What top chefs will be serving at their Christmas tables.

17 December 2020

Planning a festive feast? Shane Delia, Julia Busuttil Nishimara and Danielle Alvarez share their favourite Christmas recipes.


What top chefs will be serving at their Christmas tables.

17 December 2020

Planning a festive feast? Shane Delia, Julia Busuttil Nishimara and Danielle Alvarez share their favourite Christmas recipes.

With most New Zealanders staying at home for Christmas this year, there’s never been a better time to pull out all the stops with a show stopping menu to share with friends and family. We asked three of our favourite chefs from across the ditch to share their plans for Christmas Day and, most importantly, their favourite festive recipes.

  • Shane Delia

    Shane Delia, chef, restaurateur, broadcaster and founder of online food service, Providoor.

    Shane Delia in the kitchen

    Shane Delia has been busy developing Providoor, an innovative new venture that delivers dishes from the city’s best restaurants for people to enjoy at home. Image: Supplied.

    Since the pandemic shut down Melbourne’s dining scene in March, chef and restaurateur Shane Delia has been busy developing Providoor, an innovative new venture that delivers dishes from the city’s best restaurants for people to enjoy at home. Come December 25, he plans to take full advantage of all the service has to offer. “Christmas should be about fun and family; not about stress and manic food preparation,” he says. “So, I’m ordering a heap of my favourite dishes from my favourite Melbourne restaurants.”

    It’s a little different from Shane’s normal festive celebrations. “My usual Christmas dinner is an open-house invitation for all my family and staff,” he says. “Traditionally, a lot of my staff were alone on Christmas Day, as they were on working visas and their own families were abroad. Earlier this year, the majority of those amazing people were told to go home. So, we’ll still have the same spirit of celebration and welcome, but just with fewer people, which is probably a good thing considering our COVID restrictions.”

    Providoor’s selection of signature dishes from an array of Melbourne’s best restaurants arrive prepped and ready to be finished off and served by the home cook. Shane’s Christmas Day menu features some of his personal Providoor favourites, including from his own restaurant, Maha.

    “For starters, I’m planning to serve Maha’s meze dishes, especially our harissa poached prawns. They are epic!” he says. “Mains will be from Andrew McConnell’s Supernormal. Andrew and his team have put together a killer menu, and you can’t go past their dumplings.”

    For side dishes, Shane’s thoughts turn to Sunda and its wonderful Southeast Asian flavours. “Sunda has a really good selection of vegetables, noodles and salads, so I think that will be my go-to,” he says. “And I can’t go past their Vegemite curry, either so I think I’ll get some of that for Boxing Day when I’m on the couch!”

    When it comes to dessert, Shane will leave the choice up to his wife, Maha (yes, he named his Melbourne restaurant after her), although he has no doubts about the source. “There can be only one choice for sweets and that is the king of sweetness himself, Darren Purchese [of Burch & Purchese Sweet Studio].”

    As you’d expect from this relaxed attitude to festive catering, Shane’s tips for entertaining at Christmas have been ramped up a notch by Providoor’s latest innovation. “This year, I’ll be sitting back with my family and friends, and leaving the hard work to someone else,” he explains. “We’ve just launched a service called Providoor People. You can now hire fully trained professional chefs and waiters to come to your place and do all the hard work for you. They’ve been trained to finish off our Providoor meals. The service is extremely well priced, and they will do everything for you – cook, clean and serve. It’s like having your very own restaurant at home, with some of the country’s best food!” 

    Poached prawns with harissa oil, coriander & preserved lemon (serves 4).

    Poached prawns with harissa oil, coriander & preserved lemon (serves 4).

    Shane Delia’s poached prawns in harissa oil from Melbourne restaurant Maha.

    Shane Delia’s Christmas Day menu will start with poached prawns with harissa oil off the menu from his Melbourne restaurant Maha. Image: Diego Ramirez.

    1 lemon, halved
    3 cloves garlic
    16 Australian king prawns, shells removed, tails intact
    1 bunch coriander, leaves picked, stems reserved
    1 teaspoon harissa paste
    1 large eschalot, finely chopped
    1 cup (250ml) extra virgin olive oil
    1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
    Juice of ½ lemon
    1 preserved lemon, flesh discarded, skin finely chopped

    Place halved lemon and garlic in a large saucepan and add enough water to fill the pan three-quarters full. Bring to the boil over high heat.

