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Find out what these celebrities are bringing to Christmas

AMY SHEPPARD, 29, SINGER/SONGWRITER

The Sheppard family Christmas is really laid-back.

It will just be our immediate family and partners - dad Greg, 63, mum Linda, 56, sister Emma, 26 and her partner Liam, 27, me and my boyfriend Lachlan Stuart, 28, and his friends Etienne and Cyrelle. George, 32, is going snowboarding with friends in Vancouver, Canada, this year.

The day is all based around the food and just enjoying each other's company and drinking champagne in the pool.

We might bring out the special plates, but we don't even have a Christmas tree.

We've stopped doing presents; we're very fortunate and spoiled and it's hard to buy presents when you're adults.

 

Amy Sheppard cooks an Christmas-themed apple cake. Picture: Mark Cranitch
Amy Sheppard cooks an Christmas-themed apple cake. Picture: Mark Cranitch

 

At our Christmases, everyone just pitches in, cooks and brings a dish.

I make a pretty good potato salad and Mum is really good at desserts.

Baba, my Croatian grandmother Zora Pugl, 81, who can't be with us as she lives in Kalgoorlie, WA, has been making this apple cake for as long as I can remember.

She has passed the recipe down to Mum, who has passed it to me.

Because we all grew up in Papua New Guinea - Mum and Dad still commute between there and Brisbane - we didn't really get to see Baba all year, so this is a really special cake for us. It meant it was Christmas time, we were going back to Australia to visit Baba and the rest of the family. I always associate this cake with family and Christmas and everyone getting together.

Each generation who learns to make it introduces a little twist - this year, I made a double-decker, iced version decorated with rosemary and blueberries.

Christmas is just a special time where families can get together and really spend quality time, not distracted by everyday life.

It's almost like hitting the pause button and just living in the moment. My brother George, 32, Jason Bovino and I - the songwriters for our band Sheppard - are in Los Angeles, California, on a writing trip and we get back on Christmas Eve, so it will be nice to just have some time sitting in the pool, eating prawns and apple cake.

Even though we siblings get together a lot, it's usually for a business meeting, or a show or something to do with the band.

At Christmas it's nice to take the time to remember we are family and not just a band.

 

 

Baba’s Apple Cake. Picture: Mark Cranitch
Baba’s Apple Cake. Picture: Mark Cranitch

BABA'S APPLE CAKE

Cake ingredients

1 ½ cups caster sugar

2 ½ cups self-raising flour

1 tsp salt

2 tsp baking powder

2 tsp cinnamon

1 tin sliced apples (800g)

1 cup cooking oil

1 tsp vanilla essence

2 eggs

Method

Preheat oven to 160C. Line cake tin with baking paper and set aside. In a large bowl, mix all dry ingredients together and set aside. In a separate bowl, mix wet ingredients together excluding apples. Then, beat the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients for two minutes. Once combined, gently fold in the apples. The mixture should have apple chunks. Place in large tin and bake for 60 minutes.

 

Icing ingredients

125g butter chopped

1 ½ cups icing sugar

2 tbs milk

Method

Beat butter in small bowl with electric beater until as white as possible. Gradually beat in half the sifted icing sugar, all the milk and then the remaining icing sugar.

Decorate with your own magic creative flair!

 

MICHELLE LAW, 29, PLAYWRIGHT/AUTHOR

This year the whole family - my mama Joanne, 90, dad Danny, 72, mum Jenny, 65, brother Andrew, 40, and his partner Min, 42, brother Ben, 37, and his partner Scott, 36, Scott's mum Val, sister Tammy, 33, and husband Bruce, 35 - are going to my sister Candy, 43, and husband Duncan's, 45, house on the Sunshine Coast.

 

Michelle Law, 29, is making her mum's Buddha's Delight. Picture: Jonathan Ng
Michelle Law, 29, is making her mum's Buddha's Delight. Picture: Jonathan Ng

 

They're building a pool that we all hoped would be ready in time for Christmas, but it won't be, unfortunately.

We'll descend about mid-morning and have a big lunch, where everyone is assigned a certain food to bring. Andrew always makes chicken wings - it's an old recipe from one of Dad's first restaurants.

