Expert Q&A

How to cook everything in the Women's Weekly Christmas cookbook

Or, 'How to cook and eat everything (yes, everything) in the AWW Christmas Cookbook in one sitting without going bankrupt or having a nervous breakdown'.

By Petra Starke
Have you ever flicked through the Australian Women's Weekly Christmas cookbook licking your lips at the tempting photos on every glossy page and thought: "I wish I could just eat ALL of it?".
Well guess what: you can.
And guess what else: you don't have to be a masterchef to do it.
You don't need to chain yourself to the stove for three days either, or have a nervous breakdown from single-handedly whipping up a banquet big enough to feed every shopping centre Santa in Australia. Perhaps most importantly, you don't have to fork out big bucks (which means more money to buy chocolate, hooray!).
No, all you need are a few mates, a sense of fun and a competitive spirit. And the AWW cookbook, of course. Oh, and booze. You're probably going to want some booze.
I know all of this because last week I ate a solid two thirds of the 2004 AWW Christmas Cookbook in one sitting, and I barely lifted a finger to do it. (Apart from the fingers that were wrapped around my fork, obviously. I was lifting those to my mouth and back to my plate again pretty much all afternoon.)
So, what's the secret? It's called "The Celebrity Christmas Cook-Off", and it's here to save your Christmas lunch.
A bit like Iron Chef except without any Chinese movie star judges, the Celebrity Christmas Cook-Off (or "CCC" as it has become known) is a fiercely-fought annual competition devised by my group of friends in which we all go head-to-head to cook and present the best Christmas dish over the course of one very long, very fun lunch.
I'm not joking when I say it's fierce: we take tasting notes, and cast votes and everything. The winner even takes home a trophy plate with their name engraved on it. It's like My Kitchen Rules meets the Brownlows.
How it works is everyone is assigned a course at random - either entree, main, side dish or dessert - and all competitors work from the same cookbook, which is chosen by popular vote. In the past they've typically been celebrity ones (hence the name), like Gordon Ramsay and Nigella Lawson.
For the CCC's fifth anniversary this year, however, we wanted to go local. And what bigger Aussie culinary celebrity is there than the Australian Women's Weekly?
Twelve cooks, twelve dishes and the AWW Christmas cookbook = one epic Christmas lunch.
And so names were drawn from the ceremonial CCC hat, the courses were assigned, the recipes chosen. As usual, those with desserts crowed with that special type of smug confidence only a berry pavlova can inspire, while those relegated to a single side dish knew they'd have an uphill battle to take the trophy. I mean, the AWW's caramelised carrots are totally brilliant - but could they beat a barbecued ham? Could haloumi and spinach salad really be more impressive than caramelised pork neck with crispy crackling? (As it turns out, no: given the cook in question somehow managed to burn the haloumi.)
But as a clever person once said: "There are no small dishes, only small cooks" (or something like that, anyway). Plus, as anyone who's watched Masterchef knows: it's all about the flavour! And we had that in dollops.
From Greg's beautifully delicate smoked salmon and marscapone crepe cakes to Matt's wonderfully juicy Aussie barbecued ham (joint third place winners), to Sooz's gloriously sticky ginger and lime cake (second place), and my meticulously presented (hey it's my article, I can write what I like) roasted vegetable and goat's cheese terrine (unfairly robbed of any placement), by the end of the meal we were all as stuffed as Craig's rolled pork loin.
And the winner? Nikki's berry pavlova, naturally. You just can't beat an Australian Women's Weekly pav.
The Menu
Smoked salmon and marscapone crepe cakes
Roast vegetable and goat's cheese terrine
Coconut and chicken wontons
Caramelised BBQ pork neck
Aussie BBQ ham
Pork loin with spinach and pancetta stuffing
Pumpkin and spinach frittata
Spinach and haloumi salad
Warm potato salad with caperberries
Caramelised carrots
Berry pavlova
Ginger and lime cake
Petra Starke is a freelance writer based in Adelaide, South Australia. You can follow her on Twitter and on Facebook.

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