This is Elizabeth’s all-time, favorite, shortbread. Every year she says her mother-in-law’s 4 ingredient, easy holiday shortbread is so good she could open a stall at a farmer’s market and sell out in no time at all! She looks foward to Christmas just to get the shortbread!
Not only do they taste good but with only 4 ingredients to deal with and a few minutes in a food processor, they are quick and easy to make. A Christmas-classic in Australia, read on for the recipe and also how Australians celebrate Christmas from a food perspective.
A Southern Hemisphere Christmas Experience
For northern hemisphere visitors holidaying in Australia over the Christmas period, it can be a slightly surreal experience. Australia is in the midst of summer and this can be quite confronting as you need to change your expectations as to what you will experience.
For a start it is stays light until 9pm or later and maybe 10pm before total darkness sets in. Think about that for a moment. Christmas lights don’t really take hold until this time and by then you are at home (not driving around). So it can appear Australians don’t think much about Christmas decorations but nothing could be further from the truth.
Many families buy a “live” pine tree from a charity or local scout group and decorate it with all of the normal decorations and Christmas lights you would see in colder climes. What you may not see as much of are the external decorations, think of the Chevy Chase scene in National Lampoons Christmas Vacation. I am always amazed when I travel to the US to see the effort involved in decorating the outside of a house.
Traditional Cold Climate Christmas Cooking Still Reigns Supreme in Australia
Of course being in summer, it’s warm and sometimes very hot on Christmas Day. But trust me that doesn’t dent the enthusiasm for most people to cook a traditional, Christmas Dinner. When I was younger, Christmas Dinner usually meant Roast Chicken and/or (usually and) Roast Pork, and roast veggies, with gravy. As well there was always “ham on the bone”, a great Christmas pleasure to order for pick up on Christmas Eve. Yes 3 different meats on your plate, no wonder Christmas is so looked forward to!
Dessert was always home-made Plum Pudding, with hard sauce or custard. As well mum would toss some coins into the mix as a pleasant surprise (until the food police intervened and advised people not to do this. Spoilt sports!). It didn’t matter it was sometimes 90 degrees fahrenheit (32 degrees celcius) and sometimes warmer. We always had a traditional style (English) Christmas Dinner and we always ate in our formal dining room with our best silverware. In addition, we would always have savory mince pies, home-made Christmas cake and shortbread. And then we would have a nap! You can read more about Melbourne’s British heritage here.
Over the years, other ingredients became more popular and cheaper and the Christmas roast might be duck, goose or turkey (but always pork as well). But during the 1980’s a metamorphosis took place and people started embracing a more casual approach to Christmas.
Casual Summer BBQ’s are Making an Impact at Christmas
Think seafood (Australian rock lobster and prawns are particularly popular). Anything on the BBQ, although a little more gourmet than just throwing a “shrimp on the barbie”. Think of a rack of pork done on a Weber BBQ, marinated chicken wings, drumsticks or thighs for the kids, even gourmet sausages or maybe pink lamb loin chops. And don’t forget the salads, crisp white wines and cold, refreshing beers. No more eating in the dining room, its outside under the pergola to make the most of the great Aussie weather at this time of the year.
My gut feel is that about 30% of Australians celebrate Christmas in this fashion and about 70% still do the traditional roast. And the Rudd clan? We have never broken tradition and have persevered with the traditional roast. But let me tell you a little secret. There has been a changing of the guard and this year we are breaking with British tradition and for the first time ever are going more casual with an Australian-style BBQ by the pool.
But one thing I can tell you is that certain components are not changing and shortbread will still be on the menu! The best part is that all of my siblings receive a “tuck box” of these delightful treats to take home. Bring on Christmas, can’t wait!