    Once the water is boiling, add the prawns and immediately turn off the heat, leaving the prawns to poach for 4 minutes. Remove prawns from the pan with a slotted spoon, place in a covered container and transfer to the fridge to cool completely.

    Meanwhile, finely chop the coriander stems and place in a large bowl. Add the harissa paste, eschalot, olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, preserved lemon and a pinch of salt, and stir well to combine. Check dressing for seasoning and add more salt if required.

    Remove the chilled prawns from the fridge and add to the bowl with the dressing. Coarsely tear half the coriander leaves and add to the bowl, then gently toss the mixture to combine.

    To serve, arrange the prawn mixture on a platter and garnish with remaining coriander leaves.

  • Julia Busuttil Nishimura

    Julia Busuttil Nishimura, food columnist and author, A Year of Simple Family Food (2020), Ostro (2017).

    Julia Busuttil Nishimura in her kitchen

    Food columnist and cookbook author Julia Busuttil Nishimura says keeping things simple and planning ahead keeps Christmas feasting stress-free for the host. Image: James Braund.

    “For me, Christmas is a time to share with my family,” says Julia. “I have two young boys, so it’s quite an exciting time and, unsurprisingly, it centres around food!” 

    Originally from Adelaide, where most of her family resides, Melbourne-based Julia’s Christmas gatherings tend to be quite small. “There’s usually about six of us, with my sister and husband and our two boys. It’s a lot about food, but also equally about sharing time and making special memories with the family.”

    Julia Busuttil Nishimura writing down her Christmas Day menu

    Food columnist and cookbook author Julia Busuttil Nishimura plans her festive menu. Image: James Braund.

    As always, Julia likes to keep things deliciously simple so she can relax and have fun with the family. “We have a lot of fresh cold seafood to start with, then a lot of salads, then a traditional pavlova, usually with stone fruit or tropical fruit.” 

    There will also be a hero main-course dish, such as this Italian-style porchetta, which features in her latest cookbook, A Year of Simple Food. “Porchetta, for us, is definitely a celebratory meal. I’ll often prepare it for birthdays (many of which, in our family, fall in winter) or for Christmas lunch.”

    Porchetta (serves 12-15).

    Porchetta (serves 12-15).

    Julia Busuttil Nishimura’s Italian-style porchetta recipe

    Italian-style porchetta will be the showstopping main dish at Julia Busuttil Nishimura’s Christmas table. The recipe features in her latest cookbook, A Year of Simple Food. Image: Armelle Habib

    1 x 2.8–3kg piece of pork belly (rump end) or deboned shoulder, skin scored

    2 tablespoons sea salt 
    1½ tablespoons fennel seeds, freshly ground 
    2 tablespoons finely chopped sage leaves 
    2 tablespoons finely chopped rosemary leaves 
    4 garlic cloves, finely chopped 
    1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 
    1 teaspoon dried chilli flakes

    Salsa verde
    1 garlic clove 
    small bunch of parsley, leaves picked 
    1 tablespoon salted capers, rinsed 
    2 anchovy fillets 
    juice of 1 lemon 
    approximately 125ml (½ cup) extra-virgin olive oil 
    sea salt

    Ensure the pork is nice and dry by patting down the skin and flesh with paper towel. Lay the pork, skin-side down, on a clean work surface.

    Mix all of the seasoning ingredients together in a bowl and rub into the flesh. Roll up the belly and tie tightly using butcher’s twine. This can be done the night before and left to rest in the fridge – in fact, I prefer to do this ahead of time to let the flavours get acquainted. I then allow the pork to come to room temperature before moving onto the cooking.

    Preheat the oven to 170°C.

    Place the pork on a wire rack over a baking tray and roast for 3 hours. Increase the temperature to 200°C, then cook for a further 30 minutes, or until the skin is crackling and golden. Remove and allow to rest for 30 minutes.

    Meanwhile, for the salsa verde, finely chop the garlic, then add the parsley and continue to chop, adding the capers and anchovies, and continuing to chop until everything is roughly incorporated. Transfer to a small bowl, squeeze in the lemon juice and mix in enough olive oil so that sauce is a drizzling consistency. Season to taste.

    Cut the porchetta into slices and serve with the salsa verde.

  • Danielle Alvarez

    Danielle Alvarez, head chef at the two-hatted Fred’s restaurant in Sydney, and author, Always Add Lemon (2020).

