Team Tectonica's Favourite Holiday Recipes
December 17, 2020
If I had to pick one word for 2020, I might have to go with CANCEL. Not only did the coronavirus force us to cancel pretty much everything -- travel plans, birthday parties, going into the office, taking the kids to school (!!), going outside without masks on, plans to see our favourite musicians (is that cancelled Nick Cave concert ever going to get rescheduled??) -- it was also the year where we fought a lot about cancel culture...and ended up with the best cancel of all: the presidency of Donald Trump (not everything was terrible in 2020, right?).
For many, the holidays mean cherished time with friends and family, but due to the pandemic this year, a lot of us aren't able to travel to see the people we love. One thing that hasn't been cancelled though, is being allowed to partake in our favourite holiday drinks and foods...so in the spirit of celebrating the things we can celebrate, we've gathered our favourite holiday recipes for you. Enjoy!
Team Member: Emma
Dish: Lihapiirakka liemessä
This is a traditional dish eaten at Christmas time in Finland. It is a very simple dish, as most traditional Finnish dishes are, and consists of a boiled egg and meat or fish pie served in broth. It's salty, yummy and warming! : )
Team Member: Stella
Dish: Tteokguk (Korean rice cake soup)
Tteokguk is a traditional dish eaten every new year (both solar and lunar new years) in Korea. The soup represents gaining a year of life. Koreans also believe that eating this soup will bring you lots of good luck and a long life. The rice cakes are similar to gnocchi, but slightly chewier and made of rice flour. Many versions of the soup include dumplings (mandu) as well, which I like to make with my kids (it’s messy, but they have a blast and it’s an opportunity for me to let go of being Type A in the kitchen).
Side note about why gaining a year of life is celebrated on New Year’s: Korean age is not a straightforward concept. Basically everyone that was born in the same year as you is always the same age as you since everyone, regardless of their actual date of birth, turns a year older at the start of the New Year. To make matters more complicated, you’re already a year old when you’re born. That means a baby born on December 31, 2020, will turn 2 years old on January 1, 2021. (Korean age = The current year MINUS your birth year PLUS 1.)
Click here for a recipe (I have my own recipe, but I usually just taste to adjust and have no measurements. Good thing Maangchi exists!)
Team Member: Mariana
Dish: Vitel Toné
Vitel Toné (from the piamontese “vitel tonné” o “vitel tonná”, something that could be roughly translate into English as “veal with tuna”) is immensely popular in Argentina, in part because of the significant Italian heritage still present in many parts of the country, but also probably thanks to the general availability of the main ingredient (veal) in a country that still has way more cows than people (58M against 44M) within its borders.
The dish comes down basically to what its name promises: braised, cold slices of veal meat topped with a cream made out of mayonnaise, tuna, and capers. Oddly enough, this caloric bomb, originally from an hemisphere where Christmas season is supposed to happen in winter time, in hot-summer-christmas Argentina is often served as a side dish, and sometimes as an antipasto. Not a big fan myself, but it seems that every family has its own variation of the recipe.
Here’s a recipe in English. I’m sure many compatriots wouldn’t approve.
Team member: Filipa
Traditionally in Bulgaria, on the night of the 24th there is always an uneven number of dishes that must be all vegan as for Orthodox Cristians this is the last of the 40 days advent fast. Although almost no one keeps the advent fast today, the tradition of having a vegan dinner on the 24th persists. Then on the 25th there is a very long meaty lunch but that’s another story.
My favorite dish for the 24th Christmas dinner is the “tikvenik”, sort of a Bulgarian pumpkin strudel. I learned to make it with my grandmother, who would always prepare it from a scratch. It takes hours to prepare, if you are making the phyllo dough, but it is totally worth the effort. Although I have spent many Christmases out of Bulgaria and do not really care about keeping up with the whole traditional way of doing the dinner, I can’t imagine a Christmas celebration without tikvenik up to date.
