WEIRD & WONDERFUL FESTIVE
FOODS AROUND THE WORLD
Christmas is all about platefuls of mince pies and stuffed Turkey centrepeices in the UK, but there are plenty of festive foods around the world that may surprise you. Browse our list of weird and wonderful traditions and stock up your cupboards with something a little quirky this season.
If your findings make you want to flee the festivities, we've got you covered with a gorgeous round-up of Christmas & New Year holidays in 2018.
WEIRD FESTIVE FOODS
ROASTED SHEEP HEAD, NORWAY
Roasted sheep head, or Smalahove, is quite a normal centrepeice for a Nordic dinner table, especially on the Sunday before Christmas. Similar to how you would prepare a joint of lamb, the head of a sheep is soaked, dried and salted and can be accompanied by a variety of vegetables.
For many, it’s the fungus that grows on a corn plant, but for those in Mexico it's an all-time festive food ingredient. Huitlacoche (pronounced wee-tala-coach-a) is basically a plant disease which grows in grey cotton-wool like clouds, but its unique earthy flavour has become a big hit in the kitchen. This hot ingrediant often acts as a replacement for mushrooms, and is regularly added to classic dishes including enchiladas, stirred it into sauces or paired with cheese - delicious!
FRIED CATERPILLAR, SOUTH AFRICA
Deep-fried caterpillars is a Christmas delicacy in South Africa. The Mopane caterpillar is an edible insect which feeds predominately on the mopane leaf, which is said to be an important protein source in Africa.
STARGAZY PIE, ENGLAND
If you're celebrating the festive season in Cornwall, prepare to replace your Roast Turkey with a rather fancy-looking fish pie. It's said that years ago when winter storms hit the village, the region was cut off from the rest of England leaving people hungry - but a brave fisherman called Tom Bowock sailed out to sea and returned with enough catch to go around - introducing the annual pilchard pie. Perfect comfort food for wintery December nights, this "Stargazy" pie gets its name from the heads and tails of pilchards that poke out of the shortcrust lid towards the sky.
WONDERFUL FESTIVE FOODS
If you're a sweet tooth, this melt-in-the-mouth Indian dessert is sure to satisfy. Jalebi, also known as Zulbia, is made up of maida flour dough and sugar syrup, deep fried and served up as a crispy, chewy pretzel-shaped sweet. You can enjoy this festive treat hot or cold, and if you're going all out, why not have it for breakfast with a side of hot milk?
BACCALA AND PANETTONE, ITALY
If you want a classic Italian Christmas, fish is a favourite on the menu during the festive season. In the south, the biggest meal is eaten on Christmas Eve and usually consists of a famous fried salt cod recipe such as Baccala, which is typically served in a tomato sauce with capers and olives. Some locals like to cook it with lemon, parsley, and olive oil and serve it with polenta, too. Or for sweet tooths, top it with toasted almonds and sugar. When dessert rolls around, it's no other than traditional Panettone (a traditional sweet bread loaf).
TURKISH HAMSI, TURKEY
If you're travelling to Turkey during the winter, then you can expect to see in the season with a plate of the country's national fish. Abundant in the Black Sea, Hamsi (anchovies) can be served deep fried with rocket leaves and sliced onion on crispy bread, dished up with a side of rice, or prepared in one of Istanbul's favourite forms - Hamsili Pilav - a savoury rice cake with pine nuts, vegetables and currants thrown in, too. The best place to get your hands on Hamsi is at the Karakoy fish market in Istanbul, where you'll find a variety of different Hamsi recipes to try.
SPICED BEEF, IRELAND
Irish Spiced Beef is a popular plate during the run-up to Christmas and can be served in a variety of ways, making it a key contender for the post-dinner buffet. Thinly sliced and served with apricot chutney, cheese and pickles is a favoured choice, or simply enjoy it in a sandwhich.