Festive fare: Impress your relatives with this Christmas seafood feast.
Festive fare: Impress your relatives with this Christmas seafood feast. Photo: Steve Shanahan

With Christmas closing in and plans for the annual family inundation afoot, the menu of the day requires some forward planning. As my job requires a lot of stove time, my aim is to reduce food preparation input on the day so I can spend it with family and friends. Our Christmas main meal will be a late seafood lunch spiked with fresh, citrus flavours, with just a hint of Tetsuya and Spirit House. And for fun, we will celebrate with some retro flavour combinations of prawns, coconut and pineapple. Just to prove we are the height of absolute sophistication, you won't see a Golden Circle pineapple ring within cooee.

The dressings in this meal give it a good kick along, highlighting the seafood flavours that are a foil for the piquancy of the pretty pickled salad. The bulk of the preparation is in the dressings and salad, so be prepared to put the effort in the day before so you don't spend Christmas day stuck in the kitchen. Then on the day, grab another willing set of hands to help you pull it together. The complete menu serves four to six people. It's not an exact science, so just increase the quantities of everything to feed greater numbers.

Suppliers assured me that the listed foods would be in plentiful supply over the holidays. The seafood was purchased from FishCo Fish Market at Fyshwick and the Foie Gras from The Essential Ingredient in Kingston. The yuzu and shredded nori can be purchased from most Asian grocers and the seafood salad can be bought frozen from JJ's Fysh at Fyshwick Markets. Keep any unused portions of seafood salad, which is essentially seaweed, in the freezer and this can be added to other meals, including soups, salads or with cold meats. 

Dressed for success: The pretty pickled salad is a refreshing side dish.
Dressed for success: The pretty pickled salad is a refreshing side dish. Photo: Steve Shanahan

Hint: To avoid mixing up the dressings, print the name of the dressing on some masking tape and stick it to the lid of the jar or container. This helps when it comes to putting the meal together.

Pretty pickled salad

½ cup rice vinegar
¾ cup sugar
½ cup water
1 tsp salt
1 cup each of shredded carrot, shredded white radish (Daikon), shredded cucumber, thinly sliced small red onion
2 tbsp grated ginger
1 cup bean sprouts
4 kaffir lime leaves, centre rib removed and finely shredded
½ cup coriander, chopped
½ cup mint leaves, chopped
2 tbsp toasted sesame seeds

Catching the bug: The Balmain Bugs go perfectly with the smoky tea.
Catching the bug: The Balmain Bugs go perfectly with the smoky tea. Photo: Steve Shanahan

Salad dressing

2 tbsp plum sauce
2 tsp sugar
pinch of salt
2 tbsp warm water
2 tbsp lime juice
1 tsp sesame oil

On the day before:

Pineapple express: The Crispy prawns with garlic and pineapple salsa is a classic retro flavour combination.
Pineapple express: The Crispy prawns with garlic and pineapple salsa is a classic retro flavour combination. Photo: Steve Shanahan

Combine the vinegar, water, sugar and salt in a saucepan and bring to the boil, stirring occasionally. When the sugar has dissolved, remove from the heat and cool.

In a bowl, mix together the carrot, radish, cucumber, onion and ginger. Pour over the cooled syrup, cover with glad wrap and allow to pickle overnight. Keep refrigerated until ready to use. This will send off some fermenting vegetable smells, this is normal.

To make the dressing, combine all the ingredients in a bowl or jar and shake to combine. This can be left out of the refrigerator until ready to use.

When ready to serve:

Drain the pickled vegetables from the liquid and discard. Allow the vegetables to drain in a colander until there is little liquid remaining. Transfer to a bowl along with the bean sprouts, kaffir lime leaves, coriander and mint. Pour over the dressing and mix to combine, transfer to a serving plate and sprinkle with the sesame seeds.

Scallops with strawberries and yuzu juice

12 scallops, without roe or shells
¼ punnet of ripe strawberries, finely chopped
handful of chives cut into 4cm lengths
handful of tarragon, chopped

Dressing

5 large strawberries, crushed with a potato masher
2 tbsp yuzu juice, or lemon juice
½ tsp sugar
salt and pepper to taste

On the day before:

Combine all the dressing ingredients in a small jar and refrigerate until you are ready to dress the scallops.

