The festive season is a brilliant time of year, as restaurants pull themselves out of the slump of winter and the atmosphere in the dining rooms ramp up as it gets warmer and closer to Christmas. Though for chefs it’s also a busy time, as Executive Chef of Flying Fish, Peter Robertson, knows too well, saying “ when you live in the world of hospitality, “busy” takes on a whole new meaning”. Here, Peter shares his favourite dish that he cooks at Christmas time, and his top tips to tackle the festive season.
My favourite Christmas tradition has been a relatively recent addition, and that’s “fake Christmas”. In previous years, if I’m working at the restaurant, normally I’d just forgo Christmas with the family and get my wife to relay the highlights when I got home. But these days with two young kids it’s something that I’d prefer not to miss. So instead, we bring Christmas forward or back a few days and invite all the family over and enjoy a delicious feast! It’s a lot of fun and a bit less pressure, plus I like the idea that the kids get two Christmas days.
My favourite dish to cook at Christmas time is my mum’s cauliflower gratin. She used to make one every year, and it was a real standout in her repertoire. It always makes me happy to make it because I can imagine how “fancy” she would have thought my version is as I always opt for the best cheese I can find, usually a delicious comté or gruyere, instead of the pre shredded cheese she would use in her béchamel.
When it comes to my favourite dish on the Flying Fish Christmas menu, it would have to be BBQ eastern rock lobster with hand cut noodles. Honestly, it’s my favourite dish on the menu at any time of the year, but I think lobster is a must for Christmas. It’s decadent, luxurious and importantly, tasty. Lobster just works really well at this time of year when folks want to give themselves a well deserved treat.
If you’re looking to wow your guests this Christmas and festive season, my first tip would be to always remember the Five P’s—prior preparation prevents poor performance. Try to purchase the best quality ingredients that you can afford, as substandard produce can be good, but will never be amazing. And finally, play to your strengths at Christmas. Got a banger of a dish in your repertoire? Whip it out, and save the experiments for another time.
1 head of cauliflower
- 500g milk
- 1 eschalot
- 1 clove garlic
- 5 peppercorns
- 1 bayleaf
- 1 sprig thyme
- 2 cloves
50g butter, 50g flour, 250g grated comte (Marcel Petite is a decent option)
- Cut the cauliflower into florets and boil in salted water for 4 minutes
- Combine the milk with aromats and bring to a simmer, leave it to stand
- Melt the butter in a separate pot and add in the flour and stir with a wooden spoon until it’s combined. This is called a roux. Keep it on a medium heat
- Strain the hot milk and whisk it into the roux in three equal stages, allowing the mix to come to a boil each time, whisking as it does to keep it smooth. Add a little salt and then cover the bechamel and hold on a very low heat for 40 minutes or as long as patients allows, this will cook out the starch fully so the end result doesn’t taste floury
- Whisk in the grated cheese and season with salt and pepper to taste
- Arrange the cauliflower florets in a freshly polished copper pan or oven proof dish then cover liberally with the bechamel
- Bake at 180°C for 40 minutes or until golden brown. Enjoy!
Flying Fish is open this Christmas Day, and chef Peter Robertson and the Flying Fish team have prepared a beautiful seafood feast for the whole family to enjoy. Plus, there’s a complimentary glass of sparkling on arrival to help you start your Christmas celebration.