Festive feasting

by Lauraine Jacobs / 06 December, 2012
A well-planned Christmas menu with lots of advance preparation can take the hassle out of the big day.
Festive feasting
Clockwise from top, buttery potatoes with mint; chicken with cranberry and bacon stuffing; chunky fresh green vegetable salad; pork loin with prunes, pistachios and parsley; roast capsicums, tomatoes and basil.

My family Christmas is going to be at our home this year. There will be no menu surprises for my extended family, as they get to read about the dishes and see the photos in advance on these pages. They always arrive with high expectations. It’s a well planned menu to suit old and young, with twists on traditional festive fare to suit New Zealand palates. Almost everything can be prepared to some extent in advance. If you belong to a group or family who like to share the load, each of these recipes can be assigned to the various cooks involved.

The starter, a crisp wedge of iceberg lettuce with a tangle of seafood and cocktail sauce, is perfect for a summery day, providing a light start to the festivities. For mains, we always like to offer two types of meat. The youngest and oldest family members love chicken, so we’ll have two, as the crunchy bacon rashers cloaking the breast and the tasty cranberry stuffing will more than likely mean everyone will want some.

The pork loin with prune, pistachio and parsley will form the centrepiece. The savoury and sweet stuffing is stunning, so if there’s any left over we’ll have pork sandwiches to take to the beach on Boxing Day. With two green and red salads (both made in advance, and both transportable), and the essential hot buttery new potatoes, there are lots of veges to keep everyone happy and healthy.

Use your finest crystal bowl for the dessert. Raspberry and chocolate may be one of the best flavour combinations ever, so this trifle, easily made a day ahead, will ensure a sweet ending to the feasting. Happy Christmas.


  • 1 cup mayonnaise

  • 1 tsp Tabasco sauce

  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

  • 2 tbsp homemade tomato sauce

  • 4 tbsp cream

  • juice of 1/2 lemon

  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • 24 scallops

  • 2 tbsp butter

  • 16 large raw prawns, shells removed

  • 24 small mussels

  • 1 iceberg lettuce

Prepare everything ahead. To make the sauce, put the mayonnaise, Tabasco, Worcestershire and tomato sauces and cream into a bowl, then gently fold them together. Adjust the seasoning, adding enough lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste. This sauce can be made a day or two ahead and refrigerated until needed. To prepare the seafood, gently fry the scallops in the butter until they are opaque and just set. Keep aside. Drop the prawns into simmering water and poach for 2 minutes. Remove and cool immediately. Place the mussels in a saucepan with 3 tablespoons of water and cover with a lid. Allow the water to come to the boil and steam the mussels open. This will take 3-4 minutes. Remove the beard and dark foot. Keep all seafood refrigerated until needed.

To serve, wash the lettuce, then cut it in half, then into 4 wedges, giving you 8 pieces, then put each wedge on an individual plate. Divide the seafood evenly. Spoon over the sauce so it cascades down the lettuce and the seafood.
Serves 8.
Wine match: champagne.


  • 3 large shallots

  • 2 tbsp olive oil

  • 500g Italian-style pork sausages

  • 200g pitted prunes, roughly chopped

  • 3 tbsp pistachios, roughly chopped

  • large bunch of parsley, chopped

  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • 2.5kg pork loin, flap attached and skin removed

  • 1 cup white wine

  • 1 cup chicken stock

Prepare the stuffing. Chop the shallots finely. Heat the oil in a small frying pan and cook the shallots gently until tender and golden. Tip into a bowl. Skin the sausages and add the meat to the shallots with the prunes, pistachios and half the parsley. Knead the ingredients with your hands. Season well with salt and pepper.

Place the pork on the bench, fat-side down. Spread the stuffing along the middle, then roll the meat around it to form a cylinder shape. Use cotton string to tie it at close intervals along the length. Season the outside with salt, pepper and the remaining parsley. The pork can be prepared ahead to this point. If not cooking it immediately, place it in the refrigerator, well-covered with non-stick foil. Preheat the oven to 200°C. Place the pork in a roasting pan with the wine and roast for 75 minutes. To see if the pork is cooked, insert a metal skewer into it and check the juices. If they are still pink, roast for a further 15 minutes until they become clear.

Remove the pork from the oven and place on a serving plate. Cover and allow the meat to rest for at least 10 minutes while you make the gravy. Place the roasting pan on a heated stovetop element and use a wooden spoon to loosen any bits of meat stuck on the bottom. Add the stock and allow the gravy to bubble up, stirring constantly. When it’s slightly reduced and syrupy, tip the gravy into a heated jug and serve with thin slices of pork. The pork is also excellent served at room temperature with a plum or prune chutney.
Serves 12 as part of a Christmas feast.
Wine match: cabernet sauvignon or cabernet blend.

IF SERVING A crowd, this recipe is easily doubled.


