'Tis time to start planning your Christmas feast

Every Christmas lunch needs a centrepiece and more often than not there's more than one vying for attention. But a good ham is indispensible and there's no better leftover than baked ham. Boxing Day sandwiches with ham, gruyere cheese, mustard and pickles is a big tradition in my house. Please buy a free-range ham and organic if you can, it is well worth the extra cost. You'll need a massive pot - about 20 litres - for this, but it's fine to leave the shank sticking out a little. Alternatively, you can use a smaller or boneless ham but just need to reduce the poaching time, to about 45 minutes.

Baked ham with cumquat marmalade glaze and spiced pineapple




organic free-range ham, bone in (about 7kg)

peel of 2 oranges (peel with a knife, don't grate or zest)

15 cloves, plus extra cloves for garnish

8 whole allspice berries

5 fresh bay leaves

2 heads of garlic, cut in half crossways

375g of quality cumquat marmalade (orange or mandarin would also work well)

100ml verjuice


2 pineapples, reserve the heads for garnish

2 tsp of allspice, ground

2 tsp of ground black pepper

1 tbs olive oil

1. Take the ham out of the fridge at least half an hour before cooking.

2. Place the ham in a large stock pot and cover with cold water, add the orange peel, cloves, allspice, bay leaves and garlic and bring to a simmer. Simmer slowly for one hour.

3. While the ham simmers, peel the pineapples then slice in half lengthways and cut into long wedges, about 3 to 4 wedges per half.

4. Toss the pineapple wedges through the allspice, pepper and oil and place in a baking tray big enough to hold the ham.

5. In a saucepan gently heat the marmalade and verjuice. Stir to combine.

6. Preheat oven to 180C fan-forced or 200C conventional.

7. Lift the ham out of the liquid carefully, perhaps gripping it with tea towels, and place in the baking tray with the pineapple. Pull off the skin, leaving the fat intact. Lightly score the fat with a knife in a traditional diamond pattern, or just in lines, and stud with the extra cloves. Glaze the ham and pineapple with half of the marmalade.

8. Place the baking tray in the preheated oven and bake for about 25 minutes, glaze again with the remaining marmalade and bake until a dark golden colour, about 10 more minutes. You will need to keep a careful eye on the ham as ovens may perform differently with such a large joint. Halfway through the cooking process put the pineapple heads in the oven with the ham.

9. Present the ham whole, surrounded by the pineapple with the heads for garnish. Carve at the table and serve with the roasted pineapple and any juices in the tray.

Tip: You can also bake the ham in a medium-hot (no hotter than 230C) barbecue with the lid closed.

Serves an army

Prawn and quinoa salad with pistachios and mint


Prawns are often a well-loved feature on Christmas Day menus, but this salad with quinoa, pistachios, mint and bright jewels of lemon really elevates the offering.

250g white quinoa, washed

1tsp ground cumin

2 tbsp olive oil

20 cooked Australian king prawns

2 tbsp white wine vinegar

¼ tsp ground cayenne pepper

10 grinds of freshly ground black pepper

1 tsp flaked salt plus more to taste

2 tsp sugar

2 large purple shallots, thinly sliced

3 tbsp of quality mayonnaise

1 tbsp yoghurt

30g of shelled pistachio nuts

2 lemons, peeled, segmented and diced

½ bunch mint, picked

1. In a medium pot, add the quinoa and cover with water by 2 centimetres. Add the cumin and simmer for 10 minutes, then drain well and set aside.

2. Take 4 tablespoons of the cooked, drained quinoa and fry in a couple of tablespoons of oil, tossing for 10 minutes over medium heat to crisp up, then drain on kitchen paper.

3. Peel and chop half the prawns. Peel the body of the remaining prawns leaving the head and tail on.

4. In a large bowl add the vinegar, cayenne, pepper, salt, sugar and sliced shallots and mix with your fingers to soften the shallots. Let stand for 5 minutes.

5. Add the mayonnaise and yoghurt to the bowl with the shallots and mix. Add the remaining quinoa and chopped prawns and combine to a a loose consistency. Add more yoghurt and mayo if too dense.

6. Tip the quinoa onto a platter and arrange the peeled prawns around, scatter with the pistachios, lemon and mint and top with the crispy quinoa.

Tip: Most imported quinoa comes prewashed. However, to be safe, it is always good to wash quinoa, as you would rice, before cooking as it has an unpleasantly bitter outer coating.

Serves 6-8 as a starter

Panforte bianco


This version of panforte makes a perfect gift and a little goes a long way. Serve thin slices of it with coffee late on Christmas Day. The result really relies on the quality of the dried fruit and chocolate, so buy the best you can.

100g blanched almonds

55g plain flour

10g cocoa powder

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp ground ginger

1.5 tsp ground fennel

1.5 tsp ground white pepper

140g Australian dried apricots, cut in quarters

120g dried cherries

100g shelled pistachio nuts, unsalted

2 tbsp amaretto or Frangelico

100g high-quality white chocolate, roughly chopped

200g honey

100g castor sugar

1 packet rice paper, to line tin (available from specialty food stores)

icing sugar, for dusting

extra cherries, pistachios, almonds and glace cherries (optional) for garnishing

1. Roast almonds in a hot oven for 5 minutes. Blitz almonds in a food processor until well chopped (about 1 minute).

2. Sift flour and cocoa together into a bowl. Add the spices, dried fruit, ground almonds, pistachios, liqueur and the chopped chocolate and mix to combine evenly.

3. Preheat oven to 125C fan-forced (145C conventional).

4. In a saucepan over a low heat, bring honey and sugar to 118C (measure with a sugar thermometer, it will come to temperature quickly). Remove from the heat and pour straight over the flour, nut and fruit mix and combine quickly. The mixture will be quite stiff and hard to work, but persevere.

5. Press into a round, loose-bottomed cake tin about 20-22 centimetres, lined with rice paper and well dusted with icing sugar. Flatten the mix evenly into the tin and dust the top well with icing sugar. Decorate with extra almonds, pistachios and cherries. Bake for 25-30 minutes. It will swell slightly but won't brown; you might need to bake for longer depending on your oven.

6. Once well cooled, remove carefully from the tin and slice thinly to serve.