One of the most emblematic foods in Trinidad for Christmas is Black Cake: a rich, boozy, fruitcake-like confection. The name is earned from the dense and fudgy appearance of the cake, made from rum-soaked prunes, currants and raisins. The key is soaking the fruit long in advance – even months! The ancestor of the Trinidadian Black Cake are the alcohol-soaked fig puddings and fruitcakes from England, meant to withstand long voyages, brought to Trinidad when the island was colonized by the British. However, over the years, Trinidad made the Black Cake entirely their own, substituting rum for other liquors, and adding the essential caramelized burnt sugar syrup. If you don’t have access to a local bakery, there are dozens of scrumptious recipes: We Trini Foods, Trini Gourmet, and Saveur. Or you can order a mail order cake from NY’s Black Cake Company.
Patrice Yursik’s recollection of Trinidadian Christmases is definitely worth a read, to get a taste of the food and music culture at the heart the celebration (including the hit by Lord Kitchener “Drink a Rum,” linked above). Black Cake is just one of the many delicious Trinidadian treats making Christmastime appearances, including Sorrel (also popular in other Caribbean countries), Pastelles, and Ponche de Creme (all highlighted at Trini Gourmet). Merry Christmas to all who celebrate!
We are always looking for intriguing Christmas recipes, particularly where sweets are concerned, and for our latest holiday treat we turn to the Balkans, an area little visited on our ETW journey. In Bosnia and other neighboring areas, Christmas dessert is synonymous with hurmašice, a small, sweet vanilla and walnut cake soaked in lemon-flavored sugar syrup. These pastries remind us of the Indian Gulab Jamun, or Greek Loukoumades, also little cakes smothered in a sweet syrup. It turns out that hurmašice / hurmašica is similar to (or possibly a descendant of) the Turkish Kalburabastı. One of the signature features of hurmašice is the series of indentations on its top, made by pressing down on the cake with a grater. You can check out recipes from Recipes by Nana,Mediterranean and Me, and SBS to make your own, or if you would like step-by-step help, check out the video from Ingrid in Bosnia below. If you celebrate, we hope your Christmas is full of delicious sweets!
I hope those who celebrate had a wonderful Christmas. We have been partaking in some serious rest and relation these past two weeks, and since we are unable to travel, the blog is relatively slow. However, we wanted to drop a fun Christmas-related tidbit that we have been meaning to share a while now. Did you know that KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken) is associated with Christmas in Japan? It is the result of a long-running publicity campaign, first started by a Japanese franchisee Takeshi Okawara in 1970. The festive KFC “party barrel” of chicken served as a stand-in for the American turkey dinner. Colonel Sanders even looks like Santa, an association made in Japan as part of the marketing campaign, that you can see below! This special proved to be popular, and soon caught on across the country. Now there are hundreds of KFCs in Japan, and the long-running association between fried chicken and Christmas in Japan is set in stone.
Between the two of us, M has the stronger love of pumpkin spice, and every Fall he has to get his fill of this seasonal flavor. What Americans now call pumpkin spice – a variable mix of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and clove – is similar to many spice blends around the world, and we just learned of another international pumpkin spice cousin: Neapolitan Pisto (Italian Wikipedia). The key ingredients of the Pisto spice blend are cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, star anise, and coriander. Pisto is a key component of the popular Roccoco and Mostaccioli (below) cookies, which are eaten around the Christmas holidays. Mostaccioli [recipe] are diamond-shaped spicy cookies coated in chocolate, and Roccoco [recipe] are ring shaped with candied fruit. Other Neapolitan holiday cookies like susamielli use Pisto as a major component. You can buy pre-blended Pisto in Naples, but we have never seen it for sale in the US. Fortunately, you can find recipes online like this one from SBS / Italian Street Food.
