Wherever you are in the world, whatever festivals you celebrate, the holidays have two constants: food, and family. Sitting down to share special dishes with your loved ones is a ritual that unites every human community, whether your idea of a holiday feast includes turkey or thali, sushi or stollen. As 2020 rattles to a close, many of us are facing a far-from-traditional holiday season. At a moment when family feels more precious than ever, and when gathering around the same table can’t be taken for granted, those special holiday recipes become a golden thread that holds our communities together, no matter the distance. We asked some of the kencko team to share the dish that brings back the warmest holiday memories for them. The result is a quirky, delicious, international holiday feast - and you’re invited!
Figs with Walnuts 🇵🇹 Raquel
Raquel has a foolproof recipe for the less-confident cooks. “I have to warn you, this is very simple indeed. You just need a handful of dried figs, and some walnuts. Slice each fig through almost to the end, then slide half a walnut inside - like a sandwich. You can make it a bit more complicated (and cheaper) if you buy the walnuts in their shells and crack them yourself. Easy, fast and so delicious!” If you’re a nutrition nerd like us, you’ll be pleased to hear that this snack also gets a 10/10 from our in-house RDs for fiber, healthy fats, essential minerals and antioxidants.
Cornbread 🇵🇹 Joana
Joana can’t wait for her grandmother’s wood-fired bread oven to start giving out its Christmas gifts. “For me, Christmas is Christmas when it's in my maternal grandparents house (it will be this year, hooray), which is surrounded by a garden full of veggies, fruits and flowers, and has a cozy fireplace and a wood-fired bread oven.” What better way to catch up with all the family news than over warm slices of home-made cornbread? It also bakes in a normal oven, which is good news for all of us who haven’t been invited to Joana’s granny’s house!
Sweet potato casserole 🇺🇸 Maggie
Maggie grew up in Southern California, and holidays always meant enjoying festive, cozy foods with her family, even if she was trading snow for sun and sand. There’s no dish she looks forward to more than her mom’s sweet potato casserole - which has been a staple of holiday meals every year. “The secret to the best sweet potato casserole is to slow cook the sweet potatoes in a crockpot, so all the natural sugars are able to caramelize. This means you end up with perfect, creamy whipped sweet potatoes without having to add any sugar, butter, or milk, while centering the rich caramel taste of the sweet potatoes as the star of the show. Of course, this sweet potato casserole is perfect served with either marshmallows on top, or if you’re feeling fancy, a pecan oat streusel!”
Salată boeuf (Romanian salad) 🇷🇴 Silviana
Silviana has a way to turn meal prep into art therapy, with extra mayonnaise. “I come from a Greek Orthodox family, which means that Christmas is celebrated after a long fasting period (pretty much a vegan diet). This gives us the opportunity to make up for all the calories we “missed out” during the three-day celebrations! There is one popular dish that we borrowed from the French (I guess) and gave it a twist. It’s called Boeuf Salad but we don’t put any boeuf in it, just root veggies, pickles and chicken, topped with homemade mayo. (Don’t even think about using shop-bought, otherwise you’re a disgrace to the family.)” This jazzed-up potato salad is so popular in Romania that people compete to present the most elaborately decorated plates - check out this page for some jaw-dropping examples.
Beef à la Rui 🇵🇹 Rui
Vegans, look away now: this one does contain actual boeuf. Rui is planning to cook his speciality this Christmas, for his wife, his mother - and not forgetting his dog, Faruk. It’s a big chunk of beef, marinated in massa de pimentão, a Portuguese red pepper paste, sealed in a pan and then casseroled with onions, garlic and more red peppers. “Serve it with your favourite red wine. If you don’t drink alcohol or don’t like wine, a purples smoothie makes a good replacement!”
Moro de guandules con coco (Rice with pigeon peas and coconut) 🇩🇴 Elodie
Growing up in the Dominican Republic, Elodie and her family did Christmas in style. “The holidays are a huge celebration, especially Christmas Eve, or 'Nochebuena'. That day we ate, danced, told stories, made jokes, played games, cooked, and partied all night long. The dining table would be filled with roasted chicken or pork, plantains, pastelitos, eggplant lasagna, potato salad and many other things, but my all-time favorite Christmas recipe would have to be moro de guandules con coco. The recipe consists of cilantro, garlic, onions, peppers, tomato sauce, oregano and, most importantly, lots of pigeon peas, coconut milk and rice. All of these ingredients are simmered in a caldero (pot) for about 45 minutes until the rice is tender and all of the ingredients are perfectly combined.” It’s not the easiest recipe to get right, but it’s worth it: try it here.
