Tuesday, December 20, 2011

No cold turkey this Christmas

Christmas is almost here, again! And it looks like turkey is still the favourite dish when it comes to celebrating the big family thing in Ireland. Is it out of habit? Is it that Ireland just loves turkey once a year? Just for tradition’s sake?

But turkey haters should not despair. There are many exciting and alternative Christmas dishes you could be testing this year. Looking at other European Christmas traditions could give you some inspiration!

spider crabs
In Galicia, an old-time Christmas Eve favourite is salted cod with cauliflower or cabbage. It might not be everyone’s cup of tea but it came up top in my Facebook straw poll. Other friend suggested octopus as a dish eaten by many families traditionally on Christmas Eve. Seafood and fish in general is a very popular option for Christmas in Galicia.

Salted cod is the most common way of eating cod in general in Galicia, Portugal and the rest of Spain. The cod is cut in darns and they will need de-salting in water for day or two. Cod, potatoes and cauliflower are boiled. In a separate pan, olive oil and 4 garlic cloves are cooked with smoked paprika (not the hot one). The sauce is then poured over the fish and vegetables and ready to serve.

Personally, my all-time favourite is my mum’s recipe for Galician clams and you can find an accurate approximation here (Clams in Green Sauce).

gingerbread made by Dani
The Poles, my friend Dani tells me, also celebrate their big family dinner on Christmas Eve. They have 12 different dishes, all without meat. Each region in Poland might have their own traditional dishes but these are her examples of Polish dishes that make it to the Christmas table:

Carp (a must!)
Vegetable salad
Pierogi (dumplings) with potatoes and cheese or cabbage and mushrooms
Bigos (sliced cabbage with sour cabbage plus plums or raisings or cranberries and mushrooms)
Kutia - special square noodles with poppy seeds, raisings, orange skins and honey
Beetroot soup (barszcz)
Mushroom soup (zupa grzybowa)
Gingerbread (piernik) and poppy cake (makowiec)

The Poles always set an extra plate for any unexpected guest, she says, “and we always look for the first star on the sky and then start to eat.”

My brother, who lives in Berlin, tells me mulled wine (of course) is a must at Christmas in Germany.

The Germans also celebrate Christmas Eve and goose is their most traditional dish.
Here’s a recipe for Goose Breast with Potato Dumplings, Red Cabbage, and Chestnuts

In Sweden, boiled ham is a popular Christmassy dish (see here ).

My friend Axel who has a fear of herring once told me his favourite Christmas dish is rice porridge (similar to rice pudding). Easy and tasty and you can get a good recipe here . The Swedes put a nut in the rice pudding when it is almost ready. The lucky one who gets the nut will be lucky in the New Year, according to the Swedish Christmas tradition.