A festive culinary tour of the world

The  Staff Canteen
In the UK we love a traditional Christmas dinner of roast turkey, with potatoes, sprouts, stuffing and cranberry sauce. There is always variation from dinner table to dinner table; whether it be a goose instead of a turkey or a prawn cocktail starter instead of soup, but as is the British way, we know what we like and we stick to it. But what do other countries like to laden their tables with? Ever wondered what the French eat for Christmas? Or fancied a trip to New Zealand during this festive time? Read on to discover how different countries celebrate this festive season. richard bertinetFrance: The French have a big Christmas Eve celebration which builds up to opening the first presents at midnight or shortly after if they have attended midnight mass. Their celebratory meal is on Christmas Eve, and starts with seafood, perhaps oysters, large gambas or crab. They will sometimes have a bit of fois gras in their starters as well. Main course is usually one of three meats, either beef, goose or duck, and dessert is a bûche de noel. As Christmas is a special occasion the French drink champagne. Christmas Day in France is usually relaxing, more present opening but otherwise a little more akin to the British Boxing Day. Richard Bertinet, of Bertinet Kitchen and Bakery in Bath, celebrates Christmas the French way with his wife and children. He said: “We have a big meal on Christmas Eve, and although we don't eat turkey we still have a British Christmas cake, pudding and mince pies on Christmas day. “The bakery will be busy right up to Christmas Eve doing traditional Christmas treats as well as the usual breads and seasonal breads like prune and cardamon.” Attatched to the bakery is the cookery school which has classes running in late November and early December including a baking class with Richard, a session on Scandinavian Christmas celebrations with Signe Johansen and kids groups. India: “Indians celebrate Christmas as an English family would do but with a twist of adding spices Romy July 2014-9096and chillies in the roast”, says Romy Gill at Romy’s Kitchen. Romy celebrates Christmas with British traditions with her family, but serves roast lamb instead of turkey. She said: “We are not too keen on turkey! I serve my own brocolli and stilton soup, along with mulled wine and various yuletide desserts such as trifle, with pomegranate in the jelly - it gives a great bite when you eat!” Romy and the staff at Romy’s Kitchen are getting excited for the festive season and preparations are well under way to celebrate, including a free glass of mulled wine to customers who want it. bloomberg creditJapan: Christmas is a very popular holiday in Japan, although it is not a national holiday. The Japanese love to celebrate Christmas by exchanging gifts, putting up decorations including lights, trees, and creating and serving special foods. Christmas time is an even more special and romantic time for couples. Most Japanese celebrate on Christmas Eve and Day, unlike European countries the Japanese have no Boxing Day and decorations quickly come down in preparation for the New Year celebrations. Instead of turkey, goose and pheasant, chickens are the most popular main dish, served either roasted or fried. The Japanese Christmas cake does not originate from the traditional European heavy fruit cakes eaten at Christmas in the UK, but are classically fluffy and soft sponge cakes with whipped cream and strawberries. Hideko Kawa, former head pastry chef at The Fat Duck experimental kitchen and now chef, food designer and consultant at SweetArt, celebrates Christmas the British way since moving over here. “This year I’m planning to run Japanese twisted chocolate Christmas tree courses,” said Hideko. “I’ll be giving chocolate Christmas trees, chocolate painting frames and party pastry sweets to my friends and family.” She added: “I want to wish everyone a great festive holiday season and Merry Christmas from SweetArt.” New Zealand: James Cornwall, head chef at J Sheekey, doesn’t think that the essence of Christmasjames cornwall in New Zealand is much different from that of the UK’s, it is still a traditional afffair. He said: “Boxing Day traditions tend to be different as December is a summer month for New Zealanders and so they often have a barbecue with friends on the beach or in the garden. “People always celebrate the festive season on December 25, but it is becoming more common for families and friends to celebrate a mid-winter Christmas in July as well.” James added: “The food traditionally consists of the same roast turkey and trimmings that the British consume, except it is sometimes served cold, and there is a wide selection of fruit for dessert.” Adam Handling 561James embraces the British traditions of Christmas and eats turkey with his wife’s family, enjoying two turkeys. He said: “I have one the Sunday before Christmas Day with champagne. For the day itself, I brine a turkey crown for a day with cloves, orange, thyme etc as this means that when the meat is roasted it stays moist and goes golden and crispy in half the time.” Scotland: Adam Handling at the Caxton will be working Christmas Day from about 8am, with service finishing around 8pm. After that, all the chefs and their partners will have the restaurant to themselves to celebrate Christmas – for him, the chefs in his kitchen are his family at this time of year. Adam said: “The Scottish traditions are very much the same as England’s, the only exception being that we leave a little dram of whisky out for Santa instead of milk.”ross sneddon Ross Sneddon, head pastry chef at London’s Claridges, will be celebrating Christmas early with his wife, Jessica. He said: “I’ll be enjoying a few glasses of fizz and a meal because I will be at work on Christmas Day ensuring all the guests get plenty of Claridge’s famous Christmas Pudding!” By Jenny Williams
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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 12th December 2014

A festive culinary tour of the world