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Many of us have our respective Christmas traditions: decorating, stocking stuffing, carolling, Christmas Eve parties, favorite meals and foods that we imbibe during this widely celebrated occasion. Although we have a myriad of traditions in this country, it isn't often that we read about what Christmas celebrations are like in other parts of the world. Christmas dinner, to be precise.


Scholars believe that Christmas has been observed since the 4th century and is derived in part by pre-Christian Germanic and Celtic peoples to celebrate the winter solstice. Many cultures and countries have contributed many different customs to this annual celebration. In 1841, Prince Albert, consort of Queen Victoria, introduced the Christmas tree custom, as well as others to Great Britain. From there, it accompanied immigrants to the United States.

Perhaps there are traditions that you and your family have celebrated for years, unaware of their origins. It is most likely that some of your own traditional Christmas dinners and celebrations originated, in part, from Europe. Not only are the Christmas traditions different in Europe, but so is the selection of Christmas fare. For example, in England, supper is traditionally served around 1:30pm. Afterward, everyone gathers around the television to watch the Queen's speech at 3:00pm. There are many traditional dishes prepared for the annual holiday meal.

Many local pubs are open for a few hours on Christmas day so friends can gather for a Christmas toast. This toast often consists of bitter beer or mulled wine. Mulled wine is served warm and is simmered with citrus and spice. Bite sized mince pies are also on hand. These are usually dried fruits packed into a small pastry. After a few toasts and a bit of finger food around midmorning, folks head home where they will find an afternoon meal ahead of them.

In a small village in Suffolk (East Anglia), one-hour northeast of London, I have had the great opportunity to dine, on several occasions with the Jennings. Hopefully, after they read this article, they will still invite me back for a visit. I have had so many incredibly delightful meals there, that I decided to enlist their help for this article on English fare. I am not suggesting, however, that there is only one basic Christmas meal served in England, but only that this is my closest opportunity to represent a good medium. What follows is a Christmas dinner menu that I put together with the help of Karol Jennings. We hope you enjoy it.

Roast Turkey with Chestnut and Cornbread stuffing
Roast Potatoes and Parsnips
Brussel Sprouts
Cranberry Jelly
Mashed Swede
Christmas Pudding

Roast Turkey with Chestnut and Cornbread Stuffing

10-13lb oven-ready Turkey (preferably fresh)
2-4 oz butter salt and pepper

Stuffing

4 oz butter
12 oz onions, chopped
2 lbs. pork sausage meat
1 lb. fresh or canned unsweetened chestnut puree
8-oz cornbread, crumbled, or regular white bread crumbs
3 tbsp mixed dried herbs
4 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
1 lemon rind, grated
1 med size egg

Gravy

Giblets from the turkey
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, diced
1 bay leaf
1 garlic clove
3 tbsp white flour
7 oz cream

The giblet stock and stuffing can be made up to several days in advance. To make the stuffing, melt the butter in a pan and then divide it in half. Add onions to the half butter in the pan, and cook on medium heat for about 10 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients together and mix well while adding the onions. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. After the turkey has been rinsed and wiped, stuff the neck end of the turkey with stuffing. Place turkey in a large roasting tin, spread with butter, and season well with salt and pepper. Cover turkey with foil and place in oven, roast for 3 1/2 -4 hours, peeling foil back for the last hour so the bird can brown.

While the turkey is cooking, begin the stock for the gravy by placing the giblets into a saucepan with the onion, carrot, garlic and herbs. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, skim off any froth on the surface, reduce heat, and simmer for about 2 hours. Strain the stock into a one pint container. When the turkey is finished, remove it from the tin and place it on a large serving dish, allowing it to set for about 30 minutes. With a spoon, skim off as much oil as possible while heating the tin over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and turkey stock and simmer for about 15 minutes. Slowly add cream and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Roast Potatoes and Parsnips
16 parsnips
3 lbs. potatoes
12 tbsp beef dripping (fat) or butter and sunflower oil

Peel both potatoes and parsnips. Cut potatoes into equal-sized pieces. Parsnips should be cut in half. Heat half the oil in a roasting pan; add potatoes and parsnips, stirring to coat well. Roast at 375 for 45 minutes, turning often as they brown. Salt and pepper to taste.

Brussel Sprouts
1/2 lbs. Small Brussel Sprouts
4 tbsp Butter
Salt and Pepper to Taste
Roasted Cashews (optional)

There really isn't anything very fancy about preparing these sprouts. Although some choose to puree the sprouts and add toasted cashew nuts, we will be preparing in a simple fashion. Depending on your own tastes, you may wish to steam or boil these vegetables. Wash and trim the very ends of the sprouts and add them to a steamer or boiling water. Continue to cook covered for 20-35 minutes, depending on desired tenderness. When finished, place in serving bowl and pour melted butter over the top. Season with salt and pepper. Cauliflower is also another favorite with melted cheese over the top.

Mashed Swede
Swede or turnip
Butter
Cream
Salt and pepper

Mashed Swede is a root vegetable about the size of a sugar beet. When boiled, mashed, and mixed with butter, it is the color of a mango. It is similar to a turnip. You will most likely need to substitute this dish with turnips. Peel, slice into segments, and boil until soft. You should be able to slide a fork in easily. Mash in bowl; add 2-3 tbsp butter, 1/2c cream, salt and pepper to taste.

Christmas Pudding

If fruitcake were actually good, it might be called Christmas Pudding. Okay, so I have a bad attitude about fruitcake. It's just that I've never eaten one that I enjoyed or couldn't second as a football. Christmas Pudding can be made anytime, but is most popular during the holiday. It is a very rich, flour-less (even sugarless, if you wish), and has loads of brandy in it. See why I favor this over fruitcake?

12-oz sultanas (dried grapes, smaller than raisins)
12 oz shredded suet (sue ett, hard fat from cow or sheep)
12-oz raisins cut in half if large
6 oz currants
6 oz chopped candied peel
3 oz flaked almonds, toasted
grated rind of one lemon
6 oz dark brown sugar
3/4 tsp. nutmeg
6 eggs, beaten
4 oz brandy
7 oz milk

Combine all ingredients, mix thoroughly, and pour into a 3 pint buttered dish/pudding basin. Cover with wax paper or foil so that water cannot leak in. Fill sauce pan half full of water. Place pudding dish into sauce pan. Cover pan with lid and steam pudding for 5 hours. Check on the water level from time to time because it will evaporate as it boils. Allow to cool. If you are preparing this dish ahead of time, simply reheat it by the same steaming method, but for 1 1/2 hours.





 
www.Dishmag.com / Issue 198 - December 2017
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