Joy to the world, the holidays are here. Folks from all across the globe are enjoying the season with unique celebrations and traditions. And a lot of fabulous food. So why not treat your taste buds to a tour of foreign fare? Take a break from the tried-and-true turkey and classic cutout cookies and get a little adventurous in the kitchen. All the world loves good food, especially during the holidays, so it’s the perfect time to explore delicious dishes from other countries. You might discover a few new holiday favorites to add to the recipe box.
- Omisoka in Japan
- St. Stephen’s Day in Ireland
- St. Lucia Day in Sweden
- Sviata Vechera in the Ukraine
- Noel in France
- Saint Basil’s Day in Greece
- Réveillon in Canada
- Noche Buena in Argentina
Omisoka, the Japanese New Year’s Eve, is celebrated with a late family dinner of Toshikoshi Soba around 11:00 pm. This traditional meal of buckwheat noodles is believed to promote a long and healthy life, so it’s definitely worth a try. At midnight, families visit a shrine or temple where a large bell strikes 108 times to purify the people from past sins for the start of the New Year.
- 6 cups Dashi
- 3 tbsp Mirin
- 2 tsp Granulated Sugar
- 1/3 cup Soy Sauce
- 10 oz Soba Noodles follow directions to prepare
- 1/2 lb Shredded Nori
- Mix the dashi, mirin, and sugar together in a 2-quart saucepan
- Bring to a boil over medium heat, then reduce the heat to medium-low and let the mixture simmer for 3 minutes
- Add the soy sauce and slowly heat the sauce through but don’t let it boil again
- Place the noodles in bowls and pour the hot broth over them
- Top with shredded nori and any additional toppings desired
On December 26th the Irish celebrate St. Stephen’s Day, which is also known as the day of “Hunting the Wren.” Children go door-to-door singing songs as they hold a stick with holly branches and a fake wren attached to the top. Neighbors then give the kiddos money to feed the “starving wren,” which used to be a real wren in ancient times. Later, for supper, a rich, meaty pie (sans wren) is served.
- 2 lbs Turkey Meat cold
- 1 lb Ham or Bacon cold
- 1 oz Butter
- 1 1/2 cups Onion chopped
- 1 clove Garlic minced
- 2 1/2 cups Poultry Stock
- 1 1/4 cups Turkey Gravy
- 8 oz Small Button Mushrooms
- 4 tsp Parsley
- 4 tsp Chives
- 2 tsp Marjoram
- 2/3 cup Heavy Cream
- Duchesse Potatoes
- 2 1/2 lbs Russet Potatoes
- 6 large Egg Yolks at room temperature
- 6 tbsp Unsalted Butter cut into 8 pieces
- 1/4 cup Heavy Cream at room temperature
- 1 tsp Kosher Salt
- 1/4 tsp Black Pepper
- 1/8 tsp Nutmeg
- Heat the oven to 400°F and arrange the racks to divide the oven into thirds. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
- Wash and peel the potatoes, cut them into 1-1/2-inch chunks, and place in a large saucepan. Cover with 1 1/2 to 2 inches of cold water and salt generously. Bring the potatoes to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer until the potatoes can be easily pierced with a knife, about 15 minutes.
- Drain in a colander. Return the potatoes to the pot and mash with a potato masher until very smooth. (Alternatively, use a potato ricer.)
- While the potatoes are still warm, mix in the egg yolks 1 at a time using a wooden spoon or rubber spatula, making sure each yolk is completely incorporated before adding the next. Add the butter, cream, measured salt, pepper, and nutmeg and stir until the butter has melted and the mixture is smooth.
- Transfer to a large piping bag fitted with a 1/2-inch star piping tip and pipe 12 round mounds (2 1/2 inches wide by 2 inches tall) onto each prepared baking sheet, spacing them about 2 inches apart.
- Cut turkey and ham into 1" pieces
- Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan
- Add the chopped onions, cover, and sweat for 10 minutes
- Meanwhile, wash and slice the mushrooms
- When onions are soft, stir in garlic and remove to a plate
- Increase heat and cook the sliced mushrooms in the saucepan
- Season with salt and pepper and add to the plate of onion and garlic.
- Toss turkey and ham in the hot saucepan, add butter if necessary
- Add the mushrooms and onions and de-glaze the saucepan with turkey stock
- Add cream and chopped herbs and bring to a boil.
