5 holiday dishes from around the world

ChristmasDishes 7Preparations are already underway for the most wonderful time of the year: Christmas dinner. But with Thanksgiving still fresh in our memories and frozen in our freezers, thoughts of endless turkey and heaps of mashed potato might not be so tempting. So why not kick up your holiday meal and revive tired taste buds with traditional dishes from around the world? Here are five traditional holiday-season dishes and desserts to get you started on your globetrotting Christmas dinner.

Packages tied up with string

Christmas dinner wouldn't be complete without at least one labour-intensive dish. For Venezuelans, that's hallacas. Pronounced ah-ya-kah, these small packages tied

with string are deceptively simple but take a kitchen full of family to have them ready for the holiday dinner. It's suggested that the dish brings together the European heritage of colonial times with raisins and olives, and indigenous ingredients like cornmeal. But today they are a staple of Venezuelan Christmas celebrations. Plantain leaves are filledChristmasDishes 5Photo courtesy of Javier Lastras/Flickr with a stewed mixture of chicken, pork and beef, briny accompaniments like capers and olives, sweet raisins and wrapped in cornmeal dough. Making hallacas is a great excuse to get the family and friends together, and for you to share the burden of the holiday dinner.

Hallacas Recipe
Courtesy of Venezuelan Chef Armando Scannone. Translation by Michelle Thomas.
Ingredients for the stew:
• ¾ cup of canola oil
• 3 cups of chopped onions
• 6 garlic cloves
• ¼ cup of capers
• ¼ cup of water
• 1 cup of chopped red pepper without the seeds
• 5 sweet small peppers – chopped and without the seed
• ¾ cup of chopped tomatoes without the skin
• 1 tsp of ground pepper
• 4 tbsp of salt
• 4 tbsp of Worcestershire sauce
• 1 tbsp of paprika
• ½ tbsp of chili powder
• ½ cup of mustard
• 2 tbsp of vinegar
• ½ cup of sweet wine (Moscatel or Marsala)
• ½ cup of dry white wine
• 2 ½ kg of chicken with the bone
• 2 tbsp of sugar
• 2 tbsp of flour dissolved in 4 tbsp of water

Stew preparation
Heat up the oil in a large pan. Add the onions, garlics and capers with the water and let it cook for at least 10 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients (except the chicken, sugar and flour) and let it cook for 25 minutes. Put in the chicken and let it cook for 12 minutes. Remove the chicken from the stew and shred the meat and return the meat to the pot, discard the bones. Once the chicken is in the mixture add the sugar and the flour. Put the burner on the lowest setting and let the mixture cook for three to four minutes. Once done, let mixture come to room temperature.

Ingredients for the dough:
• 2 ½ kg of corn flour
• 1 ½ cups of oil
• 3 or 4 tablespoons of yellow colouring for flour (Anato powder)
• 10 cups of chicken broth

Dough preparation
Mix flour, oil and colouring in a big bowl. Gradually add chicken broth until flour is well incorporated and the dough is soft. Use as much chicken broth as needed.

Assembly
• Banana leaves
• Butchers twine
Once stew and dough are ready, you are ready to assemble the hallacas.
Roll dough into medium-sized balls and position on a flat banana leaf. Press the dough ball down with the palm of your hand to make a disc. Place two and a half ta

ChristmasDishes 4Photo courtesy of Liz West/Flickr

blespoons of filling on the dough and fold the banana leaf around the filling. Tie the packages with string to secure the hallacas. Boil the hallacas (leaves and string intact) for 10 minutes in a pot of water and enjoy!

12 dishes of Christmas

As we pack away the final bobbles of holiday décor, the Ukrainian community are gearing up for their big Christmas celebration in January. Many Ukrainians have ties to orthodox Christianity, which follows the Julian calendar instead of the Gregorian calendar. Their traditional Christmas Day comes on Jan. 7 preceded by a 12-dish meatless dinner, known as Sviaty Vechir or "Holy Evening", on Christmas Eve on Jan. 6. This meal features some of our favourite Eastern European favourites like borsch, pisni holubtsi—cabbage rolls filled with rice—and varenyky, the much-loved perogy. You can throw a perogy making party with family and friends, or relax and visit Heritage Bakery & Deli for borsch (starting at $3.95), cabbage rolls ($1.20 per 100 grams) and perogies ($6.95+ for 12.) Heritage Bakery and Deli, 1912 37th St. S.W., 403-686-6835.

