MasterChef winner and long-term Tearfund supporter Kate Bracks loves the Christmas season, which for her centres around family, food and faith. She shares some great ideas about how to celebrate the season joyfully!
It shouldn’t come as any surprise that a delicious spread is one of the joys of Christmas Day for Kate Bracks and her family of five. After all, the 2011 winner of the cooking TV series MasterChef is a passionate foodie, renowned for her sweet treats, which include couverture chocolate fudge cake and Berrymisu. She’s also passionate about her faith, and so for her, the day is also very much focused around Jesus.
Kate, a long-term Tearfund supporter who lives in Orange, rural NSW with her husband Luke and three teenage children, says her Christmas Day usually unfolds the same way each year. “If we can, we go to church, and then back to our house or someone else’s house for a long afternoon of being together with our extended family.”
After running her home-based baking business for several years, Kate is now teaching primary school full time. She says: “I find it such a privilege to be a part of kids’ learning journey.” Of course, she still loves cooking for her family and friends and regularly indulges in baking sessions on weekends and holidays.
She shared with us her five inspirations for a joyful Christmas. We hope you enjoy them (and also her special Berrymisu recipe!) as you head into this year’s festive season.
Kate says: “We try to make Christmas an exciting time but still keep the focus on Jesus. We’ve always tried to be very open and honest with our kids – we’ve said that while a lot of families make Christmas about the gifts and party – there are certain things we do as a family like going to church, and saying grace before lunch. We also try to make our bible reading time about Christmas in the lead up to the day.
We still do presents but keep it a bit more restrained. Christmas is a celebration of what God has given us in Jesus. It can be a constant battle to try and shape Christmas around celebrating that, rather than the commercialism or even the food or the fun times.”
Like many of us, Kate loves to celebrate with family and friends around good food at Christmas. She says: “Share the day with people you love, create a banquet of your favourite foods, and make time to relax and enjoy it. If we look in the bible there are lots of examples of feasts – they are not bad, but it’s also important to remember the reason why we are feasting.”
There are lots of special Christmas food traditions in the Bracks’ household, including a local ham, which Kate glazes at home, as well as seafood and salads perfect for a summer’s day. Kate says: “We always have long, long lunches and plenty of left overs for Boxing Day. There is always a Christmas pudding, which my Nana made and handed the recipe down to me. I make this especially for my Dad, as it was his mum that made it.”
Kate says: “Christmas is a celebration of God’s incredible generosity to us, so it feels right to want to be generous to others at Christmas time, especially living in a middle class Western country like ours. It makes sense to want to share what we have with those who don’t have enough.”
Kate and her extended family have been exchanging Tearfund Australia’s Useful Gifts (www.usefulgifts.org) cards at Christmas for the past couple of decades. Tearfund’’s Useful Gifts Catalogue features gifts like chickens, safe water, vegetable gardens and pre-school classes, which contribute to long-term community development programs.
Kate says: “As a family, we have everything we need. Initially we thought we’d do it for that first year, but we loved the concept so much that we did it every Christmas. Now with the adults in my family it is the main giving we do. We still give to the kids but it’s also accompanied by a smaller Tearfund card.”
Fittingly, Kate loves the food-related cards, which include Good Food, Chicken + Eggs, Goat and Seeds + Tools. She says: “I also love the ones which have a bit of humour, like the toilet – it’s pretty cool to give someone a toilet!”
Kate recommends choosing food you can you can prepare ahead of time, so it's not a huge day of work for anyone. She says: “Because I like to have a feast but I don’t want to slave away on the day, I normally do all the preparation in the days beforehand. I want the memory to be celebrations and relaxing and fun. “A great example of something you can make before the day is my Berrymisu (see recipe and picture below). It looks beautiful and very Chrismassy with all the red berries!”
Kate says: “It's the ultimate decadence!”
125g slivered almonds, toasted
½ cup caster sugar
½ cup water
500g mixed frozen berries
½ cup caster sugar
½ cup water
Squeeze from ½ lime
300ml pouring cream
3 tblsp icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
300g sponge finger biscuits (Savioradi)
Fresh berries, to serve
1. Combine ½ cup caster sugar and ½ cup water in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring regularly, until the sugar has dissolved. Increase the temperature and simmer rapidly until the mixture is a deep caramel colour. Add the slivered almonds and, working quickly, spread onto a flat try lined with baking paper. Set aside to cool completely then break into small pieces.
2. Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan and stir occasionally over low heat until the sugar has dissolved. Increase the heat and simmer a further 2 mins. Place most of the berries in a heat-proof bowl (reserving a handful for step 3). Add the frozen berries and stir until berries are lightly warmed (or heat gently in a microwave if necessary – they need to be just warm). Blend until smooth, adding lime juice to taste.
3. Combine the marscarpone and cream in the bowl of an electric mixer. Whip until smooth and thick, taking care not to overwhip. Add the sifted icing sugar and vanilla extract. Stir to combine.
4. Line a 9cm x 25cm (or similar) loaf tin with baking paper. Spread 1/4 cream mixture evenly onto the base. Dip sponge finger biscuits into the warm berry syrup and submerge for 15-20 seconds to absorb a little syrup and then lay in a single layer over the cream. Use a teaspoon to add a little more syrup to each biscuit. Scatter with the reserved berries then top with another quarter of the cream mixture. Sprinkle with some of the reserved berries and some of the almond pieces. Add another layer of soaked biscuits, spooning again with extra syrup. Finish with a third quarter of the cream. Cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Reserve the remaining cream, syrup and almonds for serving.
5. To serve, invert the tin onto a serving plate and top with remaining cream. Drizzle with some of the remaining syrup. Scatter with fresh berries and almonds. Serve immediately.