I normally do a mix of salads, Ben will normally make a pavlova and gingerbread, and Duncan sometimes does a roast, though this year he's talking about doing a barbecued eggplant dish.

Mum always brings Buddha's Delight - Lo Han Jai in Cantonese - whenever there's a bring-a-plate occasion.

It's one of our family's favourite dishes, a recipe that has always been in our family, which she learnt from her own mum. It's just a really nice, light but flavoursome dish, which complements others that are quite heavy, or is great if you want a vegetable dish that isn't just a salad.

We all sit at one big table, with bonbons and paper hats. It's fun and silly.

After a massive lunch, we'll do presents and that normally goes forever.

There's so many of us and Mum likes to take a photo each time someone opens a present, with the person who gave it to them.

We normally go from eldest to youngest, as a sign of respect, and each year we alternate between being the first to give or receive presents.

We have tried to do Secret Santa in the past, where we each buy one person one really good gift, but it didn't work because all of us really love buying or making each other presents. That's probably one of my family's love languages.

It's just a way to show you know the person well and you really considered their present.

A lot of the time we gift each other experiences, like a massage or restaurant voucher, because we all have what we need. Especially for the environment, we're all trying to be more sustainable and not have too many material things.

After, we'll all chill out, maybe play a board game if anyone's in the mood and some people normally have naps - Ben's a pretty sleepy person, and so is my brother-in-law, Duncan. Dinner is leftovers.

Every Boxing Day we have a tradition where we all go and see a movie together, usually a crowd-pleaser like a Pixar animation or something.

Christmas is really all about family for me, probably because it was such a big deal when we were young, decorating the tree together and the like.

Being the youngest, by the time I was nine years old, I was pretty much the only one left at home on the Sunshine Coast with Mum.

Everyone else had moved out and gone to university. Christmas was always exciting because it meant everyone was coming together again.

 

Buddha's Delight. Picture: Jonathan Ng
Buddha's Delight. Picture: Jonathan Ng

 

BUDDHA'S DELIGHT

Ingredients

The measurements are based on Mum's feel!

100g shiitake mushrooms (dried)

50g cloud ear fungus (dried)

50g vermicelli (dried)

60g bean curd (dried sheets)

2 cups chopped wombok

3 cloves chopped garlic

2 knobs crushed ginger

4 tbsp vegetable oil

3 tbsp cooking wine

Oyster sauce

Soy sauce

White pepper

Salt

 

Method

Hydrate mushrooms, fungus, vermicelli and bean curd in separate bowls. (The mushrooms and fungus will take several hours to hydrate.

It's easiest to leave them submerged in bowls of water in the morning, top up the water when low, and then leave them until the afternoon.

The mushrooms and fungus will also need a very good scrub and rinse to remove dirt and debris.

Note: Keep a cup of the clean mushroom water for cooking.

Cut the mushroom stems off with scissors.

Then slice. Cut vermicelli and bean curd into strips.

Slice wombok into bite-sized pieces.

Heat oil in a large, non-stick saucepan or pot. Add garlic and ginger.

Add wombok and stir until soft. Add hydrated items.

Add splash of mushroom water.

Brew for at least 30 minutes on low heat.

Add cooking wine, oyster sauce, soy sauce, white pepper and salt to taste.

 

ALASTAIR McLEOD, 50, CHEF

There will be about 16 people around the Christmas table this year - my wife Ashleigh, daughters Bailie, 21, Sasha, 18, and Clancy, 2, as well as extended family.

If you talk to Clancy about what Christmas is and what's coming, she's excited.

It's lovely to have another go at that, for me, as a bloody 50-year-old.

 

Alastair McLeod, 50, and daughter Clancy, 2, Picture: Mark Cranitch.
Alastair McLeod, 50, and daughter Clancy, 2, Picture: Mark Cranitch.

 

I worked every Christmas during Bailie and Sasha's formative years.

It's not woe is me, but it's lovely to be at home and to be able to share the table and see that sense of wonder.

That's the epitome of Christmas. It's so primal, so visceral, it's just being together and being present; just being in the moment.

It's real simple pleasures stuff. Christmas is probably that for me more than anything else.

Christmas is about collaboration, celebration and community.

Really, the food is the conduit.

