Diary of time in Melbourne- entry no. 10

Coming into the festive season I thought it would be great if those of you reading this shared some favourite recipes/ food stories for this time of year. Unsurprsingly I love Christmas! Not only is it a a great chance to rally all your loved ones together, but there’s always a license to eat as much as you want.

I remember as a child not being able to eat the Christmas pudding one year, as it was so soaked in brandy because it wouldn’t light! Last year, I decided to cook a whole snapper for the family. Upon getting the snapper delivered though, I realized that I had gotten a little carried away with the weight I requested. It was far too big for my oven, and so it had to be filleted before I could cook it! My family is also always keen for a game of backyard cricket or boule, with a glass of punch or beer never too far away.

Everyone has their different traditions at this time of the year. Something my family has done for as long as I can remember is having pancakes on Christmas morning, before the inevitable feast that was to follow for lunch. I love pancakes, they’re easy, you can make the batter in advance, and most importantly it gives you an excuse to have ice cream with your breakfast!

My recipe results in fluffy, thick pancakes (well, hotcakes more so) as I prefer these to the thinner crepe version.

1 ¾ cup self raising flour

1 1/4 cup milk

2 eggs

4 Tablespoons castor sugar

To serve:

Lemon juice and sugar, banana, maple syrup and icecream, strawberries and cream are some the combinations I am partial to.

Make a well with the flour in a large bowl. Whisk together milk, eggs and sugar, and pour into the well. Using a whisk, incorporate the dry and wet ingredients to a smooth batter. Cover with clingfilm and transfer to the fridge until ready to cook. I often do this Christmas eve so I can just wake up and cook them in the morning. Even if you make them in the morning it is a good idea to rest the batter for half an hour in the fridge before cooking to relax the gluten in the flour.

I have a great non-stick pan at home, and so my little trick is to actually cook the pancakes in a dry pan, that is, no butter or oil whatsoever. I find this gives the a really even colour, but if you don’t have a good non stick pan I would cook them in a little butter.

Another favourite amongst my family has always been having a pavlova on Christmas day. I am a fan of Donna Hay’s recipe, as I find it gives a really pleasing result and gives that nice combination of crisp outer shell with a softer and more marshamallowy interior. Is marshmallowy a word? Probably not. A pavlova is very much a blank canvas and you can cover it in whatever you want. I can’t say I’m a fan of chocolate on a pav, as they are sweet enough. For me fruit is the way to go, and acidic fruit at that. I think a really simple vanilla Chantilly cream with halved pitted cherries is delicious, and screams of Christmas. You don’t see cherries around much during the year (well, not good cherries) and so my family would not eat them. Come December though, we would go crazy and buy them in bulk and snack on them constantly.

My Aunty, who makes the best pav in the world (no bias) uses kiwi fruit to cover hers, but I think New Zealand already have a fairly solid claim on its invention, so I think using kiwi fruit is admitting defeat! Passionfruit and berries also work well.

10 points if anyone can make out any of the cookbooks on the shelf in the photo above!

Pavlova:            (thanks Donna)

4 egg whites

1 cup castor sugar

3 teaspoons cornflour

1 teaspoon white vinegar

Preheat oven to 150 degrees Celsius. Place egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat until soft peaks form. Gradually add sugar, beating well until the mixture is glossy. Sift the cornflour over the egg white mix and fold through with the vinegar.

Pile the meringue mixture into an 18cm round on a baking tray lined with non-stick baking paper. Place in the oven, reduce temperature to 120 degrees Celsius and cook for one hour. Turn the oven off and allow the meringue to cool in the oven. To serve, top with whipped cream and fruit and serve immediately.

Other than continuing work at Maha this week, I also spent a morning with George as he worked on an upcoming book. It was lots of fun, and best of all I got to eat the leftover food. We shot 5 dishes that morning, and so I had everything from a rabbit and mushroom braise to a fruit parfait for breakfast. A good way to start the day.

It was interesting to see the array of props the food stylist had.

Please share a story or a recipe to suit this festive season!

Lessons learned this week:

  • Writing a cookbook would be a really fun process, and plus you get to eat all the fantastic food afterwards! The only downside, is that like Masterchef, the food is cold by the time you get to enjoy it!
  • Something I learnt about myself (but have always known somewhat) is that I love teaching people to cook. Even little things like giving the kitchen hand at work my knife and showing him how to correctly chiffonade the herbs was really satisfying (he hopes to be a chef one day). I just need to find a way to channel this passion into something positive!
  • Everything tastes better when you are wearing a ridiculous paper hat from a bon-bon. Or maybe the food at Christmas time is just awesome.

26 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by greg tait on December 19, 2010 at 7:50 am

    Merry xmas Callum.
    This has been a great series of blogs ,always interesting and informative ,with plenty to learn from..
    Hope you have a very merry happy xmas with plenty of great food and good times.
    All the very best for 2011 ..
    Look forward to reading you blogs in 2011 and thanks for all the great recipes and photos ..



