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10 ideas for the perfect summer Christmas menu

Oysters with orange zest and dill.

Seafood stars in the entrée courses of our summer Christmas menu before turkey takes centre stage, with all the trimmings, to be followed by a fantastic fruity pudding from an old family recipe. Photography by Liz Clarkson; styling by Kate Arbuthnot.

This year, I am serving a traditional feast but giving everything a contemporary twist. Turkey is on the menu but it is a rolled, boned bird with the stuffing cooked alongside. This stuffing recipe can be used in a small, whole turkey if you prefer, or in two large chickens. The vegetables are all delicious so be sure to prepare plenty.

My mother’s Christmas pudding recipe produces the lightest, tastiest version of any I’ve tried as it has white breadcrumbs to soften the consistency. Don’t be afraid to add more rum or brandy for a punchier flavour.

My menu is designed for everyone in the family to contribute something and share the workload. If the task of Christmas cooking falls on just one person in your household, I have added a plan-ahead schedule to make things easier.

Macro alias: ModuleRenderer

Start the festivities with the very best champagne you can find. For those who want to take it slowly, or have teenagers and other folk who can’t or won’t drink alcohol, I’ve added a sophisticated cocktail made with the alcohol-free spirit Seedlip. Its recently launched new flavour has refreshing citrus notes, perfect for a summer Christmas lunch or dinner.

Christmas family cocktail

50ml Seedlip Grove 42
ice cubes
ginger beer
orange slices

Tip the Seedlip into a glass filled with ice cubes, top up with ginger beer and add orange slices to garnish.

Alternatively, make a jug of punch with 250ml of Seedlip, ice cubes and 1 litre of chilled ginger beer. Add plenty of orange slices and serve at once.

Oysters with orange zest and dill

2 dozen fresh oysters in the shell
crushed ice
zest of 1 orange
½ cup finely chopped dill or chervil
2 tbsp citrus olive oil

Shuck the oysters and lay in the half shell on a bed of crushed ice.

Place the zest in a small bowl and stir in the herbs and oil.

Place a quarter of a teaspoon of the mixture onto each oyster and serve at once.

Seafood platter with coconut dressing.

Seafood platter with coconut dressing

1 buttercrunch lettuce
400g snapper or tarakihi fillets
2 lemons, juice only
2 tsp salt, and salt and pepper to season
200ml coconut cream
2 tsp finely chopped chives
400g scallops
3 tbsp butter
400g fresh salmon
3 tbsp grapeseed oil
400g Australian prawns
1kg fresh mussels
½ cup white wine
1 lemon, juice only
1 tbsp chopped parsley
a handful of watercress


400g can of coconut cream
2 shallots, finely chopped
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar or lemon juice
2 tbsp chopped fresh chives
2 tbsp chopped fresh basil
1 tsp chilli flakes
salt and pepper

Separate the lettuce leaves and place in ice-cold water to refresh for an hour before serving.

Cut the snapper into bite-sized pieces and place in a bowl with the juice and salt. Marinate for 1 hour or longer, then drain and return to the bowl. Stir in the coconut cream and chives, season to taste with salt and black pepper, then chill.

Dry the scallops with a paper towel. Heat the butter in a small frying pan, add the scallops and cook quickly on medium heat, then season and refrigerate.

Cut the salmon into chunks and season with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a frying pan and cook the salmon for about 2 minutes on each side until just cooked through. Remove from the pan and refrigerate.

Bring a saucepan of water to the boil. Place the prawns in a steamer, cover and steam for 2-3 minutes until opaque. Remove from the heat immediately, then season to taste with salt and refrigerate.

Clean the mussel shells and place in a large saucepan with the wine. Bring to the boil and cook until the shells open, then remove from the heat. Take the mussels from the shells and place back in the pan with the juices, to keep moist. When needed, drain the mussels and place in a bowl, then season to taste with salt, add the lemon juice and parsley, mix and refrigerate.

Wash the watercress, remove any thick stalks and set aside to drain.

To prepare the coconut dressing, mix all the ingredients together and season to taste with salt and pepper.

To assemble, bring the seafood to room temperature. Dry the lettuce leaves and lay on a large platter. Spoon the salmon, prawns, scallops and mussels onto the lettuce and garnish with watercress. Serve the marinated fish and coconut sauce alongside in separate bowls.

Serves 10
Wine match: champagne or chenin blanc

Boned turkey roll with cranberry and orange sourdough stuffing.

Boned turkey roll with cranberry and orange sourdough stuffing

1 cup dried cranberries
3 oranges, zest and juice
3 tbsp lightly flavoured oil
3 tbsp butter
1 large red onion, finely chopped
6 rashers of streaky bacon, chopped
2 cups sourdough breadcrumbs
¼ cup chopped tarragon
salt and pepper
2kg rolled boned turkey
500ml chicken stock

Place the cranberries in a small bowl and add the juice and zest; leave to stand for at least 1 hour to soften.

Melt the oil and butter together in a large frying pan and add the onion and bacon. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until both are golden. Remove from the heat, cool briefly, then add the breadcrumbs, cranberries with any juice, tarragon and salt and pepper to taste. Allow the stuffing to cool completely before using.

Preheat the oven to 190°C.

Lay the boned turkey on a clean board and spread it out, skin-side down. Put a little of the stuffing in the centre and roll it up, tying with cotton string to form a neat parcel. Form the rest of the stuffing into balls a little larger than a golf ball. Season the outer skin of the turkey and place in a roasting dish, then surround with stuffing balls. Pour in the stock and roast for 45 minutes, or until a skewer pushed into the centre of the turkey comes out clean.

