THE IN-TRAY

Three Australian foodies share their top dishes for your holiday table

2021 felt like Groundhog Day for many of us — which meant that, alongside sheet masks on Zoom calls and trawling through Netflix, kneading dough and lining up for a croissant — or a cruller — rose to the forefront of our routines.

The scones, vodka pasta and sourdough were swapped for babka and baked oats, and we became reliant on the internet’s top chefs, home cooks and bakers to keep us entertained, inspired and well-fed.

In an ode to their service over the past two years and in celebration of the food, friend and family-filled tables to come, we tapped Patchanida Chimkire of Mali Bakes, Peaches La Crème’s Anneliese Brancatisano and Jenna Holmes of Pasta Mama to reminisce on the year that was, and to give us a glimpse of what will be served up on their holiday menus.

ANNELIESE BRANCATISANO OF PEACHES LA CRÈME

On baking and the year that was

“I feel the community around baking and food in the past few years has come from a rebellion – to enjoy and preserve nostalgic times. Baking and cooking let us stop for a second, start something and finish it, then enjoy its beauty.”

“I experienced and watched a lot of food being traded during lockdowns; at that time in life – even though it was slightly exhausting and scary – knowing you would enjoy hot focaccia dropped to your doorstep from a stranger, after leaving them pieces of lemon tart, made things feel a little better.

Brancatisano’s plans for the holidays

“I am a sucker for Christmas. It’s nice after a busy year to lay in the sun and eat too many of Mum’s dauphinoise potatoes! Life feels very nostalgic over that period – it makes me feel like a kid again. It’s a solid week or so of good times surrounded by food (seafood, pasta, schnitzels, salads, pavlova), friends and (hopefully) a Louis Vuitton x Takashi Murakami white pochette. Kidding (not kidding)!”

From her table to yours

“My Oma (grandma) is a big reason why I love baking. The table on Christmas is usually sparkling with apple cake, sugar cake, strawberry cake and cherry trifle. The star for me is a big bowl of perfectly sweetened cream to top all the cakes.

“I previously shared a Bacio semi-freddo recipe using Hunted + Gathered chocolate. I would suggest substituting the hazelnuts in that recipe for fresh cherries; itʼs the perfect season for cherries and would add a lovely holiday feel! If you can, use good-quality chocolate – it makes the world of difference. Semi-freddo is incredibly achievable at any baking level and perfect for a refreshing dessert.”

Gifts to bring to your family feast:

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JENNA HOLMES OF PASTA MAMA

On dining and the year that was

“Over the years, the element of surprise and delight when dining out has been removed because we Google the restaurant we are going to and its menu and decide what we are eating before we arrive. After spending more time in our homes and in our kitchens cooking and baking, I think people are more open to trying new things.

“In the past, I adored the experience of heading to a tiny village in Greece or Italy and going to the one restaurant in town with no menu, sitting for hours and just eating all the local and seasonal food prepared creatively by the chef. I also loved having people over to my house for a casual dinner party, with disco music, lots of fresh and delicious food and a fun vibe. I knew I wasn’t the only one out there who wanted to attend something different and unique, so I created Pasta Club!”

Holmes’ plans for the holidays

“For the past 18 years my mum has organised to feed the homeless and lonely in Toowoomba, so we have always spent Christmas Day cooking a delicious meal for the less fortunate. When I was younger, I didn’t really grasp what we were doing; now, doing it as an adult, I see the same people come every year and it just creates a deep awareness of what other people are going through. You realise what a thoughtful, warm and delicious meal can do for someone on a day that could be spent feeling lonely and forgotten.”

From her table to yours

“Summer pasta to me is all about having that fresh taste in your mouth! I love a herb or lemon pasta, so generally I go with a lemon and basil mix with spaghetti or angel hair pasta. Jamie Oliver has a great recipe!

“Spring and summer to me feel like they should be all about the sweet, sour and fresh. Other than being a pasta queen, I am a fruit queen! In the summer months I am chowing down on mangoes, nectarines, watermelon, passionfruit – any and all fruit, at all times of the day.”

Spectacular gift picks for summer:

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PATCHANIDA CHIMKIRE OF MALI BAKES

On cake, and the year that was

“I love cake because it’s about bringing together different flavours and textures in one colourful and decorated package to create an experience for celebration. We haven’t been able to get together for much of the last couple of years, but at least we could still have cake – whether that meant surprising family or friends with something delicious or enjoying a slice together over Zoom.

“If there’s a cake involved, it makes the occasion special. Baked goods are just so comforting!”

Chimkire’s plans for the holidays

“My partner and I love to cook a feast with family and friends. Add in some good music, lots of laughs and all is perfect! We also love to get a nature fix – it’s so important to take a breather to recharge and relax. As for Mali Bakes, we will be bringing in special flavours to celebrate the holidays of 2022!”

From her table to yours

“On this side of the world, the holidays are all about summer, barbecues and being outside. For me, a chocolate chip passionfruit cake is the perfect summer accompaniment. The sharp, zesty passionfruit curd is refreshing on hot days and perfectly balanced with vanilla bean buttercream. With the added crunch and texture of the dark chocolate crumb, I just love it for picnics and summer dinners!

“In terms of summer cake style, I would choose a lime green base with hot pink frills and yellow flower decorations. Cake decorations from the ’60s and ’70s are mind-blowing. I love tracking down the cake decorating books from that era. Wes Anderson films are also a big inspiration; I’ve always been a fan of the colour palette and vibe!”

The sweetest gifts of the season:

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