    Danielle Alvarez is the head chef at Fred’s in Sydney

    Danielle Alvarez is planning a quiet Christmas break on the Mornington Peninsula, having released her cookbook Always Add Lemon in October 2020. Image: Benito Martin and Jess Johnson.

    “This year’s Christmas is going to be a quiet one for me. It’s been a big year and the lead-up to Christmas is usually extremely busy in the restaurant industry.” Originally from Miami in the US, where her Cuban family still lives, she won’t be heading back there this Christmas. “My partner and I are visiting regional Victoria and having a few days on the Mornington Peninsula. We have a few friends in the area, so I think we will just have a lunch and a peaceful afternoon.”

    It will be something of a contrast to past festive seasons. “Growing up, we always celebrated Christmas Eve in a big way with a large family feast. We cooked whole sucking pig in the ‘caja China’, a Cuban creation designed for roasting whole pigs. My mom makes her famous black beans, which we eat with rice and boiled yucca with a garlicky mojo. It’s one of my favourite meals, but I don’t attempt it myself.

    “I don’t go too heavy on starters, but I always like to have some toasted nuts, marinated olives or a crudités plate with aïoli if people want to nibble before lunch or dinner. I love the idea of a welcome cocktail or something pre-batched at the ready for when people arrive. It’s the best way to ensure everyone feels relaxed and ready to have a good time.”

    Danielle’s advice for stress-free Christmas entertaining is simple: “Cook things you don’t need to babysit all day. There is nothing more stressful than having to leave my guests and be stuck in the kitchen. And a good playlist which lasts several hours is really important for setting the mood you want to create.”

    Like Julie, Danielle is an exponent of porchetta for Christmas at home (she has her own version in her cookbook, Always Add Lemon), alongside some interesting seasonal accompaniments. “I would definitely serve some roasted potatoes and several lighter salads. Perhaps a tomato and nectarine salad with basil, or a fresh corn salad with mint and pecorino. There would definitely be good crusty bread or rolls, too. 

    As for dessert, it’s a no-brainer. “My mom’s flan with cherries is one of my favourite desserts in the world,” says Danielle. “It’s perfect for entertaining, because you can make it a day or two in advance.”

    Mom’s flan with poached cherries (serves 8-10).

    Mom’s flan with poached cherries (serves 8-10).

    Danielle Alvarez’s flan with poached cherries from her cookbook Just Add Lemon

    Shane Delia’s Christmas Day menu will start with poached prawns with harissa oil off the menu from his Melbourne restaurant Maha. Image: Diego Ramirez.

    150g caster sugar
    375ml tin evaporated milk
    355ml tin sweetened condensed milk
    120ml full-cream milk
    2 eggs, plus 5 egg yolks
    2 teaspoons vanilla extract

    Poached cherries
    100g caster sugar
    2 strips lemon peel
    1 vanilla bean, split
    400g sour or sweet fresh cherries (if using sweet cherries, add the juice of 1 lemon to the poaching liquid); see Note

    Preheat the oven to 150°C and boil a full kettle of water.

    Melt the sugar in a non-stick frying pan over medium heat until it turns a dark amber colour. Use a wooden spoon to mix it once it starts caramelising to ensure that it all melts evenly. Immediately pour the caramel into the base of a non-stick loaf tin.

    Whisk together the remaining ingredients and a pinch of salt in a bowl, then pour the custard through a fine-mesh sieve directly onto the caramel. Cover the tin with foil and place it inside a larger, deep baking dish. Place the dish in the oven, then pour in enough boiling water to come halfway up the side of the loaf tin. Bake for 1 hour and 20 minutes. At this point, check the texture: it should still be quite wobbly, but not liquid. If it is still liquid in the centre, continue cooking for another 15-20 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the water bath. Once cooled, refrigerate, still covered, overnight.

    To make the poached cherries, combine the sugar, lemon peel, vanilla bean, 200ml water and a pinch of salt in a saucepan and bring to a simmer on the stove. Pit your cherries using a cherry pitter, or push them out using a metal straw. Add the cherries to the pot and simmer until they are soft but not bursting, about 5 minutes. Set aside until ready to serve.

    To unmould flan, cut around the sides of the custard and invert onto a flat plate. Cut slices and serve with or without the poached cherries.

    Note: You can leave the cherries unpitted; just be sure to warn your guests.

By Sally Feldman