When ready to serve:

Bring a small saucepan of water to a rolling boil. Plunge the scallops into the boiling water, leave to cook for fifteen seconds, then remove. The flesh should be only just turning white. Slice the scallops in half and lay overlapping on a platter. Drizzle the vinaigrette and scatter the chopped strawberries, tarragon and chives over the arranged scallops. The acid in the lemon will further "cook" the scallops.

Crispy prawns with garlic and pineapple salsa

700g of large green prawns, peeled and deveined
5 tbsp rice flour
3 cups of vegetable oil for deep frying
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
handful of coriander, chopped
lime wedges

Pineapple salsa

½ a fresh pineapple, peeled, quartered and core removed
3 fresh chillis, sliced finely
1 tablespoon of desiccated coconut
handful of both fresh mint and coriander, chopped finely
salt and pepper to taste

On the day before:

For the pineapple salsa, chop the pineapple finely and combine with the remainder of the salsa ingredients. Leave in refrigerator to marinate until required.

When ready to serve:

Toss the prawns with the rice flour. Heat the oil in a wok or large saucepan till very hot. Fry the garlic until browned and remove with a slotted spoon to drain on paper towel. Fry the prawns in batches until golden and crispy, this should only take a minute or so. Drain on paper towel and transfer to a serving platter. Garnish with the coriander and garlic. Serve with the lime wedges.

Roasted Balmain bugs with smoky tea

10 Balmain bugs, cooked
1 tsp of Lapsang souchong black tea
1 cup of defrosted seafood salad.
1 leek, julienned
1 cup of vegetable oil
shredded nori

Dressing

1 tbsp macadamia oil (or other flavoured nut oil)
½ tsp sherry vinegar

Preheat the oven to 260C.

The day before:

Combine the sherry vinegar and macadamia oil in a small jar and leave to infuse. For the leeks, heat the oil till very hot and fry the leek in batches until browned and crispy. Remove and drain on paper towel. Keep in an airtight container until ready to use.

When ready to serve:

Chop the heads off the bugs and cut them in half, lengthwise with a chopper or a pair of strong kitchen shears. Remove the heads and discard. Season the bugs with salt and pepper to taste. Grind the tea to a powder in a mortar and pestle and sprinkle on the flesh side of the bugs.

Place the bugs, still in half shells, on an oven tray and place in the oven for about three minutes till just feeling warm on the outside. To serve, place the seafood salad on a serving platter. Place the bug halves on top and pile up in the centre. Drizzle with the dressing and arrange the leeks and shredded nori on the top.

Duck foie gras with black rice and avocado

4 to 6 duck foie gras, about 30g each
1 tbsp mirin
1 cup cooked black or red rice
¼ avocado, finely diced

Avocado Puree

½ avocado, peeled
100ml milk
salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp finely chopped chives

Dressing

1 tsp honey
50ml soy sauce
1 tsp lemon juice

Garnish

2 tbsp toasted and crushed sesame seeds

small bunch of chives, cut into 4 cm lengths

On the day before:

To make the avocado puree, blend all the ingredients until pureed in a food processor or blender. Store in a jar in the refrigerator until ready to use.

To make the dressing, combine all the ingredients in a small jar and shake. Store out of the refrigerator until ready to use.

Toast the sesame seeds in a small frypan until golden. Crush the roasted seeds in a mortar and pestle until fine and crumbly. Store in an airtight container until ready to use.

In a small bowl, mix the pre-made rice with the mirin and cover with glad wrap and store in the refrigerator until ready to use.

When ready to serve

Place four (or six) spoonfuls of rice separately piled on a large serving platter. Place a spoonful of chopped avocado on top of each spoon of rice. Spoon a little avocado puree over the top of each. Then top with a round of foie gras. Spoon a teaspoon or two of dressing over the foie gras and top with a good sprinkle of crushed sesame seeds and chives.