Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Christmas Cooking/Baking (not recipes) (10/16/08)
By Kenneth Heath
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It was a hot November evening and Simon was pouring over a mountain of recipe books. Tradition, tradition, why do we always have to follow tradition he mused, as he looked for the ultimate glazed gammon recipe. He had found sixteen variations on a theme and each sounded equally as tasty.
“Where would we be without our tradition?” said Tevye in Fiddler on the roof. “Because of our traditions we have kept our balance for many years, and how do we keep our balance? Only one way, “Tradition”, and because of our tradition each one of us knows who he is and what God expects us to do.”
Why not break with tradition this Christmas, thought Simon. For the past three hundred years, his forefathers had been cooking traditional “English” Christmas fare. The thought of it made him sick as he visualized the traditional menus of the past.
They would all assemble around the dining table, give thanks and then the feasting would begin. Seafood or fruit cocktail would kick off this meal with appropriate wines served, just at the correct temperature to get those taste buds working. Then, there was the traditional Christmas cracker popping session, with everyone placing those silly hats on their heads and playing with the toys that were inside the crackers.
Next, followed a steaming bowl of Avgolemono (chicken, egg and lemon) soup, a firm family favorite, served with Portuguese rolls and Rose wine. Bringing out the big guns, the host would now display his collection of Cape wines for his guests to choose from. A Cabernet Sauvignon or a Pinotage for him and a semi-sweet Groot Constantia white for the ladies and then it was time to carve the roasts.
Many animals had contributed to this feast. Firstly, there was the amazing fowl roast that consisted of a bacon-larded de-boned turkey, inside of which there was a de-boned lemon basted duck and inside of it was a large de-boned chicken complete with stuffing. Once sliced there would be a ring of varied layers of fowl and stuffing. Then, there was the traditional glazed gammon, roast silverside of beef and a succulent leg of lamb. The vegetables consisted of roast potatoes, honey-peas, baby carrots in a butter sauce, cauliflower in a cheese sauce, brussel sprouts, rice and Yorkshire pud. The sauces came next, mustard, cranberry, apple, mint and the traditional beef gravy.
For desert there was the Christmas pudding with custard, assorted jellies, trifles and ice cream. Naturally, a traditional Christmas meal would not be complete without cheese and biscuits and a good Sherry or Port to round it off. Chocolates and filter coffee would follow before the guests would slowly sneak off for an afternoon nap or sit around listening to Boney M’s latest Christmas CD.
“Enough! Time for some new traditions,” said Simon as he reached for Hildagonda Duckitt’s “Where is it?” cookbook. It was published in 1891 and is an authority on the cultural and culinary history of the early settlers to southern Africa, and so began Simon’s exploration of uniquely African dishes, dishes that he could prepare for all his guests on Christmas day.
Bearing in mind the fierce December heat, he planned his menu around cool dishes and dishes that could be prepared in advance so that he could also spend time with his guests instead of in the kitchen.
Starters would be Ingelegde Visch (pickled fish), Kreeft (lobster) salad and a fruit salad with thick cream or yoghurt and wine jellies. A chilled curried butternut soup would follow together with slices of hot pot bread and farm butter.
A large leg of “Kudu” (a succulent and extremely tasty venison) roasted in the Weber along with the smoked hind leg of a Warthog (wild bush pig), “Babotee” (curried mince, egg, raisin and almond dish) served with assorted chutneys and sassatees (type of kebab) would round off the meat dishes. Yellow rice with raisins, would be served along with cinnamon pumpkin, stuffed vegetable marrow, “Mfino,”(a spinach and ground maize dish) and assorted salads.
Pudding would be “koeksusters”, milk tart and brandied figs and peaches in ice cream. Lemon punch, Cape wines and Van Der Hum and Orange liqueurs would round off a most memorable meal. Filter coffee would be served with “Soetkoekies”(sweet biscuits), Ginger nuts and Almond Macaroons.
Simon smiled as he finished his menu, “Here’s to the start of a new tradition, for what we have to eat and drink, we praise thy name O lord.”
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