  • 1 cup dried cranberries

  • zest and juice of 1 orange

  • 2 tbsp butter

  • 1 small onion, finely chopped

  • 2 thick slices bacon, cut into small dice

  • 1 cup sourdough bread, cut into small chunks

  • freshly ground black pepper

  • 6-7 sprigs fresh thyme, chopped

  • 2 tsp salt

  • size 16 or 18 free-range cornfed chicken

  • 1 tbsp olive oil

  • 8 slices of thin streaky bacon

  • 2 cups chicken stock

To make the stuffing, soak the cranberries,orange juice and zest in a bow;=l. Melt the butter in a frying pan, then gently fry the onion until soft and starting to colour. Add the bacon and continue frying, stirring often. Remove from the heat, then add the bread chunks, cranberry mixture, black pepper, thyme and the remaining teaspoon of salt. Cool – this is important. Never put warm stuffing into a cold bird.

Dry the chicken inside and out and stuff the cavity with the cooled stuffing. Tie the legs together to stop the stuffing oozing out. Rub the skin with oil, then spread the bacon slices over the skin. Preheat the oven to 200°C. Place the chicken in a roasting pan and roast in a preheated oven for about 75 minutes (or less if the chicken is not organic), basting occasionally until the skin is brown and the bacon crisp. Remove the chicken from the dish, cover with foil and let it rest for at least 10 minutes. Meanwhile, make a light gravy by deglazing the pan with the stock. Allow it to bubble up and simmer very slowly for 10 minutes. Carve the chicken into 8 pieces.
Serves 4-6.
Wine match: chardonnay.


  • 4 large red capsicums

  • 4 large plum or acid-free tomatoes

  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • a handful of fresh basil leaves

  • 2 tbsp olive oil

Preheat the oven to 190°C. Cut the capsicums in half, then remove the stalk and seeds. Place the halves in a roasting pan and bake for 20 minutes until the skin begins to blister and darken. Remove from the oven and allow to cool before peeling off the skin. Cut each half into 2-3 pieces and place in a serving dish. Cut the tomatoes into 8 pieces, carefully removing the stalky end. Toss the tomatoes onto the capsicums and sprinkle with salt and pepper. When ready to serve, spread the basil leaves over the dish and drizzle with oil. Serve at once.
Serves 8.


  • 200g fresh green beans, trimmed and cut into pieces

  • 2 stalks celery, sliced into 2cm pieces

  • 1 small head broccoli, cut into small florets

  • 4 cups washed mesclun salad mixture

  • a handful of parsley, chopped


  • juice and zest of 1 lemon

  • 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

  • 1 tsp dijon mustard

  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil. Plunge the beans, celery and broccoli into the water and simmer for 3 minutes. Remove from the heat, drain well and run the vegetables under cold water for 2 minutes to cool them quickly and ensure they remain bright green. Place the mesclun in a large salad bowl and toss with the cooked vegetables. If working ahead, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to eat. To make the dressing, put all the ingredients in a jar and shake well. To serve, pour the dressing over the salad with the parsley and fold gently so all the vegetables are coated. Serve at once.
Serves 8-10, but can be doubled for a crowd.


  • 1.5kg jersey bennes or red rascal potatoes

  • 50g butter

  • 1/2 cup mint, finely sliced or chopped

  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

Scrub the potatoes well and cut any large ones in halves or quarters. Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Add the potatoes and cook for 15-20 minutes until tender. Drain well and while hot toss with the butter, mint, salt and pepper. Serve hot or at room temperature.
Serves 8-10.


  • 500g raspberries, fresh or frozen, reserving a few for the top

  • 1 sheet sponge cake (I used Ernest Adams sheet sponge)

  • 2 packets raspberry jelly


  • 125g dark chocolate

  • 6 egg yolks

  • 160g sugar

  • 600ml milk

  • 1 vanilla bean

  • 1 tbsp cocoa powder

  • 300ml cream

  • 1 small punnet strawberries

  • extra chocolate to grate over the top

Pick over the raspberries, reserving about 12 for the top. Place the berries in the bottom of a large cut-glass dessert bowl. Cut the sponge into fingers and place in a layer on top of the raspberries. Dissolve the jellies in 600ml of boiling water. When cool, pour over the sponge, allowing it to soak in. Chill.

To make the custard, melt the chocolate gently in a stainless-steel bowl, and keep aside. Beat the yolks and sugar together in a bowl until light and thick. Heat the milk with the vanilla bean in a heavy-based saucepan until it almost comes to the boil. Tip the hot milk into the egg mixture and stir well to combine. Rinse the pan in which the milk was heated, then return it to the heat and strain the egg, sugar and milk mixture into the pan. Add the cocoa.

Carefully reheat the custard, stirring constantly until it thickens enough to coat the spoon. It’s important not to let this boil, as the mixture will curdle. If it starts to curdle around the edges, immediately remove it from the heat and whisk vigorously until it is smooth again. Discard the vanilla bean and add the melted chocolate off the heat, gently blending it in. When the custard is cool, tip this over the sponge and raspberries to form a custard layer.

Finally, whip the cream lightly and spread it over to cover the top of the custard. Top with halved strawberries and the reserved raspberries, then grate over the extra chocolate. Chill.
Serves 10.
Wine match: asti spumante or a rosé champagne.

Free-range pork from www.harmony.co.nz. Props and table settings from: Taste Matakana, 16 Mill Lane, Warkworth; Drummers, 225 Rodney Rd, Wellsford; Fossick, Cream Factory, Matakana; Finishing Touches, Matakana Village.

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