Image © Pink Sherbet Photography
Baked turkey, stuffing, sautéed cabbage, roast potatoes. Nothing new here. For a lot of people that's fine. Smell and memory are intimately linked, and this meal has a habit of bringing to mind good times, good Christmas pasts and belly-aching laughter. But many countries celebrate the festive season with exotic (to us) alternatives, and sometimes we want to mix things up and try something fresh. Add new memories. If you're interested in making your Christmas dinner a bit more inspired, maybe the cultures of the world can enthuse you.
Image © Nina Matthews Photography
If you're not completely ready to give up on turkey, try spicing it up a little. Morocco is generally a Muslim country, but there are a lot of Christians here due to the country's high number of French descendants, and the Arab influences have seriously altered the standard turkey dinner. Spices and herbs such as coriander, cayenne pepper and cinnamon - and turkey stuffing of sausage meat with chilli, almonds and honey - add an exotic twist to an age-old classic. Moroccan Christmas turkey is best served with chickpea salad with cumin vinaigrette, roasted sweet potatoes and Moroccan cabbage salad.
The main event of Austria's 25th celebrations is carp fried with egg, lemon and breadcrumbs called Gerbackener Karpfen. This is traditionally eaten throughout an entire day of feasting and nibbling with the family; and comes with seasonal vegetables and Servietten-knodel (dumplings), while glugging glass after glass of Gluhwein (mulled wine). Like in many Germanic countries, in an Austrian home your sweet tooth is spoiled for choice with treats like Christmas sugar cookies, Krapfen (donuts) and the divine and incredibly unhealthy Sachertorte.
In Italy the Christmas menu varies drastically from region to region. But if you're trying to avoid chicken and poultry, tuck into the menu of the south. The first course or primo is a soup made of filled pasta, like tortellini or ravioli, boiled in a meat broth. For secondo on Christmas Eve, Italians enjoy a crispy meal of fried capitone eel cooked with juniper berries, rosemary and white wine. And for afters, lend a page from The Godfather. "Leave the gun, take the cannoli".
If you're looking to make an event out of your Christmas meal that's social, easy and fun then look no further than the Dutch tradition of gourmetten. This is a feast laid out at tables in The Netherlands along with all the equipment to cook it. Game meats, shellfish, pork and fresh vegetables are cut, marinated and served raw. A special gourmetten grill and a little frying pan are set up at the table for revellers to cook their own bite-sized portions as they munch through chunks of fresh bread dripping cheese and juicy pieces of venison, while drinking top quality Dutch beers and fruit juice. Don't forget the cheese fondue, always a popular choice.
In typical Spanish fashion, Christmas dinner is served tapas-style for the family to pick at and enjoy. Similarly to the Dutch, in Spain they tend to make their meals an event filled with sharing, tasting and laughing. Christmas dinner is a fancier version of traditional tapas, and can include anything from lobster to venison or foie gras. You'll very often find an assortment of shellfish, as well as white asparagus and pimiento de padron, a delicious, salty and slightly bitter type of green pepper prevalent in the north.
Oysters © Swamibu
Traditional turkey dinners remind many of us of special Christmas moments when we were young. But maybe the most important memories are the ones we haven't made yet. From all of us at HouseTrip, we wish you a festive and scrumptious Christmas season.
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How long does it take to make your Christmas dinner? Two hours? Maybe four? In fact, the average Christmas dinner takes 295 days to make before it reaches our plate according to research by <a href="http://www.morrisons.co.uk/" target="_hplink"><em>Morrisons</em></a>, as it needs 10 months to sow and grow before it's ready for the festive feast. However, while it takes our beloved seasonal veg and turkey months to grow - it takes us Brits just over half an hour to polish the lot off. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2011/12/06/our-christmas-dinner-takes-10-months-to-grow_n_1131850.html" target="_hplink"> <strong>Find out how long it takes all of the Christmas vegetables to grow</strong></a>.
According to a study by the <em><a href="http://www.foodnetwork.co.uk/" target="_hplink">Food Network UK</a></em>, cooking Christmas dinner is so tricky, it takes us 47 years to perfect it without any mishaps. The study found that a third of women never manage to cook the festive meal without a drama, with one in ten admitting that they mess up the gravy every year and 9% even forget to defrost the turkey. "There is a lot of pressure to pull off the 'perfect' dinner and in many families, you have to live up to the standards set by your mother or mother-in-law, who have been mastering their festive feast for years," says Nick Thorogood from the study.
The average Brit will gain up to half a stone over the festive period, as the temptation of never-ending chocolates, mince pies and savoury snacks get the better of them, according to research by the <a href="http://www.bda.uk.com/" target="_hplink">British Dietetic Association</a>. With the average Christmas dinner racking up 956 calories and containing 48g of fat, it's little wonder that we see the festive pounds pack on and suffer from <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2011/12/16/how-to-fight-the-festive-fatigue-this-christmas_n_1153536.html?ref=uk-lifestyle" target="_hplink">festive fatigue</a> shortly after the day of indulgence. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2012/12/05/health-track-your-alcohol-calorie-intake_n_2243127.html" target="_hplink"><strong>Find out how you can avoid the Christmas fat-trap and minimise your calories</strong></a>.
If you despise brussels sprouts, you're not being a fussy eater because according to scientists from <em><a href="http://www.loreal.com/_en/_ww/research-l-oreal.aspx" target="_hplink">L'Oréal Research Centre</a></em>, some of us were born to hate the festive brussels. The gene, carried by 70% of us, make the brain detect sharp, bitter flavours and that's what makes us shun the green veg when eating our Christmas dinner. Researchers also found that our modern eating habits have blunted the gene with our taste for booze, cigarettes and spicy foods like curry.
Forget all the turkey trimmings - if you're feeling the pinch this Christmas, you can feed your friends and family on Christmas Day for under a fiver. Well, £2 to be exact. Money-saving site, <em><a href="http://www.studentbeans.com/" target="_hplink">Studentbeans</a></em> have come up with an <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2011/12/14/christmas-dinner-that-costs-2-takes-10-minutes_n_1147861.html?ref=uk-lifestyle" target="_hplink">alternative dinner that costs just £2 per head.</a> <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2011/12/14/christmas-dinner-that-costs-2-takes-10-minutes_n_1147861.html?ref=uk-lifestyle" target="_hplink"> <strong>Find out what ingredients you'll need to rustle up the £2 Christmas dinner</strong></a>
Britons eat nearly twice their recommended salt allowance on Christmas Day, health campaigners from<a href="http://www.actiononsalt.org.uk/" target="_hplink"> <em>Consensus Action of Salt and Health</em></a> (CASH) have warned. The salt RDA is 5g, but the average Christmas dinner contains 8.87g of salt. While the nation goes about their routine gorge on the big day, experts warn that hungry Brits should steer clear of salt traps like processed and pre-prepared food to reduce the salt intake this Christmas.
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