Today is January 6th, the Epiphany, also known as Three Kings Day, which traditionally marks the end of the Christmas season in countries that celebrate (see Mexico, England, Poland and France). In Italy, the Epiphany is marked by the arrival of the witch, La Befana, on the night of January 5th. According to legend, the Befana initially did not follow the three wise men on their journey, and instead stayed home. Later, she had a change of heart, and tried to catch up with the three wise men on her broom, to no avail. To make amends, the Befana gives presents to children instead. Italian Children wake on January 6th to find that their stockings had either been filled with candy if they were good, or coal if they were naughty (or coal candy). We will be celebrating by eating the last of our Christmas cookies and candy. Don’t have any holiday cookies left? A traditional treat for Epiphany in Italy is shortbread cookies from Tuscany called Befanini. Here are befanini recipes from 196 Flavors, Food 52 and My Travel in Tuscany.
Linksmų Kalėdų! (Merry Christmas – in Lithuanian!) In Lithuania, the traditional Christmas Eve meal is called Kūčios, which includes 12 traditional dishes, representing both the 12 apostles and the 12 months of the year. The meal is typically meat and alcohol free, and includes such dishes as herring, kūčia (a sweetened grain dish), sauerkraut, cranberry Kisielius (Kissel) and sweet biscuits known as Kūčiukai in Poppyseed milk. The whole dinner is usually kicked off with the sharing of a Christmas Eve wafer, Kalėdaitis, which is much like a communion wafer. Draugas News has a list of Kucios recipes, as does the Maskoliunas Family project. Beyond the special food, there are other traditions celebrated including putting straws/hay under the tablecloth. The straws are then pulled out, and the state of the straws indicate the fortunes for the coming year.
Merry Christmas! If you celebrate, we hope you have a wonderful day full of delicious food and good company. We have decided to go savory for a change with our 2018 Christmas food feature: Guyanese Pepperpot. Pepperpot is a hearty sweet and savory stew traditionally eaten on Christmas, made with beef, pork or mutton, casareep (boiled-down cassava juice) and the warming flavors of brown sugar, orange peel hot pepper and cinnamon. You can sop up the pepperpot stew with a flatbread like roti. Pepperpot is considered one of the national dishes of Guyana, and is popular throughout the Guyanese diaspora, and somehow has also found its way into historical Philadelphia cuisine. Looking to make your own? Here is a recipe from Caribbean Pot and Jehan can Cook.
Remember those cutout paper snowflakes you used to make in grade school? Icelandic Laufabraud is kind of like that – but in bread form! These intricately patterned, paper-thin breads feature intricate geometric designs cut by hand or with special brass rollers. Once designed, the dough is then fried. This bread is said to have originated in northern Iceland in the 18th Century, and was made so thin because grain and provisions at the time were scarce. Even in lean times, the Laufabraud was a special holiday treat, and it is still enjoyed at Christmas now. Check out this lovely version and recipe from Icelandic Knitter. Bakestreet has a recipe and a step-by-step video. Gleðileg jól!
Christmas is almost upon us, which means it is time to get our favorite Christmas dessert, Panettone! Panettone is an Italian yeasted sweet bread/cake that originates in Milan. However, Panettone is now popular worldwide and is seen on Christmas tables throughout Europe, North and South America. In fact, some of the best panettone we ever had was from the Bauducco panettone company’s “Casa Bauducco” company store in São Paulo, Brazil, the chocolate chip version was sold sliced and toasted… nothing better. Panettone is notoriously difficult and time-consuming to make, with several days of raising, resting and baking needed. So, this is one treat that even self-respecting Italian chefs will usually buy from a bakery or store. While the traditional filling of panettone is candied fruit, and chocolate chips have been on the scene for a while, more unique flavors have popped up in recent years including fig, black cherry, pistachio and orange and chocolate (which is what we picked this year).
Though panettone may be more famous, there is actually another Italian Christmas dessert that deserves some of the spotlight: the Pandoro. Pandoro means “golden bread” in Italian, and is native to Verona. Both panettone and pandoro date back to prior to the middle ages, and have been enjoyed as holiday treats ever since. Pandoro is similar to panettone in that it is a sweet, yeasted cake, however it comes in a tall, 8-pointed star shape (said to be reminiscent of the Alps) instead of the cylindrical panettone. There are also typically no fillings or mix-ins of any kind on a pandoro, but it is topped with vanilla powdered sugar. So which one is better? It’s all a matter of personal taste. While panettone adds more variety in terms of filling, there is something to be said for minimalism of the pandoro. You can find a good selection of both panettone and pandoro at Eataly or World Market. Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods have even gotten in the panettone game in recent years!
