Christmas is just around the corner and here at HI we’re already thinking about the glorious food we’re going to gobble up on the day.
With staff from around the world, we thought we’d share our Christmas dinner traditions with you to give you an idea of what fellow hostellers will be eating this Christmas.
Lenka, our web assistant, is from Slovakia:
“In Slovakia, most people are Catholic therefore Christmas is considered a very spiritual celebration and Christmas gifts are brought to children by the Baby Jesus.
“Christmas dinner starts with ‘Oplatky’ – small bread wafers, honey and a blessing. Christmas dish recipes vary between regions and families but one thing is the same everywhere and that is a lot of courses to stuff yourself up with! The dinner consists of a fish dish and ‘Kapustnica’. Kapustnica is a thick cabbage soup with sausage, meat, dried mushrooms and cream. Some regions include ingredients that might seem unusual such as dried plums and apples.
“Carp is often the fish that is eaten and some people buy it alive and keep it in their bath until it’s time to kill it and cook it. And if you want a bath or a shower, you have to take the carp out and put it in a bucket!
Cécile, our communications co-ordinator, is from France:
“Christmas in France is not a religious celebration for everyone but it’s definitely a family tradition involving presents and plenty of delicious food, wines paired with each dish and ‘Champagne’!
“Whether it’s on the evening of the 24th December or on the 25th, the Christmas meal in France will traditionally start with two famous delicacies – ‘foie gras’ served with rye bread and either a pinch of salt or fig chutney on top, as well as smoked salmon with lemon, bread and butter. Some might also have a seafood platter with oysters, langoustines, prawns and maybe cockles.
“The main course is a roasted turkey with a chestnut and mushroom stuffing served with potatoes dauphinoise, green beans and a rich mushroom or red wine sauce. To finish this four-hour meal we have ‘la bûche de Noël’ or Christmas log. It’s literally a log-shaped sponge cake with chocolate, coffee or vanilla-flavoured buttercream and decorated with seasonal characters.
Maria, our IGS marketing administrator, is from Barcelona:
“Memories of Christmas as I was growing up is something I will treasure all my life. It was the time of the year when being with family and indulging yourself took priority over anything else that might have been happening around you. I’m from Barcelona, you see, so Christmas has always meant an opportunity to catch up with all sorts of extended family and offered me an excuse to eat all those culinary delicatessens of food that are normally on my ‘not to eat’ list.
“The large table at Nan’s, usually set for 25 diners, was always beautifully laid. Silver cutlery, crystal wine glasses, candles to set the mood and a vast amount of delicious canapé style starters – smoked salmon, foie gras, jabugo ham, anchovies and shellfish to list just a few. A traditional Catalan family would always start their Christmas lunch with a dish of ‘Escudella‘, a traditional Catalan soup and stew that boils all day long and is made with chicken, white sausage, cabbage and all sorts of root vegetables. The stock is then served in a soup dish with ‘galets’, a large shell-shaped pasta, so large that you can only fit in one or two.
“Turkey, it’s on the menu even back home. Deliciously filled with nuts and dried fruit and served on the bone with shallots, onions, pine-nuts and anything else that has been used to stuff the bird. Big bowls of dressed endives and radishes are placed around the table to help digest the heavy dinner and prepare the stomach for the deliciousness of the ‘turrones’.
“Soft drinks, water, a good selection of reds and some cava to toast for a happy Christmas are always in hand, followed by much-needed coffee and a Christmas concert too. No room for mince pies, Christmas pudding, roast potatoes or even presents on the day. A festivity full of food and family, definitely the best way.
Sam, our groups sales and marketing manager, is from England:
“The familiar phrase ‘eat, drink and be merry’ is a firm tradition within the walls of our village home at Christmas time.
“The revelry starts on December 1, when it is officially time to dust off our much-watched copy of Elf, re-slot Michael Buble into the CD player (one day we might move onto the Ipod or even a Spotify version) and stock the cupboards with mince pies and port. The dog also has to suffer wearing reindeer antlers willy nilly.
“The Christmas baton has been passed to me and my family. I am officially the one that ‘does’ Christmas day now. When I was growing up it was my mum. The family would descend on her home where she would dutifully get the cutlery out of the canteen and lay the big table (complete with table cloth and the good china) for a feast which never failed to deliver straining waistbands for all of us.
“But now my parents come to me laden with bags of presents, crackers and champagne. I don’t have a canteen of cutlery but I do have a runner which is a bit of a festive treat for the kitchen table and hides the various scribbles that have inadvertently been doodled over the years.
“We generally start with the champagne popping. For those in charge of the oven (me) it is often prudent to have a Bucks Fizz first off. This quickly progresses to just drinking the bubbles au natural, as the heat increases and the timings for the Turkey, spuds and parsnips become ever more flexible.
“The meal is traditional although we have caused controversy locally with the addition of Yorkshire puddings to the plate. These are a necessity and something that will always appear regardless of the meat which is served. There will always be pigs in blankets. There will never be sprouts. And the rest is usually what we feel like. Last year we were extremely adventurous and added some cinnamon red cabbage into the mix. (Note to self for this year – the children didn’t like it – don’t bother again.)
“We always have a boozy trifle, chocolate log and mince pies for dessert. And my dad insists on having an individual portion of Christmas pudding which my mum brings in her bags of delight along with the brandy butter.
“When we can move no longer, we retire into the living room where there is the pot of chocolates – usually full of wrappers and Bounty (no one likes those) and then the games commence. Charades, sticky notes on foreheads and name the celebrity picture boards. The wine is flowing, the laughter is loud. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.