- Add gravy, meat, mushrooms and onions and simmer for 5 minutes
- Pour filling into a pie plate and top with Duchesse potatoes
- Bake for 15-20 minutes or until potato is golden and the pie is bubbling.
On December 13, in honor of St. Lucia, Swedish girls dress as “Lucia brides” in white gowns with red sashes and a wreath of burning candles (yikes!) on their heads. Traditionally, it’s the eldest daughter who gently rouses the family members from sleep with a sweet song, hot coffee, and warm twisted saffron buns known as Lussekatter or “Lucia cats.” What a wonderful way to wake up as long as nothing catches on fire from those candles.
- 1/2 tsp Saffron Threads
- 1 tsp Brandy
- 1/2 cup Milk
- 1/2 cup Melted Butter
- 6 tbsp Sugar
- 1/2 tsp Salt
- 1/4 oz Dry Yeast
- 3 cups Flour
- 2 whole Eggs
- 1/4 cup Raisins plus a few extra
- 1 full Egg Yolk
- Crumble saffron threads in the brandy and let sit for up to 24 hrs
- Scald milk and mix with butter, sugar, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Let cool to lukewarm
- Add yeast and let sit for 10 minutes
- Add saffron and brandy mix and stir
- Mix half the flour and 1 egg until combined
- Add the rest of the flour and ¼ c. raisins to form soft dough
- Cover and sit in a warm place for 1 hr. to let the dough rise
- Divide dough into 12 egg-sized portions
- Roll each portion into a 4-inch snake and cover to rest for another 10 minutes
- Roll each twice as long and twist into a figure 8
- Tuck a raisin in the curve of each end
- Transfer to a greased baking sheet and cover for an additional 60 – 90 minutes
- Brush egg yolk from remaining egg over buns
- Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes
Sviata Vechera, the “Holy Supper,” is served on January 6, the eve of the Epiphany. Once the first rising star appears in the sky, the traditional 12-course meatless and dairy-free feast begins after a full day of fasting. The first of the twelve dishes is always Kutia. Before this sweet wheat soup is served, it is thrown by the spoonful to the ceiling by the eldest in the family. Seriously. The more the kernels stick, the better the luck that year. Sounds super-fun, doesn’t it? Most moms would not be on board with this food-flinging tradition, lucky or not.
- 2 cups Cooked Wheat
- 6 tbsp Ground Poppy Seeds
- 1/4 cup Honey
- 1/4 cup Pecans chopped
- 3/4 cup Hot Water
- Dry the wheat in a 200-degree oven for 1 hour, stirring occasionally
- Wash and soak it in cold water overnight
- Next morning, bring wheat to boiling and simmer for 3 – 4 hours until kernels burst open
- Scald poppy seeds in a pan and grind using a food chopper
- Add the ground poppy seeds to the wheat
- Combine the honey and water, then add to wheat
- Add chopped pecans
- Now, fling to your heart’s content!
In France, Pere Noel, not Santa, delivers the gifts from house to house. And on Christmas Eve, the children’s shoes, not stockings, are placed near the fireplace and filled with small gifts, fruits, and nuts. In French homes, a nativity scene (or crèche) is just as important as the Christmas tree (or sapin de Noel). And the celebratory dinner, the Reveillon, is eaten just after midnight once the family returns from Christmas Eve church services. This decadent meal includes roast goose, regional cheeses, oysters, and foie gras. C’est magnifique!
- 1 1/2 lb Ppiece of Foie Gras
- 1 cup Port Wine
- 1 cup Cognac
- 6 whole Black Mission Figs stemmed removed and halved
- 3 cups Duck Stock
- Kosher Salt
- Black Pepper
- Season the foie gras on both sides with salt and pepper
- Place in a 1-gallon Ziploc bag and add port wine and cognac
- Seal the bag and marinate in the fridge for 4 hrs.
- Preheat oven to 500 degrees
- Meanwhile, heat an ovenproof skillet in the oven for 10 minutes
- Remove foie gras from the bag and reserve marinade
- Place foie gras, smooth side down, in hot skillet and roast for 10 minutes. Flip and repeat
- Remove the foie gras to a warm plate and cover
- Add figs to the skillet and roast for 5 minutes
- Remove the figs and add the marinade, heating on medium-high until bubbling
- Lower the heat until sauce becomes thick and syrupy, about 15 minutes
- Add the duck stock and simmer for 25 more minutes
- Remove from heat and pour through a mesh strainer
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Add the figs to the sauce
- Slice the foie gras into 12 pieces and pour warm fig sauce over each
- Bon appetite!