Finger lickin' good

ChristmasDishes 2Photo by Michelle Thomas/Calgary JournalSome clever marketing by global chain restaurant Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) has created a bona fide phenomenon in Japan. Despite the fact that Christmas isn't even a national holiday – only an estimated one per cent of the population are Christian – KFC has been bringing families together around a big red bucket to celebrate the holiday since its first Christmas campaign in 1974. Orders have to be placed several months in advance to avoid line-ups and for good reason, at only 3980 yen or $42.10, you get a tub of golden chicken, salad and a chocolate cake. Maybe not so unfortunately, Canada doesn't have a Christmas campaign but you can always buy a variety bucket a day or two before for hungry kids and adults to snack on in anticipation of the real meal. Visit www.kfc.ca for store locations near you.

Classy fruit cake

Somewhere along the way fruit cake became everyone's most hated Christmas dessert...despite many never having tried it. But you can leave it to the Italians to have a classier, and more adored, version of our leaden loaf cake. The legends of the origin of panettone are many but unconfirmed, though the first recorded links to Christmas can be found in the writings of an 18th century illuminist. But the sweet bread was popularized by bakers in the early 20th century after they began producing en masse and has since remained a staple in Northern Italian Christmas traditions. Shaped like a cupola, a common architectural feature in Italy, or simply a giant muffin, this yeasty bread takes several lengthy steps ChristmasDishes 1Photo by Michelle Thomas/Calgary Journalof leavening to develop flavour and increase the size. Slice into the loaf vertically to reveal golden raisins and candied orange studding the interior, making it akin to the familiar fruit cake. Other regions in Italy have similar specialities: pandoro, a yeast bread from Verona, and panforte, a dense fruit bread from Tuscany. Lina's Italian Market sells panettone in different sizes, flavour varieties and brands, starting at $3.99. Lina's Italian Market, 2202 Centre St. N.E., 403-277-9166

The grand finale

Tickets to the Nutcracker ballet are coveted at Christmas time, so why not serve up something ballet-inspired as the grand finale of your holiday meal? In the 1920s, a New Zealand chef inspired by the tutu of visiting ballerina Anna Pavlova created a dessert which would become an integral part of the country's food culture. Named Pavlova in honour of its muse, the dessert consists of a delicate meringue nest filled with fluffy whipped cream and topped with fruit – originally kiwi. For years, both New Zealand and Australia have claimed to be creators of the dish (Pavlova the dancer visited both countries during her world-tour) but the dispute was finally settled when the Oxford English Dictionary listed New Zealand as the birthplace of the dessert. However, Pavlova is widely eaten in both Oceanic countries, especially during the hot holiday season. Instead of the typically rich Christmas desserts, lighten up your meal with this airy treat.

Pavlova Recipe
Courtesy of Anna Olsen, Food Network.
Ingredients:
• 4 large egg whites, at room temperature
• 1 cup sugar
• 1 tbsp cornstarch
• ¾ tsp cream of tartarChristmasDishes 3Photo courtesy of Jules/Flickr
• 1 tsp vanilla extract

Assembly
• 1 cup whipping cream
• ½ tsp finely grated lemon zest
• 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
• 3 tbsp sugar
• ½ tsp vanilla extract
• 2 ripe passion fruit

Assembly
1. Preheat the oven to 275 F. Trace a circle eight-inches across using marker on parchment paper, then flip the paper over onto a baking tray.
2. Whip the egg whites first on low speed, then once the whites are foamy increase the speed and slowly pour in the sugar while whipping. Continue to whip until the whites on high speed until they hold a firm peak when beaters are lifted. Stir the cornstarch and cream of tartar together and fold this into the meringue by hand, then fold in the vanilla.
3. Dollop the entire meringue into the centre of the drawn circle and spread using a spatula, creating an upwards "swoosh" from the base to create lines going up (this gives the Pavlova a pretty shape).
4. Bake the Pavlova for about 60 to 90 minutes – it will still seem soft on the outside when warm, but if the meringue does not cool to have a crunchy exterior, you can return the meringue to the oven for an additional 15 to 30 minutes (the outdoor temperature and humidity impacts the bake time). If the Pavlova begins to brown, crack open the oven door and continue baking. Cool the Pavlova completely on the baking tray.
5. For assembly, whip the cream to a soft peak and fold in the lemon zest, lemon juice and then the sugar. Gently lift the Pavlova (using the bottom of a removable bottom tart pan works well) onto your serving plate, then spoon the whipped cream over top, spreading it, but not quite to the edges. Cut the ripe passion fruits in half and scoop out the seeds and juice, spooning this overtop of the cream.
6. The Pavlova meringue can be baked hours ahead, but should be assembled right before serving.

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