With over 120 different nationalities represented in Cayman, the Islands boast a veritable smorgasbord of culinary talent. With chefs from around the world represented in many of the Islands fine dining establishments, the Observer on Sunday got the cream of the crop to lift the lid on some cherished Christmas dishes and traditions of their home countries. Enjoy!
Chef Andreas Trilk – Grand Old House
Andreas Trilk has been executive chef at the Grand Old House for three and a half years. Hailing from the cooler climes of southern Germany, the Stuttgart native is looking forward to spending part of Weihnachten heading up the kitchen at the waterfront restaurant in what is their busiest time of year.
According to Chef Andreas the tradition of lighting and decorating Christmas trees began in pre-Christian Germany. He and his countrymen begin their festivities on St. Nicholas Day on December 6.
A typical German Christmas meal usually consists of flaedle suppe: a beef consume of shredded herb crepes and seasonal vegetables followed by a plump stuffed goose or stuffed duck with red cabbage and fried apples served with ample helpings of either potato or bread dumplings and spätzler, a German type of pasta.
For dessert, one of the many festive dishes he enjoys both making and eating is apfel krapfen: beer battered apples prepared with cinnamon and sugar in a rich vanilla sauce.
Chef Andreas says that while some traditions vary from region to region for most Germans indulging in a glass or two of gl?hwein is a must. The mulled wine is often accompanied by a plate or two of lebkuchen: gingerbread. Germans also enjoy waist expanding jams, pickles and jellies all of which add extra piquancy to festive fare.
Roasted goose with orange and raisin stuffing
2 medium navel oranges
4 cups bread cubes, toasted
1 large apple, peeled, cored, and chopped, about 1 cup ½ cup golden raisins
½ cup chopped chestnuts
1 tsp salt
½ tsp each rosemary
½ tsp and flat parsley
Salt and black pepper
½ cup apple juice
10 to 12lb goose
1. Peel and section the oranges over a measuring cup; reserve 2 tbsp of juice.
2. Dice oranges. In a large mixing bowl, toss together bread cubes, diced oranges, chopped apple, raisins, pecans, reserved orange juice and apple juice, parsley, rosemary, salt, and pepper. Cover and let stand at room temperature for an hour; toss again.
3. Stuff body cavity of goose. With a sharp fork, prick goose legs and wings to allow excess fat to drain while roasting.
4. Place goose on a rack in a shallow roasting pan.
5. Roast at 325° F for 3 3/4 to 4 ¼ hours, spoon off excess fat intermittently.
Chef Zoltan – Osetra Bay
For Zoltan Kapusi, sous chef at West Bay’s hip new Osetra Bay restaurant, nothing quite beats a traditional Hungarian Christmas — even though nowadays English and American-style Christmas fare is increasingly popular.
For this native of the southern town Pecs (pronounced paych) nothing is more Hungarian than the classic carp fish soup, Halaszle, with hot buttered homemade bread and a plateful of the stuffed cabbage dish toltott kaposzta. This dish consists of minced pork and rice seasoned to perfection with paprika, bay leaves, chopped smoked bacon and onions served with a dollop of sour cream.
For dessert beigli, the half meter long cake, stuffed with poppy seeds or roast walnuts mashed in with sugar, is a firm favourite. Notoriously difficult to make and best left to experts like your granny; for aficionados like Zoltan the effort in making a beigli worthy of the name is well worth it.
For those who fancy a traditional tipple Palinka, the fruity vodka with a killer kick to it, is ideal. Made with pears, plum or peaches, the homemade variety packs a whopping 50 per cent alcohol so is best not imbibed near a roaring fire.
Despite decades of communist rule, Hungary is a steadfastly Catholic country in parts. For even the most secular Christmas unfailingly involves attending a wintry midnight mass.
And for bad boys and girls, who have misbehaved all year-long, the only present they will be getting from Santa’s helper, Krampusz, is a broom.
