you want it to be thick, leave it to strain overnight in the fridge. Unwrap the cloth and transfer the labneh to an airtight container. The labneh will keep in the fridge for up to 1 week.
Toast the almonds in a small, dry frying pan over a low heat until just coloured. Set aside to cool.
Spoon the labneh onto a serving plate and arrange the figs on top. Sprinkle with the almonds and basil leaves.
To make the dressing, whisk the olive oil and honey in a small bowl until combined. Taste for balance, adding a little more honey or olive oil if needed, and season to taste. Drizzle over the salad and serve.
Ingredients(Serves 2)1 small, whole brown or rainbow trout approx 500g, gutted and scaled100g brown sugar100g fine sea salt4cm piece fresh horseradish1 leek 30g butter200ml water25ml olive oil20ml creamSalt and pepperHalf a bunch of watercress
Mix the salt and sugar together in a bowl, then liberally cover the trout inside and out and leave overnight or approximately eight hours in the fridge. Then rinse the trout of all cure and pat dry. You want the skin to dry out as much as possible. Oil the skin of the fish and place it in a 60°C oven on a rack.
In a heavy based pan with tinfoil inside, get some wood chips smoking on the stove, then place in the bottom of oven to smoke the fish. It will take approximately 30 minutes. Personally I cook the fish to a 58-degree internal temperature as I like it to pull off the bone but still be super soft and juicy.
For the garnish, peel off the outside of the leek, cut it down the centre and then into half circles. Give them a really good wash and drain.
Bring to a boil the water, olive oil, butter, then add the leek. Simmer until cooked, add cream and reduce until desired consistency is reached and then season.
To plate, put the leek fondue onto a platter and then carefully layer the fish on. Remove the skin if desired. Grate some horseradish on top and decorate with watercress.
I also really enjoy eating fish cooked this way served with blini and sour cream, or on bagels, and even in a potato salad. The list is endless!
225g unsalted butter, chopped and softened1½ cups (260g) light brown sugar2 teaspoons vanilla extract6 eggs2¼ cups (335g) self-raising flour, sifted2¼ cups (225g) hazelnut meal (ground hazelnuts)1 teaspoon ground cinnamon½ cup (125ml) milk¼ cup (60ml) brandy, plus 2 tablespoons extra for brushingGingerbread reindeer, for decorating 1 cup (160g) icing (confectioner’s) sugar, sifted, plus extra for dusting2–2½ teaspoons boiling water3 thick sprigs of rosemary
Cream cheese icing500g cream cheese, chopped and softened100g unsalted butter, chopped and softened2 cups (320g) icing (confectioner’s) sugar, sifted2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 160°C (325°F).
Line 2 x 18cm round cake tins with non-stick baking paper. Place the butter, sugar and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat for 5–6 minutes or until pale and creamy.
Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the flour, hazelnut meal, cinnamon, milk and brandy and beat on low speed until just combined. Divide the mixture evenly between the tins. Bake for 55 minutes – 1 hour or until cooked when tested with a skewer. Allow to cool in the tins for 10 minutes, before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
While the cake is cooling, make the cream cheese icing. Place the cream cheese, butter, sugar and vanilla in a clean bowl of the electric mixer. Beat for 8 minutes or until pale and fluffy*.
To assemble the cake, trim the tops and slice each cake in half horizontally, using a large serrated knife. Brush each layer of cake with the extra brandy. Place the base of one of the cakes on a cake stand or plate and spread with ⅔ cup (160ml) of the icing. Repeat the process three more times, finishing with the remaining icing.
To decorate the reindeer, place the icing sugar and boiling water in a small bowl and mix to combine. Spoon into a piping bag fitted with a small round nozzle and pipe spots onto each deer. Top the cake with the rosemary and the reindeer and dust with icing sugar to serve.
*Set the cream cheese icing aside in the refrigerator for 15 minutes if it needs to firm slightly.