Our Top Ten Christmas Foods
Everyone has foods that remind them of Christmas, whether it's from the past or present. Mei, Blanca and Dee reminisce about their favourite festive ingredients that they enjoy during the Yuletide season.
Cara Cara Oranges These rosy fleshed oranges have a complicated perfume and a slightly bittersweet tang.
Salt Cod Known, among other names, as baccalà and bacalao, this salted, dried fish is pungent and must be rehydrated before cooking.
Yuba Soybean Sheets This is the skin that is skimmed off of soybean milk that is simmered to make tofu. Called yuba (Japanese), or baiye (Chinese), it can be fresh, dried, and in various shapes and textures.
Leonidas Chocolates Founded by Leonidas Kestekides in 1913, this Bruxelles based chocolate company is famed for its iconic seashell-shaped chocolates, and its fillings like praline and buttercream.
Sevruga Caviar Gray, buttery, and more modestly priced than its shiny, jet large-pearled cousin Beluga, Sevruga is the Jane Eyre of caviars.
X.O Sauce Dried scallops, Yunnan ham (the luxury Chinese ham similar to Ibérico), Cognac, and dried shrimp simmered into a mahogany condiment that is the luxuriant encapsulation of the sea.
Lobster Newburg Lobster with brandy and cream, this retro-ritzy classic would be at home at Jay Gatsby's.
Mulled Wine Red wine warmed with brandy, cinnamon, and an orange stuck with cloves. The perfume is pure Dickens nostalgia, and each year, I do not believe that it is Christmas until I have smelled it.
Dumplings Known as jiaozi in Chinese, these parcels of meat and dough are a staple for Northern Chinese New Year. My Chinese family salutes New Year by making dumplings during Stephen's Day because we do not get the time off to gather in February.
Duck Confit In a preparation particularly beloved in Southwest France, this bird is cured with salt and spices overnight and then cooked slowly in duck fat.
Spiced Beef I adore spiced beef and have tried different butchers one's like Hick's, James Whelan's and Deering's in Killiney (my mother in law's favorite one). A rumpside or silverside of beef that is cured with spices for months is something that you mostly find at Xmas but it deserves a year round following. Serve with with bread sauce.
Turrón de Jijona My favourite nougat-style confectionery from Spain. It's made with almonds but has a softer and sticky consistency. Delicious with a shot of espresso or a Pedro Ximenez sherry.
Mince pies No Xmas is complete without these little pies. I like the mince meat to be slightly runnier so if I use store-bought mince meat I added a little bit of stewed chopped apple.
Cheap truffles My mother used to make a truffled turkey terrine that was extravagant both in preparation and flavour. I stock up on reasonably priced truffles from the Pyrenees when I am in Spain in El Corte Inglés. Add them to scrambled eggs, pasta or make a terrine!
Oysters I like to serve oysters as appetisers throughout the Christmas holidays. I like them normally plain but occasionally will make Oysters Rockefeller, which feels very retro.
Consommé The one dish that brings me back to my childhood is turkey consommé, clarified and made the proper and lavish way. Recent Xmas I have made Beef Consommé Celestine, which is garnished with a little savoury crepe.
Fino sherry Fino is my go-to aperitif wine. Dry, salty and almondy, I have heaps of it with olives. Oloroso is also passed around and of course used in cooking.
Candied fruits Since I was a child I was mesmerised by displays of candied fruits like oranges and cherries. Caviston's in Glasthule (Dublin) has a lovely selection this time of the year. I use them to make the fabulous Roscón de Reyes that we eat the sixth of January, the Three Kings' Day. I stock on orange peel which I use to make a cheat's version of a Spanish traditional dessert. Peel and slice good-quality oranges. Put them on a platter with thinly sliced candied peel, extra virgin olive oil and Maldon salt. Serve in pretty glass bowls.
Maseca/Harina Pan Over the holidays we always have time to make corn tortillas, arepas and tamales from Latin America. Tamales is a corn dough filled with meats and raisins and olives that are very traditional at Xmas in Central America where I grew up.
Sorbets After big dinners I crave a light and airy sorbet. Over the years I have made mulled wine sorbet, hibiscus, lemon and orange. It needs to be something with acid to refresh your palate and wake you up after a copious meal.
Oranges An ingredient from Christmases past; I always got an orange in my stocking from Santa Claus. And now I feel orange is a prevalent flavour for me in festive dishes. Orange slices in mulled wine, candied orange peels and my new favourite Christmas dessert – Argentinian orange meringue pie.
Mince pies It just isn't Christmas without them. I usually start eating them in November and regret how many I've eaten by January! From shop-bought ones to my favourite franzipan ones from The Cupcake Bloke, or the crispy pastry of No Messin' Bakery's mince pies, and their brandy butter!
Mulled wine My tipple of choice in December. It warms you from inside out. I really like Green Saffron's mix.
JWB Beef Dripping Roast Potatoes For the best roast potatoes, they just have to be smothered in Whelan's beef dripping. The results are always incredibly crispy, delicious morsels of floury goodness.
Smoked Salmon & Brown Soda Bread As a child, every Christmas morning we would go to my Granny's home after mass where we'd meet my extended family and on serving plates would be finger slices of brown soda bread with cream cheese and smoked salmon curls, topped with a sprinkle of chopped chives. It's very Irish, I think, and just very good.
Brussel Sprouts After Rhubarb, these are without doubt my favourite veggie. Breakfast, lunch, dinner – I haven't managed to find a dessert yet – I would happily eat them for all courses. I've even tried a sprout kimchi, which was also delicious!
The full Irish Breakfast At some point over Christmas, if not every day of the main three days, the traditional [breakfast of champions] is served up in ours. I think mostly to keep the stamina up!
A Cheeseboard I am definitely cheating by collectively putting all Irish cheeses and accoutrements in as one ingredient on my list, but honestly, where do you start? Irish cheese is such an important part of my Christmas every year. So many cheeseboards consumed, so many dishes made with cheese, too many cheeses to mention. Merry Cheesemas!
Quality Street People may argue with me on this one. I won't mention the opposition as it's my list after all. But it's not Christmas unless I've watched Christmas movies and gorged in a tin of QS.
Champagne Something I have introduced over the years, but there has to be a place for Champagne in my Christmas. From a classic bottle of Moët & Chandon to the great deals you can get in your local supermarket. It's all magic in a glass, for the most magical time of year!