Head chef Jesse McTavish tells us what he loves about Christmas and what’s on his table this year.
What do you love most about Christmas?
I have never placed huge importance on the religious or commercial side of Christmas but have always seen it as a great time of year to be with family, to reflect on the year that has been and focus on the year ahead. Summer on the east coast of Australia just screams days spent at the beach until you’re surfed out and sunburnt, followed by fresh seafood and champagne.
What seafood is always on your family festive table? And what do you put with it?
There’s always the staple of eastern king prawns, usually from Yamba or Mooloolaba. We might think we have over done it and will get sick of them, but by your third prawn sanga you are still peeling your heart out and grabbing the last remaining kingies in the bag.
There’s always a salad around of summer tomatoes and herbs, or one with Queensland mangoes appearing somewhere in it.
Is there anything random you eat at Christmas?
Because of the neutral way I look at Christmas in regards to tradition, nothing is off the table so to speak. Along with the token ham, we can have anything from cured fish, lamb roasts, curries, salads, whole chooks and sometimes a turkey, usually because they’re readily available at the time more so than because of tradition. For instance, Saskia Beer’s fresh turkeys at that time are incredible.
What are your top tips for choosing and preparing seafood for Christmas?
Get in early. Supply and demand for seafood at Christmas time causes the prices to soar like a crypto currency, so the key is to form a relationship with your supplier and pre-order. In preparing, try to make it as foolproof as possible so you’re not running around when you should be relaxing. Cured trout is a good option that can be made in advance and keeps well for leftovers as well. Whole baked fish is an easy dish for sharing, it’s super easy to prepare and requires minimal fussing over while cooking.
What drinks (wines, sparkling) go best with seafood, in your opinion?
I always start with a beer and lately have been finding some great pairings with sour beers like Two Meter Tall’s original sour ale from Tassie. It’s a perfect match with baked flathead tail on the barbecue or over fire. I always love Ruinart Brut Rosé with prawns – such an epic match. Ochota Barrels Fragola and Cullen Pet Nat always get a mention along with a deliciously delicate pinot noir.