Maggie Beer would be without doubt Australia’s favourite and most celebrated cook.
Her annual Christmas festive feast, like many others, is based on traditions established years ago in the northern hemisphere.
Her own celebration is usually held outdoors in the courtyard of her garden, sitting under a ‘hundred year old wisteria, whiling away the time eating and chatting and being entertained’ by excited children.
Christmas is all about forgiveness and togetherness, a time when we can chill out with people we love and care about, as well as those people we want to draw into our family circle to share the bounties of life.
Being able to provide our friends and family all with beautiful food from produce that has come to us fresh from the paddock to the plate is part of the cultural heritage of Australia, a country born first on the ‘sheep’s back’.
Maggie’s beautiful publication, Maggie’s Christmas recipe book was released in 2013,
Since then it has been undoubtedly inspiring a whole new generation of aspiring cooks and chefs to create their own traditions and celebrate life respecting the pleasures of table
Maggie Beer has her home paddock setting and farm shop selling her famous range of fabulous pate, her fruit pastes, jams, sauces and stunning verjuice in the beautiful Barossa Valley in South Australia.
Her ‘eponymous pate range is renowned, with her Duck, Currant & Muscat Pate, garnering fans.
The Barossa is a truly lovely place, where the richness of the soil and the abundance brings forth aids the growth of our food and wine industry.
Nationally it is an important aspect of our economic growth, helping to ensure our ‘art of life’.
Farmed mostly by immigrants, who knew the value of caring for the land with crop rotation and traditional farming skills, the Barossa Valley for all those who live there and travel there is a stress free environment, one where the Australian love of life is both shared and honoured.
Maggie’s Christmas has all the recipes you would expect, as well as a great many other surprises.
From pre-Christmas drinks to a Carols Buffet for the Choir, to a Christmas Eve Supper and a Blue Swimmer Crab Omelette that sounds like perfect fare for those who enjoy a light touch, will be sure to delight.
Then there is a magical roast quail with figs and bacon and parmesan polenta, for those who like it a bit more substantial.
Christmas Day lunch and Boxing Day leftovers will be sure to tempt and seduce even the most jaded palate.
You can start your own tradition with Maggie’s Christmas if you want to go for a Roast Goose with Marmalade and Cumquat Stuffing and Goose-fat roasted potatoes. However if you prefer a Turkey, well Maggie stuffs hers with prune and orange stuffing and serves it with a yummy English Cumberland sauce, instead of gravy.
If you love a pork loin with an outstanding crackling then you need to stock up on Maggie’s wonderful verjuice, a magic potion if ever there was one.
It’s available through selected retailers and also direct from her farmshop.
It is served with a side of fresh and juicy halved green grapes.
Then there is the salad of paw paw, mango and rocket served with a lime dressing – what a combination, sure to put a zing in your mouth and refresh the palate.
Maggie serves her traditional pudding with cumquat brandy butter and the less traditional peaches with sparkling ruby jelly and clotted cream.
Both sound cholesterol nightmares, but hey it is Christmas, which fortunately only comes around once a year.
On Boxing Day you can chill out with a turkey salad with figs, bread and walnuts served with gourmet greens, which goes down very easily, light and luscious.
If you want a little more substantial then there is the lobster salad with waxy potatoes, preserved artichokes and tarragon mayonnaise.
Maggie produces superb dried fruits on her farm, her apricots and pears are to die for. Love the idea of her dried apricot pavlova!
If you are planning a chic New Year’s Dinner with a group of friends then she has the game all sown up with a mouth watering menu that ends on a flourish with cumquat, almond and chocolate tart followed by walnut bread with ripe blue cheese and of all things, honeycomb.
Guaranteed to take you back to childhood.
For those who are just aching for a great piece of beef Maggie has the perfect answer.
A dish that cooks slowly on New Year’s Day while you are lying around, watching the start of the Hobart yacht race on the tele, chatting to the family and chilling out around the pool.
Her slow-cooked fillet of Angus beef, seasoned with such aromatic and flavour filled ingredients like thyme, rosemary, juniper berries and orange zest will deserve a trumpet fanfare.
Especially if you follow it with her suggested Nectarine tarte tantine.
The beef is best washed won with a superb Barossa Valley Shiraz.
What I have covered here is only the tip of the iceberg, there is so many wonderful recipes in Maggie’s Christmas and you won’t need any other book on your shelf you will be so entirely captivated working out what to cook first.
Well I must away, am off to make Maggie Beer’s lemon-glazed chicken wings to go with a cold glass of the necessary when the family drops in for a quick visit – that is if they last that long.
Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle, 2013-2014
Published by Lantern, an imprint of Penguin Books