  2. Posted by Theresa on December 19, 2010 at 8:03 am

    Happy Christmas Callum! We’ve just finished watching the series on UK TV and thought you were brilliant. Have loved reading your blog – full of warmth and enthusiasm. Am looking forward to trying your excellent recipes over the Christmas break. All the best from a snowy Cornwall.



  3. i think this might be one of the first times i’ve seen George on a blog as a behind the scenes look. you’ve got some nice looking cherries there. better than most of the ones i’ve seen around Sydney 🙂


  4. As festive orphans, we decided as a group to spit roast a lamb. 15kg of lamb is sourced. And now to decide on stuffing and basting liquid. Any suggestions?


  5. Posted by Kirk Tse on December 19, 2010 at 8:22 am

    Merry x’mas callum~
    I saw you in melboure city circle free tram late month, and you kept look around…you were looking for the ticket machine, haha.
    Book in photo: the cook’s book (step-by-step techniques & recipes for success every time)…I saw the blue, orange, red lines on the left of photo if I’m not wrong…(I got this copy too)


  6. Posted by Lisa on December 19, 2010 at 8:48 am

    I swear i can see ‘Lotus’ by Teague Ezard on the second shelf up on the left hand hand side!


  7. Posted by Lesley on December 19, 2010 at 9:22 am

    Hey Callum. 🙂

    I’ve recently been watching Masterchef and every time you produce a dessert the judges love it. 😀

    Every Christmas, we take turns each year to make a dessert or something sweet for each of us. Whenever it was my turn I would make a boring predictable lemon and white chocolate cupcake and this year it’s my turn and I really wanted to make Macaron because they looked delicious but it seemed complicated (maybe that’s just me)

    I was wondering if you could give me some tips about making them?
    Or would it be easier to make a chocolate fondant?


    Next week is the week of Christmas, I hope you have a good week full of lots of food.

    Oh and before I forget, would you rather use silicone bakeware or actually use tins and just vegetable oil spray/butter?


  8. Oh how I love a challenge. I can definitely spot Will Studd’s Cheese Slices and I know a few of the others on that shelf too but now can’t think of the names! So frustrating…

    PS Happy Christmas!


  9. Posted by Terra Gutmann Gonzalez on December 19, 2010 at 11:31 pm

    I was born in Chile, so like in Australia, Christmas was never about snow and hot chocolate. My family would go to the beach on Christmas morning and we’d have a barbecue and eat desserts until sunset. This year I’m spending my first Christmas away from home, and in Ireland of all places, SO cold! So I brought with me my favourite Christmas dessert recipe, which I’ll share with you.


    1 ¾ cups unsifted flour
    1 ½ cups powdered sugar
    ½ cup unsweetened cocoa
    1 cup cold margarine or butter
    1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese
    1 (14-ounce) can condensed milk
    1 egg
    2 teaspoons vanilla extract
    ½ chopped walnuts

    In large bowl, combine flour, sugar and cocoa. Cut in butter until crumbly (mixture will be dry).
    Reserve 1 full cup of mixture, and press reminder on bottom of 13×9-inch baking pan. Bake 15 min.
    Put in a blender the egg, butter, vanilla, butter, and cream cheese. Blend well.
    Pour over prepared crust.
    Combine nuts with reserved crumb mixture. Sprinkle evenly over the cheese mixture.
    Bake for about 20 min. or until bubbly.
    Cool and Chill.
    Cut into bars and enjoy!

    ps: If you prepare it the night before, the flavours will be well blended.
    ps2: Marshmallowy is a word now!


  10. Posted by kitty on December 20, 2010 at 10:00 am

    hmm I think I see the “Thai Street Food” cookbook, the really big heavy one! That looks like such a great book. I will be making pavlova this year too with good ol strawberries and kiwifruit; last year, it was black forest cake 🙂


    • Well done to all those who named books on the shelf, no one guessed Stephanie Alexanders ‘a cooks companion’ though! I though the colorful spine would give it away. Cracking job regardless


  11. Love reading about everything you are learning in the restaurants. What a fantastic opportunity for you, please keep it going. We too eat heaps of cherries this time of year,luckily we live near the berry farms & get them cheap. My 18 month old, Ben, won’t even wait until they are de-pipped, he just eats them whole. My husband also insists on having a massive Christmas breaky, bacon, eggs, followed by a big bowl of berries. Then morning tea with friends, hot lunch with his family & dinner with mine. I’m full just thinking about it! Have a great Chrissy, hope you get to catch up with family & friends.


