Around the World in 80 Christmas dishes
Christmas is inconceivable without a proper meal, a family reunion and a celebration around a table. Few times during the year we strive both to organize a succulent feast on Christmas Eve dinner and launch on Christmas day. On this dates traditions rule, depending on the country, region and even the city where you live. From Galician cod with cauliflower to the Mexican romeritos, we will travel though the best Christmas recipes around the world, as if we were Phileas Fogg itself.
Seafood, cabbage, lamb, turkey, bream, cod, nougat, marzipan, nuts and dried fruits are some of the most common ingredients in Spanish Christmas menus, but the specials change depending on the region: in Aragon thistle is the star. It can be prepared with bechamel or almonds sauce, or with cod. In any kitchen from Spain’s center region you might find cabbage, chard, cauliflower, pork, lamb or pork, ready to be swallowed without limits.
In the north, these days we can easily find crab cream in Asturias, snails (made with both patience and love as only grandmothers know) in Cantabria, Cod with Cauliflower in Galicia, or cabbage with olive oil and garlic in the Basque Country, where you’ll also find desserts like ‘kapoizopa’ (soup with honey) or ‘intxaursalsa‘ (sweet soup made with nuts).
On the other hand Catalonia, in the north East, is famous for its ‘escudella i carn d’olla‘ (a typical Catalan stew). There, leftovers are used for the cannelloni traditionally prepared next day, for Sant Esteve festivity, on December 26.
Polish Christmas Eve (Wigilia) is full of rituals that have been passed on through the years. It is traditional to prepare twelve courses in honor of the twelve apostles, none of them with meat. The belief is that the more recipes cooked, more prosperity will come to that family. It is important to taste them all, at least a small portion. And here’s a detail we love: every family should keep an empty place in the table, in case an unexpected guest shows. A symbolic but lovely gesture.
Dinner starts sharing a wafer (oplatek) with everyone, even pets, among good wishes and Christmas greetings. The food festival begins, where fish is one of the essential meals, especially carp. They say if you keep one of its thorns in your wallet, you won’t have money problems. They also love herring with onions and olive oil, mushroom or beet soup, fermented cabbage and, for dessert, a delicious poppy seeds cake.
The most popular Christmas Norwish dish is the ‘ribbe‘ or grilled bacon, served with ‘sauerkraut’ and boiled potatoes, pork sausages (very spicy), meatballs and sauce. But also ‘pinnekjøtt’, lamb ribs salted and dried, sometimes smoked. Less traditional but also very popular are turkey and roast pork. The less carnivorous families often cook ‘lutefisk‘, a dried fish baked and accompanied with potatoes, bacon, mushy peas and mustard, although the cod also sneaks into many Christmas tables.
For desserts, seven different kinds of cookies should be served, although not everyone does it. However, you should not miss the famous gingerbread or ‘pepperkake’. As in all large Norwegian celebrations, we will find the almond cake (‘kransekake‘), with its pyramid shape. As in Spain, marzipan is also present, often covered with chocolate, taking the name of ‘julemarsipan’. The Christmas drink par excellence is the ‘aquavit’, a potato liqueur flavored with anise, caraway, dill, fennel and coriander. Of course the mulled wine, called ‘Glog‘ and enhanced with almonds and raisins, is vital to warm the body in these cold days.
In every American households they receive guests with an ‘eggnog‘, sweet, alcoholic and spicy, usually made with eggs, sugar, milk, brandy or rum, vanilla, cinnamon…
At the table, as in Thanksgiving Day, millions of Americans get ready to carve the Christmas turkey. Roast or stuffed (often with healthy dried fruits inside), and always accompanied by mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce and vegetables like crunchy green beans. The endpoint of the feast are Christmas cookies, baked with Christmas related shapes, and apple or pumpkin pie.
The ‘bacalhau‘ (cod) is the favorite fish on Christmas and in many cases it is used to cook the ‘moqueca‘, a very popular local dish.
Carnivorous palates opt for the ‘Perú de Natal‘ (turkey stuffed with nuts and dried fruits American-style) or ‘Tender de Natal‘ (pork tenderloin marinated), accompanied by ‘farofa‘, a type of Brazilian flour or Natal rice, usually made with raisins. For dessert they make ‘rabanadas‘, which are like French toasts.
Being mainly a Hindu country, obviously Christmas is not such as important date as in other parts of the globe, but still there are many who celebrate December 25th, known there as Bada Din (Big Day). That day they prepare nut bread and take it out to the streets to share it among neighbors and friends. Other typical sweets are two from the region of Goa using coconut milk among its main ingredients: ‘bebinca‘ and ‘dodol‘.
The ‘romeritos‘ are one of the more typical Mexican dishes these days, in which this local wildflower is cooked with dried shrimp, potatoes, ‘nopales’, almonds and chili, mainly. Cod, tamales and stuffed turkey (here called ‘guajolote‘) are other popular Christmas recipes.
To drink, they serve hot fruit punch, wherein the sugar liquor is prepared with tamarind, guava, prune and haws among other ingredients. Two other drinks of Aztec origin often accompany desserts: the ‘Champurrado‘, with chocolate, and ‘atole de guayaba‘. Itis typical to end this meal with a salad made with apple, ‘jicama’, nuts… and well mixed with a cream.