This Christmas is set to be a very special one indeed, with domestic travel back on the agenda for the first time in a while, and many families able to gather together after months apart. For acclaimed chef and AEG ambassador Mark Best, Christmas is one of his favourite times of any year - but after tragically losing his father in February last year, finally being able to visit his mum is going to make this one a festive season to remember.
“It’s going to be truly lovely,” he shares, “and for me, I’m really looking forward to cooking next to mum on the day.”
The perfect Christmas cooking menu
“I love all the traditions,” says Mark, “my mother’s family are from the Barossa Valley and my grandmother was an incredible cook. It’s still the standard to which I hold everyone, including myself.”
For Mark, that menu includes a super-luxe Christmas Eve meal. “We tend to celebrate with a little more luxury so that whatever family drama goes down on the 25th we are happy just to sit back and let it unfold,” he laughs. Christmas Day needs to feature roasted pork, preferably from a quality pig and butcher, and a fresh seafood lunch is key, he says. “I love a cold seafood lunch. Freshly shucked oysters, Yamba prawns, Octopus salad and Champagne is perfect.”
How to host the perfect day (and stay sane in the process)
“Planning and preparation in advance is essential,” Mark explains. “I try to have a lot of the work done in the days prior to Christmas which, in the case of steamed Christmas pudding, I will have started in September.”
Having as many sides as possible pre-prepared (or at least partially prepared) in advance can help things go smoothly on the day. One great tip is to par-boil and score your potatoes ahead of time, then freeze them. When the time comes to put them in the oven on Christmas Day, all that’s left to do is toss them in some duck fat and put them into the AEG 60cm SteamPro multifunction Oven for 40 minutes (190°C) to crisp up. As for the turkey - Mark’s advice is gold.
“The turkey is quite the conundrum for any cook,” he says, “as a flightless bird that runs around a lot you are dealing with two very distinct muscle groups. The breast, which can easily be dry and tasteless and then the legs which need much more cooking.
“I like to brine the turkey in a 10% salt brine the day before, and then cook it long and slow, around 120°C, then turn it up to around 200°C to crisp the skin. The SteamCrisp Pyroluxe™Multifunction Oven is perfect for this challenge - it keeps meat tender and juicy without compromising on crispiness. Oh, and don’t forget the gravy!”
Food trends to keep from 2021
When we look back at the year that was, the shadow of the pandemic hangs over everything - including food trends. “Obviously because of COVID the biggest trends were takeaway, home delivery and even better, some very fine baked goods,” Mark says. “I think I’d love to see all of those stick around - new and innovative ways of enjoying restaurant quality food and excellent baked goods coming front and centre again.” As for what he’s ready to see the back of forever? “Without a doubt,” he says, “restaurant closures. Here’s to a successful and food-filled Christmas break, with all the ones we love most.”