How to Plan the Perfect Seafood Spread!
Christmas is a stressful time for many, whether you’re hosting the whole extended family or just a few select guests. Seafood is a staple of Australian Christmas tables, but often the huge variety available can become overwhelming. Then we find ourselves leaving Sydney Fish Market on Christmas Eve with the same old prawns and oyster combo that we always get.
With this comprehensive guide to planning your Christmas lunch or dinner, we’re here to help you create the varied, innovative, and impressive seafood spread you’ve always dreamed about for your Christmas table.
All of these tips can be adapted to suit the size of your gathering, your budget, and your personal preferences. And remember, when in doubt, you can always check out the huge variety of seafood recipes on our website for inspiration! How Much Seafood to Buy
The first step to planning the perfect Christmas spread is determining exactly how much food you will need. It’s always better to have too much than too little, but you don’t want to have huge amounts of wastage after your guests head home.
This handy guide gives you a cheat-sheet to determine exactly how much seafood you’ll need per person:
Remember to bring an esky along with you on your Christmas trip to Sydney Fish Market, and ask the fishmonger to pack some ice with your purchase, to keep it fresh on the journey home. Then, store everything in the coldest part of your fridge.
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to eat your seafood immediately. Most seafood species will keep for 3-5 days in the right conditions, so don’t stress too much about it going bad. When in doubt, ask your fishmonger how best to store the species you’ve chosen, or check out the storage FAQ’s on our website. What Seafood to Buy
Once you’ve planned out how much food you’ll need for your guests, it’s time to decide what exactly you’re going to buy. We recommend thinking about species first, recipes second. This allows you to address two key areas:
If you’re willing to splash out for the special occasion, your options are endless. We recommend buying from a variety of different seafood categories to really make your seafood spread shine: get a crustacean (Rock Lobster, Bugs, or Crab are great choices); a whole fish for a fantastic centrepiece or some fillets for the main course; some bivalves (scallops, mussels, or the crowd favourite – oysters); some prawns of course; and some octopus or squid.
The variety will impress any guest, especially if you cook them in different ways.
If you’re working with a tighter budget, we recommend trying some species you haven’t heard of before. The prices of fish like Snapper, Atlantic Salmon, and Barramundi go up slightly around Christmas time in response to demand, while lesser-known species (that are just as delicious), are readily available and significantly cheaper.
So, instead of Snapper, try some Bream or Perch. Replace your Atlantic Salmon with Ocean or Rainbow Trout. Try some Ling or Mulloway instead of Barramundi.
Again, if in doubt, ask your fishmonger what is good quality and in-season – they’ll even tell you how to cook it!
Hot and Cold Elements
The perfect seafood spread has to be well-balanced, not only in flavour, but in temperature. Too many hot dishes will overwhelm your guests, especially in the height of summer, but too many cold dishes lower the satisfaction factor.
We recommend spreading your dishes evenly across hot and cold… Picking two from each of the below lists is a great start:
Hot Seafood Dishes
Cold Seafood Dishes
How to Create a Star Centrepiece
Nothing takes a Christmas seafood spread to the next level quite like a star centrepiece. There are a few options in this category that are certain to impress your guests.
A whole fish is a budget-friendly option that is far easier to achieve than you think. Whole fish are significantly cheaper than fillets, and look incredible on the table. You can steam, deep-fry, bake, or BBQ a whole fish easily, and then all your guests have to do is serve themselves, pulling off a section of meat from the bone with their knife and fork.
Some of our favourite whole fish recipes are:
If a whole fish isn’t your thing, some other options for a centrepiece include a large Eastern Rock Lobster (you can either serve it Thermidor or from the BBQ), some assorted crustaceans baked in garlic (like in this recipe), a homemade sushi platter (as described here), or a large squid (stuffed like in this recipe looks particularly impressive).
Salads and Sides
The final thing to consider for a stellar Christmas spread is all the extras. Salads and sides are easy and quick to assemble, but are often an afterthought. These salad recipes are sure to be just as impressive as your mains, with their own unique flavours to offer:
Having a selection of simple sides also makes for a decadent and exciting gathering, whether you serve them as appetisers before the main event, or scatter them about a large table for everyone to pick at as they go. Some of our favourite smaller seafood snacks are:
Remember, a seafood spread doesn’t have to be expensive to be impressive – plenty of Australian species come into their prime around Christmas and are exceedingly cheap. Depending on how many guests you’re hosting, all you really need is two hot dishes, two cold, one impressive centrepiece, and a few easy sides. Once you’ve combined these elements, you’ll find yourself with a stunning, restaurant-quality seafood feast that your Christmas guests will adore.