Many of us are glad that 2020 is now behind us as we welcome in the promise of the New Year even knowing that there will still be struggles for some time yet. Reflecting on what has been happening in ‘quarantine’ kitchens this past year, I’ve noticed that many people have been reaching back into their kitchen archives to find recipes for food from childhood, food that comforts, food that celebrates. All of these helped us to cope. They also reflect traditions – ranging from personal ones to wider cultural ones. We’ve also been looking at new – or I should say novel – ways of using ingredients and applying cooking methods that we may have sidelined or never encountered in the past. Look at all of those people trying to make sourdough bread for the first time – even to the extent of laboriously producing their own starter from scratch. I personally gave dried starter to a number of people who wanted to try baking SD bread for the first time.
For me, New Year was celebrated with our adopted Greek traditions, one of which is cutting the Vasilopita. I was a bit sluggish this year and late making the Vasilopita – a sweet bread for Saint Basil whose name day is January 1st. Early on December 31st, I made the buttery, eggy sweet dough and crossed it as per custom which you can read about in one of my early posts: Bread for Saint Basil. The recipe is in that post, too. Luckily, I had all the ingredients to hand.
It rose and was baked in the nick of time for midnight cutting.
One food my husband is quite fond of is Brussel sprouts – a very British Christmas tradition. To me these are the antithesis of comfort food since my early childhood was spent trying my best to eat those soggy overcooked ‘little cabbages’ and often failing. This vegetable is not very common here in Greece and I have happily gone without in the last few holidays. But after my husband mentioned his nostalgic wish for Brussel sprouts to a friend, he started a chain reaction (not uncommon in Greece). A friend of this friend mentioned it to a friend of theirs who managed to source the last ones on the shelf in a supermarket in Kalamata in the Peloponnese. So, just before Christmas, a small packet of those green ‘little cabbages’ landed on our doorstep. When looking at novel ways to use these, I ran across numerous recipes for raw Brussel sprout salads. Taking this as inspiration, I created my own version which has changed my perception of the vegetable.
Brussel Sprout Salad with Red Cabbage and Orange
Although I use balsamic glaze here, you can substitute regular balsamic vinegar keeping in mind that it is more acidic and thinner than the glaze.
- 6-8 large Brussel sprouts
- 1/4 small red cabbage
- 1 orange
- pinch of salt
- 2 Tablespoons dried cranberries
- 2 Tablespoons chopped hazelnuts
- olive oil
- balsamic glaze
Remove any outer leaves from the Brussel sprouts that are damaged. Clean, cut in half lengthwise and cut out any core from the end. Slice horizontally to form shreds. Place in a bowl. Do the same for the cabbage and slice into thin shreds. Add to the bowl. Cut the top and bottom off the orange and cut off the rind down to the orange flesh. Cut out orange segments and cut into pieces. Add the pieces and any juice from the cutting board to the bowl. Add the cranberries. Sprinkle with salt and mix in. Let it sit for up to half an hour. To dress the salad, drizzle on olive oil and add a little balsamic glaze. Mix and sprinkle on the hazelnuts and mix again. Serve.
This year, since it was just the two of us, we roasted a chicken for Christmas dinner instead of our traditional turkey. It was ‘black’ chicken (μαύρο κοτόπουλο) which, despite its name, is not black flesh, but a breed of black feathered chicken whose meat is prized and is recommended for roasting. It was perfect and juicy.
Of course, we also made our traditional curry with the leftovers. To go with that curry, Athens has a small branch of the British shop Marks & Spencers which delivered a number of pantry items to the house before the holidays – one of which was their lovely mango chutney. A little something special, but then this has been a year of #TinyJoys. Of course, if I had had more of those Brussel sprouts, I would have been tempted to try to make Brussel sprout bhaji to go with the curry. That bhaji recipe is on the list of things to try in the future.
Creamy chicken and wild rice soup was also made. I started making the recipe years ago when we lived in Wisconsin – conveniently one of the US states that is a source of wild rice. The soup became one of our Thanksgiving traditions, and then when we moved to the UK, it became one of our Christmas traditions. So, I was pleasantly surprised to find that one of our little metro supermarkets had packets of wild rice on the shelf. It was not cheap, but it lasts a long time since wild rice is often mixed with other rices or used sparingly in recipes like this soup. I made the soup this year with the stock from the μαύρο κοτόπουλο (black chicken), sautéd onion, wild rice, dried cranberries and celery leaf (σέλινο) with cream added at the end. Very simple and delicious, but we agreed, it is better with the richer turkey stock. Some people add almond flakes instead of the cranberries and small slices of celery stalk instead of the celery leaf.
Another Greek tradition we follow is smashing a Pomegranate on the doorstep at midnight of New Year’s Eve – for good luck in the new year. I talked about this custom in my first year blogging back in my UK kitchen, long before we moved to Greece: In My Pomegranate Kitchen. I had forgotten about the recipe for lahmacun (Turkish spicy Lamb pizza/flatbread) drizzled with homemade pomegranate molasses (nar ekşisi) on that old post. Note to self: buy more pomegranates in the market.
Happy New Year to the In My Kitchen (IMK) blogging family and to all my readers. Have a look at my other IMK posts (under Diaries in the menu) and with other IMK bloggers who connect at Sherry’s Pickings. Wherever you are in the world, stay safe.