To make a gravy, remove the turkey and stuffing balls to a warmed serving platter and cover with foil. Add a sprinkling of flour to the remaining liquid in the roasting dish, scraping and stirring well until a light sauce forms.

Carve the turkey into neat slices and serve with the stuffing balls, gravy and vegetable dishes.

Serves 10
Wine match: pinot noir

Miso-roasted carrots and beetroot with rocket and fresh cheese.

Miso-roasted carrots and beetroot with rocket and fresh cheese


3 tbsp miso
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp apple vinegar
1 tsp sesame oil


1kg small carrots, peeled
6 small beetroot, peeled and quartered
3 tbsp olive oil
fresh thyme leaves
salt and pepper
2 cups rocket leaves
½ cup fresh goat or buffalo cheese

Make the dressing by shaking all the ingredients together in a jar.

Preheat the oven to 180°C.

Toss the carrots and beetroot with the olive oil in a roasting pan. Add the thyme, season with salt and pepper and place in the oven. Roast until vegetables are tender and starting to turn golden; remove and cool.

To serve, scatter the carrots and beetroot onto a platter and gently mix through the rocket leaves and dressing. Crumble over the fresh cheese to finish.

Serves 10

Baked vegetable salad with balsamic

1 cup Israeli couscous
6 tbsp olive oil
2 king sweetie peppers
2 small fennel bulbs
2 courgettes
salt and pepper
12 small tomatoes (campari)
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
½ cup basil leaves

Preheat the oven to 180°C.

Simmer the couscous in salted water for 12 minutes until soft and the water is absorbed. Drain well and stir through 2 tablespoons of the oil.

Slice the peppers, fennel and courgettes, place in a roasting pan with the remaining oil, season with salt and pepper and place in the oven for 20 minutes. Add the tomatoes and continue to cook for a further 5-10 minutes.

To serve, very gently combine the couscous and vegetables, including the pan juices. Drizzle over the vinegar and garnish with basil.

Serves 10 

Minted green peas and buttery baby potatoes

1kg fresh or frozen peas
1kg baby new potatoes (Perlas or jersey bennes)
1 cup mint leaves
100g butter
salt and pepper

Remove the peas from their pods if using fresh.

Scrub the potatoes and cut any larger ones into halves or quarters. Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil, add the potatoes and cook for 15-20 minutes until tender, then drain.

Bring another saucepan of salted water to the boil, add the peas and two sprigs of the mint, cook for 3 minutes, then drain.

Combine the peas and potatoes with the butter, remaining mint and season with salt and pepper. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Serves 8-10

Patricia Stevens’ Christmas pudding.

Patricia Stevens’ Christmas Pudding

This precious family recipe has been handed down to me from my mother, Patricia Stevens, who got it from her mother. It is a classic Christmas pudding, made light and airy by the addition of soft white breadcrumbs. Serve it with homemade vanilla custard, caramel cream sauce and vanilla or berry ice cream.

250g raisins
250g sultanas
250g currants
250g butter
250g brown sugar
5 eggs
125g flour
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp mixed spice
½ tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
250g soft white breadcrumbs
150g glacé cherries, halved
zest of 1 orange
½ tsp each of vanilla and lemon essence
4 tbsp brandy or rum

Boil the raisins, sultanas and currants together in enough water to cover for 1 minute. Leave overnight to cool and absorb the liquid.

Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a  time, beating well between each addition.

Sift in the dry ingredients, then add the breadcrumbs, mixed fruit, cherries, zest, essence and brandy.

Butter and flour a 7-cup or 2.5l stainless-steel basin or bowl. Pour in the mixture and cover with baking paper. Cover paper with foil, pleating up the edges so that they do not trail into the water. Place the pudding in a very large saucepan of boiling water that comes halfway up the bowl. Cover saucepan and steam for 4½ hours, checking occasionally so it does not boil dry.

The pudding can be made ahead and refrigerated for several weeks. Reheat by steaming for an hour before serving.

Decorate with fresh strawberries and scoops of ice cream and serve with warm custard and caramel cream sauce.

Serves 12 with leftovers

Vanilla custard

6 egg yolks
160g sugar
600ml milk
1 vanilla bean, halved lengthways

Beat together the yolks and sugar. Heat the milk with the vanilla bean in a heavy-based saucepan until it almost comes to the boil. Strain the hot milk onto the egg mixture and stir well to combine. Strain the mixture into a clean saucepan and gently warm, stirring constantly, until it coats the back of a spoon. (Do not boil the custard as it will curdle – if it does start to curdle around the edges, remove immediately from the heat and whisk vigorously until it is smooth again.) Pour into a jug or bowl, then cover and refrigerate.

Serves 10

Caramel cream sauce

300ml cream
150g white sugar
½ cup water
pinch of sea salt

Warm the cream in a saucepan without boiling. Pour the sugar and water into a heavy-based saucepan and gently heat until the sugar dissolves. Increase the heat and caramelise the sugar, swirling the pan occasionally, but not stirring. Once the caramel is golden, add the warm cream – it will spit – and swirl the pan to combine, then set aside to cool. Add a pinch of sea salt and pour into a jar, then cover and refrigerate.

Serves 10

Tablecloth, brass plate, brass salad servers from greenwithenvy.co.nz. All other props from Quail Farm Collectibles, Omaha Beach

This article was first published in the December 8, 2018 issue of the New Zealand Listener.