Christmas time in South Africa must feel very strange for someone from the Northen Hemisphere – we go to the beach, we eat ice lollies, light endless braai fires and basically live each day in our cozzies. And yet, we still hold onto certain European Christmas traditions – particularly when it comes to food.
Local supermarkets are filled with overflowing shelves of mince pies (spoiler alert: they don’t involve meat) and other moreish treats that might sound totally foreign to someone whose diet consists mainly of boerewors and vetkoek.
If you’re not clued up on some of the classic Christmas fare, read this before you embarrass yourself in front of your mother-in-law by referring to turducken as a baby duck. Awks!
This one gets confused a lot and with good reason – mince is meat right? Well, the history of the Christmas mince pie does include meat (read about that here) but Christmas mince pies are a sweet baked items that contain a filling of alcohol soaked fruit like currents, raisins, cranberries and loads of sweet spices. Find a delicious and super easy recipe HERE.
Stollen is a German yeast-leavened, cake-like bread that is filled with candied fruit and often marzipan. The dough is folded in a specific way and covered in icing sugar so that it looks like a swaddled baby (i.e. Jesus).
Fyrstekake (pronounced fish-deh-kahkaa)
The simple yet sophisticated Fyrstekake tart originates in Norway and is flavoured with almonds and cardamon so if you’re a fan of marzipan, you’ll enjoy this bake!
This dish is probably one of the most bizarre foods and every vegan’s worst nightmare! Essentially it’s a giant roast that consists of a de-boned chicken stuffed into a de-boned duck which is then stuffed into a turkey. The name Turducken was actually trademarked by its inventor, chef Paul Prudhomme back in the 70s when he created the dish.
Also known as ‘mulled wine’, this drink really warms the cockles. It’s a wine that’s been heated with the addition of spices and citrus peel.
A traditional Italian Christmas bread with a cake-like texture that’s often sold in high-end South African delis and speciality food stores. It’s also studded with candied fruit and is often spruced up in bread and butter puddings and Pannetone French toast. Delicious!
You’ve probably seen people sipping this creamy beverage in Christmas movies and as the name suggests, it does include egg – raw egg! It’s made by combining the whisked egg with cream or milk, some sweetener and a shot or two of brandy, rum or bourbon. It’s usually finished off with a dusting of nutmeg or cinnamon. Sound good? You can try a South African-ized version with this frozen eggnog recipe!
Hot buttered rum
Another favourite festive drink containing rum, butter, hot water or cider, a sweetener, and a variety of spices.
Even though this one is somewhat ubiquitous, many people don’t know what goes into a traditional trifle (because we all put our unique spin on it, don’t we?). A trifle is a classic British dessert with the main components being layers of fruit, sponge cake soaked in sherry or another alcohol, custard and whipped cream. Most people add jelly and other fun and fantastic things.
This Italian treat is a chewy cake made from nuts, dried fruit and similar to a Florentine but much thicker and larger. Best enjoyed with sweet dessert wine.
Bûche de Noël
Probably one of the most beautiful of Christmas baked goods. Its shape is made to resemble a branch or tree log that’s often dotted with little ‘mushrooms’ made from meringue. Bûche de Noël is also known in some parts as a ‘yule log’. It is made of a thin rolled sponge cake (the branch) with a coffee cream filling and chocolate buttercream icing.
It’s time to start thinking about the holidays – to be honest, I’ve thought of nothing else for quite a long time! Holidays can be a time of stress and drama when it comes to wine – do I have enough? Is it good enough for fussy Auntie Annie?