Loaves and fishes: my list of miracle foods

December 15, 2009

Okay, I know Christmas isn’t strictly related to that particular miracle (reminds me of the time my heathen brother-in-law demanded of my mother what the hell Easter eggs had to do with Jesus being born in Bethlehem anyway…), but one of the things I really like Christmas & New Year holidays is the tendency toward spontaneous and sprawly gatherings over food.

You know the kind of thing, two people for lunch turns into ten, and an instant party ensues. But to make that kind of thing fun it’s gotta be stress free – so here’s my list of good stuff you can pull out at the last second for lunch or picknicky dinner, or take to a friend’s place to blast off their Christmas stress.

Some are old summer holiday faves, and some gleaned from these pages this year. Most of this stuff can be bought in advance and shoved in the fridge, freezer or pantry to pull our for miracle-working when requried…

  • Oysters – of course! Buy them unopened a few days before Christmas and keep in a bucket with a wet towel over them in a cool place – they keep for a couple of weeks.
  • Glazed ham – leftovers, for weeks. Mmmmm.
  • Chutneys & pickles – years ago the Empress introduced me to the killer recipe for Christine Manfield’s eggplant pickle.
  • Smoked salmon – or Virginia & Nigella’s cured salmon! – w creme fraiche and/or salmon roe & sourdough
  • Smoked trout –  keep a couple in the freezer and pull them out any old time
  • Cooked prawns, green salad, mayonnaise
  • Bread – keep a supply of sourdough in the freezer
  • Green salad, nicely dressed with good oil & vinegar
  • Chickpeas – of course! Chuck em in a bowl with bottled roasted capsicum & marinated feta or labneh, or try these ideas
  • Baba ganoush & Steph’s beetroot dip – plus packets and packets of rice crackers
  • Quinoa salad or citrus couscous (make a huge batch – both of these keep forever)
  • Lots of luscious, ripe avocado – buy a heap of those rock hard ones now to have softies on hand for later.
  • Lots and lots and lots of ripe tomatoes
  • Devils on horseback – everybody loves them! And you can keep sealed pancetta & pitted prunes on hand for months…
  • A couple of fillets of salmon in the freezer and a couple of spuds can yield a heap of salmon patties for a crowd.
  • Peas! I am never without a huge bag of frozen peas in the freezer. Actually there will be a new post on peas coming shortly…
  • Eggs – chuck a few halved, hard-boiled eggs in a green salad with some chunks of fresh, cured or smoked salmon and you have a delicious twist on nicoise.
  • Labneh – mmmm.
  • Quiche – if you have frozen shortcrust pastry in the freezer, a quiche takes about fifteen minutes to throw together and another twenty to cook. Fast and fab.

Okeydokes, that’s Santa’s (or Jesus’s?) list of magic expandable food for now – but you must have lots of things to add …

*Oh, and today’s Christmas Excess Antidote is courtesy of www.kiva.org– I absolutely love this site. At the click of a mouse you can provide a micro-loan (as little as $25) to someone in a developing country who’s making a go of things with very slim pickings indeed. I love it so much because your loan just keeps on giving – you can either get the money back (though what kind of a person …) or choose that it goes to someone else in the chain. Perfect!


  1. hmm. It’s dawned on me that all these bible refs might make me sound religious. For the record, I’m not. Not that there’s anything wrong with that … unless you are Tony Abbott, George Pell, that Jensen dude, the Pope, et al.

  2. Can’t entertain without olives and great anchovies – the olives speak for themselve, anchovies mean pissaladerie, puttanesca and flash salty little bite things are all close by! These two ingredients, plus the regular cherry toms coming off the vines make for happy summer food!

    Just a quick note about Patrice Newell and her wonderful garlic – I had a rather sad email yesterday saying they are considering canning operations because of this terrible drought. We’re all on this site because we love food, and if you love food, you are involved in farming. Those who’ve ordered from Patrice might drop her a line of support xx

  3. I agree that olives are an essential standby. My other summer essentials are always to have fresh salad ingredients on hand, meat (and prawns and salmon) in the freezer of a variety of persuasions that can be barbequed, marinade/dressing ingredients in the pantry/fridge, and icecream. Most visitors of whatever age or degree of fussiness will eat at least some of these! Cheeses are helpful too.

  4. Last night I made several jars of the Empress chutney to put on in a gift basket I’ve been gathering together for a few months. Made the chutney for the other night as a trial. Loved it. The other stuff in the basket included raspberry vinegar ( of course), caramelised balsamic vinegar, jar of preserved lemons, fabulous truly home-made wild ginger curry paste from Fox studio markets, knobs of Patrice Newell garlic and a small bottle of fruity olive oil for salad dressings. As I have absolutely no work on this weekend I’m thinking of make a batch of biscuits. On the other hand I might see what they have at the Eveleigh markets this morning.

  5. […] relish (see how confusing the lingo is?), and a very brief link to the unquestionably good Manfield eggplant pickle here, and this rather sour half-invented cumquat chutney, that […]

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