I've always said that if there was such a thing as reincarnation, I would love to come back as Maggie Beer — for here is a gentle woman who is delightful, gracious, generous, loves a celebration, has a genuine zest for life, and is a beautiful cook too!
Reading Ms Beer's latest offering, Maggie's Christmas, one cannot help but be enchanted by her love of Christmas and all that goes with it — giving and creating special memories — and sharing the day, and the pleasures of a bountiful table of delicious food, with family.
In the introduction to Maggie's Christmas, Ms Beer writes that from her earliest memories, 'Christmas has always been a real time of celebration for [her] family'. She says that when she was little it was all about the presents, but going back to when she was only five or six years old, her fondest memories are of food. 'A groaning table topped with the ham and goose, plus chooks from our backyard. Gathered around the table would be our family, as well as friends without families of their own who were warmly welcomed.'
On a more pragmatic note, she says that 'while there is much excitement with the approach of the Christmas season, there is still a tinge of panic about how much needs to be done'. I am glad to know that it's not only me who feels slightly overwhelmed at this time of the year, although having said this I might add that I'm not running a farm, a shop and an export kitchen! Family traditions mean that 'things just fall into place,' says Ms Beer, 'yet there is always leeway to try something new, as there are many more events to think of than just Christmas Day' … (festive parties, pre Christmas drinks, Christmas Eve supper, Boxing Day, New Year's Day and seaside summer holidays, for instance).
In this book, Ms Beer shares her most cherished Christmas recipes, a lifetime of festive favourites: Blue Swimmer Crab sandwiches with mustard bread and tomato and saffron jam, as an example, a dish that 'dates back to the olden days of Pheasant farm restaurant'. There's beer-battered Mulloway with avocado, tomato and red onion salad — Ms Beer's mother in law, Flo, taught her how to make beer batter. Other family faves include Roast Goose, Lamb Kibbeh; Salad of Yabbies and Nectarines; Dill-Cured Ocean Trout with Horseradish Cream; and Peach and Berry Jelly Trifle. On the subject of sweets, there is also Chestnut and Chocolate Pots, a recipe that Ms Beer says began a long time ago in her cooking career, but now has a new twist.
There are sumptuous and achievable recipes galore and these are scattered across chapters covering Crabbing at Port Parham; Pre-Christmas Drinks; Christmas Carols Buffet for the Choir; Christmas Eve Supper; Christmas Day Lunch; Boxing Day Leftovers; New Year's Eve Dinner' New Year's Day Lunch; and Food for the Beach House. There's also plenty of advice for stress free entertaining, such as planning to ensure that the day's cooking agenda is manageable, and cooking in batches when you are expecting visitors in waves. Together with introductions to every chapter, each recipe has a detailed and delightful explanation, and there are glorious photographs too.
Maggie's Christmas will be on the wish list for many cooks this season, methinks. My advice? Ask Santa to arrange a pre-Christmas delivery!
Maggie's Christmas by Maggie Beer, $49.99, Lantern. Thank you kindly to Maggie Beer and the publicity team at the Penguin Group for giving me the opportunity to showcase this title.
Cookbook reviews and interviews with food writers and chefs.