A Cook's Christmas: Jane Kennedy

By
Jane Willson
Added
14 November, 2014

In the first of a weekly series, author and forever food obsessive Jane Kennedy remembers a standout Christmas in Paris – and suggests a handful of recipes she would be proud to serve as part of any unconventional festive table.

Jane Kennedy doesn’t hesitate when asked to share a Christmas tale or two. “I’ll tell you about our family’s Christmas day in Paris. It was so lovely,” she says via email.

Weeks later, on the phone, she expands: It was 2012, and she and husband Rob Sitch ran away with their five children for eight months. “We got a day pack each and hit southern Europe. We got to Athens and jumped on ferries and had no real plan of where we would go.” They lived like gypsies. The adventure ended in Paris. At Christmas. “It even snowed!”

The adventure ended in Paris. At Christmas. “It even snowed!”

Jane says the family (then 5-year-old twins, an 8-year-old, a 9-year-old and a 10-year-old) rented an apartment in Passy, on the Right Bank, in the 16th arrondissement. “It was quite conservative, not a tourist area, so we saw the way Parisians shopped and lived.”

“They shop for food every day,” says Jane, a three-times cookbook author who, it is fair to say, is always thinking about the family’s next meal. “(In Paris) they order two slices of ham, one wedge of brie, and they’re completely dressed up. And then they walk home. Oh, and they have one baguette – the rule of thumb is that one [baguette] lasts two days for one person.”

And what about Christmas? Jane indulged her love of foie gras. And oysters. And, for the first time, the family let go of pudding. At least the traditional kind. “I’m the only one who’s ever really liked traditional Christmas pudding, so we had sticky date pudding (Margaret Fulton’s no less) instead – and served it with berries.”

Jane Kennedy's Parisian Christmas

Jane says she grew up eating turkey on the 25th – and family gatherings still today tend to include a good roasted bird, veg, prawns, and pudding with the trimmings.

But Paris created some new traditions, too. They started with crepes with Nutella for breakfast. (“Not me, I had champagne”.) And then followed, in no order: oysters (“we bought them from a guy freshly shucking them out on the street and they make a gift for people wrapped up like a beautiful present”); a turkey (“it’s not a tradition in Paris, but I found one leftover from Thanksgiving for the American community”) with cranberry sauce (also hard to find); beautiful fresh-cut ham; prawns with cocktail sauce; and foie gras that Jane received as a Christmas present. As well as the sticky date, she bought a bûche de Noël (yule log), the sponge-like French cake that is traditionally served on Christmas Eve (“for the kids”).

I’m the only one who’s ever really liked traditional Christmas pudding, so we had sticky date pudding instead.

This year, inspired to some extent by Paris 2012, there will be foie gras and oysters. The former served in a beautiful jar on a wooden cutting board with some toast with the crusts cut off. And champagne (“as a rule always Moet … sometimes vintage as a special treat”).

Jane says Christmas tends to be at hers these days (“it’s much less stressful for me not having five kids running around someone else’s place”) but the family absolutely pitch in. “My aunt brings prawns, sister does all the veg, mum brings the custard and pudding. Cousin brings a big platter of cheese. And everybody brings grog.”

Asked to suggest a spread of recipes she would be proud to serve at Christmas, this is what Jane came up with. Yes, they’re all from her books (OMG I Can Eat That, Fabulous Food Minus the Boombah, and One Dish. Two Ways), except for Margaret Fulton’s sticky date pudding (“I’ve always loved Margaret”).

Jane Kennedy’s Christmas menu

Oysters four ways

Why restrict yourself to one set of flavours? Jane recommends oysters with wasabi mayonnaiseoysters with chardonnay and spicy watermelon, oysters with horseradish and parmesan and hot Sydney rocks.

Prawns on a plate

Jane loves a prawn cocktail, but can't get behind the "retro prawns-in-a-glass look". Instead, she keeps it simple with ‘prawns on a plate’.

Rack of lamb with gremolata crust

Jane describes lamb racks as being "a bit of a splurge", so Christmas is the perfect excuse to indulge.  

Duck and orange

In a hat-tip to her Parisian Christmas, duck and orange is Jane's take on the French classic, duck à l’orange: duck breast "baked in the oven, with a tangy, orange, zesty sauce, accompanied by the bittersweet combo of a radicchio and red onion salad". 

Brussells sprouts with pine nuts and bacon

Jane's Brussels sprouts make for a really impressive side dish, ideal for the festive table.

Asparagus in lemon and olive oil

Asparagus is always a treat, and this dish will pair perfectly with pretty much any meat.

Spicy Roasted Pumpkin

Another nod to the more traditional European fare – it just isn't Christmas without roast pumpkin.

Sticky date pudding 

Jane serves Margaret Fulton's sticky date pudding with fresh berries to make it extra festive.

Shop Jane's books in the Cooked bookstore. Members receive a 30% discount!

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