Dan Churchill combines his love of food and travel as co-host of the ABC-TV show Surfing the Menu. He grew up on Sydney’s northern beaches and has a background in health and fitness. In 2013, Dan competed in series five of MasterChef Australia; he has since released three cookbooks and also creates videos for his own YouTube channel.
“Every Christmas up until last year I would go down to Bilgola Beach [on Sydney’s northern beaches] with my family and we would sit in exactly the same spot as we always have with a board filled with seafood. Two weeks prior to Christmas, Dad would order all the seafood so he could skip the queue at the fish markets. Then, on the day, he’d walk proudly past the line.
Our family’s seafood board is full of fresh oysters, prawns, scallops and fish that is always grilled and never battered. Also on the board are a number of dips and sauces. We have your typical seafood options like tartare and even a cocktail number, but we also love our spice so we always make our own variations and add more kick with chipotle. There’s always hummus and a number of dips like that, as well as a few cheeses to enjoy in the lead-up.
Getting everything ready for a day at the beach is a team effort. Dad and I look after the organisation of most of the food. I’m the middle of three boys and I do the dips and prep the fish where it needs to be cooked. Mum usually puts together a salad. My brothers get all the cricket gear, surfboards and mats sorted – or at least they try to! When all the family’s together on Christmas Day we act like hooligans.
I’m always a fan of prawns and scallops and obviously the fish as well. Some years the oysters are just to die for and you don’t need anything else other than lemon juice. But the best part of Christmas is the communal aspect. I love the spirit of putting together a number of fresh offerings on one big platter and being able to tuck in with the people you love the most.
Now I live in North America and had my first Christmas there last year, so FaceTime was my way of getting a summer Christmas in. I was wearing an ugly sweater and carving up a turkey with a long table of Australians in New York. While it wasn’t actually snowing it was still cold and there were carols in the air – everything that you see in the movies.
But no matter what happens, Christmas is always a big feast with close friends, family and too much food. It’s the one time of year where I say, Don’t think about anything other than taste."
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt flakes and ground black pepper, to season
6 barramundi or cod fillets, skin dried with paper towel
1kg cooked prawns
3 dozen Sydney rock oysters
2 fresh lemons, halved
Avocado salsa and hummus, to serve
Preheat oven to 180C.
Add 2 tbsp of the olive oil to a large non-stick pan on medium-high heat. Sprinkle the sea salt on to the skin of the fish and add to pan skin side down. Cook for 2-4 minutes until skin is crisp and golden. (You may need to do 2 batches.)
Remove the pan from the heat, flip the fish then put the pan in the oven. If you don't have an ovenproof pan, transfer fish to a baking tray. Cook for 2-3 minutes or until a knife comes out very warm when inserted into the thickest part of the fish.
Transfer the fish onto the centre of a long serving. Arrange the prawns at one end and the oysters at the other. Squeeze lemon juice over everything and drizzle with remaining olive oil. Finish off by sprinkling everything, except the oysters, with salt and pepper.
Serve with the recommended dips or those of your choice.
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