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Mulled wine, mince pies or eggnog? Surely as South Africans we’ll all say: “Not in this heat!” (if you’re lucky enough to visit the sunny shores of South Africa during the Christmas season!)

Let’s face it – the traditional European Christmas menu doesn’t particularly suit the sunny Christmas we are used to. But just because we’re lucky enough to eat al fresco frequently doesn’t mean that Christmas dinner should be a boring barbecue or cold ham and turkey. There are options!

Consider this selection of the best Christmas recipes from this side of the equator…

For Starters

Kick things of with one of these light and tasty seafood starters:

The Secret to Great Seafood – While many people shy away from preparing seafood dishes, it isn’t nearly as difficult as you imagine. Of paramount importance is freshness – buy your seafood the day before Christmas from a reputable fishmonger or supermarket and ensure it’s been freshly caught (calling ahead to ‘book’ your seafood will ensure that it isn’t sold out, leaving you high and dry). Remember, fresh fish doesn’t smell ‘fishy’ but rather of the ocean. Store it in the ‘fridge until you’re ready to cook. Although it’s important not to undercook seafood, overcooked seafood is dry and rubbery. Timing is everything – watch for the translucent flesh of prawns and shrimps to turn to white.

For Mains

Referred to as braaivleis in South Africa, a barbie in Australia or la parillada in Argentina, meat grilled over hot coals in a beautiful outdoor venue – on the patio, at the park, the beach or by the pool – is the main attraction of Christmas menus in the Southern Hemisphere. Turn up the heat with one (or two!) of these spicy spins on the usual barbecue fare:

BBQ Top Tips – For the purists, using a gas barbecue just doesn’t cut it, so make sure you stock up on charcoal or wood (use alien invaders, not indigenous wood). Be patient and wait for the fire to reach the right temperature. Don’t play too much with the meat; it needs to cook slowly and absorb the smoke, without too much prodding and shuffling around. Perfectly barbecued meat still has some juices in it, so be sure not to overcook.

On the Side

Lose the roast potatoes and two veg; instead opt for crisp salads and cool starches…

For Afters

Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without some serious sweets. Serve one of these delicious summer desserts:

  • Pavlova (New Zealand) – did you know this decadent dessert was first made in New Zealand in the 1920s in honour of legendary ballerina Ana Pavlova, who was touring Down South at the time?
  • Peppermint Crisp Tart (South Africa) – whilst Christmas cake is not always to everyone’s taste, is there anyone who doesn’t love this perennial favourite?
  • Lemon Delicious (Australia) – it’s everything the name promises to be, the perfect zingy end to a big meal.

And to Drink

It’s obligatory to toast the festive season with a good bottle of Champers – while the real thing (French Champagne) can be upwards of R800 a bottle, there are some decent (more affordable) South African alternatives. Look for bottles which proclaim ‘Methode Cap Classique’ for South African sparkling wines made in the French tradition. Also must-haves for the Christmas table, a few bottles of good red and white wine to wash down your meal. A general rule of thumb – pair white with fish and red with meat dishes. Finish with a good dessert wine – a South African muscadel, sherry or port will do nicely.

Christmas Cocktails

What about a signature cocktail to welcome guests and to drink as aperitifs? These are festive and fun:

Recipies courtesy of: southafricanfoodies.co.za