Team Member: Alonso
Dish: Jamón Ibérico
Christmas Iberian ham is not an especially elaborate Christmas dish. You just cut it, put it on a plate, and try to bring it to the table (the first servings are always intercepted and the plate emptied on the way).
However, everything that surrounds the Christmas ham is my favorite culinary tradition. A quality Jamón Ibérico is not something you eat every day, and of course, you will not bring many legs home in the year (if any), which is why it is so special when you do it at Christmas. It is a moment that the whole family shares, when you go to choose it - it is a great expense and you want to get it right, when you see it appear at home, when you look at it the days before opening it (you would almost put it under the tree), and when at last you see your father or mother sharpening the knife and placing it on the ham holder.
In my family, around the 22nd we like to celebrate its opening and more than anything else it is what indicates that it is already Christmas. We like it simple, with just some good bread, ham and wine, nothing more to make sure we savor it correctly. It's a lot of fun when the "experts" discuss the quality of the purchase of the year and compare it to other editions.
And yes, I know that having the leg of an animal at home can seem very primitive (even offensive) to some people. I myself have reduced my meat consumption to a minimum for ideological reasons. However, I come from the land that raises the best pigs, and where tradition in December brings families together (not this year) to celebrate a special day, "la matanza" all derivatives of these animals to consume during the following year. It’s something deep in our culture and identity, and it’s difficult sometimes for all your parts to get along.
Team Member: Auw
In Venezuela, the greatest tradition of the Christmas holidays is the Hallaca. I personally believe that the Hallaca has so much flavor and requires so much elaboration that it is a dish that must be made at least an amount of more than 50 servings. (Yes, you read that right, more than 50.)
Why does a dish have to be made in such huge quantities? This is due to the fact that the preparation of the ingredients and the materials have to be in industrial quantities because if you are only going to make 3 or 4, it’s better to just buy them.
This Hallaca tradition is, literally, eating Hallaca all month of December (and beginning of January). But you may wonder, what is the Hallaca? Well, it is a dough of corn flour seasoned with chicken broth and pigmented with onoto and then filled with a stew of meat, pork, chicken and many vegetables, including onion, paprika, olives, raisins, capers and basically everything that you find in the fridge. After the dough is filled, it is wrapped in plantain leaves and then tied with wick and boiled in water before eating.
The origin of the Hallaca is due to the fact that it is a dish created by the slaves that the Spaniards kept in Venezuela, the ingredients that were left over from the preparation of the dishes for Christmas dinner such as olives, beef, capers, onion, chicken , paprika, garlic, raisins, pork, etc., and were given to the slaves as waste,so they made a stew with all the leftover ingredients, placed in corn dough, wrapped and tied with banana leaves and finally cooked in boiling water.
Team Member: Ned
Dish: 3 Cheese Souffle
As some may know, I like taking on challenges - and cooking is no exception. My last year in Argentina I had to rent a small restaurant to serve more than 30 of my friends turkey for Thanksgiving. My kitchen simply wasn’t big enough for the size of the bird. One time when my partner answered what he wanted for dinner “something easy” I dived in on making beef wellington for the first time. (He still hasn’t let me live down the three hour kitchen adventure). I can be a little intense sometimes.
While souffles have a reputation for being among the hardest of dishes for chefs, they're actually not that hard. Which adds to the impressiveness of cooking it for a first date, a holiday, or a special occasion. That said, there are a couple of tricks I’d like to pass along to remember:
- Invest in a good souffle dish. This is what really makes the difference. (They definitely aren’t cheap - but well worth it).
- Wrap a little line of wax paper around the top of the dish to hold in the souffle if it rises above the top.
- No jumping. This is seriously a ticky recipe for those with kids. Dancing, bumping, jumping or any other such shenanigans can cause your souffle to fall.
- Time things to serve it right away. It only looks pretty for the first 5 to 10 minutes out of the oven.
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