How to Host Christmas Like Neil Perry

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Dec 11, 2017

by NEIL PERRY, Qantas Creative Director – Food, Beverage & Service

Stuff the turkey – the chef’s 
Christmas is all about keeping 
things simple while making the 
most of Australia’s plentiful 
summer produce.

Is there a particular wine that you like to enjoy at Christmas?

I love a sparkling shiraz. It’s such a festive Australian drink, served chilled. The ones produced by Seppelt [in Victoria] are particularly good.

What’s on your everyday holiday menu?

December is the perfect time to use the last of the spring asparagus – I might serve it with hollandaise. For something more substantial, I’ll throw a shoulder of lamb or a lovely piece of fish on the barbecue and serve it with an oregano dressing.

And for unexpected guests?

I always have jars of Ortiz anchovies on hand – just put them on toasted crusty bread with a drizzle of olive oil for a tasty crostini. Then open a bottle of riesling and you have yourself a party.

Any other canapés that don’t require much preparation?

Summer tomatoes are so delicious that you barely need to touch them. Make 
a simple bruschetta by rubbing some toasted bread with garlic then add sliced tomato and finish with a little olive oil.

Do you have any good options for the vegans 
or gluten- and dairy-intolerant among us?

I don’t think I associate with any of those! But honestly, garlic-braised vegies such 
as cauliflower, silverbeet and grated zucchini – or homemade baked beans – satisfy everyone, whether you’re serving them with meat, tossing them through pasta or making a really tasty salad.

What’s your best tip for making entertaining that little bit easier?

Make sure you never have more than one or two things left to do when people arrive so that you’re not stuck in the kitchen while everyone else is having a drink. Organise your mise en place, have the table set, the salads made and the meat and seafood ready to go in the oven or 
on the barbecue ahead of time.

What’s a delicious, portable dish that you can take to a festive get-together?

Dessert is a winner, especially in summer when we have such beautiful fruit. Take cherries, mangoes, plums, peaches, nectarines and apricots and serve them simply with cream whipped with vanilla and icing sugar.

Christmas pudding isn’t everyone’s favourite dessert. What do you serve?

I love Christmas pudding, only I prefer it in July! It seems bizarre to eat preserved fruit when we have such a glut of ripe summer fruit. My version of Christmas pudding is a summer trifle with savoiardi sponge fingers, sauternes and mascarpone whipped with eggwhite, cream and sugar. There would be protests in my house if 
I didn’t make it.

Which cookbook is top of your Christmas list?

Maggie Beer’s new book, Maggie’s Recipe for Life. It’s about eating for health at any age and she worked on it with Alzheimer’s researcher Professor Ralph Martins. [Perry’s late mother, Margaret, suffered from dementia.]

What do you do with leftovers?

One of my favourite things to do with turkey, pork or ham leftovers is to shred the meat, add it to a big salad with lots 
of shaved cabbage or salad leaves, grated parmesan, extra virgin olive oil and good-quality balsamic vinegar and serve it with crusty bread. Or skip the balsamic and turn it Thai by making nam jim dressing with wild green chillies, garlic, 
fish sauce and palm sugar and replacing the cheese with fresh coriander. Another favourite, which my dad always used to make, is a classic bubble-and-squeak using leftover roast vegies and diced roast meat fried in a little oil and butter. As soon as it crisps a bit, crack in some eggs then spoon it onto buttered toast.

SEE ALSO: The World's Most Festive Christmas Light Displays

Photography credit: Mark Roper