I can't stand the situation where everybody brings a plate - I hope my cousin doesn't read this because he wanted to do that - but I'll be doing all the cooking.

I really enjoy it. I'm not vegetarian but Ashleigh is, and we don't eat meat at home, so we'll be cooking what we always do.

Very much plant-based, though I might serve up a few prawns.

Clancy loves cooking.

We've got a stool with a frame around it, so she can stand at the kitchen bench beside me. We bake once a week and every night she's beside me, helping with dinner.

I'm going to share three salads with you.

Something like the tomatoes, watermelon, pomegranate and bitter leaves, which has got weight to it - we would have an iteration of that for lunch, three times a week, and I'm as full as a doctor's wallet.

It also speaks against that Christmas lunch apathy, that bilious feeling where you'd go have a sleep after. Here in the subtropics, it's not relevant.

There's also a crushed avocado with greens and quinoa, and a more Anglo-Saxon one of lemon-roasted vegetables, with soft curd.

I'm not wanting to be the bloody vegetarian boy, but that's what we're having for Christmas. People could use these as a framework to put their turkey alongside.

 

 

Watermelon, tomato and pomegranate salad, goat curd, bitter leaves
Watermelon, tomato and pomegranate salad, goat curd, bitter leaves

 

Watermelon, tomato and pomegranate salad, goat curd, bitter leaves Serves 4

250g vine ripened tomatoes, different colours, thickly sliced

250g seedless watermelon, thickly sliced

2 tbs extra virgin olive oil

Sea salt and freshly milled pepper

80g goat curd

75g assorted olives, pitted and torn in half

¼ pomegranate, seeded

Assorted bitter leaves

Method

Lay tomato and watermelon on a tray, drizzle with 2 tsp of olive oil and season generously.

Leave for 15 minutes to marinate.

When ready to serve, spread platter with goat curd and arrange fruit on top.

Top with olives and pomegranate then scatter with leaves.

 

Three salads from Alastair McLeod. Picture: Mark Cranitch.
Three salads from Alastair McLeod. Picture: Mark Cranitch.

 

Crushed avocado with greens and quinoa Serves 4

1 large avocado

4 green shallots, finely chopped

2 large zucchini, thickly sliced and barbecued until just tender

100g snow peas, blanched and refreshed

1 bunch asparagus, trimmed and blanched

200g cooked quinoa

¼ bunch flat-leaf parsley, leaves picked

¼ bunch mint, leaves picked

½ lemon juiced

100ml extra virgin olive oil

Sea salt and freshly milled pepper

Method

Combine all vegetables, quinoa and herbs.

Make a simple dressing with lemon juice and olive oil and season to taste.

 

Lemon roasted vegetables with stracciatella Serves 4

¼ pumpkin

1 medium sweet potato

4 medium potatoes

1 bunch Dutch carrots

1 lemon

Extra virgin olive oil

Sea salt and freshly milled pepper

Flat leaf parsley leaves

200g stracciatella cheese

Method Preheat oven to 200C. Cut vegetables into even sized pieces and place in a large bowl. Halve and thinly slice the lemon, generously drizzle over olive oil and season generously. Place on a baking tray and cook for 30 minutes or until golden and tender. Toss through parsley and serve with stracciatella cheese.

 

JENNY WOODWARD, ABC WEATHER PRESENTER,

My mum, Laurie Mackie, always made pavlova for special occasions and Christmas, and this is the first year we will celebrate without her.

Mum died earlier this year, just six weeks shy of her 99th birthday.

 

Jenny Woodward with her pavlova. Picture: Mark Cranitch.
Jenny Woodward with her pavlova. Picture: Mark Cranitch.

 

She was such a lovely woman, she was funny and always had a quick quip to make us laugh. We'll miss her not being around on Christmas Day, particularly this first one.

My dad Bob died, aged just 67, on Christmas Eve nearly 30 years ago, so Christmas is going to be a bit ... this year for we six sisters.

It will pull at the heartstrings.

In some ways, it makes Christmas more special and a bit more family oriented for us.

I'm also more reflective because I've come through my health scare (an inflamed heart in June) really well and there's been no lingering issues from that.

I'm very grateful.

Mum always made beautiful shortbread, an easy date slice and then she'd would make pavlova.

