Mirror Magazine


Delicacies of December
By Vidushi Seneviratne and Thiruni Kelegama
Christmas time, mistletoe and wine...Yes, Christmas is just around the corner! It certainly is the time for thousands of sparkling lights, the Christmas trees, the presents and of course, the food.

One particularly nice part about Christmas is that most of us have the opportunity to enjoy food that we don't normally eat at any other time of the year. These yummy goodies make their appearance just once a year and that makes them special.

Yes, we're talking of Christmas cake, Yule log, breudher, mince pies, love cake, cookies, ginger bread houses...all certainly worth the wait.

But making them, we discovered, is not a piece of cake.

The Christmas cake is generally made almost two months ahead, in order to enhance its flavour. The Christmas pudding is also made ahead so that it acquires that wonderfully plummy flavour when eaten with that delicious Brandy butter. It is the same with the milk wine, as the flavour is enhanced by the fermentation process.

But how many people still keep with the tradition and make these special treats at home? "Making the Christmas pudding and the cake is truly a wonderful procedure. But, unfortunately I do not have the time to do it anymore," said Mrs. Maureen de Silva. "Oh, yes, my family loved it when I used to make everything at home, but they also realise that it is not a very easy process."

Mrs. Indra Perera also echoed her words. "I used to make everything at home, but now I just do not have the time. However, I do try to make the Christmas cake whenever I can, and I am glad to say that at least something on my table laid out on Christmas day is home made."

But then, there are a few exceptions. Mrs. Loretta de Kretser admits that though she is tied down and hardly has any time to breathe, she does make something of her own to lay on the Christmas table. "I know the cake has to be left for at least a month or so, but I make it at the last moment," she admits with a smile on her face. "The point is that I make it in the end! I also make the love cake, breudher and the mince pies. And my husband makes the milk wine."

But she is quick to point out this isn't what Christmas is all about. "Christmas is not about enjoying oneself, it is more of a spiritual thing. But now, people have even taken Christ out of it. Therefore, for me what is important is not how many varieties of food I have on my table but the spiritual aspect of it."

"And how many people are homeless and lying on the streets without anything to eat?" she asks. "We should think about them more often and give them a reason to celebrate. Isn't that what Christmas is all about?"

Mrs. Odette Van Heer buys most of her Christmas goodies. "I have to do it. I have absolutely no time to consider making everything. And I feel that it makes no difference whether I buy it or not - as you can buy excellent Christmas cake from many places today."

True, you can buy very good Christmas fare from a number of places who seem to surpass themselves when it comes to Christmas.

The Ginger Bread House at the Colombo Hilton was beautifully decorated with zillions of lights. Look around and you see shelves lined with Yule logs, breudher, Christmas cake and marzipan trees. And that's not all...they also have a variety of Christmas cookies made especially for the season, not to mention Stollen, which is a dough and yeast based fruity sweet bread, chocolates in the shape of bells, Santa Claus', fairies, elves, Christmas trees and ginger bread houses.

"We make over 12,000 kilograms of Christmas cake every year," says Gerald Mendis, Executive Pastry Chef of the Hilton. "This shows how many people resort to buying the Christmas cake, rather than making it at home. I suppose it is easier, and they know they are not buying something that has been made half-heartedly."

"We start making our Christmas food as early as November, so that we are never out of stock. The Christmas cake is generally made quite early so that the flavour is rich. Cookies, marzipan sweets and chocolates, all hand made are also very popular," he says with a smile.

"Christmas cake is traditionally made around the world," he said, "but the cake made here is a nice, moist one with almond icing, whereas the cake made in European countries is more of a heavy, fruit based one."

For breudher, there is no other place more well-known than Perera and Sons (Bakers). Mr. Preethi Senerath, Marketing Development Manager says that they sell more than 15,000 breudhers every year.

"We start making them as early as August and they are always in demand. It has become a sort of tradition I suppose," he adds. "It seems that a Christmas is not complete without a breudher and we are always happy to oblige."

The Galadari Hotel, meanwhile, well into the Christmas spirit has a Cookie Hut made of a huge gingerbread train track, which they have lined with cookies and marzipan. The train was also packed with sweets of all sorts, and indeed looked very enticing.

"We generally start making all our goodies about one month earlier. The customer reception last year was good. And this year, with peace in the air, I am sure that it will be even better," says Nimal Fernando, the hotel's Pastry Chef.

So even if you've been hassled trying to get everything ready for Christmas, relax, catch your breath and indulge in some of the Christmas goodies. Oh and don't forget to pass some on too.

Fit for a King
It's that time of year again.

Time to look back on the good times of the past year, get in touch with loved ones, rejoice and share some good cheer.

And if you're planning a wonderful time of fellowship, check out this super festive meal that is bound to leave your guests longing for more.

Here from the master chefs of the Colombo Hilton is a Christmas dinner par excellence, and indeed one you could dish out at home.

Brussels Sprouts Cream with Toasted Almonds and Peppered Cheese Crisp as a starter, Slow Roasted Sliced Supreme of Duck with Cranberry Red Cabbage and Whipped Philadelphia Cheese Mash on Port Wine Jus and Orange Salsa as the main course and as the all important dessert; Sticky Nutty Pudding with Hot Caramel Sauce. Now doesn't that sound great?

