Here are some traditional Christmas recipes, imbibing the spirit of the season and also flattering the taste buds.
The traditional Christmas dinner was an occasion to display the best cutlery, china and table decorations. The food that graced the table was once-in-a-year experience. In Victorian times, a fowl (probably a goose) was the high point of the feast.
There was a veritable list of goodies (or what was considered as goodies back then) - roasted goose, standing rib of beef with Yorkshire pudding, a boar's head, turkey, ham, oysters, dressing, potatoes, cranberry pie, mince-pie and plum pudding.
The pudding was a family enterprise, wherein every member took a swish at stirring it, for good luck, and tossing in a coin, a ring or a thimble, as good luck for the finder.
It was boiled in a beef broth for about eight hours on Christmas Day, turned out on a platter, decorated with a sprig of holly, set alight and carried out for the feast. Biting into the pudding, the finding of the ring meant marriage, coin - wealth and thimble, a happy but single life.
Traditional Christmas Pudding
The traditional boiled Christmas pudding sets the mood for a spicy, sweet Christmas.
♦ Finely grated rind of one orange ♦ Juice of one orange or lemon, with brandy/sherry or rum - 150 ml (2/3 cup) ♦ 2 eggs ♦ 125 grams of fresh white breadcrumbs (2 cups) ♦ 50 grams self-raising flour (½ cup) ♦ 125 grams butter (½ cup at room temperature) ♦ 225 grams soft dark brown sugar (heaped one cup)
Directions Cut a sheet of butter paper the same shape as the base of the basin - fit and butter up. Then whisk together the butter and sugar, till soft and creamy. Beat in the flour, spices and eggs and stir in the other ingredients well. The mixture should have a soft dropping consistency.
Pour it into the basin and level with a spoon. Cover the basin with another circle of butter paper and place in a steamer or a pan of simmering water. Make sure that the water comes up to half way of the basin and cover the pan with a tight lid. As the water evaporates, pour in more to keep the steam going. Steam for about 6 hours.
Tip: Before serving, heat for about 2 hours again, to loosen and moisten the pudding. Tastes yummy with brandy sauce, which can also be set alight for effect.
The Christmas Roast
Those of us brought up on Charles Dickens, will find this recipe as a fragrant blast from the past. The roast goose is an essential part of the Christmas dinner table.
To make the roast goose with sage and onion dressing, the ingredients are: ♦ Rub the inside of a 9 pound goose with 2 teaspoons coarse salt and set aside.
Ingredients For Stuffing ♦ 3 medium onions, peeled and parboiled ♦ 4 large apples, peeled, cored and chopped (use Granny Smith) ♦ 2 tablespoons loosely packed dried sage leaves, crumbled ♦ ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper ♦ 1 tablespoon butter, almost melted ♦ Sliced apples and sprigs of parsley for garnish
Directions Finely chop the parboiled onion and in a large bowl, combine with chopped apples, sage, pepper and butter. Stuff the goose with this mixture, truss and bake at 450°C for 15 minutes on each side and on its back.
Roasting time has to be calculated according to its weight, allowing 15 minutes for a pound of the stuffed goose. So a 9 lb goose will be roasted for a total of two and a half hours. The meat will be done when the juices run a pale yellow and the legs move freely.
Ingredients For Gravy ♦ Chopped gizzard, neck, heart, liver and wing tips of the goose ♦ 1 onion - sliced ♦ 1 carrot - sliced ♦ 3 cups stock or beef bouillon ♦ ½ bay leaf ♦ 3 sprigs parsley ♦ Salt and pepper to taste
Directions Boil the goose parts, carrots and onions in a large pan. When browned, add the stock and seasonings and simmer for about an hour. When done, strain, de-grease and serve in a gravy boat.
Tip: The dish can be accompanied with a port wine sauce. It can be made by combining in a pan ½ cup port, 1 teaspoon mustard, a pinch of cayenne pepper and Salt to taste. This sauce can be poured on the carved breast of the goose just before cooking.
The mincemeat stuffing in the mince pies made for Christmas is special.
Ingredients ♦ 2 large lemons ♦ 2 small tart apples, pared, cored and grated ♦ 2 cups each of raisins and dried currants ♦ ¼ cup coarsely chopped citron ♦ ¼ cup coarsely chopped candied orange peel
Directions Boil and chop lemons finely. In a bowl, combine the remaining ingredients and mix very well. If the mixture seems dry, add more brandy. This mix should be enough for about 36 mince pies.
For the pastry, sift together 4 cups of plain flour and five tablespoons of icing sugar, then rub in the butter till it forms crumbs. Add ice-cold water to make solid dough and roll out this dough to a 5 mm thickness.
Then cut with a pie cutter, spoon a tablespoon of the mincemeat mixture onto each of the cookie cuts, top with another, pressing the edges together to seal well. Then brush on some beaten eggs for the glaze and refrigerate for half an hour. Bake at 200°C (400°F) for about 15-20 minutes till golden brown.
Tip: Warm and dust with icing sugar before serving.
Christmas food is something we eagerly wait for, apart from the endless moments of fun and enjoyment. So, indulge in these mouth-watering dishes and make the evening memorable.