The team behind The Book of Everyone is a truly global bunch. From Canada to India, via the Czech Republic and Morocco, we’re from every corner of the globe.
When it comes to Christmas, we’ve got a whole world of traditions to share with each other and an all-you-can-eat buffet’s worth of culinary choice for the office party.
As someone who tends to do all his best thinking with a full stomach, I’ve decided that 2019 is going to be the year that we start collecting recipes from the team for a cookbook as eclectically flavoursome as we are.
But with Christmas just around the corner, I’ve got a head start. So here it is, my gift to you, a sneak preview, three-course, Christmas menu taken what will eventually become The Cookbook of Everyone (I’m still working on the name…).
Pastry parcels from Puglia
Our first course comes courtesy of one of our creative design gurus. Martino is from Cisternino, Puglia – which he affectionately describes as, “the heel of the boot of Italy”. His recipe is for some tasty pastry.
The pastry in question, pettole, is a snack that comes before – in Martino’s words – “the infinite food marathon” on December 26th. Family tradition dictates that on this day everybody fasts until 4:30pm.
That’s when the pettoles arrive as a snack to break the fast and to help people prepare for some serious cuisine. These puffed balls of dough are crispy on the outside and fluffy in the middle and are often accompanied with olives and anchovies.
Here’s Martino’s recipe for anyone who wants to start their own “marathon training” this Christmas.
500g plain flour, shifted
12g active dry yeast
½ tbs coarse salt
375ml warm water
Oil for frying
5 black olives, deseeded (optional)
5 green olives, deseeded (optional)
- Sift the flour into a medium-sized bowl, and create a well in the centre.
- Place the yeast in the well and add the water to dissolve the yeast. Continue adding the water whilst mixing everything together with your hands.
- Add the salt and continue to bring together the dough, kneading until it appears smooth and elastic. This can take up to 15 minutes, so even if you’re honouring Martino’s family tradition and fasting, be patient. It’ll totally be worth it!
- If you’re feeling fancy, at this point you can add finely chopped olives or anchovies for added flavour: add them all to the dough, knead a little to distribute evenly.
- Cover the bowl with plastic and allow to rise until it has approximately doubled in size, which may take up to 2 hours depending on the temperature in the room. Again, patience is a virtue when making pettoles…
- When the dough is ready, heat the oil in a medium-sized pot ready for frying.
- Using two dinner spoons, take a spoonful of the dough and carefully drop it into the oil by pushing it with the back of the other spoon. Work in small batches.
- Fry the pettole until golden and puffy. Remove and drain the excess oil by placing the pettoles on kitchen towels.
- Best served immediately for maximum crunch, but equally delicious to pick on throughout the course of the day. You know, when you need a break from eating all of the other food…
Time for the main course. And that means leaving Italy (and the design team) far behind us for a bit as we head to Guatemala for a recipe from Fernanda, one of our marketing whizzes.
Now, regular readers of our blog might remember that in a recent article about different Christmas dinners around the world, I mentioned the Costa Rican tradition of making tamales using secret family recipes.
Well, Fernanda told me in no uncertain terms that not only do they make tamales at Christmas in Guatemala too, they make the best ones in the world. Who could resist tasting the best there is? Not me, that’s for sure.
Starting from a base of corn dough wrapped in banana leaf or a corn husk, there’s an entire universe of possibilities for your festive tamales. Precise recipes are closely guarded family secrets but Fernanda has given us the basics of her mum’s recipe so that you too, can taste the best tamales on the planet…
3 lbs. rice flour
2 chile pasa
2 chile guaque
3 lbs. chicken
3 lbs. tomatoes
2 red bell peppers
2 oz. crushed pumpkin seeds
2 oz. sesame seeds
3 sticks of butter
Banana leaves or corn husks
- Toast the pumpkin and sesame seeds on a stovetop until golden brown. Pumpkin seeds, when browned, will pop — when this happens, the seeds are ready!
