It’s the most wonderful time of the year. The nights are drawing in, the clocks have just gone back, the fireworks have all fizzled out and your mind turns to all things festive.
After wrapping up, going for a walk through the crisp Autumn leaves and warming back up with a smooth hot chocolate, our Guest Writer, Megan Onions is going to share some of the flavours of the season from around the globe.
Swedes celebrate the season with a special smörgåsbord, with a baked ham as its centerpiece. The joint is sweet cured and baked covered in a breadcrumb and mustard mixture. For those with a sweet tooth, traditional biscuits like sandbakkels and krumkake might take your fancy, or you could dive into a warming saffron or orange-infused rice pudding.
Typical festive food in this part of the world includes savoury dishes like doro wat, a spicy chicken stew. It is served with a type of pancake called an injera, which is used as both plate and cutlery.
Legend has it that candy canes were first created by Cologne Cathedral’s choirmaster in order to keep the choirboys quiet during the long festive services. Their shape is inspired by the crooks carried by the three wise men, who were the first to hear of the birth of Jesus. Since their creation in 1670, the treats have become incredibly popular, now part and parcel of our typical view of Christmas, in terms of both food and decorations.
When I first started studying German at the age of 13, I learned about new Christmas traditions and food and visited several festive markets. Since then, a vast number of traditional Weinachtsmärkte have been popping up around the UK, and there are now 57 ‘main’ Christmas markets dotted around the country, alongside many other, smaller events. Between the warming Glühwein and dense Stollen lies my favourite German festive treat: Lebkuchen. To call it gingerbread gives you some idea of the surface texture and taste, but the soft inside and lighter flavour places it in that tricky area between biscuit and cake. Delicious!
You can find more information about the Christmas markets in the UK here.
The sweet stuff is the star of the show in Spain. Traditional festive treats include polvorones (soft, crumbly almond shortbread) and marzipan shapes. The main attraction though, is turrón (nougat). There are several varieties, with the hard (turrón de Alicante) and soft (turrón de Jijona) being the most popular.
Pierogi are dumplings made from unleavened dough, which are first boiled and then fried or baked. Different varieties of pierogi are made for special occasions such as weddings and celebrations like Easter. The two types of pierogi traditionally served on Christmas Eve are filled with sauerkraut and dried mushrooms, and smaller dumplings filled with dried wild mushrooms served in a clear beetroot soup (borscht).
So, if you’re ready to get into the festive spirit (it may still be a little early for some of you!), maybe one of these treats will take your fancy. Food is one of the best ways to bring friends and family together, so try out some of these international flavours for yourself, and introduce them to your nearest and dearest.