Saint Basil, a fourth-century bishop and the father of the Greek Orthodox Church, was known for his kindness toward the poor. In his honor, families gather on Saint Basil’s Day (the Greek New Year’s Day) to exchange gifts and eat a large feast, including a traditional Saint Basil’s Day cake, Vassilopita. A foil-wrapped gold or silver coin is baked inside the cake and the person who gets the lucky slice is doubly blessed. The first piece of Vassilopita is always set-aside for Saint Basil to acknowledge his generosity.
- 1 cup Butter
- 1 tbs Butter grease cake pan
- 2 cups Sugar
- 2 tbsp Sugar for sprinkling
- 2 cups Flour
- 6 whole Eggs
- 2 tsp Baking Powder
- 1 cup Warm Milk
- 1/2 tsp Baking Soda
- 1 tbsp Lemon Juice freshly squeezed
- 1/4 cup ¼ c. Blanched Slivered Almonds
- Preheat oven to 350°
- Grease a 10 inch round cake pan with 1 T. butter
- In a medium bowl, cream butter and sugar together
- Stir in the flour and mix until the batter looks coarse
- Add eggs, one at a time, blending well
- In a small bowl, combine baking powder and milk
- Add to the cake batter and mix well
- In a small bowl, combine the lemon juice and baking soda
- Add to the cake batter and mix well
- Pour the cake batter into greased cake pan
- Insert the foil-wrapped coin and bake for 20 minutes
- Remove the cake from the oven and sprinkle nuts and 2 T. sugar on top
- Return the cake to the oven and bake for an extra 20-30 minutes
- Allow to cool on a rack
Many French families in Quebec have a big feast on Christmas Eve called Réveillon. The feast often lasts well into the early hours of Christmas morning after Christmas Eve Mass. Many people eat a Tortière, which is a meat pie made from venison, pork or beef.
- 1 lb Lean Ground Pork
- 1/2 lb Lean Ground Beef
- 1 Onion diced
- 1 Garlic Clove minced
- 1/2 cup Water
- 1 1/2 tsps Salt
- 1/2 tsp Dried Thyme crushed
- 1/4 tsp Ground Sage
- 1/4 tsp Ground Black Pepper
- 1/8 tsp Ground Cloves
- 1 ouble Crust Pie 9-inches
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
- In a saucepan, combine pork, beef, onion, garlic, water, salt, thyme, sage, black pepper and cloves. Cook over medium heat until mixture boils; stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to low and simmer until meat is cooked, about 5 minutes. Allow to cool to room temperature.
- Spoon the meat mixture into the pie crust. Place top crust on top of pie and pinch edges to seal. Cut slits in top crust so steam can escape. Cover edges of pie with strips of aluminum foil.
- Bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes; remove foil and return to oven. Bake for an additional 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden brown. Let cool 10 minutes before slicing.
A traditional Latin American Christmas is celebrated on December 24 and is known as Noche Buena. Many Argentinian’s top of a huge feast with pan dulce. It’s a sweet, staple during Christmas in Argentina and often has raisins and walnuts.
- 1 Dry Yeast Pack
- 4 1/2 cups All Purpose Flour
- 3/4 cup Sugar
- 1 tbsp Yeast Extract marmite
- 4 Eggs one egg white
- Zest of Lemon
- 1 tbsp Vanilla
- 8 tbsp Unsalted Butter
- Salt to taste
- 1 cup Walnuts
- 1 cup Raisins
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Add the yeast pack to a half of a cup of warm water with some sugar and let stand to froth for 10 minutes.
- In a bowl combine flour, sugar, 4 eggs, butter, vanilla, lemon zest, salt and yeast mixture and mix until all blended.
- Transfer dough onto a lightly floured flat service and knead the dough until the dough has a smooth touch texture and not sticky, about 10-15 minutes.
- Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover it up with a plastic bag and let it sit for 2-3 hours in a warm place until the dough doubles in size.
- Place the dough back on a lightly floured flat service and roll out the dough to a rectangle roughly 12″x24″. Then, add the walnut and raisins and knead the dough.
- Split the dough into 2 equal pieces and place then into 2 lightly buttered bread baking dishes. Cover up with plastic bag and let the dough rise for 2-3 hours until the dough just slightly reaches the top.
- Bake until golden brown (between 30-45 minutes ). To garnish, use one egg yolk and wash the crust with it and sprinkle some sugar.