Wishing you and yours a Merry Christmas! Having a roast pig for Christmas Eve/Christmas – lechón – is a major tradition in Puerto Rico and Cuba, and it is one of our favorites. Consequently there are many songs that extoll the virtues of the humble pig. In honor of the lechón-filled holiday, here’s one of our favorite Christmas lechón songs: “La Fiesta de Pilito” by Puerto Rico’s stalwart musical group. El Gran Combo.
Here are the most important lyrics:
A comer pasteles y a comer lechón Arroz con guandules y a beber ron Que venga morcilla, venga de todo
To eat tamales and eat roast pork
Rice with pigeon peas and drink rum
Let blood sausage arrive, let everything arrive
We hope you are having a delicious holiday – maybe with some lechón!
Happy first day of Hanukkah – now it’s time for the treats! We wrote a little bit about the classic Sephardic Jewish dessert fritters, Buñuelos, in the past. However, we underestimated just how popular these little fried dough treats from Spain were. Though they are symbolic Hanukkah dish, and the frying of the dough represents the oil that burned for 8 nights, Buñuelos are also enjoyed as a Christmas treat. Buñuelos, (aka Bimuelos, Burmuelos, among other names) were initially created by Spanish moriscos centuries ago, but have since spread in popularity across Latin America.
Can you believe that it is already December 1st? I know I can’t. Today the first of our holiday decorations went up, and I am scheming about which holiday recipes to make first (maybe something with gingerbread?) In conducting a search for holiday recipes, I came across a Christmas classic from the Philippines: Bibingka. Bibingka is a coconut cake made with rice flour and topped with coconut, duck eggs and even cheese. In the Philippines, you will see bibingka sellers peddling these cakes on the street around the holiday season. The traditional way to make bibingka is in a terracotta pot lined with banana leaves, cooked over open coals. However, bibingka has now adapted to the contemporary kitchen, and you can make it in a conventional oven. The following bibingka recipes vary a bit, but the rice flour is a must: Kawaling Pinoy Recipe, Panlasang Pinoy Recipe, New York Times Recipe, Zestuous Recipe. Asian in America Mag has a version of mini bibingka that are cooked in muffin tins with banana leaf “liners.”
We first saw these show-stopping Lithuanian Christmas tree cakes – Šakotis – for sale by the Lithuanian Club of Cleveland at a cultural fair. Though you may see Sakotis for other special celebrations in Lithuania, they are associated with Christmas – especially since they look like Christmas trees! The cake is made by pouring batter over a rotating, horizontal spit over a heat source. The batter is simple – just sugar, eggs, flour and sour cream – and as the batter is poured over the spit, tree-like layers begin to form.
Other cakes made on a spit are found throughout Central and Eastern Europe with different names: like the German Baumkuchen, Polish sękacz, Czech Trdelník and Hungarian Kürtőskalács. Unless you have all this special equipment, you probably won’t be able to make Sakotis at home – but you can buy them straight from the Lithuanian Club of Cleveland online.
Looking for a beverage to serve at your holiday feast, and wanting something a little different than Eggnog? Try some Chilean Cola de Mono – literally “Monkey Tail.” Cola de Mono is similar to a White Russian and contains milk, coffee, aguardiente, spices and and sugar – served chilled. No one is quite sure where the name “Monkey Tail” comes from, but theories abound: it will have you swinging around like a monkey, it was originally bottled in discards from the Spanish Anisette brand Anís del Mono, or another apocryphal story that it is a morphing of the name of former president Pedro Montt (who had the nickname “Monkey”). Here are simple recipes from Eat Wine Blog and All Recipes. Salud!
