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16 December 2013

Christmas: North vs South

It is nearly Christmas (today I have a case for stating the bleeding obvious it seems).

I am so excited for another Christmas in the North(ern hemisphere) but speaking to family this past week has had me feeling a little nostalgic about what Christmas was like back home in the South(ern hemisphere).

I was approached by a Travel Blog called Gogobot to add my thoughts about their recent article Warm vs White, and so rather than talk about the difference between a snowsuit and a swimsuit, I thought I would write about what I am most passionate about, food, and how it differs in the two climates!

The menu is vastly different for a Christmas in Australia versus a Christmas in England, and planning our 4th Christmas in the North(ern hemisphere) got me thinking about just how different it all is, but each with its charms!

Christmas in Australia

Growing up in Australia we would usually spend most Christmas's at my Gran's house in Byron Bay. It was hot, really hot (35C/95F). It was a very rare occasion that we would have a roast for Christmas day, because back in those days we didn't have air-conditioning and so the thought of putting the oven on was just not worth it!

So instead, whether it was in Byron Bay, Brisbane, Melbourne or wherever else we were that Christmas, we would always find the freshest seafood and buy a couple of kilo's of fresh prawns and we would sit and peel prawns and (when we were older) drink some cold beers and white wine.

If I were planning Christmas at home this year I would go for some fresh seafood without a doubt. It is the signature Australian Christmas feast and should be the focal point for a Christmas lunch!!! My mouth waters just looking at this photo! Mango season in Australia is just awesome! There's even  now a charity auction for the first tray of mangoes in Australia, which this September went for $68,500! Not sure I would (haha or could) pay that, but they are divine. 

Delicious Magazine Prawn & Mango Salad
The next item would be a ham, but not an oven baked, it would be barbecued of course. The glorious ham would then be used for the next few days on fresh white bread with hot chips at the beach, or to jazz up a salad. Sticky Orange Soy-Glased Ham
For dessert, there's so many great choices because so many desserts are served cold. But I found this frozen pudding that looked like so much fun! I love the idea of taking something traditional but reinventing it a little. 

Donna Hay Frozen Christmas Pudding 
I do love plum puddings, and even though it was hot, we always had one on Christmas Day growing up, but equally there was also always a pavlova too. A cute Christmas idea would be to make it into a wreath like so...

Cuisine Christmas Pavlova recipe
But a few months ago when I was home I experimented with a caramel pavlova, but it didn't quite work out, but I would be trying to perfect it because I just love the concept, so I would try out this recipe this Christmas.

A few very Australian treats are also White Christmas (ironic no?)...

Exclusively Food White Christmas 
...and these Caramel Cookies made me gasp in disbelief that I had never thought to do this! You may have heard my rants about my love for Jersey Caramels and how much I miss them over in the UK (my Mum has been known to post me a pack costing three times in shipping than the value, but that would be the value to a regular person, to me they are priceless). Anyway, I'll be making these (gluten free) when my next delivery arrives!!

Donna Hay Caramel Cookies
Eggnog is multi-hemispherical, no matter where you are in the world there is always space for eggnog! I bloomin well love the stuff and just can't get enough. In Australia we would make it around lunch time to allow it plenty of time to chill completely before serving. Totally not necessary in the UK, it is actually quite lovely served warm, although I must say, it's still growing on me, I still prefer it with icicles floating amongst the nutmeg. 

Christmas in England

I can't believe this will be our 4th Christmas away from home! The first year was in Oxford, when we were lucky enough to have a very white Christmas living in the grounds of Magdalen College. All I wanted for Christmas was for it to be white, and as you can see, Santa was very good to me!

The next year was a very understated Christmas in London, just the two of us, me pregnant and sick in bed with a migraine, so we didn't really take many photos!

Then last year we had Christmas in Charlotte, North Carolina and had a traditional "Southern" Christmas complete with grits, hush puppies and many flavours of sweet pies for dessert. 

This year we are having my brother and his family up from Jersey to London to spend the Christmas week with us. We haven't had a Christmas together in 5 years and I am beyond excited to see our four little kiddies playing together in their little Christmas outfits on Christmas morning (shhh secret outfits). 

Planning a British Christmas feast is kind of fun. There are no limitations! The hotter the better!! The only issue really is oven capacity, so we may have to space out the 4kg gammon (ham) and the 5kg turkey (turkey). 

