Phoebella Magazine: A Traditional Family Christmas

Phoebella Magazine Xmas Article

Growing up, I have been fortunate enough to live in two countries – Australia and Canada. I’ve enjoyed many a white Christmas as well as those spent in the humid Australian summer. But throughout them all, they have always been celebrated with family at my side.

Having spent the first six years of my life living in Sydney, family was never more than a few minutes drive away. Each Christmas, my mum and dad would take my two sisters and I to our Grandparents place. The day would be spent in the pool with our cousins, eating delicious food, opening gifts from one another and before we all left, we would collect a candy cane from the Christmas tree. My Grandma always made sure there was enough for everyone.

For the next three Christmases, I got to experience that white Christmas that fills the pages of children’s storybooks. Sitting around with the family, watching the flames of the fire (no chestnuts roasting though) while sipping on hot chocolate and eggnog. Then once the fire has died down, leaving only a glow from the embers, the children hurry off to bed and fall asleep while watching the snow fall softly from the sky, waiting to hear the “Ho! Ho! Ho!”-ing of Jolly Old Saint Nic and the sound of his sleigh as it glides across the roof. These Christmases were a little more subdued than those spent in Sydney as our nearest family was in the next province. But none the less, they were just as special. On Christmas Day, Mum and Dad would spend hours preparing dinner while my sisters and I played with all of our new toys.

Living in Brisbane for the past twelve years, my Christmases have been anything but lacklustre. We’ve had everything from the big family celebrations at my Grandparents (now living in the southern highlands of New South Wales) to just the five of us spending the day relaxing by the pool, eating the dishes that have been passed down from generation to generation as well as new additions to the Christmas Day menu. Having spent my last Christmas with my older sister, Emma in Prague and away from the rest of the family and all of our favourite Christmas foods, I am very much looking forward to this Christmas. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed my European Christmas and would happily do it again, but nothing can replace a Christmas with the whole family. To quote one of my favourite shows Chuck, at Christmas time “there’s fun and friends and food…and that’s just the f’s!” To add to sweet Morgan’s list, this year my Christmas will also be filled with my immediate and extended family, a day full of frivolous activities and plenty of the festive spirit!

Getting back to my love of good food, here are a few recipes that my family likes to enjoy at Christmas – from my Grandma’s fruit cake recipe to ones that I’ve added in the past few years. I hope you enjoy them and that you have a very merry Christmas surrounded by plenty of family, friends and most of all, delicious food!

Grandma Fay’s Fruit Cake

I’ve never tried to make my Grandma’s fruit cake but it’s something that I like to leave to her. She always makes plenty for the whole family and makes sure everyone has some for Christmas. She’s been making it for the family for as long as I can remember.


2 ¼ cups (380g) raisins chopped coarsely

3 cups (500g) sultanas

¾ cup (110g) currants

1 cup (250g) quartered red glace cherries

1½ cups (250g) coarsely chopped seeded prunes

1/3 cup (115g) honey

½ cup (125ml) brandy

250g butter softened

1 cup (200g) firmly packed brown sugar

5 eggs

1 ¼ cups (185g) plain flour

2 tbsp brandy extra


  1. Combine fruit, honey & brandy in a bowl. Mix well then stand for up to a week.
  2. Line base & sides of a deep 19cm square pan.
  3. Set the oven to 150˚C.
  4. Beat sugar & butter in a small bowl with electric mixer until just combined.
  5. Beat in eggs one at a time until just combined.
  6. Add the fruit mixture and flour. Mix thoroughly.
  7. Drop dollops into pan.
  8. Drop pan from a height of about 15cm to settle mixture into pan and break up any large bubbles.
  9. Bake cake in oven for about 4 hours.
  10. Once the cake is cooked, remove from the oven and brush with the extra brandy.
  11. Cover with foil and leave it to cool in the pan.

