The Kwong family Christmas is the most incredible mix of Australian and Cantonese-style cooking. It gets bigger every year (there are more than 70 of us now!) and the day is usually spent standing in the kitchen chopping, bantering and slicing. It's all very Joy Luck Club.
The first time I took my partner, Nell, to a Kwong family Christmas was quite an experience for her. We pulled up at my cousin's house, and here was Mum and all my aunties with aprons in their handbags and chopping boards in their car boots, carrying knives, roast chickens and a whole suckling pig. Very different to the Christmases Nell spent growing up with a small family in Maitland!
Everyone brings a plate. My brother Paul usually picks up miche sourdough loaves from Sonoma, while Aunty Connie brings a thermos of chicken stock used for poaching choy sum at dinner. Uncle Jimmy is responsible for his famous noodles and Aunty June, who is Australian, brings fresh pineapple, ham and tomato sauce.
There will be turkey, but it's usually roasted and chopped up Chinese style, sitting next to barbecue pork and white-cooked chicken. Everyone's contributions result in a hilarious, amazing combination of food on the table and it's such a fun day.
Photo: William Meppem
Kingfish sashimi with organic tamari, ginger and chilli
There's always seafood at a Kwong Christmas, of course, because we're Cantonese and we love it. Everyone in my family especially loves sashimi, which really lends itself to the Australian summer.
600g sashimi-grade yellowtail kingfish fillet
1-2 large red chillies, finely sliced
Sichuan pepper and salt (see recipe)
⅓ cup quality brown rice vinegar
¼ cup brown sugar
¼ cup water
⅓ cup quality organic tamari
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp quality extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp finely grated ginger
1 tbsp finely grated white onion
1. Using a very sharp knife, cut fish into 5mm slices and arrange on platter.
2. Pour vinegar into a heatproof bowl. Place sugar and water in a small pan and bring to the boil. Then turn the heat down to medium and allow to caramelise until it is dark brown – this will take about 5 minutes. Just before caramel begins to smoke, take from heat, quickly pour into vinegar bowl and whisk well. Add tamari, sesame oil and whisk well. Add extra virgin olive oil and whisk well, then stir through ginger and onion.
3. Drizzle dressing over kingfish, garnish with red chillies and sprinkle with Sichuan pepper and salt, serve immediately.
Serves 4 as part of a shared-starter
Photo: William Meppem
Newspaper roasted ocean trout with black bean and ginger vinaigrette
This whole trout can be cooked in the morning, transported in the car and take pride of place on the table. A beautiful, refreshing and delicious dish.
2kg whole ocean trout, cleaned and scaled
2 sheets non-stick baking paper
8 large sheets newspaper
6 eggs, soft-boiled, peeled
leaves of 1 bunch mint
leaves of 1 bunch sweet Thai basil
leaves of 1 bunch coriander
3 tbsp olive oil (Note: this is "olive oil", not extra virgin)
5cm piece ginger, finely julienned
4 garlic cloves, finely diced
1 small red onion, finely sliced
2 tbsp salted black beans
1 long red chilli, finely sliced
⅓ cup shao hsing wine
1 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp water
1 tbsp tamari
1 tbsp malt vinegar
1 tsp sesame oil
⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
1. First make the vinaigrette. Heat the olive oil in a hot wok, add ginger, garlic, onions, black beans, chilli and stir-fry 2 minutes. Add wine, stir-fry 1 minute. Add sugar, water, tamari and caramelise 2 minutes. Add vinegar and sesame oil. Remove from heat and slowly stir in the extra virgin olive oil
2. Preheat oven to 250C (230C fan-forced). Take ocean trout from refrigerator 15 minutes before cooking.
3. Place a sheet of baking paper 20cm longer than fish on kitchen bench and place whole fish, length-ways, on top. Place second sheet of baking paper, same size, on top of fish and pat down onto the skin of the fish, then firmly wrap up the ends of the paper to encase the entire fish. Drench newspaper in cold water, then carefully and firmly wrap the fish, just like a parcel, in the wet newspaper.
4. Place fish parcel on a wire rack (so the parcel is not directly on the tray – it overcooks otherwise) that fits inside a large roasting dish and roast for 25 minutes for "rare" fish; 25-35 minutes for medium rare; and 35-40 minutes for well done. When done to your liking, remove fish parcel from oven, immediately remove newspaper, then carefully remove baking paper. Transfer or slide fish onto a large serving platter. The bottom layer of the baking paper should slide away from the fish quite easily.
5. Cut eggs in half and arrange around the fish. Drizzle fish with vinaigrette or serve on the side in bowl. Garnish with fresh herbs.
6. To serve, you can either make clean incisions with a chef's knife along the top of the fish, portioning out individual serves, or you can use a fish slice or spoon to remove the flesh in a more rustic fashion.
Photo: William Meppem
Fried cauliflower with chickpeas, pickled green chillies and spices
A Christmas side dish with a difference, featuring flavours inspired by my travels in north-west China.
2 cups (400g ) dried chickpeas
1 medium-sized cauliflower, cut into florets – about 500g florets
¼ cup (125ml) olive oil, for frying
1 bunch coriander, leaves only
juice of 1 lemon
⅓ cup (80ml) extra virgin olive oil
½ tsp Sichuan pepper and salt (see recipe)
1 tsp salt flakes
Pickled green chillies
1 tbsp olive oil
3cm piece ginger, sliced
2 garlic cloves crushed
3 long green chillies, roughly sliced
1 tbsp shao hsing wine
½ tsp brown sugar
1 tsp tamari
1 tsp brown rice vinegar
½ tsp cumin seeds
½ tsp coriander seeds
½ tsp fennel seeds
½ tsp Sichuan peppercorns
½ tsp chilli flakes
½ star anise
½ tsp ground cinnamon
1. Soak chickpeas in plenty of cold water overnight.
2. Next day, drain chickpeas and place in a pan covered with cold water. Bring to the boil, then simmer over a low-moderate heat for approximately 45 minutes or until tender. Allow the chickpeas to cool in their cooking water, then drain. Set aside.
3. For the spices, place all ingredients except cinnamon in a heavy-based pan and dry-roast for several minutes until fragrant. Pour into a bowl to cool, then grind to a fine powder using an electric grinder or a mortar and pestle. Stir in the cinnamon and store in an airtight jar until required.
4. To make the pickled green chillies, heat oil in a wok, then add ginger, garlic and chillies and stir-fry for 2 minutes or until chillies start to blister. Add shao hsing wine and stir-fry for 30 seconds. Add sugar, tamari and vinegar and stir-fry for 2 minutes, then remove from wok and set aside.
5. Heat half the olive oil in the cleaned-out wok over a high heat. When hot, add half of the cauliflower, reduce heat to medium and cook for about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until cauliflower starts to turn dark golden-brown. Remove with a slotted spoon, then add remaining olive oil, and repeat with remaining cauliflower. When second batch of cauliflower is cooked, return first batch to wok, along with chickpeas. Swirl chickpeas around wok for about 2 minutes so they heat up, searing and blending with the cauliflower.
6. Pour cauliflower and chickpea mix into a bowl. Add coriander, lemon, extra virgin olive oil, Sichuan pepper and salt, pickled chillies and spices. Mix well before serving.
Serves 4-6 as part of a shared meal