Santa's big helpers
Yule be grateful … tuck in to a gourmet Christmas. Photo: Marina Oliphant
CHRISTMAS CAN WREAK HAVOC on our merriness. Nobody wants to be so overwrought with cooking on the day that they become the family's very own Christmas Scrooge. There is an answer: get out of the kitchen and find somebody else to do all the glazing, pudding boiling, turkey stuffing and custard-making for you.
Cutting corners at Christmas doesn't mean you need be confined to a box of mince pies from the supermarket or a dried-out takeaway bird. There are hordes of butchers and bakers, providores, cooks and chefs around Sydney who will cook most of your Christmas lunch or dinner, and some even deliver.
Christmas Day can run almost entirely on a delivery from Hive Catering, a new company with chef Jade Waszkiewicz, formerly of the Merivale Group. The company will deliver everything on Christmas Eve to Sydney's metropolitan area, and allows pick-ups, too. Come Christmas morning, with the unwrapping of presents and popping of champagne, all that's required from the house's head chef is a little reheating.
Start with Hive's pork and chicken liver terrine with mustard fruits; move on to a potted smoked trout with cornichons. Then, plate up the roasted rolled turkey breast stuffed with cranberry, speck and macadamia and carve the brown sugar, mustard and orange blossom glazed ham on the bone. Pull the (just heated through) fennel and potato gratin out of the oven and start the family rendition of Ding-dong Merrily on High.
There's Valrhona chocolate, fig and almond panforte or Tahitian vanilla spelt shortbread for dessert.
Call them Santa's little helpers or savvy suppliers - Christmas gastronomic purveyors have moved past cellophane-wrapped hampers filled with things often fobbed off via double gifting, and into the festive dinner itself.
Feather and Bone, which supplies ethical and sustainably produced meat all year, has released a range designed to make the day humane on the designated Christmas cook as well. Feather and Bone's pre-cured pasture-raised and chemical-free ham (whole, bone-in ham, $26 a kilogram) can be bought with its ''boozy half-cut'' glaze ($12 for 320 milllitres), made from cider, honey, mustard and a squeeze of orange.
The company won't glaze the ham for you, but it will cut the skin, score it on both easy-carves or bone, then all you have to do is remove the skin, spoon over the glaze and baste regularly in the oven until golden.
Feather and Bone does turkeys, too, free-range and pasture-raised ($25.50 a kilogram), and turkey stuffings, which are baked separately. ''Can't be stuffed stuffing'' is available from December 19 and is made from toasted organic pearl barley, confit garlic, mushrooms, Feather and Bone bacon and local butter ($46 a kilogram). It needs to be pre-roasted but can then just be heated and served on the day. Bourke Street Bakery also does a Christmas stuffing, using breadcrumbs from its own bread, sage, pancetta and cranberries ($15 for 750 grams).
Barossa Fine Foods does a deboned, pre-roasted turkey and pistachio roll, and as it needs a final reheat on the day, nobody need know it wasn't prepped and cooked in its entirety in your kitchen. The turkey is available from Gourmet Grocer Balmain, which also sells Christmas gravy by The Key Ingredients, an all-natural product that tastes as good as the best home-made. Save some time and get the cheese platter here: Gourmet Grocer won the ''best cheese'' award at The Sydney Morning Herald's Good Food Shopping Guide in 2011.
For elaborate fare, Victor Churchill in Woollahra has stuffed-and-trussed turkey ($144.50 for four kilograms), turkey breast done with butter and sage ($80 for about 1.5 kilograms), chestnut and bacon stuffing ($36 for one kilogram) and a festive turkey, cranberry and foie gras terrine ($99 a kilogram). There's even the convoluted ''turducken'', a boned six-kilogram turkey stuffed with a two-kilogram free-range duck, which is then stuffed with a 1.8-kilogram chicken and house-made stuffing ($290), a gourmet Frankenbeast.
Victor Churchill also does a stuffed turkey breast, hand-tied in a neat parcel with traditional chestnut, breadcrumbs and smoked bacon ($115 for about 1.5-2 kilograms). And to save even more driving around, the butcher does a Christmas pudding with brandy sauce ($50, about one kilogram), the ham glaze, cranberry sauce and side-of-smoked salmon Christmas staples; and a ''buche de Noel'' with chestnut and salted caramel ($45 to serve six to eight).
Pre-made puddings are a common way to cut corners on Christmas Day, and cooks prepared to make their own months ahead, along with the brandy butter and custard from scratch, are becoming rarer.
Feather and Bone does an orange marmalade and ginger pudding with spiced citrus syrup, made using vodka instead of the more traditional milk. You can't please everyone at Christmas, but these are gluten-and dairy-free, and packed with candied peel, almonds, preserved ginger and spices. The pudding ($72) comes with spiced citrus syrup, and Feather and Bone also sells lemon myrtle custard ($18 a litre). Three of the puddings sold this year will also include a hidden treasure - casts of bones from animals turned into solid silver jewellery.
The lazy Christmas needn't mean compromising on quality and family must-haves. Heston Blumenthal, Britain's most creative chef, has launched a Waitrose Christmas line in Coles, including a preboiled ''hidden clementine Christmas pudding'' ($7-$18), and puff-pastry mince pies filled with fruit mince, lemon curd, rosewater and apple puree, dusted with pine-scented sugar ($8 for six). Bourke Street Bakery has made mince pies this year using a buttery Sable pastry ($15 for six).
Feather and Bone has real mincemeat pies made from meat, suet, dried fruit, distilled spirits and spices ($23.50 for six). Master cake maker Flour and Stone, based in Woolloomooloo, does Italian Christmas cake, rhubarb and vanilla mince pies and intricate gingerbread houses over Christmas.
Sticklers who say Christmas should be a home cook's lovingly prepared piece de resistance, from home-cured gravlax to hours boiling a plum pudding, can just volunteer to take the job themselves.
Bah humbug to the lot of them.
Where to get it
Prices on request, 0411 369 306
Feather and Bone
Christmas orders to be made online, pick-up and delivery available
Flour and Stone
Barossa Fine Foods
Stockists at barossafinefoods.com.au.
Gourmet Grocer Balmain