The recipes were put together on behalf of the Colombo Hilton by its Executive Chef Rohan Fernandopulle and Executive Sous Chef Wasantha Pieris.

Brussels Sprouts Cream with Toasted Almonds and Peppered Cheese Crisp
4 Portions
20g Butter
15g Onions chopped
15g Middle rashers of bacon
10g Fresh celery
350g Brussels sprouts
150g Fresh potatoes
700ml Chicken stock
150ml Cream
Salt to taste
Cracked black pepper to taste
Flaked almond nuts - Toasted (Cashewnuts will do just as well)

Melt the butter in a large pan and add the onion and bacon. Saute for 4-5 minutes. Stir in celery, Brussels sprouts and potatoes and saute well. Add the stock. Bring to boil, cover and simmer for 25-30 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. Puree and return to the cleaned pan. Add cream; season with salt and pepper. Bring to boil and simmer for 2 minutes. Correct the seasoning and serve with toasted almond flakes and the crisp.

Peppered Cheese Crisp
4 Thin long sices of French bread
1 Egg yolk
120g Grated Cheddar cheese (Any cheese would do!)
1/2 tsp. Crushed pepper

Mix grated cheese with crushed pepper. Add egg yolk and mix well. Divide into four equal parts and apply on each slice of bread. Bake in the oven until crisp. (160C). When serving the soup place each slice of bread on the brim of cup.

Sticky Nutty Pudding with Hot Caramel Sauce
4 Portions
1/2 cup Chopped dates
1/2 tsp. Vanilla essence
1/4 tsp. Bicarbonate of soda
1/2 cup Cashewnuts (Chopped)
5g Softened butter
1/6 cup Castor sugar
1 Egg, lightly beaten
3/4 cup self raising flour

Preheat the oven to 180C. Take four medium sized cups and line them with baking paper. Place the dates in a bowl and pour on 3/8 cups of boiling water. Stir in the vanilla essence and bicarbonate of soda and set aside. (Mixture will become frothy). Beat the butter and sugar in a bowl till creamy, add eggs gradually beating well. Fold the flour and add chopped nuts, mix well. Add the date mixture and mix well. Pour the mixture into moulds and cover with baking paper. Cover the top with foil and string. Bake in a water bath for 40 minutes. Take out from the oven and cool for five minutes and un-mould. Serve the pudding onto a large plate. Pour on a few spoons of caramel sauce. Garnish with remaining nuts.

Caramel Sauce:
1/2 cup Lightly packed soft brown sugar
60g Butter chopped
1/4 cup cream

Stiffly brown the sugar in a pan. First stir in the butter and then add the fresh cream and mix well. Allow to cool.

Slow Roasted Sliced Supreme of Duck with Cranberry Red Cabbage and Whipped Philadelphia Cheese Mash on Port Wine Jus and Orange Salsa
4 Portions
4 Duck breast - de-boned
2 Sprigs of rosemary (thyme will do as well)
240ml Cranberry red cabbage (See below)
120ml Port wine jus (See below)
160g Orange salsa (See below)
Salt and pepper to taste
40ml Vegetable oil
300g Mashed potato
120g Philadelphia cheese
2 tsp. Chopped chives
4 tsp. Butter

Season duck breast with salt and pepper. Pan-fry the skin side first for about two minutes. Turn the other side and fry for one minute. (This is in order to seal in all the natural juices.) Place duck breasts in a pan on a bed of rosemary and cook slowly at 150C for 5-6 minutes. Rest in a warm place for 15 minutes before slicing. Heat mashed potatoes, add Philadelphia cheese and mix well. Add chopped chives.

Cranberry Red Cabbage:
350g Red Cabbage sliced
50ml Bordelaise Red Wine
1 Apple - peeled and sliced
2 p/c Bay leaves dried
1.4 kg Onions sliced
10g Sugar
20ml Vinegar
14g Sultanas
60ml Corn Oil
160ml Orange juice
60g Cranberry sauce
600ml Chicken stock (Light)
Salt to taste
Cracked black pepper

Marinate the sliced cabbage with onions, apple, raisins, sugar, vinegar, orange juice, bay leaves in red wine for two days. Braise in the oven or cook in a soup kettle with chicken stock for 2-3 hours. Add cranberry sauce and season with salt and pepper. Reserve in a clean covered container until use.

Port Wine Jus:
600ml Beef jus (thick)
600ml Port wine
80g Unsalted butter, cut into cubes
40g Sugar to be caramelised
150g Onions chopped
2 sprigs Fresh thyme
2 p/c Dried bay leaves
Cracked black pepper to taste
Salt to taste
Caramelise sugar and reduce with the port wine, onions, thyme, bay leaves and pepper together. Add the Beef Jus and simmer for 20-30 minutes. Correct the seasoning and the consistency. Mount with fresh butter just before serving.

Orange Salsa (Enhances the flavour of Duck to the fullest)
80g Diced orange
8g Chopped onions
8g Fresh chives
16ml Sugar syrup
16 ml Lime juice
20ml Grand Marnier
Red Bell Pepper
Mix all ingredients together in a bowl. Reserve in an airtight container in the refrigerator until use.

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