It is hard to go past "The Best Turkey in the World" curtesy of Jamie Oliver. This recipe stuffs flavoured butter under the skin before roasting, which really sounds pretty heavenly doesn't it?

Jamie Oliver The Best Turkey in the World
And if you have a buttery-skinned-turkey, you kind of have to have goose fat potatoes on the side don't you think?

BBC Good Food Goose Fat Potatoes
I have been looking for a range of other sides that are warm and slightly more healthy, and of course everything will be gluten free! I have found some yummy looking vegetables that just look so pretty!

Spring Vegetable Bundles

And for dessert this year, well, where to start?! My sister-in-law has found a mini Australian gluten free plum pudding for me, so I will be making a regular plum pudding for everyone else, from no other than Delia Smith.

Delia Smith Traditional Christmas Pudding
I know Plum Pudding isn't everyone's cup of tea, but I really enjoy mine with a generous helping of Brandy Butter and vanilla custard. Same goes for Mince Pies. They have to warm, dusted with icing sugar, and served with Brandy Butter and custard, or, ice cream.

Mince Pies made the cross-over to Australia, thank goodness, because I for one love them! My favourite memory though would have to be at our Oxfam Christmas Party in Oxford, when the Staff Health team put on a Christmas morning tea and served Mince Pies alongside syringes of brandy, for you to inject your own Mince Pie to your liking! Amazing! I make a batch or two each year but haven't attempted GF before, so will give this recipe a go this year.

Alex Stuart Gluten Free Fruit Mince Pies
I will also be making some gluten free gingerbread truffles. They are similar to regular rum balls, but instead of using a vanilla cookie to crumble, I will be using ginger stem cookies and rolling them in coconut. I'm really excited to try them, and will definitely post about them if they work out!

I wanted to make a cake as well, but given we will be having plum pudding, didn't want to make a traditional Christmas Fruit Cake as well. So I thought about a Gingerbread Cake. I think I might be a little too into my ginger this year, but I love the warmth of ginger and spices and so have found this recipe to make a gluten free cake based on these key flavours. 

A Girl Defloured Gingerbread Cake
I think that should be enough food for a few days for the four of us adults! I am so excited to be spending a few days huddled inside together playing games and cooking amazing food together. As much as I love Australia and will be missing our friends and family at this time, there is just something more Christmasy about a cold Christmas. It is what all the carols sing about (unless the "frightful" weather outside they are talking about is in fact 41 degrees celius with 97% humidity, it is possible) and it is what all snowy and white cards portray. 

If you have celebrated both a warm and white Christmas, which do you prefer? Do you prefer having your eggnog hot or cold?

Wherever you are going to be this Christmas, I hope you have a cracking menu planned to share with all of your loved ones (or as many as you happen to have in your hemisphere anyway!!).

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  1. Wow, such differences between the two festive menus! I love seafood... so that really appeals to me but I couldn't imagine Christmas without a turkey.

    Wishing you a lovely day.

    1. I know, a Turkey is such a key part of Christmas!! But equally, I couldn't imagine Christmas without prawns!! Do you have any Canadian specialities for Christmas?? xx

  2. They are such different menus aren't they! Mmmm, Jersey Caramels...
    The funny thing is so many English people don't really like Turkey, but still have it for Christmas. Work that one out!

    1. That is an odd one isn't it! I love me a turkey, but equally, probably would be just as happy with a darn big chicken too!!! Are Jersey Caramels in NZ too?? Aren't they the best?!? xx

  3. I love a good Christmas turkey (even though it tastes like Thanksgiving to me) but WHOA NELLY that ham looks good!

    1. Haha Whoa Nelly, that's awesome! I have always wondered why Americans do turkey for thanksgiving as well as Christmas, maybe ham could take over as the new centrepiece for Christmas!! I'm hoping ours will turn out this good!!! xx

  4. Those food photos look absolutely delicious! And the goose fat roasted potatoes are almost enough to make me forgo the usual mashed variety. I love all the delicious foods for Christmas time that you can't quite get away with the rest of the year.... it makes the holiday seem so special.

    1. Oh wow I've never had mashed potatoes for Christmas!! I know right, can you imagine cooking your Thursday night dinner in goose fat?! Amazing, but gosh no!! There's so many funny little things that only seem appropriate in December, it makes it such a fun month doesn't it!!! xx


Thanks for your comments, I SO love hearing from you! xx Meg