last minute christmas

Last minute Christmas lunch

photo Marina Oliphant

(Well, it’s actually past christmas, but this was my last minute christmas column for Epicure and Good Living. Not to worry, as these recipes are suited to summer cooking).

Here’s a simple and stylish lunch that suits our warm summery climate and requires minimal fuss.

The ceviche cooks itself, so it’s easy to prepare in advance. Usually made with white fish, I have used my favourite seafood, as a special Christmas treat. To feed a crowd, double the quantities and serve as an appetiser in small shot glasses or bamboo cocktail plates.

For the main event, I have used scampi, but prawns would also do very well. Grilling in the shells protects the delicate flesh from overcooking. A sprinkle of sechuan orange salt provides a flavour hit. These would also be delicious as part of a seafood banquet.

To finish off, there’s nothing better than enjoying fresh seasonal fruits. The cherry granita needs to be made ahead, but then it’s basically ready to serve, with whatever fruits you like. It’s light and refreshing and you’ll definitely have room for some Christmas pud.

Merry Christmas, enjoy a restful break and I’ll look forward to giving you more recipe ideas in 2011.


Prawn, scallop and ocean trout ceviche

Ceviche is made using fresh raw fish marinated in citrus juice. The citrus provides flavour, but also ‘cooks the fish’, by denaturing the protein. It is important to use fresh good quality seafood when making this. You can use a combination of lemon and lime juice, if limes are very expensive.

8 large green prawns

200 g ocean trout fillet, skin off

6 scallops, roe removed

7 large limes, juiced (approx 1 cup juice)

1 punnet ripe cherry tomatoes

1 red onion, finely chopped

1 avocado, peeled and diced

1 cup loosely packed coriander leaves

10 large mint leaves, shredded

1 long red chilli, deseeded and finely sliced

1-2 tbsp olive oil

sea salt and ground black pepper to season


Peel and clean prawns, removing intestinal tract and rinsing well. Slice into 1 cm chunks. Dice ocean trout and scallops into 1 cm pieces.

Place seafood in a glass bowl with enough lime juice to cover, then refrigerate and marinate for 2 hours to ‘cook’ the fish.

Cut tomatoes into quarters and mix with onion and avocado.

Remove fish from fridge and check to see that the fish has changed colour. It should all be opaque and look cooked. (If there are still pieces that look raw, stir well and place back in fridge for another 30 minutes). Remove and drain off the lime juice.

Gently combine fish with tomato and avocado mixture and fold through herbs and chilli. Drizzle over some olive oil, season with salt and pepper and serve.


Serves 4.

grilled scampi with Sichuan orange salt and pickled cucumber

photo Marina Oliphant


12 scampi (or substitute large prawns)

zest ½ (half) orange

3 tsp sea salt

½ (half) tsp Sichuan pepper

¾ (three quarters) cup rice wine vinegar

3 tbsp sugar

2 lebanese cucumbers

1 red onion

300g red cabbage

1 cup fresh coriander sprigs

handful fresh mint leaves

1 long red chilli, deseeded and sliced


To butterfly the scampi, use a sharp knife to cut down the middle, keeping the head, tail and shell on. Try to keep the shell attached at the mid point, allowing you to open out the scampi flat. Cut through the head section and tail completely (use kitchen scissors to make it easy). Rinse the head under running water to clean. Remove intestinal tract, pat dry with paper towel and set aside. Repeat with all the scampi.

Preheat oven to 180C fan forced (200C conventional), place orange zest on oven tray and dry out in oven for about 10 minutes.

Remove and cool, then place in mortar and pestle with salt and Sichuan pepper and pound. Set aside.

For the salad, place vinegar and sugar in a large bowl. Finely slice cucumber, red onion and cabbage with a mandoline or V slicer, and place in vinegar to soften for 10 minutes.

Place in a serving bowl and toss with fresh herbs and chilli.

Heat a bbq or grill plate to high, sprinkle scampi with a little Sichuan orange salt and grill, shell side down for 1-2 minutes. Turn and grill flesh side down for about 30 seconds. Remove and repeat with remaining scampi.

Arrange on platter and serve with extra Sichuan orange salt and pickled cucumber salad.


Serves 4.

mango cheeks with cherry granita

photo Marina Oliphant

A summery treat for both big and little kids, alike. For a variation, use any combination of seasonal berries in addition to the cherries when making the granita, for a light and refreshing finish to lunch.

1 kg cherries

300g caster sugar

200 ml water

1 lemon, juiced

4 ripe mangoes


Remove stalks and pips from cherries. Process in a food processor until smooth. Set aside.

Place sugar and water in a small saucepan over low heat and stir until the sugar dissolves. Increase heat to medium and simmer for a few minutes. Set aside to cool completely.

Pour cold syrup over cherries, add lemon juice and stir well.

Place mixture into a shallow metal tray, cover and place in freezer.

After one hour, or when the granita has begun to set, use a fork to break up.

Return to freezer for another hour, then repeat procedure with the fork.

Store in freezer until set and ready to use. Before serving, break up with a fork again.

Cut mangoes on either side of the central pip to give two cheeks.

Serve with cherry granita.


Serves 4-6.



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