The alternative Christmas roast

Post date: 16-Nov-2012 11:16:40

15th December 2012

Roast Camel

There's something incredibly comforting about a roast, especially around Christmas. Perhaps because it's one of the oldest forms of cooking? I remember when we lived in the Middle East we had a tea towel (yes, there were cheesy souvenirs even 30 years ago!) which had a traditional recipe for baked camel. Take one camel, stuff it with a sheep. Stuff the sheep with a goat. Stuff the goat with a duck, the duck with a chicken, the chicken with a quail, the quail with an egg... you get the picture. Chuck the whole lot into a pit with hot coals and bake for 3 days. They told me in Syria that a camel is worth around $1,000 (our driver was complaining the Bedouin herdsman was richer than him) so that's one recipe I won't be trying on our budget.

Meanwhile in China and much of Asia, there were no ovens. My Chinese grandmother never had an oven in her kitchen her whole life - I'm not sure she would have known what to do with one. Our "cakes" and breads were mostly made from rice flour and were steamed! Only restaurants had ovens which is why we only ate roasted things like duck or cha siu at home if they were bought from a restaurant, and they were special treats. At Christmas last year I was working for a Korean company and I cooked Christmas lunch. The English all wanted turkey of course, but I also made cha siu (roast pork) for the Koreans and they were delighted. The Asian alternative Christmas, cha siu, roast potatoes and rice.

But here in England, my English granny taught me to make Yorkshire Pudding and roast potatoes; toad in the hole. It was, of course, always Roast on Sundays. Her kitchen was always warm (there was ice on the inside of my bedroom window, I remember), and yellow, like mine. And I love my huge oven in the kitchen - it keeps us warm in winter and once churned out enough roasted veg to make roasted vegetable cous cous for 150 people. If you ever buy a range cooker - buy a Brittania. I inherited it with the house and it was already 10 years old and in a dreadful state. But the company were horrified when I said I wanted to replace it - "why? we can fix it" they said - and they did. It's still going strong years later and keeps us toasty in the kitchen.

So, inspired by my little Korean Christmas of last year, I thought we'd have an alternative roasted Christmas dinner from around the world, and some delicious dishes I've had that don't particularly belong to anywhere. On the table will be:

Roasted Carrot and Ginger soup with green peppercorns

M'sakhan - Palestinian roasted chicken with zaatar and sumac

Spicy Roasted squash - the best and most delicious squash you've ever had as voted by anyone that ever ate it

Roasted beetroot salad

Cha Siu - of course - succulent chinese roasted pork served on spring onion noodles

Roasted Vegetable Cous Cous

Baked Mushrooms stuffed with apricots, walnuts and blue cheese

Roast Potatoes and Parsnips - the best of British and are there ever enough parsnips?

Patrani Machli - an Indian Parsee (originally from Persia) baked fish with fresh green herbs

home made Foccacia

Banitsa - Bulgarian sort of cheesecake with phyllo pastry

Pineapple upside down cake - one of my specialities, I spent a lot of time perfecting this!

Cost will be £40 of which £35 will go direct to MSF.

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