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16 April 2014

Ultimate South African Christmas Menu

With Christmas essentially being a Christian import from colder climes to South Africa we have always been conscious of that strange dichotomy in celebrating Christmas with food from a cold climate in the middle of a blazing hot summer more suited to shorts, braais and cold fanta browns than fur coats, roasts and mulled wine. Methinks it is time to ‘steal’ Christmas back from the colonies and slowly move towards the ultimate South African Christmas menu instead.

To that end the Longhair and I have always acknowledged the tradition with at least a duck, a turkey or gammon whilst celebrating in the sun with as much South African food as possible being prepared outdoors.

Click here for a list of links that will help you prepare that Ultimate South African Christmas menu.

This year we are entertaining 15 family members and will probably use most of the following Christmas Recipes:

Drinks:

MyPE Black Velvet:

Half milk stout and half dry sparkling wine (Milk Stout must be from a quart bottle thus ensuring it comes from the PE Brewery)

Eggnog:

We prefer the cold kind and in a nod to South Africa ONLY use Brandy – Klippies is good enough (Other recipes call for various combinations of Bourbon, Rum and Brandy).

  • Ingredients: 6 eggs, 1 cup of sugar, 4 cups brandy, 6 cups heavy cream, 2 cups milk, Nutmeg
  • Beat the 6 egg yolks and 1 cup of sugar together until thick and pale (adjust the sweetness to taste – 1 cup is on the less side)
  • Slowly stir in the 4 cups of brandy – the egg yolk ‘cooks’ in this mixture so stir in slowly.
  • Blend in 6 cups of heavy cream and 2 cups of milk
  • Beat 6 egg whites separately until peaks form
  • Gently fold egg whites into creamy egg yolk mixture
  • Chill well
  • Sprinkle with grated nutmeg before serving.

Traditional Recipe: Eggnog for Dummies.

The obligatory sparkling, white and red wines for the meal.

Starters:

Prawns:

Quick cooked deveined peeled prawns cooled and tossed in a seafood dressing made from mayonnaise, a pinch of curry powder, a squeeze of lemon and a bit of tomato sauce. Served on a bed of finely chopped lettuce garnished with sliced avocado, lemon wedges and finely sliced tomato. The prawn squeamish youngsters can eat lettuce and tomato or pick at the nuts on the table.

Sorbet:

We are going to try this one by Manuella Zangara – a blogger from Australia – Rooibos Tea and Lavender Sorbet.

  • 500 ml water
  • 2 Rooibos tea bags and 1 teaspoon Lavender Blossoms
  • 50 grams honey
  • 150 grams caster sugar
  • Bring the water to the boil. Add the tea bags, lavender blossoms, honey and sugar. Mix well and allow the tea to infuse for 3 hours.
  • Then remove the tea bags and filter the tea to get rid of the lavender blossoms. Chill the mixture in the fridge overnight.
  • Churn in your ice cream maker for 30 minutes, or follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Serve immediately in shot glasses as a palate cleanser between courses.

Step by Step Images here: Rooibos Tea and Lavender Sorbet.

Mains:

Roast blesbok with cranberry jam:

The trick to decent moist and tender venison is cooking slowly. If you use wine in your marinade use white and not red. If you want your marinade to tenderise your meat then use paw paw as a major ingredient. We will be 24 hour marinading the blesbok in a marinade that will include white wine, olive oil, grated lemon rind, paw paw, rosemary and lavender, with some brandy and coke.

Bring the meat to room temperature, remove all the marinade and pat dry.

I like to cut garlic into ‘almost slivers’ and using a sharp knife push the ‘almost slivers’ into the venison.

Cover the venison with streaky bacon add a couple of vegetables (carrots, onions, celery, spinach) to help flavour the stock and cook very slowly in a low heat oven (120 degrees centigrade for around 8 hours for a decent sized blesbok leg.

I normally cook in a covered roasting pan – uncovered for the last hour – and make sure the bottom of pan remains covered with beer / water (with hops wheat and barley!) whilst cooking.

If you want to minimise the ‘wild’ taste you could cook a few chicken pieces in the pan at the same time.

Roast Lamb with mint sauce:

Lamb also cooks best at lowish heat and the cooking times are roughly 20 minutes for every 500 grams of meat plus 15 minutes for medium rare at around 180 degrees centigrade (No well done meat here please).

This years lamb will also get the garlic sliver treatment and a coating of olive oil, lemon, ground salt and pepper. Then the leg will be laid on a bed of fresh rosemary with water to keep things moist for the first two thirds of the cooking time.

To further challenge the drunk cook the lamb will be done in the weber / gas braai.

