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Christmas with Peter Howard AM & Australian Pork

Christmas is almost here and for many Australians pork plays an important role as a centre of plate meat – a key component of the festive season celebrations based around good food, drink and company, which after all is also what foodservice is all about.

And who better to help us get into the festive spirit than Peter Howard AM, one of Australia’s most recognised food and wine commentators. In keeping with the season, we’ve asked Peter to share his memories of Australian Christmas feasts, as well as offer up some tips on contemporary approaches to pork for today’s festive menu.
In Pete's words...
Nothing evokes memories of Christmas like the family feast Mum presented on the big day all those decades ago. A roasted leg of pork with stunning crackling and home-made apple sauce was the centrepiece. Next to it, a glazed ham and then the roasted vegetables and all the trimmings for a superb family Christmas.

On Christmas Day morning, Dad cooked us scrambled fresh eggs and sliced ham and it was a perfect way to start the day considering we’d been to midnight Mass.  Every Christmas we would have a leg of ham that had been cooked in the local bakery’s oven.
In the custom of European communal kitchens, the baker would wrap the ham leg in left-over bread dough cook it slowly in the cooling oven. That afternoon, Dad would bring it home in its deep brown blanket and we would gather to watch him crack it open. Those suddenly released aromas are happy memories. The ham was deliciously moist when carved with Dad’s sacred carving knife – no one touched that knife.
Tradition comes into Christmas cooking and always will, but some of the traditions are changing to suit modern palates. Definitely roast pork must have the crackling and my preference is to roast a loin with whole small cored green apples stuffed with mustard rubbed raisins. A big dob of butter over the raisins ensures more flavour. I still use Mum’s traditional ham glazing mixture of marmalade and dry mustard smeared over a clove studded ham and while I have seen cranberry glaze used, Mum’s is still the best. Call me old- fashioned! 
Of course, my Mother did not have the vast array of pork products we have available to us today – what a culinary boon! Today’s pork offers so much versatility and a myriad of ways to create memorable additions to the festive season menu that present as beautifully as they taste. Here are a few examples:
  • Barbecued Proscuitto-wrapped asparagus spears topped with creamy goat’s cheese dressing and crumbled walnuts are a perfect starter over the Christmas period.
  • I love to crisp chilli and sugar drenched bacon pieces to incorporate into a roasted cauliflower.
  • Pan fried Halloumi slices are the perfect topping for a lemon vinaigrette green salad, perfect not just for Christmas but throughout the balmy Australian summer.
  • And how good is crisped pancetta crumbled into potato salad or Coleslaw!
  • I still serve slices of ham with creamy eggs touched off with a hint of finely grated orange zest.
And it may be forgotten by some of us, but in my Mum’s day she made Fruit Mince Tarts – the pastry for which she made by hand using lard. The brightly white pig fat gave the pastry that crispness that only lard can do. This traditional recipe adds something extra that store-bought Mince Tarts just can’t replicate – and will bring an authentic touch to the Christmas buffet spread and have your customers asking you to share the secret.

As we all know, Christmas is a special time and is enriched and made even more special by the brilliant range of pork and value-added products we get to serve during this most loved of occasions.

Christmas without pork? You gotta be kidding!
Listen to Pete's Podcast Here

Get Inspired with our Christmas recipes

The Australian Culinary Federation- NSW & ACT Chapter warmly invites you to join their Christmas party. It will be a great opportunity to meet and network with current ACF members and find out more about the association's current activities in a festive and relaxed environment.
Purchase tickets here
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