  12. Instead of Christmas, we Chinese have our Winter festival. 🙂 We eat glutinous rice balls in ginger syrup. 🙂


  13. Posted by Debbie on December 22, 2010 at 7:54 am

    Hey Callum,
    I’m from Scotland so traditionally its a bit colder over here this time of year and the food really reflects it 🙂 unlike our southern neighbours in England Christmas pudding isn’t that traditional. In old Glasgow families instead we have something called a “Clootie Dumpling” which is a really dense moist cake, similar to Christmas pud but cut into slices more like a loaf which you then put butter on. Hope you get a chance to try out the recipe 🙂

    125g suet
    250g plain flour
    125g oatmeal
    250g mixed sultanas and currants
    1 tablespoon of golden syrup
    75g sugar
    2 lightly beaten eggs
    1 teaspoon of ginger
    1 teaspoon of baking powder
    1 teaspoon of cinnamon
    4 tablespoons of milk
    1 tablespoon of flour for the cloth

    1. Rub the suet into the flour and add oatmeal, baking powder, sugar, sultanas and currants and the ginger and cinnamon. Blend together and add the eggs and syrup. Stir well and add just enough milk to firm.

    2. If you are using a cloth (cloot), put it into boiling water first then spread onto your table and sprinkle a liberal amount of flour over the inside. Put the mixture into the middle and tie up, leaving a wee bit of space for the mixture to expand.

    3. Place an upside-down saucer at the bottom of a deep pan and put the tied cloot in and cover with boiling water and simmer for about 3 hours.

    4. If you’d rather use a bowl it will need to be greased before adding the mixture. Leave an inch space at the top for the pudding to expand. Cover with greaseproof paper and tie.

    Done! if you leave it to cool it can be sliced but when its warm it’s looser and more moist and more cake like. Traditionally we put silver pennies in the cake for children to find.


  14. Posted by Caroline Wroe on December 22, 2010 at 10:18 am

    Hello Callum
    Thanks for the blog, I really enjoy keeping up with all the new experiences you have had. Love the idea of a christmas pancake breakfast so i may have to start that tradition with my family. The only problem is that we also have trifle for breakfast on boxing day. Oh well down another notch on the belt come the new year.Wishing you and your family a MERRY CHRISTMAS


  15. Your blog is fab and I’m pretty sure I can see ‘Jamie at Home’ leaning over on the second shelf up.
    I am planning on making baked French toast with loads of bacon for Christmas brekkie this year as inspired by The Pioneer Woman’s blog!
    Merry Christmas and a very happy new year to you and your family & friends.


  16. Posted by Lesley on December 23, 2010 at 6:06 am

    :O I made the pancakes/hotcakes recipe that you posted! It was so delicious, and they were slightly more puffed up then expected!

    Awesome! Thanks for sharing the recipe!

    Lemon juice and sugar ❤

    Any suggestions on how to create a perfect Pav? I can't seem to make it stay puff, it keeps deflating D;

    Have a good Christmas on Satuday!

    All the luck and enjoy the days to come 😀 (makes me sound really old o.O)


  17. Posted by Manjula Anand on December 23, 2010 at 9:11 am

    Hi Callum,

    I loved watching your cooking show @ STAR WORLD Masterchef australia is being telecasted in india, the presenation was really good with the DHAL which you cooked in the masterchef.

    Keep up ,

    Merry Christmas and Happy new year.


  18. Posted by marie dempsey on December 23, 2010 at 4:51 pm

    Hi Callum Congradulations on your time on Masterchef Aus.It was a pleasure to watch your journey through the programme and wish you every success in life. happy Christmas yours Marie Dempsey from Wexford Ireland


  19. Posted by Nathalie on December 24, 2010 at 3:39 am

    I just made the pav. It looks amazing. Thanks for sharving the recipe. Merry Christmas!


    • Can you twitpic a picture of it? Would love to see how it turned out!


      • Posted by Nathalie on December 29, 2010 at 12:21 am

        For sure. I will twitpic it tonight (if I can figure out how to twitpic!!!)
        By christmas day it tasted better than it looked because I made the shell on christmas Eve (because of time constraints) – then put the cream and cherries on on christmas day.
        still tasted yummy and my cousins said it was their fav dessert:) great recipe.

  20. Hope you had had a great Christmas, Callum. Your blog is always so nice & interesting to read. Thank you for sharing.


  21. I made a Black Forest Triple this year. 🙂 Have to try your pavlova recipe. Thanks again.


  22. Oops, ‘trifle’ sorry.


  23. Posted by Catherine Jennings on January 3, 2011 at 10:08 am

    Hey Callum!

    Huge kudos on your achievements on Masterchef!I’ve been wondering, does George shout and jump up and down on normal restaurant nights? Watching the episode where you guys relaunched the Press Club it did seem like something that would spoil the atmosphere somewhat. 😛

    So glad you’re living your dream, you deserve it! 🙂



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