MacKenzie Christmas Morning Muffins

A few years ago, we decided that instead of having breakfast, lunch and then a huge dinner at Christmas, we would just have a late breakfast and an early-ish dinner. I found this recipe in Nigella Lawson’s “How to be a Domestic Goddess” and we’ve eaten it every Chrismtas morning since. You can prepare the dry ingredients the night before in a zip-loc bag and then pour them into a bowl and add the wet ingredients in the morning. They’re super simple, taste delicious and the recipe makes 12 so there’s plenty for everyone.


200g plain flour

3 tsp baking powder

½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

75g Demerara sugar (you can use brown sugar instead)

A good grating of fresh nutmeg or ½ tsp ground nutmeg

Juice of 1 clementine or small orange or ½ large orange

Approximately 50ml milk (skim or full-fat)

60g unsalted butter

1 large egg

150g dried cranberries (optional)
For the topping

2 teaspoons Demerara sugar (you can use raw or brown sugar)

½ teaspoon cinnamon


  1. Preheat the oven to 200˚C
  2. In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, bicarb and sugar and grate over a generous amount of fresh nutmeg.
  3. Pour the juice of the clementine or orange into a measuring jug, then pour in milk on top till it comes up to the 150ml mark.
  4. Add the melted butter and the egg, and beat to combine.
  5. Pour the jug of liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir to combine.
  6. Lightly fold in the cranberries (optional)
  7. Fill the muffin cases with the mixture
  8. Mix together the sugar and ground cinnamon and sprinkle over the tops of the muffins.
  9. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes or until the scent of Christmas fills the air.
  10. Enjoy them as they are, with butter or with marmalade.

A Queensland Christmas Mojito Fruit Salad

Taking inspiration from another culinary love of mine, Jamie Oliver, I altered his recipe to fit in with the tropical fruits my family loves. The alcohol is optional (we tend not to put it in) but I guess it’s what makes it a ‘mojito’ fruit salad. It’s a perfect accompaniment to the Christmas muffins.


¼ large watermelon

2 ripe mangoes

1 ripe pineapple

½ rockmelon

2 passionfruit

For the dressing

Bunch of fresh mint leaves

3 limes, zest and juice

2 tbsp brown sugar

White rum (to taste)


  1. Cut the watermelon, mangoes, pineapple and rockmelon into cubes and put the fruit in a large bowl.
  2. Cut the passionfruit in half, scoop out the flesh and spread over the fruit.
  3. With a mortar and pestle, bruise the mint.

*If you don’t have a mortar and pestle, finely chop the mint and make the dressing in a jug.

  1. Add the juice and zest of the 3 limes and the brown sugar, stir to combine.
  2. Add the desired amount of white rum to the dressing and pour over the fruit.
  3. Stir the fruit so the dressing is dispersed evenly and enjoy.

Mum’s Chocolate Bark

My mum always makes a huge batch of chocolate bark at Christmas time and gives them to teachers, friends or work colleagues. They’re quick to make and are great edible gifts.


375g (1 pack) white chocolate melts

250g (1 pack) white chocolate bits

150g dried cranberries

100g slivered almonds, roasted


  1. Slightly chop the cranberries until they are about half the size of what they were. Set them aside.
  2. Toast the almonds in a non-stick pan until slightly golden. Be careful not to burn them. Once golden, pour them into a bowl to cool.
  3. While the almonds are cooling, melt the chocolate in a large jug in the microwave.
  4. Once the chocolate has melted, stir in the chopped cranberries and toasted almonds.
  5. Pour the chocolate onto a non-stick baking tray and spread evenly.
  6. Place the tray in the fridge, flat, and allow the chocolate to cool completely (this will take a few hours, best to leave it overnight).
  7. Once the chocolate has cooled completely, break it into bite size pieces.
  8. Place them in bags, jars or containers if giving them as gifts or in a snap-lock container for yourself and keep them in the fridge.


Christmas cane chocolate bark
Replace the cranberries and almonds with the same weight (combined) of candy canes. You can use whatever kind you want but the traditional mint flavoured ones work best.


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