Christmas Day is a time for families to connect and reflect on the year just past.
It's also an opportunity to eat, drink and be merry. We asked a handful the Hunter Region's best-known chefs what they have planned on December 25.
I'm incredibly chuffed to say that this year my partner Tracie and I will be heading to Mum's old Queenslander for a proper backyard family Christmas. The restaurant is closed for five days over Christmas. Being a new restaurant, it's been quite a full-on year and I'm really looking forward to the break up north.
The plan for food is to keep it nice and easy with a big spread of our favourite cold cuts, cheeses and snacks on the back verandah. For the most part, I've managed to get out of the cooking duties this year, with the exception of maybe a bit of barbecuing on the day. We want to indulge in our favourites, but keep the work to a minimum on Christmas Day so we can make the most of our time together (a treat that is far too rare these days).
Mum's picks on Christmas day are champagne and chicken wings (a baller combo), so they'll definitely make it to the table. I'm more of a Pet Nat fiend myself, so you'll find me poolside with a full glass between snacks. There's been some talk of Jimmy's glazed ham making an appearance, which I'm hoping will see us with leftovers for Boxing Day toasties with melty cheese and Branston pickle (a pommy pleasure of mine), enjoyed alongside a beer or Bloody Mary (extra spicy please) to soothe our dusty heads the day after.
We're preparing a "Ready to Heat Christmas Package" for people to pre-order and pick up on Christmas Day. This is packaged into biodegradable packaging which can go directly into the oven for heating and serving.
This takes all the stress out of shopping for food, preparation, cooking and, most of all, the cleaning after Christmas lunch.
This also means that I can enjoy Christmas lunch with my loved ones, too.
Christmas lunch is non-negotiable for my family. We all love food and amazing dining and look forward to tearing Christmas crackers open at the table together. The workload for Christmas lunch is spread out between all family members and those who don't cook, clean!
Lunch usually starts with a glass of Hunter Valley sparkling, a few cheeky natural oysters with citrus and some freshly blanched local prawns. The main course this year will feature a beautiful whole rolled, stuffed and roasted porchetta (pork belly) served alongside a sweet caramelised apple and cranberry chutney.
We're also preparing whole roasted pepperberry-spiced ocean trout stuffed with citrus and fennel. These proteins will be accompanied by Mum's takes on an authentic German potato salad (with green apple, seeded mustard, dill, cornichons, shallots and egg), a marinated tomato, burrata and fig vino cotto dish as well as charred greens. Christmas dessert brings Grandma's kitchen to life as she prepares "The Thomas Family Trifle", layering Madeira sponge, vanilla bean custard, macerated fruit, fresh berries, cream, meringue and passionfruit. This is usually the final nail in the coffin which sends us to the lounge to rest and digest.
I will be cooking Christmas lunch for 200 of our guests in Roundhouse this year so I'll be doing Christmas dinner with the family.
I love having a full Christmas feast with fresh seafood, a roast or two and all the trimmings.
For me, you can't go past Yamba prawns and they're always on my Christmas table. They are big, sweet, easy to prepare and always a crowd favourite. I also love abalone which I get locally from Port Stephens to make into an abalone schnitzel.
A beautifully glazed ham is a must-have and this year I'll be doing a vermouth and spiced cherry glazed ham. I get my ham from Hunter Valley Meats.
For dessert, I'll be making Matt Kemp's bread and butter pudding. This modern remake of the classic is made with an egg custard to give it a brulee-like finish, and it pairs perfectly with a port at the end of the night.
I do a lot of the Christmas prep in the lead up with my beautiful partner Nora who will then look after a lot of the cooking while I'm working during the day. I'll then take over when I get home so she can put her feet up and we'll have a three- or four-course spread from late afternoon into the evening.
Nothing beats an ice-cold beer on a warm Christmas Day and there will definitely be a few of those on the menu. My favourite is the Foghorn Hunter Classic Kolsch. I also love a negroni between courses or after dinner to help with the inevitable Christmas bloat.
Christmas is a special time for me to connect with my loved ones and create memorable moments around the table. However, I'll admit that my demanding work schedule has often made it difficult to dedicate as much time as I would like to my family. This has been a source of regret for me, and I'm determined to make this Christmas truly special for them.
So this year, I decided to secure a week-long break before Christmas. I'm planning to take my family on a much-needed getaway to the Whitsunday Islands where we'll spend quality time together, relaxing on pristine beaches, exploring the vibrant coral reefs, and creating lasting memories.
