How to bring the family together come Christmas time

Christmas gingerbread house with Adam Liaw

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For Adam Liaw, nothing captures the Christmas spirit like the whole family gathering together around a delicious home-cooked feast.

It's one of the great joys of the festive season: sharing good food with the people you love most.

Across the world on Christmas Day, families gather around tables, bonding over inherited recipes and cherished flavours. For many, this is the most important meal of the year, and perhaps the only time everyone can be together.

Adam Liaw on the spirit of Christmas and how his family like to celebrate.
Adam Liaw on the spirit of Christmas and how his family like to celebrate.  

"Christmas is the big reunion for our family," Adam tells Good Food. "That's what it's about for us. We're all spread out all over the world, and everyone makes the effort to get to the same place for Christmas."

Around Malaysian-born Liaw's table in Sydney you'll find his wife, Asami and the couple's three children, Christopher, Anna and Benji as well as aunts, uncles, cousins and relatives from various countries.

Liaw happily takes on the lion's share of Christmas cooking and relishes the task. In fact, he says his favourite Christmas was the one when he very first stepped up to take charge in the kitchen.

"We had everyone in Sydney, my mum came from overseas, my dad came from interstate, my brothers and sisters came from all over the world, and it was my favourite Christmas because we all had such a good time. It was quite relaxing and special to do it in my own home for the first time," he recalls.

With family connections in China, Malaysia, Singapore and Japan, Liaw has a treasure trove of culinary influences to draw upon for his family feast. He likes to build these into the traditional staples: turkey, roast meats and the centrepiece that's a family favourite – a giant glazed ham.

"No matter whatever else we do, we always do a ham because everybody absolutely loves it," says Liaw. "That's the one thing we all look forward to – the ham on Christmas Day. We order it months in advance to ensure we get exactly the one we want."

For Liaw, Christmas is a time to reunite with his family.

For Liaw, Christmas is a time to reunite with his family. 

Liaw also challenges himself to create a different flavour for each year's ham. "Each year I try to come up with a new, slightly different glaze for the ham," he says. For 2019, he's created a seasonally-driven glaze of "summer stone fruits, with peach, apricot, apple and prunes in there."

When it comes to the turkey, Liaw relies on a tried-and-true family recipe. "We tend to do the same stuffing for turkey that my mum always used to do – an eight-treasure stuffing," he says. "It's usually done in Chinese cooking with duck, so it's a lot of glutenous rice, Chinese sausage and mushrooms and things."

Liaw believes the magic of a family Christmas feast can begin in the kitchen, with everyone joining forces to help create the spread they'll later sit down to enjoy. But to avoid confusion and maintain peace and goodwill, he recommends some basic organisational strategies.

Liaw's top tip: be like Santa and make a list (checking it twice is optional).

"My best advice is to make a list of everything that needs to be done and stick it to the fridge," he says.

It's all hands on deck in the Liaw family's kitchen!

It's all hands on deck in the Liaw family's kitchen! 

"Then, when people ask you if there's anything they can do, you can point them to the list. Usually, half the problem is that someone asks you a question, they want to help and you want them to help – but you don't have the brainpower to work out what they should actually do."

He adds: "If you tell them to look at the list, which may say 'peel the prawns, 'pick the herbs' or 'go buy ice', you have a list people can reference and people can help you out with."

And once those tasks are all crossed off, then comes the most enjoyable combined family effort: savouring a feast prepared with love, while celebrating the joy of simply being together.

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