Providores taking the heat off in the kitchen

Christmas trend ... pre-prepared luxury food.
Christmas trend ... pre-prepared luxury food. Photo: Angle Brkic

IF THERE'S a trend in food this Christmas, it's buying and eating the best produce, but getting some of the hard work done for you.

The Barossa artisan producer Saskia Beer raises free-range poultry, pork and lamb. This year she introduced a cooked turkey in response to customers who thought her whole birds were too difficult to cook or required special handling. ''People wanted the whole thing done for them,'' she says. This Christmas you can order a ''Beer family feast'' through Thomas Dux, comprising a stuffed and cooked free-range turkey that only needs gentle reheating and comes with a hamper of Saskia and Maggie Beer pates, condiments and glazes. It's a little like having Beer and her mother, food doyenne Maggie, cooking your Christmas feast.

Sydney providore Grant Hilliard, from Feather and Bone, is also seeing the trend.

''People are demanding pre-prepared food at a much higher level,'' he says. ''Everyone wants to be able to cross something off their list, to save an hour or two in the kitchen. But they still want really good food.''

Among Feather and Bone's offerings this year are pre-scored hams, glazes and two turkey stuffings. Customers can even choose their turkey breed: the heritage bronze wing, with a darker meat, and the more common, larger-breasted white.

Unusually, Feather and Bone even offer ''nose-to-tail'' jewellery made from casts of meat bones by the Sydney jeweller Venerari. This year three of their Christmas puds will contain hidden treasure in the form of sterling silver lamb shin bones - a modern-day shilling or sixpence.

Seafood has long been an essential part of the Australian Christmas table and this year will be no different. The fish market is holding a 36-hour seafood marathon from 5am Sunday, December 23, to 5pm on Christmas Eve. More than 100,000 people are expected to buy more than 600 tonnes of fresh seafood in that time.

While salmon, oysters and prawns are perennially popular, John Sussman from the seafood marketing company Fisheads Seafood Strategy says savvy buyers ''should look for whole wild fish or shellfish that are not traditionally celebratory, like mussels, clams, cockles''.