Roast potatoes 🇬🇧 Mark
Mark has a secret recipe for traditional British roast potatoes. “We always make enough for an army and every year there are seldom any left. It is by far the best way to enjoy the humble white potato.” As you might expect, our head of R&D is an uber-foodie: his recipe has six distinct stages and takes two days to complete! He swears it’s totally worth it. “It’s the only way to make those babies burst with flavor, and achieve the supreme texture one hopes for: a glassy amber crunchy shell with a soft fluffy center.” Although a little less baroque than Mark’s, this recipe from Gordon Ramsay has a similar vibe.
Spiced red cabbage 🇬🇧 Lucy
“There are only two kinds of people in the world: the kind who love my mother’s red cabbage, and the kind who are wrong.” Lucy is uncompromising when it comes to holiday side dishes. Her extended family won’t be gathering this Christmas because of COVID restrictions, and she’s actually looking forward to skipping the turkey and trimmings. But the red cabbage is non-negotiable. “It’s one of those dishes that makes even better leftovers. For at least three days after Christmas, I have a purple tongue from eating this with every meal. I’d love to say it’s an ancient family recipe, but it’s from Germany and my mother is from Ireland - so I don’t think it actually goes any further back than Delia Smith’s version from the 1980s. A classic, nonetheless.
Sonhos de abóbora (“Pumpkin Dreams” - Portuguese pumpkin doughnuts) 🇵🇹 Miguel
These traditional Portuguese doughnuts transport Miguel right back home to childhood, when his mother and grandmother would bake the mouthwatering treats at Christmastime. “When I had finished putting the teapot from ‘Beauty and the Beast’ into the nativity scene, and singing all nine verses of ‘Adeste Fideles’ in the style of Enya, I would sit down to watch Home Alone for the 100th time while the doughnut dough grew in a pot by the fire. There’s a lot of production involved, but it’s worth it. The sonhos are, indeed, dreamy and delicious.” Sounds irresistible, right? Try this recipe for size.
Sugar cookies 🇺🇸 Monz
Monz would be heading back to upstate New York this year, if it weren’t for the pandemic. “When I was a kid, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and the day after Christmas were always huge get-togethers with over 30 family members dressed in homemade dresses and cozy sweaters. There was laughing, coloring, games, decorations, carol singing, gag gifts, and of course, eating galore. Shrimp spread, cream cheese and olive dip, Tom & Jerrys, vegetable lasagna, pumpkin cookies, gingerbread men, cranberry sauce with orange zest, and my favorite, sugar cookies. Mom’s are tops. She undercooks them a little so they stay a tad chewy. Plus, her frosting has the perfect amount of confectioners sugar and butter to give the cookies that creamy finish. She also ensures the ideal frosting-to-cookie ratio on each cookie.” And here’s the very recipe: Ethel’s Sugar Cookies, from the Betty Crocker Cookie book (1977).
Almond cake 🇵🇹 Cláudia
Cláudia shared a family recipe for gluten-free almond cake. “It’s one of the oldest recipes in my family, and it used to take ages to prepare in the old days (shell the almonds, grind them by hand). Now it takes 10 minutes, thanks to modern technology and supermarkets.” A word of warning: with just three ingredients, it looks simple, but Cláudia admits, “it’s a very sensitive cake!” You will need: - 250g skin-on almonds, finely ground - 250g golden caster sugar - 5 eggs First, grease and flour a Bundt pan or similar ring-shaped mold and heat the oven to 320F/160C. Separate the eggs, then beat the yolks with the sugar until the mixture is light and fluffy. Whip the whites separately to soft peaks, then carefully fold first the ground almonds then the whipped egg whites into the sugar mixture. Use a light touch: all the cake’s rise comes from the egg whites, so you don’t want to knock the air out at this stage. Gently spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for about an hour, until a wooden toothpick comes out dry. (Don’t open the oven at all for at least the first 30 minutes, or you’ll end up with an almond pancake!) Turn out carefully onto a large plate. Once cooled, you can cover it with whipped cream.
A Waffle House Christmas 🇺🇸 Mallory
Mallory and her husband Joe found themselves high and dry one holiday season in Georgia. “It was our first Christmas together and due to busy work schedules we couldn’t make it back to Texas for the Holidays with our families. On Christmas Eve, after watching too many episodes of The Great British Baking Show, I got set on mastering macarons. Which I did not. 200 failed macarons later, I gave up. So on Christmas day we didn't have any food to prepare: we ended up going for a holiday breakfast at the Waffle House (an Atlanta institution, 365 days a year). Ever since then, when we need to make last minute plans on a holiday we always try to go to a 24 hour diner.”
It’s a great reminder that all holiday traditions start somewhere. Maybe this is the year to begin your very own? From everyone at kencko, we wish you a happy, healthy, delicious holiday season.