It's a Women's Weekly recipe that was quite easy to do and one we all use now because it's reasonably fail proof - though you can never be sure.

We top it with cream, kiwi fruit, mango, probably some berries, depending on what's around.

Because Mum loved seafood and her children have all inherited that, prawns and oysters are always a must on Christmas Day.

I'm thrilled to bits because our boys - Sam, 35, Alex, 32, and Michael, 27 - will all be home for Christmas. In the morning, we make teas and coffees, and exchange presents.

The boys take a lot of care and trouble to buy lovely presents for me and their dad, Douglas, and each other.

It's always nice to see they've given it a lot of thought, not just got any old thing. Even though they are grown up, we always have a Santa sack hanging up for them.

I was going to abandon it because I thought they were probably beyond it, and they were all like, 'Oh, no, no, there has to be a Santa sack!'

After that we have a ham and eggs breakfast, get organised and this year we're off to Doug's brother's home on the Sunshine Coast for lunch.

There's usually a pretty solid gathering wherever we end up each year, because I've got five sisters and Doug has three brothers and three sisters - though it's been a long time since we've had everybody together on either side.

Later, when we get home, we'll often play board games, which is a lot of fun, and pick at leftovers or have ham on toast for dinner.

 

Jenny Woodward’s pavlova. Picture: Mark Cranitch.
Jenny Woodward’s pavlova. Picture: Mark Cranitch.

 

MUM'S PAVLOVA

Makes one 28cm pavlova or 15 individual shells

(from The Australian Women's Weekly)

Ingredients

2 egg whites

½ tsp vanilla

1 tsp vinegar

1 tsp cornflour

1 ½ cups of caster sugar

4 tbs boiling water

Method

Put all the ingredients into a small bowl, adding the sugar and the boiling water last.

Beat on high speed until the mixture is very stiff - about 15 mins.

Spread on to a prepared tray.

Bake a large pavlova in a moderate oven for 10 minutes. Reduce to slow and bake a further 45 minutes, then leave to cool in the oven.

For small shells, bake in a moderate oven 10 minutes. Reduce heat to slow and bake a further 30 minutes, then leave to cool in oven.

Decorate with whipped cream and seasonal fruits.

Jenny's tips:

- Reduce the temperatures if you have a fan-forced oven.

- Use older eggs at room temperature.

- If you get any egg yolk in the mix, it won't whip up properly.

- The weather affects the mix; it works much better on a dry day.

- Any mistakes can be fixed by adding more cream and fruit!

 

USMAN KHAWAJA, CRICKETER, 32

This is the busiest of time of the year for me, so to have a couple of days off to focus on each other is nice for me and (wife) Rachel, 24, and our dog (Cavalier King Charles spaniel) Lebron.

Usman and Rachel with dog LeBron
Usman and Rachel with dog LeBron

We've missed Christmas Day with Rachel's family for the past few years, with me being in the Boxing Day Test and what not, but we're hoping to be home this year.

Being from a Muslim family, I never grew up celebrating Christmas but Rachel grew up in a Catholic-Christian family.

They're not extremely religious but Christmas is a big thing in their house and we're still a part of it.

Even though Rachel has converted, we celebrate not so much in the religious context; it's more about everyone getting together and celebrating the holidays and family, as we do during (Muslim religious holiday) Eid in Sydney with my family.

Rach is very festive whether it's Christmas or Eid, which I love.

Rachel has the tree up and loves dressing Lebron up in antlers and the like; I'm like, it's 35 degrees out here, give the man a break!

We're not big on presents but one thing Rachel and her family did was have Santa Sacks, with silly little presents in them, which we still do for each other.

As Muslims, we celebrate Eid twice a year - Eid al-fitr, after the fasting month of Ramadan (May 24, 2020) and Eid al-Adha, at the end of the annual Holy Pilgrimage (July 31, 2020). Rachel is trying to make new traditions for Eid and Christmas, for when we have a family of own. Growing up, friends would invite me over to their house.

I'd pig out on Christmas lunch with one friend, and then have dinner at another's.

I always loved the meats - though obviously I can't eat ham.

Rachel's dad has been harping on about a turducken for years - Big John loves his food, too.

Maybe that will make an appearance this year.


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