Great Ocean Food: Christmas cravings

January 9, 2020 BY

We had a wonderful Christmas day spent with family in Lorne. The weather was almost perfect and there was plenty of food, wine and conversation.

I was the designated driver so my wine consumption was probably down on previous years, but if the truth be known, I made up in the food department. The menu was a joint family effort with everyone contributing.

We started with Pacific oysters, fresh lime juice and vodka. Most of the younger members of the family were drinking aperol spritz and I couldn’t help thinking this was surely the drink to capture the time perfectly. Nothing identifies the first decade of the 21st century more than an aperol spritz. Next was the course I prepared; a smoked salmon entrée with pickled fennel, radish and a minted labneh.

It was a mix of tastes and something I concocted given the brief “bring a smoked salmon salad”. I started with a minted labneh smeared on the plate and then assembled pickled fennel and radishes, asparagus spears, smoked salmon, orange segments, sprigs of dill and some edible flowers with a light French dressing.

It was very pretty and perfect for an Australian beach Christmas (recipe to follow). Next was, you guessed it, turkey, baked ham, duck fat roasted potatoes, green beans and a root vegetable salad.
My only contribution to main was the gravy for the turkey. Made from scratch, I roasted turkey and bacon bones, onions, carrot, celery and sage, rosemary and bay leaves from the garden for an hour, after which I added flour, cooked for a few minutes then poured about two litres of water into the pan and simmered for a further hour. Simply strain the gravy and add some red currant jelly. My brother-in-law cooked the turkey to perfection and it was outstanding. There was, of course far too much food but we made a joint family decision to open some presents then “push on” to dessert.

We had quite an array including Jill Dupleix’s incredibly wonderful chocolate cake, a Persian nut cake and strawberry sorbet. At this point I should have opted for a cup of tea, a small serving of sorbet and driven home. Instead, I chose the other traditional offering of plum pudding with brandy butter and vanilla ice cream, and then went back for another serving!

I justify the indulgence as most do, Christmas comes but once a year. I hope everyone had a happy and safe Christmas and New Year and look forward to more food tales in 2020.


500g smoked salmon
500g Greek yoghurt
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Half bunch of mint, finely chopped
500ml verjus
2 tablespoons honey
2 teaspoons of salt
Small bunch of radishes
Two small bulbs of fennel
Asparagus/rocket/orange/edible flowers
Sprigs of dill
Extra virgin olive oil/red wine vinegar
To prepare the labneh, place the yoghurt in some muslin (or a fine sieve) and set over a deep bowl. Cover and place in refrigerator and let drain for 24 hours. The whey is left as residue in the bowl and the result is a thick labneh to which you add the mustard and mint.
To pickle the radishes and fennel, in a small saucepan, combine the verjus, honey and salt. (If this is a little strong add half a cup of water). Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring occasionally, and then pour the mixture over the radishes and fennel in separate bowls. Allow the mixture cool to room temperature then refrigerate.
Add asparagus spears to boiling salted water, cook for two minutes then drain under cold running water. Segment oranges. For the French dressing, whisk together one tablespoon of Dijon mustard and two tablespoons of red wine vinegar in a small bowl. Continue to whisk adding olive oil to a thickness of your liking.
To assemble, smear one large spoon of labneh on a dinner plate. Next add two slices of smoked salmon and spoon over a small amount dressing. Drain pickled radish and fennel and place next to salmon. Arrange asparagus, rocket, orange segments, sprigs of dill and edible flowers decoratively on the plate.