Christmas Down Under falls in the middle of summer and is often celebrated on the beach with the holiday feast cooked on the “barbie.” Prawns, steaks, chicken, and lobster, as well as fish, are all popular entree choices to be cooked on the grill. Barramundi is a white-fleshed fish popular in Australia but seldom found outside the country, but other fish such as cod or swordfish can be substituted.
La Vigilia di Natale, or Christmas Eve, is the most important holiday for many Italians. The meal served is a holiday feast with deep religious roots. Traditionally it has to be “di magro” or meatless, a custom which dates back to older church doctrine that limited the eating of meat on holy days. For those who follow the custom, the meal consists of fish or seafood and a number of side dishes. Depending on the availability, meals can have seven to thirteen seafood dishes, and in landlocked areas as few as three. Whatever the number, the number has religious significance. Linguine served with chile spiced clam sauce is a popular “il primo piatto” or the first course in a meal of many courses.
In Jamaica, Christmas carols are sung to a reggae beat and, in the small villages, Santa arrives riding in a cart pulled by a donkey, not a reindeer. A typical holiday feast would consist of curried goat, oxtails, and rice’n’ peas. Rice and peas (or beans) is a popular dish on many of the Caribbean islands. Maybe its popularity is due from the fact that rice helps tame the burn of chiles, although this version of the dish is not tame. The peas used are called pigeon peas and are about the size of garden peas and are available dried or in cans. Kidney, or red beans are also used in this dish, but during the Christmas season, only the gungo or pigeon are served in Jamaica.
Christmas is celebrated in South Africa much the same way as in other countries except that for them it occurs in summer instead of winter. Families gather for a large Christmas feast with ham, in a variety of forms, as a very popular entree. The most popular is gammon, which is a Chinese type of cured ham that is uncooked and very salty. Since it is not readily available, probably Smithfield and Virginia hams are the closest we can come to a true gammon. If an uncooked ham is unavailable, you can alter the cooking time in this recipe and still have an elegant entree to grace any holiday table. After lunch, families then visit the homes of friends to exchange a “Christmas box” of food.
Done correctly, this process produces a very succulent turkey with a wonderful Cajun flavor.