I love “traditional Christmas” goodies. In my world nothing gets me in the Christmas spirit quicker than a warm mince pie accompanied by a glass of chilled eggnog while Boney M plays in the background (queue Christmas daydream….).
Having said that, I have often wondered why we make positively mediaeval Christmas pud, mince pies and boiled fruit cake out of preserved fruits like raisins, currants and glace cherries when South Africa has a wealth of fresh, delicious, fruits at that time of year.
The reason is obviously historical; my British ancestors brought their northern hemisphere traditions with them all the way to deepest darkest Africa and carried on with them through the generations. Presumably taking comfort in re-enacting the traditions of their childhood. However, even if your family traditions don’t make use of endless quantities of raisins and currants, perhaps it is time to update those same old, tired recipes.
Here are my tips...
1. Use seasonal, fresh ingredients
Try swapping out dried fruits for fresh, in-season fruits. For example use fresh cherries instead of glace, or make a trifle featuring fresh berries, instead of (oh the horror)…. Jelly!
2. Go local
Embrace local ingredients and unique South African recipes, think Amarula fridge tart, biltong pâté and gammon potjie. Or consider braai-ing your gammon, or turkey for a more authentic South African flavour.
3. Accept the weather (you can’t change it)
Many of the “stick to your ribs” Christmas dinner recipes are more suitable for a snowy scene, so update your recipes for a warmer climate. What about frozen eggnog or baby potato salad?
4. Update old recipes
Try updating traditional family recipes by using more modern presentations. Stuffing balls on a stick anyone?
5. Don’t get stuck on tradition
There is nothing quite like the nostalgia that accompanies your own childhood Christmas food memories. That, however, is no reason to be stuck eating salmon mousse with (tinned!) peas in it, just like we did in 1978. I wouldn’t eat it any other time of year so why would I eat it on the biggest food day of the year? Anyway, it never tastes as good as it does in our memories.
6. Start new traditions
Start new family traditions that work for your family and include all the members of the family. Communal eating is great for this, what about a chocolate fondue with a variety of fruits? Or a Christmas tree made of profiteroles?
7. Consider healthy alternatives
The way we eat has changed substantially over the years, so why not our Christmas dinners? Just because it is a little healthier doesn’t mean it can’t still be a feast. If you are going low carb, skip the rice and roast spuds in favour of cauli-rice and roast sweet potatoes. Include salads and lots of extra veggies for the health conscious.
8. Do a potluck
The amount of work, not to mention cost, involved in preparing a Christmas dinner is massive. Many people dread the sore feet, mountains of washing up and the sweat running down their backs as they slave over a large pot of simmering gammon, flies circling. Why not tell your friends and family that you will provide drinks, and a beautiful table and then leave it up to them? Each person brings their favourite Christmas food and leave it up to chance!
9. Reduce stress and outsource
Or skip the whole malarkey altogether and order in a Christmas dinner. Many restaurants offer a pre-prepared Christmas dinner to take home. Pop everything on your own platters and lie. Tell a bald faced lie, “why yes, I slaved all day over this turkey”. If anyone asks for the recipe, just tell them it is a “family secret”.
10. Christmas-ify your favourite recipes
Turn any of your favourite recipes into a “Christmas Recipe” by adding festive flair using traditional Christmas ingredients. I always wanted to try a turkey bobotie with yellow rice and cranberries, and a cranberry chutney.
Follow Julie Donald on Twitter @AskJulieDonald.
- Julie Donald