When it comes to cooking and kitchen appliances, there's no greater authority than Fiona Mair. She's been CHOICE's home economist and kitchen test coordinator for 23 years and also cooks a decadent Christmas lunch for the whole organisation every December.
Described by her colleagues as "the secret ingredient of CHOICE", Fiona's extensive knowledge on the best cooking methods and appliances stems, in part, from the many years she has dedicated to testing in our kitchen labs.
She offers up her expert tips on how to plan, prepare and execute your festive feast this year.
Check out Fiona Mair's detailed Christmas cooking tips at CHOICE.com.au. (We'd love a link back if possible.)
Choose the right tools for the job
Her number one advice on appliances? Use a food processor.
"Choosing the right tool or appliance makes your life a lot easier when it comes to preparing lots of food. A food processor is your Christmas secret weapon – they save time and effort better spent elsewhere in the kitchen or spending time with the family," says Mair.
"Also, make sure you have the right knives – the knives should be sharpened before you start preparing everything. Check you have the right amount of baking trays, plates, bowls, and other servingware well in advance."
The size of your appliance can also make a real difference when it comes to cooking for a crowd.
"You’ve got to look at how many people you’re going to be cooking for. If you’ve a family of 5 or 6 then you need to look at using some larger sized appliances, like a larger food processor," says Fiona.
"Don't rely on a Christmas miracle – if you haven't started planning, you better start now," says Fiona.
"Start writing your lists – your shopping list, your preparation list, your guest list. Look at what you want to cook. If you haven't had the time to start planning, right up to a week before is fine. Just remember you’re going to have to deal with more crowds the closer it gets to Christmas."
She also recommends a practice run of any recipes you haven't cooked before, to avoid a kitchen nightmare on the day.
"Make sure you test your Christmas recipes a couple of weeks beforehand. Practice makes perfect, and no one's going to complain about testing what's to come," says Fiona.
No one enjoys the crowds at this time of the year. Luckily, there are a few things you can do to try and avoid them.
"Avoid the Christmas Eve rush and buy your fruit and veg a few days prior. Christmas Eve is the best time to pick up your seafood. If you want to escape the worst of the crowds, get up early and head out to grab your seafood then."
Change it up
"If you've got the time to test and prepare, don't be afraid to try new recipes," says Fiona.
"Christmas pudding is a staple for many, but not everyone is a fan of the traditional dessert so consider offering alternatives. Make a chocolate pudding or, as it's summer, you can't go past a pavlova with fresh fruit."
"I like to make a peppermint bark with dark and white chocolate and I always have Lebkuchen on the table, which is a traditional gingerbread cookie with lemon icing. The kids love them!" says Fiona.
Fiona's Christmas peppermint bark recipe
Infographic available for embedding here
- 3 x 180g block of dark chocolate (not cooking chocolate)
- 3 x 180g block of white chocolate (such as Dream or Milky Bar)
- Peppermint oil
- 1 packet of peppermint candy canes (crushed finely in a food processor)
- Line a flat baking tray (approx. 50 x 30cm) with baking paper.
- In a large microwave-proof bowl, break the dark chocolate up into pieces and heat on high for 1 min, then stir and heat for another 30 secs, stirring until the chocolate is melted. Stir the chocolate well once melted making sure there are no hot areas If the chocolate isn't quite melted microwave at 30 secs intervals.
- Pour the chocolate over the baking paper, spreading it evenly and thinly - approx. 3mm thick. Place in the fridge to harden.
- Next, melt the white chocolate (following the same method). Once melted, add 1 teaspoon of peppermint oil. Quickly pour over the dark chocolate and spread evenly to cover.
- Before it sets, sprinkle with the crushed candy cane.
- Once hardened, break the chocolate into pieces and serve.
Check out Fiona Mair's detailed Christmas cooking tips at CHOICE.com.au (we’d love a link back if possible)
Images and infographic available via dropbox: https://shwca.se/Christmastips
Media contact: Jim Hook, 0430 172 669, firstname.lastname@example.org
Infographic available for embedding here: https://infogram.com/fionas-christmas-peppermint-bark-1hxj48ppmkrjq2v?live