Nobody does Christmas quite like Gino D'Acampo, whose decadent family feast on 24 December, as per Italian tradition, is full of delicious seafood, spicy roasted vegetables and not a traditional turkey in sight.
HELLO! spoke exclusively to Gino about his new book, Gino's Italian Family Adventure, his Christmas family traditions and his favourite festive recipes - all for our Christmas Digital Issue which has been guest-edited by Martine McCutcheon.
Discussing his most personal cookbook to date, the chef said: "My family and I created it together in Italy during lockdown, and every recipe is one that has been in our family for generations."
Martine McCutchen stars on our Christmas Digital Cover
During his time in Italy over the pandemic, Gino discovered a blue folder in the kitchen that had been tucked away for almost six years. "My wife had been taking notes on every meal we'd eaten that she'd enjoyed - some of them are almost 15 years old," he explained. "It made so much sense to come together as a family, retry the recipes, and make a book from it."
The celebrity chef celebrates Christmas on 24 December © Haarala Hamilton
The restaurateur, who normally curates his recipe books alone, joked that the clash of family opinions over which recipes made the cut wasn't an easy process, before confirming: "It was very special to do it as part of a family project."
For Gino, nothing is more important than family time and food, meaning Christmas feels like "just another day" in the D'Acampo household - though his festive menu is anything but traditional.
"I have banned turkey in this household. Nobody likes it. It's dry, it's tasteless. Why would anyone choose the best day of the year to eat the worst meal? I can't get my head around it," Gino told us.
The family always spend Christmas in Sardinia © Haarala Hamilton
Though Christmas is a regular day for Gino and his family, the chef admitted he always tries to make it magical for his nine-year-old daughter Mia, while spending the festive season in his favourite place on earth: "We're always on the Island of Sardinia, never anywhere else."
"We actually celebrate Christmas on the 24th, then wait for midnight when Santa Claus brings presents for under the tree to open the next morning. We're not a family of early birds, but when my daughter Mia wakes up on Christmas morning, the whole family has to wake up and head downstairs to open presents - she's too excited to wait!"
"The recipes I have shared with HELLO! are ones that we cook every single Christmas without fail," the star told us. Scroll on to discover Gino's festive recipes, taken from his latest book, Gino's Italian Family Adventure.
Gino D'Acampo's favourite Christmas recipes:
Grilled Lobsters with Lemon and Extra Virgin Olive Oil
"For the D'Acampos, Christmas is all about enjoying proper food. This lobster recipe is one that we cook every single Christmas on the island of Sardinia without fail," Gino says. "Our Christmas meal is anything but traditional. We love to eat baked sea bass in a salt crust, grilled lobster with garlic and lemon, spicy sprouts, an antipasti platter. We'll have sauteed prawns in chilli sauce, clams, mussels, or we'll roast a whole piglet. Bellisimo."
5 fish stock cubes
4 large lobsters (about 600g each), very fresh
6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp cayenne pepper
3 garlic cloves, crushed
15g flat leaf parsley leaves, finely chopped
Juice of 2 lemons
Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Put 8 litres of water into a very large saucepan with the fish stock cubes and bring to the boil.
2. Place the lobsters in the boiling water for 5 minutes, then, using tongs, take them out and immediately place them in a sink of iced water for a further 5 minutes. Finally, drain the lobsters, head down, in a colander for 10 minutes. Remove the claws and crack them, cut the bodies in half lengthways and set aside.
3. Preheat a griddle pan over a high heat, or a barbecue to its hottest setting.
4. In the meantime, pour the olive oil into a small bowl. Add the cayenne pepper, garlic, parsley, lemon juice, 1 tsp salt and ½ tsp pepper and mix well. Brush the marinade all over the lobster meat and set aside.
5. Place the lobsters, meat-side down, on the griddle pan or barbecue and cook for 2 minutes. Turn them over and cook shell-side down for 5 minutes. The meat should be firm and opaque all the way through. Serve with a tomato and avocado salad, or – if you are hungry and not watching calories, and while the pan or barbecue is hot – turn your meal into a surf and turf and throw on some lovely ribeye steaks.
Spicy Brussel Sprouts
"This is a recipe that my grandmother used to make, which was passed down to my mother, then my sister, then onto me," Gino says. "Over the years I've added my own personal twist, which makes this dish total festive perfection, (just don't tell my mother I said that).
Serves four to six
500g Brussels sprouts
4 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 tsp chilli flakes
3 tbsp honey
Fine sea salt
1. Par-boil the Brussels sprouts for 5 minutes in a saucepan of boiling water, then drain well.
2. Pour the olive oil into a shallow saucepan and set over a high heat. Add the onion, chilli and a pinch of salt and fry for 4–5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
3. Pour in the drained sprouts and add the honey with another pinch of salt. Reduce the heat to medium and fry for a final 4–5 minutes, or until the sprouts have caramelised slightly. Serve immediately.
Gino's Italian Family Adventure, £12, Amazon
Extracted from Gino's Italian Family Adventure: Easy Recipes the Whole Family will Love by Gino D'Acampo (published by Bloomsbury).
Photography credit: Haarala Hamilton
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