Upon our return on December 24, I'll eagerly transition into my chef's hat and prepare a feast for my family, with a special focus on my two daughters Minsol and Yuna's newfound interest in trying turkey.
While Minsol and Yuna have been a bit hesitant to try new foods in the past, they surprised me last week by declaring that they want to try turkey for Christmas dinner this year! I was excited to hear this, as I've always wanted them to experience the deliciousness of a traditional Christmas turkey.
To ensure that Minsol and Yuna have a positive experience with the turkey, I'm planning to prepare it in a way that is both familiar and appealing to them. I'll be roasting a juicy turkey breast and serving it with their favourite side dishes, such as Korean BBQ sauce and noodles.
I'm so happy that Minsol and Yuna are open to trying new foods, and I'm eager to introduce them to the wonderful flavours of turkey. I believe that this Christmas dinner will be a special one for our family, as we create new traditions and share our love for food and each other.
On Christmas Day you can catch me in the heart of the kitchen at Jana with our junior sous chef Sam McKinnon and our incredible kitchen team, serving up classics like the Little Hill Farm chicken, fried whole snapper, house-made potato bread and duck fat potatoes. After the festivities at QT Newcastle, I'll be heading home to celebrate Christmas with my partner, Bec, and our fur baby Monsta, and I will be donning my apron to take charge of the cooking. This year I'll be serving up a small roast!
I love to celebrate the festive season with classic Old Fashioned or a negroni. Our Christmas day diners will also have the chance to add to their Christmas day shared menu a shot with chef, so there's no doubt I will be enjoying a shot or two once we've finished in the kitchen this year.
In the morning we'll get woken up by the kids, get a coffee, skip breakfast and go straight for the presents.
Lunch is the main event. We'll have my family and some friends over - usually about a dozen of us. We'll make sure the eskies are loaded up and all the drinks are as close to 0 degrees Celsius as drinkably possible, with plenty of mid-strength beers and some amazing zero-alcohol options like the locally made Buds & Beads sparkling iced tea.
I'll have a few dozen rock oysters to shuck at the table from Stella Maris up at Lemon Tree. Most likely we will have some bottles of Txakoli (a dry white from Basque country that is as crisp and fresh as it gets) and Ollie Margan's Breaking Ground Albarino.
The night before, I'll smoke and slow cook either a lamb shoulder or some short-ribs. Accompaniments will be chimmichurri and hot mustard. Everyone else will bring sides, so I'll be putting in requests for fresh, raw and crunchy salads, and grilled veggies with plenty of herbs and citrus. Sierra Reed makes a fantastic grenache from Barossa, which we will serve chilled and follow with a juicy Blaufrankisch from Claus Preisinger (Austria).
Pavlova is the one true dessert option for Christmas lunch, loaded with cherries, passionfruit, mango and berries.
If anyone wants to bring some burgundy or margaritas for afterwards, they are welcome to.
I'm having a very relaxed Christmas this year. I'm working the morning at Bannisters then lunch at home in the backyard with my wife Kate. It's the "away" year for her family and mine are so spread out we're taking the opportunity for just her and I.
Kate's a great cook and we'll probably be seeing some of her Nan's signature cheese toast, some cold prawns and a ham from Blackbutt Butchery. One thing you will not catch me eating is turkey. I'm a staunch anti-turkey advocate and I'd challenge anyone to change my mind. It's dry, bland and is just filler.
I'll be drinking a bottle of Domaine Saint Martin Muscadet from the guys at Vera Wines. It's such a versatile bottle that really pairs with everything.
Christmas Day looks a little something like this. First up - lots of poached eggs and Hollandaise sauce! I'm all about a clean breakfast, unless it's Christmas Day...
Our house cracks into our ham bright and early for eggs benedict, accompanied by mimosa, Fresita (strawberry sparkling wine), a fruit platter, and Mum's baked treats.
Side note, I'm hoping she makes her layered marshmallow slice again this year. Matty and I will head the kitchen for this one.
Garreth Robbs, Bistro Molines
In our house the eating begins on Christmas Eve. I've convinced my daughter Audrey that instead of milk and cookies what Santa really likes left out is caviar and French champagne.
Then Christmas morning will kick off with croissants for breakfast followed by prawn cocktails and a roast lunch.
I generally take on the sous chef role on Christmas Day. My Aunty Allison and Uncle Alan have Christmas lunch down to a fine art after 20 years of hosting. My main job is to make the gravy, just the way the song says.
As for drinks, I'll have some of Usher Tinkler's Mr T's Rare Batch with my Christmas pudding and a negroni or two in the evening to help with the digestion.