- Boil a large pot of water and, once boiling, add the butter, powdered bouillon, and rice flour.
- Stir the mixture continuously for 30 minutes. The mixture will gradually thicken until reaching a consistency that’s a little like porridge.
- When the mixture has thickened, take it off the heat and set it aside to cool.
- Remove the seeds from the dried chilis and add them with the bell peppers and tomatoes to a pot and cook covered for half an hour.
- Here’s a bonus tip from Fernanda’s mum (the maker of Guatemala’s finest tamales): adding raisons, olives and capers to the mix takes your tamales from “very good” to “LEGENDARY”…
- Once it’s all cooked, blend this mixture of vegetables with the toasted sesame and pumpkin seeds.
- Slice the chicken into small pieces and cook them in a large pot with the blended sauce.
- Place a spoonful of the rice flour mix onto each banana leaf or corn husk. Add the chicken and sauce on top of each pile.
- Fold the leaf or husk to create an envelope for the filling and, if you’re feeling super traditional, tie it off with a thick piece of grass or leaf stem to hold everything in place.
- Steam the tamales in a large pot, covered with more leaves or husks. Steam until the leaves or husks change color.
- Allow the tamales to cool and then gather your family and friends and tuck in!
Sweet treats from Ecuador
Make sure you’ve saved a little room because for Estefania, another member of our superbly talented design team, Christmas arrives with the sweetest of treats. Pristiños are a festive Ecuadorian dessert that consists of fried pastries drizzled in miel de panela (a honey-like sweet syrup made from unprocessed brown sugar cane).
For Estefania, December 24th wasn’t just Christmas Eve, it was the day her auntie would arrive with a giant plate loaded high with fresh pristiños and a bowl of miel de panela. When I asked her to sum up her memories of pristiños Estefania smiled and said, “one week with disgusting sticky fingers”.
While they are traditionally made in the shape of a crown, different families add their own artistic touches to their pristiños. Whilst Estefania is keeping her family’s pristiño designs a secret, she has shared her recipe for making your own right here.
1 cup water
2-3 cinnamon stick
2 whole cloves
1 tsp. anise seeds
3 cups flour
1 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
6 tbsp. butter (3/4 stick) or 3 oz
2 egg yolks
1 tbsp. lemon juice
¼ cup aguardiente
½ cup lukewarm spiced water
Oil for frying
- Combine the spiced water ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to the boil.
- Simmer for 15 minutes and then remove from the heat and strain out the spices. The spiced water should be lukewarm when you add it to the dough later.
- Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt until mixed.
- Cut the butter into small pieces, add it in and mix well.
- Add the egg yolks, lemon juice, aguardiente and ½ cup of the spiced water. Mix until the dough begins forming into small clumps, add a little additional spiced water, one tablespoon at a time.
- Gently work dough into a ball then let it rest at room temperature.
- After an hour, take half of the dough and roll it out on a floured surface until you have a thin layer of dough.
- Use a knife to cut the dough into 1 inch wide and 6-10 inch long strips. Make small cuts that are about 1/3 to ½ deep into the side of each strip, then form the strip into a circle to make a crown like shape. Press the edges together to seal the crown and use water or egg white to help glue the edges together.
- Heat the oil in a medium sized frying pan. Fry 2-3 dough crowns at a time depending on the size of the pan. Don’t overcrowd these soon to be delicious little guys. Turn them when golden.
- Remove the fried pristiños and place them on a plate with paper towels to drain any excess oil.
- Serve warm with miel de panela. Pick up a pristiño and consider yourself the king or queen of dessert!
After the last pristiño has been eaten, all that’s left to do is bask in the glory of an excellent globetrotting meal and start thinking about ways to get out of doing the washing up.
Make sure you let us know if you try any of these recipes, or if you have your own you want to share with us. I don’t know about you, but I feel stuffed just thinking about all this food, so I’m off for a nap. Have a very merry Christmas…