Stuffed Cabbage (Töltött Káposzta)
6-8 sauerkraut leaves
1000g chopped sauerkraut
2 cups of rice
400g minced pork
100g smoked diced bacon
2 garlic cloves
2 tbs oil
2 tsps Hungarian paprika powder
2 tbs plain flour
3-4 bay leaves
2 tbs flour
Pinch of salt
1. Braise one diced onion in oil and add the minced meat and the rice. Sprinkle it with a 1 tsp of paprika. Season the mixture with salt, ground black pepper and mashed garlic cloves.
2. Place small balls of the stuffing on to sauerkraut leaves, roll them up, closing them on each side.
3. Braise the other diced onion in oil. Add a 1 tsp of paprika powder after removing the pan from the heat. Add half of the chopped sauerkraut, the diced bacon and the bay leaves. Place the stuffed cabbage leaves on it and cover it with the rest of the chopped sauerkraut.
4. Add water until it covers the stuffed rolls and cook on low heat with the lid on for half an hour, then take the lid off for the last half hour. When the cabbage and the stuffing are tender, remove the stuffed rolls.
5. Mix sour cream with 2 tbs of flour until smooth. Add some of the hot liquid to the mixture then mix it with the sauerkraut and cook it for a further 4-5 minutes to thicken the liquid.
6. Place the cabbage rolls back in the pan.
7. Serve with sour cream and home made fresh white bread.
Chef Ercole Musso – Dolce Vita
For chef and restaurateur Ercole Musso Christmas lunch in Italy, especially in his home region of Piedmont, boils down to one of two choices–either cappone: capon chicken especially popular in the north cooked with sausages, stock and tortellini with a stuffing of black truffles with butter and blended vegetables or zampone con lenticchie: pig’s trotters and lentils. Both dishes are eaten year-round but are unfailingly rolled out at Christmas.
Thought to bring “big money in the New Year”, Chef Ercole says that lenticchie are the perfect accompaniment to zampone which is made of chopped pork stuffed into a pig’s leg and boiled until succulent.
If you have room for a little dessert try pantone, a spice cake filled with candied fruit, served alone or with lashings of whipped cream or chocolate sauce. Chef Ercole says that dry sparkling wines like Asti spumante are preferred as they cleanse the palate and prepare the diner for the next course.
Christmas Eve is normally reserved for enjoying a large and laidback evening meal with friends and playing cards before going to midnight mass. Christmas Day is generally spent opening presents and savouring leisurely lunch with family.
On December 23 or sometimes earlier children go from house to house dressed as shepherds singing songs and playing pipes. Their neighbours give them money to buy Christmas goodies.
Zampone con lenticchie
3 ½ lb zampone
2 cups dried green or brown lentils
2 quarts water
2 medium onions one whole, one finely chopped
3 celery stalks cut in half and finely chopped
3tbps extra virgin olive oil
2oz prosciutto fat, chopped
1. Prick the zampone all over with toothpicks, and wrap tightly in a double thickness of cheesecloth. Tie with kitchen twine.
2. Place the zampone in a large pot or casserole on its side. Cover with 4 inches of cold water.
3. Bring the water to a boil slowly, about 45 minutes to 1 hour, then simmer another 4 hours. Add boiling water as needed to keep the zampone covered.
4. Meanwhile, place lentils in a casserole with the 2 quarts water. Add the whole onion, celery stalk halves, and salt.
5. Turn heat to medium-high, once water starts bubbling add lentils for 15 minutes to an hour until cooked then drain. Discard the onion and celery.
6. In a medium-size saucepan, heat olive oil with the prosciutto fat over medium heat and cook 4 minutes. Add chopped vegetables onion and cook until golden.
7. Add the lentils to the sautéed onion and prosciutto fat along with 1 ½ cups water from the cooking zampone. Simmer lentils until water is absorbed.
8. Arrange the lentils on a platter. Remove, drain and untie the zampone. Cut it into slices as thick as a finger and arrange on top of the lentils, slightly