An Aussie Barbecue Christmas with Ryan Andrijich
Australia and its position on the globe has been the recipient of many noteworthy descriptions. Flattering or less than kind about where we are located. We are a big desert island in the Southern hemisphere, so our sunburnt country, has a much warmer Christmas than most of our global counterparts.
For better or worse we are slowly moving away from Northern food traditions and we are seeing more diversity in the types of food and the ways we cook during the festive season. Downunder, we have far less issues with fire hazards for the fat man in the red suit as he slips down our chimneys. Dehydration and sunburn are a far greater danger, because like me, he isn’t built for the heat either.
Just as the challenges for Santa differ, I am amused each year that many Australians embark on a military scale project to cool the house and prepare a hot roast dinner replete all the trimmings, followed by custard and Christmas pudding, all in 40-degree heat!
I am from a big family and we can all cook. Big groups are second nature to us all. We all have big ovens, BBQ’s, outdoor ovens and plenty of fridge space. Despite being set up to cater for the apocalypse you always wish for a little more fridge space, extra serving dishes and can somebody please bring some ice! With an army of cooks and plenty of cooking gear we all agree, cook within your abilities and the capacity of your cooking facilities.
Many of you will have a BBQ with more cooking space than your oven. If you don’t then I am about to give you a very good excuse to buy one. The chances are most Christmas tables are going to have some kind of feature meaty delight. The problem is our eyes are often bigger than our ovens (and stomachs) and when you get that turkey or leg of ham home you are faced with the challenge of cooking something that is bigger than you have attempted before.
I love nothing more than lighting a fire to cook with. Getting some smokey flavour into the food is delicious. If you are practiced at cooking with wood or coals, Christmas is a great time to take on a big cut that you may not be able to justify at other times of the year.
Christmas is probably not the time to tackle something double the size of the largest thing you’ve cooked, and if you have never cooked with coals or smoked food before, I would caution against crossing your fingers and hoping for the best on Christmas morning.
The BBQ is the perfect way to cook large roast cuts, poultry rolls and whole birds for those seeking something more traditional. You can keep it easy and grill up some lamb chops and snags for a casual, fuss free meal. Invite Hoges’ around and Whack (slap) another shrimp on the barbie!
Rather than give you a specific recipe, here are some tips for barbecuing and other cooking that will come in handy.
A good cooking guide at 180 C. 35-40 mins per kg. Internal temperature 68-74 C. Rest for approximately half the cooking time, or a minimum of 1.5 hours. To rest, keep the bird somewhere warm on the bench, covered in foil.
This temperature range is safe, the range accounts for your preference for final colour and texture. If you are ok with a little ‘rose’ juice near the bone the lower temperature will give a moist texture. If you want no trace of pink, then hit 74 C. Test the temperature in the thickest part of the thigh and breast. Both temperatures are cooked.
TO GLAZE A HAM
This is a great and versatile recipe, I have included some notes for each ingredient, if you keep the proportions right, you can make it your own buy using your favourite brand or type of each.
- 1 leg ham (up to 7kg)
- 750ml ginger beer (Buy one that is cloudy or a natural one, more zing from the ginger is what you want)
- 2 tbsp hot English mustard. (Use a hot one, it won’t be spicy on the ham, but it rounds out the sweetness)
- 55gm (1/4 cup) brown sugar (organic/raw/darker)
- 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar (cloudy has the best flavour)
- 1 tsp finely crushed green peppercorns (available canned)
- Pinch of ground ginger
- Cloves to decorate in the scores
Boil to thicken slightly, and glaze your ham at high heat until it has reached a rich mahogany colour. This is best made in batches this size.
If you are buying a ham remember it has already been cooked. You can warm it through, but long oven times will dry it out and make it salty. Let the ham warm to room temperature and glaze at a high heat (180c-200c) for 20-30 mins.
If you want a hot ham (The Britts call this Gammon) get down and see the team at Alec Watson & Sons for some pickled pork, it is how all ham starts out. Smoke at 110 C and eat while still warm for a delicious homemade ham without the trouble of brining it yourself! This is the best way to know where your ham is from and you will impress everyone with a homemade one that is perfect.
SOMETHING HOT, SOMETHING COLD
If you are serving turkey hot, then have the ham cold, or vise versa. First of all this is nice for a bit of variety, but mostly it makes your life easier on the day!
If there is one food that is uniquely Australian at Christmas, it has got to be the prawn!
The boiled prawn is an old festive favourite, but I do grab any chance I get to fire up the BBQ.
I love to cook these whole, but peel the tail leaving the head and very end of the tail for presentation. Remove the vein and grill whole.
This means they are easy to eat, and they look great on the plate. Being grilled with the heads still on gives a great aroma and flavour, and a quick flick to the side and you are ready to eat!
A dozen whole prawns looks great, if you do just the tails it will barely fill a side plate. Finish with fresh herbs and olive oil and serve with lemon.
SALADS & SIDES
Keep it colourful. Play with texture and choose things that hold well so you can have them dressed ahead of time. Festive meals tend to last a while, so serving room temperature salads and sides works well, as they don’t go cold, or get too warm to enjoy. Roast beets, charred greens dressed with yoghurt or soft eggs are delicious and back up well for boxing day leftovers.
I love a Pav. I don’t care what our Kiwi friends have to say, I reckon it is as Aussie as you can get. If you are scared of making one, you can always make some meringue ahead of time (up to a week in an airtight container) or hit up one of the baked good stall holders, then crush them up before folding through whipped cream and topping with stone fruit, passion fruit and berries. The market is brimming with awesome stone fruit right now. Our northern hemisphere friends might get the snow at Christmas, but we get stone fruit.