Advent Calendar 2013: Day 5 – Christmas Recipes (and food)


christmas-recipe-200x300I’d guess that for many of us, one of the key elements of celebrating Christmas is the sharing of food with family and/or friends. No wonder then that the topic for Day 5 (I’m late, again!) is Christmas Recipes. The prompt: The smell of cookies baking in the oven or perhaps mulled wine on the stove top. What are your favorite recipes during Christmastime? Are they different than the Christmas foods your mother made? What about your ancestors – what were their favorite recipes and Christmas foods? Share your favorite recipe and the story behind it.

After seeing the delicious pavlova as the feature image my thoughts are straying to a new tradition. Maybe we’ll have pavlova this year, along with a new easy-peasy recipe from a friend for marinated fresh fruit.

Smell is definitely a powerful memory invoker, and the smell of cooking and baking in the kitchen echoes down the years, no doubt aided by my own repetition of the same cooking and baking. So what foods does Christmas bring to mind? Well shortbread is right near the top and I always use my paternal grandmother’s recipe. The trick is cooking it just right, not too dark, not too light, not too soft and just crunchy right.

Of course Christmas cakes are in a league of their own because the fragrances are so pervasive: spices, rum, fruit, all marinading to perfection before being baked for hours, filling the house with even more wonderful aromas.

Green Peppercorn Xmas cake recipe from the Australian Women's Weekly (I think) circa 1990

Green Peppercorn Xmas cake recipe from the Australian Women’s Weekly (I think) circa 1990

As I mentioned in 2011 I always cooked the same recipe as my mother. It’s deliciously moist and fruity….a Christmas cake really has to be moist in my opinion. And then I defected: I found an unusual recipe (above) which is perfect for those who like something different and even spicier. For a while I cooked both cakes but eventually settled on the Green Peppercorn cake.

This may be the first year in over 40, when I no longer cook a cake – though perhaps I’ll weaken: maybe I should consult the family. I love Christmas Cake but it no longer loves me and, getting ahead on the topics, is more foe than friend these days, sadly. Christmas pudding, complete with sixpences and threepences, was a feature of all my childhood Christmases and again has been something I’ve cooked for over 40 years.

However we’ve also started a new family tradition with tiramisu for dessert and that has largely overtaken the fan club for pudding. My grandmother’s and mother’s recipe makes two puddings so I’ve had one frozen since last year, half of which has gone to my mother, and the other half will likely satisfy those who hang out for Christmas pudd.

The main Christmas course is where the changes have come to pass over time. We might still have a roast but it’s more likely to be on Christmas Eve with cold slices for lunch on the big day. In my childhood the roast would be chicken which was then expensive and not eaten often, unlike today. Our own preference has turned to roast pork, cooked in the oven or the BBQ, ironically a nod back to my Kunkel ancestor’s heritage.

Ham is always on the menu too, but the feature is now the fresh prawns from the trawlers that come into Darwin around this time of the year, with an entrée of Coffin Bay oysters which our son-in-law prepares. So much more suitable in a tropical climate, even in the air-conditioning. As a child the Christmas table would always include lollies, nuts and crystallised ginger (one of my mother’s favourites). These days we have “only” a tiny sample of lollies and nuts, and some yummy Swiss chocolates.

For Christmas Dad would have a beer, a relatively unusual event as his mother, living next door and a good Presbyterian, didn’t approve. For years our own family would make Sangria as the day’s tipple, along with a fruit punch for the kids. But I’ve diverted from recipes to food: the joys and memories of Christmases past.

Why not pop over to my Tropical Territory blog and see some of those delicious spices where they are grown in Zanzibar. It was so interesting to see them outside the Masterfoods spice bottle.

This post is part of the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories (ACCM) which allows you to share your family’s holiday history twenty-four different ways during December! Learn more at http://adventcalendar.geneabloggers.com. You can see the posts others have submitted on the Advent Calendar Pinterest site.

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2 thoughts on “Advent Calendar 2013: Day 5 – Christmas Recipes (and food)

  1. Really enjoyed reading your sumptuous post and was struck by how traditions must have evolved down the generations to take account of the radically different climates between homeland and adopted land. Rich fruit Christmas cake, rich dark Christmas pudding, roast goose or turkey and a full ham are definitely ‘winter warming’ foods. Your seafood, fruits and pavlova are much lighter and easier to digest in your summer Christmas weather !

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    • I agree Angela but I guess for many years our perception of Christmas was very stuck in our British heritage and the practicalities of a lighter meal in hot weather didn’t fit. Then of course we have memories of our own Xmases which we need to let go before we can make the switch. Many people get around this by having Christmas in July celebrations -I get the food side of it, but it just doesn’t fit with the whole concept of Christmas. Perhaps we need a different holiday Down Under – a type of celebration of our own in mid-winter, sort of like thanksgiving but I’m pretty sure the Indigenous people would not see it that way.

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