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Culinary Discovery:
A Christmas Tour, Continued

by Gabriella True



In the Middle Ages, the Christmas feast featured mutton pie, boar, headcheese and peacock. Today, the traditional British Christmas dinner is turkey, roast potatoes and vegetables finishing with two desserts of mince pie and plum pudding.

Plum puddings are not made from plums; plumming is the process of making the pudding. Plum pudding began as frumenty — a corn porridge — but the recipe eventually changed and meat, plums, fruit, eggs and spices were added. The entire mixture was wrapped in cloth and boiled — resembling a soup more than a cake. Today it is a dense dessert made up of raisins and currants plumped up by soaking them in brandy, then molded with batter into a special plum pudding tin that has a tight fitting lid. The pudding is steamed and once cooked more brandy is poured on top, lit, and brandy hard sauce is added.


Christmas morning begins with a fry-up of bacon, eggs, fried tomatoes, mushrooms, sausages, potatoes, fried bread and black and white pudding. The dinner is either turkey with ham steak underneath, goose, or beef — all with peas, potatoes and carrots.


In Greece, New Year's Day honoring St. Basil, is considered more important than Christmas Day. A New Year's cake is almost always served: sponge cake with a coin baked in it. The first slice is for St. Basil and the second is for Christ. Whoever gets the piece of cake with the coin will receive good fortune during the year.


Since the fall of the Soviet Union, Christmas is now openly celebrated in Russia either on December 25 or January 7, the day the Russian Orthodoxy celebrates Christmas. Christmas Eve dinner is generally meatless; featuring kutya: a porridge of grain, wheat berries, poppy seeds and honey. The ingredients symbolize immortality and happiness and is eaten from one dish to symbolize unity. Fish, borsch and stuffed cabbage are prepared as well. The Christmas day meal can include meats, suckling pig, and goose.


Christmas Eve dinner is quite divine with roast pork and goose, red cabbage and boiled potatoes. Rice pudding with an almond hidden inside is the dessert. Whoever finds the almond receives a present of chocolate or marzipan candy. During Christmas day, people drink spiced wine and eat abeskivars: little fried cakes, similar to pancakes but puffed up into balls and dusted with powdered sugar.


Christmas Eve day begins with rice porridge and plum juice. The day ends with casseroles of pasta, turkey, ham, rutabaga, potatoes and carrots. The main dish is codfish cooked with allspice and served with boiled potatoes and a cream sauce. The cod is a dried cod that has been soaked in lye and then water until it returns to a fleshy texture. Ham and suckling pig are also often on the menu. Cookies are baked, given and eaten throughout the season. In Finland and other Scandinavian countries, some families give birds seeds on Christmas day and will not begin their own meal until all the seeds are gone.


The main Christmas meal is held on Christmas Eve with a menu that varies from the coastal areas to the inland areas. On the coast, fish is the main course with either haddock, lutefisk, or cod. Inland, the main meal is sausages, meatloaf or pork chops. The inland farmers leave a bowl of gruel in their barns so the Lucky Gnome can eat it and continue to protect their farms. Rice porridge with almond is usually eaten for Christmas Day lunch.


In the Netherlands, oiliebollen (oil balls), are consumed during the day. They are delicious deep fried bite size raisin pastries.


In Belgium, as in France, rveillion de Nol serves as the main meal with fish as the appetizer. Turkey is the centerpiece of the meal with fried potato croquettes (aardappel kroketjes) as one of the side dishes. Dessert is bche de Nol. Spiced cookies (speculoos), are de rigeuer in Belgium. For Christmas breakfast, cougnolle or cougnou, another sweet bread that is shaped like Jesus in swaddling clothes is eaten.


Roast Goose With Pears
Serves 6

1 12-pound goose, giblets and neck discarded
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 orange, sliced
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
8 Pears, peeled, each cut into quarters
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
6 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 cup William Pear Liqueur
2 cups chicken stock
1 tablespoon flour

Preheat to 325F. Remove giblets and neck from cavity. Pull out any lumps of fat. Using a sharp fork, pierce the skin of the goose all over. Place the fork almost parallel to the skin so the skin, not the meat is pricked. Rinse goose inside and out; pat dry with paper towels. Sprinkle the interior and exterior of the goose with salt, pepper, and 1 teaspoon ginger. Make a few slits in the skin place garlic slices into slits. Place the carrots, onion, and celery into the body cavity. Truss the bird. Place goose on rack, breast side up, in large roasting pan. Place the orange slices on top of the bird.

Roast goose 1 1/2 hours, basting occasionally with drippings and remove some of the excess fat; reserve 6 tablespoons fat. When the wings begin to brown, cover with tinfoil. Turn goose over, breast side down. Cover the wings with tinfoil. Spoon excess fat from the roasting pan into a metal bowl and reserve. Roast another 1 1/2 hours until a thermometer inserted into thickest part of thigh registers 175F. Let rest, covered, for 10 minutes. The temperature will increase to 180F.

Meanwhile prepare the pears so they can be roasted with the goose for one hour. Toss pears and lemon juice in large bowl. Pour 6 tablespoons goose fat into large baking dish. Place the pears in baking dish and toss with fat. Add sugar, 1/2 cup liqueur and remaining ginger to pears; toss. Bake pears alongside goose until very tender and golden, about 1 hour. Spoon the pears into a serving dish with a slotted spoon to reserve as much liquid as possible. Pour liquid into a saucepan, add stock, remaining liqueur. Bring to a simmer and reduce by half a cup. Sprinkle in flour while whisking and continue to cook a few more minutes so it is slightly thickened. Serve goose with caramelized pears.

Foie Gras with Fig Puree
Makes 36

36 Mini toasts
1 block Rougie Foie Gras
3 tablespoons Fig Puree

Place the mini toasts on serving platter. Slice the foie gras thinly, about 1/8" thick, into squares that will fit onto the mini toasts. Place squares of foie gras onto the mini toasts. Drizzle 1/4 teaspoon of fig puree on top of each foie gras mini toast. Serve.

Recipes Continue>>

A Culinary Discovery: A Christmas Tour, Page 1



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