Our area got its first snow fall of the season the other day. I couldn't help but think about Christmas... Every year in early November I like to sit down with my cook books and plan my Christmas Eve menu. And with all the snow outside my window, it felt like the perfect moment to do just that.
I feel like I have the best of both worlds: where I come from, it is Christmas Eve that's celebrated with an elaborate meal. Where I live, it's Christmas Day - and I get to experience both. We usually host the Christmas Eve supper in our house, and then enjoy Christmas Day lunch at my partner's Mum's with my Scottish family.
The traditional Polish Christmas Eve supper, Wigilia, consists of 12 dishes. Each family has their own favorites, there are many options and variations to choose from, however all dishes are either fully vegetarian or fish based. The most traditional things you are almost guaranteed to find on the table are: beetroot soup, herring, carp fish (not in my house though as I'm not a fan!), a dish with cabbage and/or sauerkraut, a dish with wild mushrooms and a dish (most likely a dessert) with poppy seeds (though we won't be having it this year; trying something new instead!).
Over the years, I have come up with my own list of staples that I cannot do without; some are the dishes I remember from my family home; others I have added out of my own initiative or adapted to suit our tastes. Every year I like to add one or two new things, and if they work, they get to stay for good, or come back every other year.
So I got out my most trusted cook books and started planning. I have a wonderful book that was given to me several years ago - Swedish Christmas Cooking by Leif Mannerström. While in Sweden they traditionally include a lot of meaty dishes in their menu, the book has a multitude of fish recipes, most importantly salmon and herring, which I love.
|These books, a small chunk of my cook book collection, come out every year to help me with my menu planning.|
After nearly 3 hours of planning, I came up with the following menu. It has a number of very traditional dishes in it, but also features a salmon dish which I have only been making for 4 or 5 years, as well as a couple of completely new things.
clear beetroot soup
mini dumplings with wild mushroom filling
3. Grilled salmon fillet
served with fried apples and roast potatoes
Swedish herring salad
5. Gypsy herring
traditional herring salad with tomato sauce, pickled mushrooms, peppers and gherkins
croquettes filled with sauerkraut, wild mushrooms and onion
7. Potato salad
with hard-boiled eggs, peas and carrots
8. Beans with kale
butter beans baked with kale and spices
9. Fried cabbage
with wild mushrooms, cranberries and spices
10. Yule log
11. Creamy baked cheesecake
12. Coconut macaroons
drizzled with milk chocolate
It is a lot of dishes and it's all made from scratch - but I will be able to make a couple of things in advance and freeze them. The rest will be made the day before or on the day. It's a lot of work but it's also great fun and probably the thing I love the most about Christmas. It always brings back my childhood memories... In my family home, my Dad would make majority of the savory dishes, while my Mum and I made all the desserts and the remaining savory ones. I remember all the peeling, chopping and stirring, for hours and hours, as it wasn't just 12 dishes, but in huge amounts, too.
My Scottish family (my partner's siblings, parents and grandparents) have always been very gracious about my tradition, and my S has fully embraced it. It's not the first time that I feel blessed to be able to combine my own tradition with his, and experience and celebrate both.
|The salmon recipe in my Swedish Christmas Cooking book.|
|A number of traditional recipes in my Polish cook book.|
The first snow fall this season!