Whilst most will pick up a standard lamb leg a viable alternative is a lamb shoulder – you will have to specifically ask your butcher for this cut. Cook the lamb shoulder at a lower heat and for longer than the leg. This will result in a glorious, sticky, melt in the mouth roast.

For a wonderful minty taste line the bottom of the pan with lots of mint (almost like a minty resting place mimicking the fields that your lamb used to gambol in!). Then when the lamb has finished cooking use the rendered mint leaves to make a mint sauce / gravy by adding some white wine vinegar and sugar and blending over high heat.

Roast Chicken:

This has to be a free range farm chicken.

The stuffing will be Ina Paarmans ready made sage stuffing as a base and mixed with cooked pork sausage and edible gizzards chopped into it along with half a grated apple.

In the pocket between the breast skin and meat will be a mixture of softened butter, lemon juice, chicken spice and fresh sage. An alternative and firm favourite is softened butter with lemon juice and lots of freshly picked thyme.

Rub the chicken with olive oil and liberally spice with freshly ground salt and pepper. If using the lemon and thyme alternative above then place some thinly sliced lemon on the chicken skin.

We going to brine the chicken before hand. Brining a chicken or turkey for a few hours or overnight is said to help keep the poultry moist and enhances the flavour as the salt from the brine penetrates deep into the meat.

Again a combination of roasting at 180 degrees centigrade in a covered roasting pan for around two thirds of the roasting time (anywhere from 45 to 60 minutes) and then uncovering the roast will ensure a tender chicken.

Gammon with Klippes and Cola glaze:

Gammon is cooked in a large pot of water (on the stove or in the oven) – treat the water as a stock medium. Use combinations such as beer (or ginger beer) with water to which you add carrots, onions, celery, bay leaves etc. Think ingredients for a good stock and you cannot go wrong.

Gammon with a bone in must cook at a ‘lively simmer’ in a partially covered pot for around 50 minutes per kilogram in your stock. It is best to cook your gammon a day or two before Christmas. Then, on the day you just have to prepare and cook the glaze.

Remove the skin from the gammon and score it in diamond shapes. Place a whole clove in each diamond and make your glaze which can consist of two cups of coke, some wholegrain mustard, honey (or brown sugar) to taste, some freshly squeezed lemon juice which you add to a pan and reduce to around a third of the original. Add about 100 ml of brandy after the glaze has reduced. If you want to keep the tastes cascading with the venison you could replace the honey (or sugar) with some cranberry jam with whole fresh cherries.

Place the gammon in a very hot oven and spoon the glaze over. For about 20 minutes you will need to baby your gammon and spoon the glaze over it very often – the sugar/honey/jam and sticky cola has a propensity to go black and burn – you are looking for a mahogany colour.

Vegetables:

With all this roasting going on find some space to toss a couple of sweet potatoes and ordinary potatoes into the oven – a real natural sweet treat and the baked potatoes will be healthier than those roasted in oil.

The easiest other vegetable dish to do is roast vegetables – cut a number of different vegetables into rough chunks, scatter some whole garlic cloves into a roasting pan with the vegetables, fresh rosemary or coriander, some small tomatoes quartered, a squeeze of lemon, a good drizzling of olive oil, ground salt and pepper and roast to crunchy.

A good standby is marmalade glazed carrots – use the largest carrots you can find sliced into little finger sized portions, first boiled and then ‘fried’ in butter, marmalade and cinnamon to taste.

Minted petit pois always gone down a treat – boil/microwave with some fresh mint leaves added.

For a truly South African starch roast or boil madumbis instead of potato – the madumbi taste is reminiscent of potato and mealies.

You could also serve samp and beans with the venison with lots of gravy poured over.

Dessert:

I confess that the making of desserts does not excite me at all so we will probably be relying on bought Christmas Pies, my Mothers Christmas Cake or trifle and a good old ice cream standby. If pressed I will give this recipe – Ice Cream Christmas pudding recipe – a go as it contains brandy and fits in well with the boozy South African day planned so far.

Ultimate South African Christmas Menu links – all the links you could need to plan and cook an amazing South African Christmas dinner:

Christmas Starters:

Venison Recipes:

Roast Lamb:

Roast Chicken Recipes:

Gammon Recipes:

Turkey (We have added these here for the sake of the die hard traditionalists):

Vegetables:

Samp and Beans:

Baked Potatoes:

Sweet Potatoes:

Madumbis (amaDumbe – also known as Taro):

Desserts:

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Alan Straton

Chief Cook and Bottle Washer at MyPE
Passionate about Port Elizabeth and definitely NOT packing for Perth. Alan's ethos is epitomised in the words of Nelson Mandela; "I have fought against white domination and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the idea of a democratic and free society. If need be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die." See more articles by Alan.


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