It is Christmas season again, and we have cake on the brain! In Nicaragua, Christmas means Pio Quinto cake (which may or may not be named after Pope Pius the 5th). It is similar to tres leches cake, but instead of being soaked in milk, it is soaked in rum! Pio Quinto is topped with a vanilla and cinnamon custard – called atolillo (which can also be served alone) and sprinkled with raisins and other dried fruits. You can find recipes for Pio Quinto from Serious Eats (seen below) and Leaders from the Kitchen.
Today is St. Lucia Day, one of the most important holidays in Scandinavia, and Christmas is right around the corner! We have covered some Swedish holiday cakes and cookies here on the blog previously, but did you know that candy canes may in fact have their roots in Sweden? In Sweden these striped candies are called Polkagris. Polkagris was invented by a female entrepreneur, Amalia Eriksson, in 1859 in the town of Gränna, Sweden. At a time when few women were allowed to be entrepreneurs, the widowed Amalia created the candy as a way to support her family (and the recipe was kept as a secret until her death). The traditional polkagris color is red and white with peppermint flavor, much like the candy canes we know in the US. However, there are a few differences – Polkagris is made with vinegar, which makes it softer and chewier – and creates a shorter shelf life.
If you live in the freezing Midwest like us, the winter holiday season may not immediately get you thinking of tropical recipes, but the Caribbean has huge tradition of delicious Christmas foods worth sampling. One emblematic Caribbean food that is a holiday staple is the simply named Black Cake (it gets its name from its rich molasses color). The cake itself is filled with figs and dried fruit soaked in wine, rum and is flavored with cloves, nutmeg and allspice. Caribbean Black Cake is a descendant of British plum pudding, and has an special stronghold in Caribbean countries that were former British colonies such as Trinidad and Jamaica. However, you will find it throughout the Caribbean and in most Caribbean-American communities around holiday time with assorted named like Christmas Cake, Black Christmas Cake, West Indian Fruit Cake, Caribbean Christmas Cake, etc. A unique ingredient that is essential to the rich taste of the cake is burnt sugar syrup, or “browning,” that is available in Caribbean markets (or you can make your own). Here is a recipe for Jamaican Black Cake from the Cooking Channel (below), Trinidadian Black Cake from Cooking with Ria and Caribbean Black Fruitcake from Chowhound.
January 6th marks Three Kings Day (also known as 12th night or Epiphany) the official end to the Christmas holiday season. In the past, we have written about some of the most popular cakes eaten on this holiday: the French Galette des Rois and its classic Fèves, Portuguese Bolo Rei and the Spanish and Latin Amerian Rosca de Reyes. In Poland, there is also a special cake to ring in this holiday, the Ciasto Trzech Króli (Three Kings Cake). Similar to other Eurpean cakes, the Ciasto Trzech Króli is rich, filled with dried fruit, and topped with a decorative crown (recipe in English and photo from About.com here). Whoever finds the almond or coin baked into the cake gets to wear the crown!
We took a bit of an extended writing break around Christmas and New Years this year, but never fear, there are still a few more days to get in those holiday recipes before people think you are out of step (we still have our Christmas lights on!). One of the holiday recipes we enjoyed over our break, at a Puerto Rican parranda (caroling event), was coquito. Coquito is a Puerto Rican coconut eggnog, often served spiked with rum. In Puerto Rico the winter holiday season extends well into January, and coquito can be found at any holiday feast during this time. Coquito is super easy to make – and maybe it will make the transition back to work a little easier.
We’re two Midwestern omnivores, L and M, who are trying to eat food from every country in the world (at restaurants in both the US and abroad). Eating the World is where we update our global restaurant and food adventures. We are based in Cleveland, Chicago and beyond.
To contact us for partnerships or just to say hi, email us at eating the world (at) gmail.com
Eating The World · We're two Midwestern omnivores, L and M, who are trying to eat food from every country in the world (at restaurants in both the US and abroad). Eating the World is where we update our global restaurant and food adventures. We are based in Cleveland, Chicago and beyond.