There’s less than 3 days left to Christmas, I hope you’ve got the brussel sprouts on to boil. No? Never mind, leave it a day or so and you can get them started for next year, so the old festive joke about soggy, bitter sprouts goes.
But love them or loathe them, are brussel sprouts really an essential part of a Christmas dinner? Or are they punishment for being naughty over the rest of the year? I’m a definite believer in the latter, so tonight’s post is all about some tasty alternatives from around the world; things that I’d much rather see served up on the table than soggy sprouts and dry, bland turkey, followed by stodgy Christmas pudding with sickly-sweet brandy sauce.
Denmark: The traditional Danish Christmas meal is eaten on Christmas Eve, and comprises of roasted duck, served with roast potatoes and red cabbage. Dessert is a home-made rice and almond pudding, with one whole almond hidden inside. The person finding the almond receives a special present. I heard British-Danish broadcaster Sandi Toksvig describe the tradition in her house, saying: “The finder of the almond is presented with a marzipan pig. Despite the fact no-one in my family can stand marzipan, we buy a pig every year, and force the winner to take it. It’s tradition!”
Spain: On Christmas Eve (La Noche Buena) Spanish families sit down to a massive feast, often lasting several hours and ending in just time for midnight mass. It might start with some typical tapas, such as chorizo, ham, gambas pil pil, and cheese, followed by a starter of seafood soup and fresh bread. Then comes platters of roast lamb, salt cod (Bacalao) in rioja, and turkey stuffed with truffles, before a selection of sweets and treats like Turrón almond candy, and Mantecado crumble cakes.
Honduras: Here, feasting starts around midnight on 24th December, with tamales, made of maize meal, chicken and vegetables, steamed inside banana leaves. They are served with a roast leg of pork, with crackling known as chicharron. The traditional dessert is a type of French toast soaked in a dark brown sugar syrup, spiced with cinnamon and cloves. This sounds extremely yummy.
Australia: In the middle of a southern hemisphere summer, Christmas dinner is an unusual feast in Australia. The influence of the UK on the country’s heritage means that some Australians aim to replicate a traditional British Christmas dinner, whilst others adapt it to the heat, serving cold meat and a variety of salads. But many others make it a truly Australian meal, barbequing steaks, chicken wings, crayfish and prawns, rounding off the feast with a fresh fruit-topped pavlova.
Lithuania: Like several other countries in Eastern Europe, Lithuanians fast throughout the day on Christmas Eve, then break their fast late in the evening with a selection of 12 meat-free dishes, which represent the 12 apostles of Christianity. The dishes vary from region to region, but popular choices include wild mushroom soup, sauerkraut, stuffed dumplings known as auselės, and several different ways of preparing herring. The meal starts with a prayer and is usually eaten by candlelight.
What would you choose for your ideal Christmas feast?