Twelve Christmas shortcuts

Author: Maggie Scardifield
Photography: William Meppem

With so much on at Christmas, why not take a few shortcuts in the name of merriment? Pour the wine, kick back and let the good times roll.

Some people are great at Christmas: six months ahead, the fruit is already soaking, the pudding hanging, the bird fattening. Then there are those of us who are better at other festive necessities, such as pouring wine (generously) or readying Santa's mince pies (he likes two, with his whisky neat). While it's admirable to make your feast from scratch, Christmas doesn't have to involve hours (or months) in a hot kitchen, mincing, brining, boiling and roasting. In fact, some would even suggest there's wisdom in pouring another glass of wine and leaving it all up to the experts. This Christmas, the choice is yours. We've searched high and low for the tastiest shortcuts, offered by some of the best chefs, butchers, bakers and providores in the country. Consider these cheats our gift to you.

1 Snacks
A good snack-plate sends many messages, but mainly it says here is an organised host, with all bases covered. To kick things off, we suggest Hudson Meats' venison terrine with gin and cranberry ($89.95 per kg), teamed with Edmond Fallot cornichons ($16 per 190gm jar) and potted duck rillettes ($34 for 250gm) from Victor Churchill with crusty bread.

2 Condiments
Whether it's a turkey, ham or seafood spread, condiments are key. Matt Wilkinson's brown sauce ($9.95 for 250ml) and white meat make a great pairing, or try his piccalilli ($11.95 for 360gm) for a hint of spice, both available from Hams & BaconKitchen by Mike's Cumberland sauce ($12), meanwhile, will add zing to your Boxing Day rolls.

3 Stuffing
Good stuffing should have some moisture but not be soggy, and crunchy, but never dry. Phillippa's stuffing ($13.50 for 250gm) is a bread stuffing that ticks all the boxes with hits of flavour and texture from cranberry, pecan and rosemary. Simply add water, butter, a splash of brandy, and you're done.

4 Ham & Glaze
Put your feet up and let Feather and Bone, provider of sustainably farmed meat, brine, smoke, cut and score a free-range bone-in ham ($27.50/kg for 6kg-8kg), ready for glazing. Come Christmas day, all you'll have to do is remove the skin, spoon on their Half-Cut Glaze ($12 for 300gm) - a mix of Young Henry's apple cider, honey, Dijon mustard and orange juice - and baste regularly.

5 Turkey
A pre-stuffed turkey breast is a great for small gatherings (or small ovens). Hudson Meats' free-range pre-stuffed turkey breast ($29.95/ kg) comes in a neat parcel packed with your choice of sage and thyme or cranberry and roast chestnut stuffing, as is Victor Churchill's juniper and tea-brined version ($80 for 1.3kg-1.6kg).

6 Biscuits
We're all for festive biscuits - ginger trees, chocolate baubles and iced stars make great emergency gifts as well as decorative additions to the post-feast table. Santa will love them, too. Our favourites are Phillippa's iced chocolate vanilla stars ($15.90 for nine), Jocelyn's Provisions ginger trees ($11 for four) and the Sweet Envy Santa pack ($8.50, for a pack of decorated carrots, milk bottles and cookies).

7 Sweets
There's always plenty of visitors dropping in over the break, so it's best to be prepared with something sweet stashed in the cupboard. We suggest a dense, rich Margherita panforte ($17 for 250gm), combining honey and almonds with spiced and candied fruit, or the Torta Lucia with hazelnuts and cocoa butter ($33 for 400gm) - both sure-fire crowd-pleasers, available from Fratelli Fresh.

8 Christmas Cake
Christmas ain't festive without fruitcake. Soaked in a cocktail of rum, brandy and orange juice, and topped with pecans, Jocelyn's Provisions Christmas cake ($60 for small, $80 for large) is a classic that's mighty tasty and, quite possibly, one of the prettiest around.

9 Pouring Custard
Where there's pudding, there has to be custard. Merna Taouk uses quality ingredients in DessertMakers' crème Anglaise pouring custard ($7 for 200ml), including Nixon's free-range eggs (just the yolk, in this case). It's good enough to drink straight from the vintage-style milk bottle it comes in.

10 Mince Pies
We like our mince pies boozy, with plump spicy fruit and just the right amount of crumble in the pastry. Nadine Ingram at Sydney bakery Flour and Stone does, too. She makes her mince pies ($4 each, $24 for six, $48 for 12) with a unique mix of rhubarb, vanilla, candied orange and confit ginger - pretty damn fine.

11 Pudding
It might not be your nana's recipe (which required hanging back in May), but Coles Finest vintage pudding ($18 for 900gm) is hung the traditional way and matured for 12 months by the good folk at Pudding Lane. It combines Australian vine fruit such as currants, raisins and sultanas with brandy from the Barossa Valley. Best served with generous dollops of custard or a healthy scoop of brandy cream - or preferably, both.

12 Panettone
Simon Johnson suggests serving his SJ 25 Year Anniversary Panettone ($59 for 1kg) with cherries, ground almonds and sugar crumbs. With quarter of a century under his belt as one of Australia's leading providores, it's advice best heeded. The panettone comes beautifully packaged in one of three artist-designed gift boxes and makes the perfect festive gift.

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