It is no secret that I have a VERY sweet tooth and I love baking! And at this time of year there are so many seasonal treats from around the world, it can be hard to know which ones to try first. Here are some of our family favourites…
Love them or hate them, these are small round sweet mini pastry pies, filled with a mixture of raisins, sultanas and Christmassy spices. Its ingredients are traceable to the 13th century, when returning European crusaders brought with them Middle Eastern recipes containing meats, fruits and spices. I could quite easily munch through a box of them and I loved finding out that there is a custom from the middle ages says that if you eat a mince pie on every day from Christmas to Twelfth Night (evening of the 5th January) you will have happiness for the next 12 months! (Well it would be bad luck not to, right?)
My favourite way to eat them is serving them warm with a little cream. It is customary to leave one out for Father Christmas (Santa) on Christmas Eve with a glass of Brandy or Whisky.
For a mince pie with a twist try this one topped with Frangipane by Mary Berry.
These are tasty soft gingerbread cookies with an icing glaze or dark chocolate. Lebkuchen was invented by medieval monks in Franconia, as early as 1296 in the city of Ulm, and 1395 in Nürnberg (Nuremberg). The main ingredients for baking Lebkuchen are: Hazelnuts, Walnuts, Almonds, Candied Orange and Lemon Peel, Honey, Flour, Sugar, Eggs and Marzipan. Add to these some exotic spices from all around the world (cinnamon, cloves, anise, cardamom, coriander, ginger and mace) to make the Lebkuchen a special treat.
I have never tried baking these as I tend to pick them up from a Christmas Market (then I have to go back to the supermarket to get more, because I’ve eaten them all before Christmas!)
Ris á la mande
Do you love rice pudding as much as my son? Well, you're going to love this tradition in Denmark. Traditionally served as dessert on Christmas Day, 'Ris á la mande' is a special rice pudding. This is made with milk, rice, almonds, vanilla and whipped cream. What makes this tradition so special? Similar to the UK tradition of a coin being hidden in the Christmas Pudding (yes, really!), a whole almond is hidden in the rice pudding and whoever finds it gets a present!
We get through so much fruit in our house, so it was interesting to hear that a popular tradition in China is the giving of apples on Christmas Eve. Most stores in China will sell apples wrapped in colourful paper so people can buy them and give them as gifts. The reason behind this? The word for Christmas Eve in Chinese, 'Ping An Ye' sounds very similar to the Chinese word for apple, 'Ping Guo' and the two things were brought together.
In New Zealand dessert is the star of the show on Christmas Day after a BBQ! One of the classic favourites is a classic pavlova topped with cream and heaps of fresh berries. It's the showstopper often proudly displayed in the centre of the table - who could blame them?
This is a great alternative if you don't like the traditional Christmas Pudding. Why not give this strawberry and kiwi pavlova recipe a try?
Italian friends introduced me to Panettone. Be warned, it is so moreish, when you start tearing into a Panettone it is really hard to stop! It is the heart of Italy around Christmas time. Packed with candied peel, sultanas, raisins and many more, this light fluffy sweet bread is usually about 12-15 cm high and should roughly weigh about 1kg. It's a tear and share bread for the whole family to feast on throughout the Christmas celebrations.
Panettone would make a delicious treat on Christmas Eve or a light snack in between Christmas games. Want to try making one? Try Gino D'Acampo's Panettone classico recipe.
Christmas Fruit Cake
It is a big tradition in the Caribbean where they leave the dried fruit to soak in alcohol months before Christmas Day so the cake is extra moist and packed with alcoholic flavours like rum, red wine, brandy or sherry and lots of spices. Each family will have their secret recipe. Grenada is known as the spice island so get your nutmeg at the ready!
My family recipe, going back to at least my Great Grandmother from Grenada starts by soaking the fruit for AT LEAST couple of weeks in a tin of Guinness, some cherry brandy and nutmeg, mixed spice and cinnamon. I start making mine in October! I haven’t had a fruitcake or Christmas pudding that can match it. Cover your cake with marzipan before decorating with royal icing. Perfect with a cup of tea (or glass of sherry) when lots of visitors come around.
In France it's a tradition to have the main Christmas meal on Christmas Eve or early Christmas morning after the midnight church service. Roast turkey, chestnut and venison are a few of the dishes served at the feast. When it comes to dessert a chocolate log, Yule log or 'Bûche de Noël' is traditional served with fresh cream - this favourite usually disappears in minutes, and you can see why!
Here is a recipe to try from Nigella Lawson
What are your favourite Christmas foods that you are looking forward to the most? One tradition we look forward to is making Gingerbread houses (which is starting to get a little competitive as you can see from below!)
I love finding new tasty things to try! I would love to hear about your favourite Christmas food in the comments below.
Nicole Blyth Founder, RelocateGuru