We are now on the home stretch for Christmas and it's time to start thinking food. Unlike at home in Australia, where we enjoy a long lazy lunch in the sun, here in Copenhagen we will celebrating on Christmas Eve.
Danish Christmas dinner is a ritual heavy with traditions. As Christmas approaches there is no discussion of whether the dinner will consist of lamb or beef, who will bring the salads and whether it is worth bothering with a hot pudding. Oh no no, dinner consists of three, prescribed and inflexible elements. Cookies, meat and rice pudding.
My boyfriend's mother has already begun preparations for this Danish Christmas feast with a round of baking that can only be described as Martha Stewartesque. The resulting Christmas cookies with marzipan and vanilla squares will make for scrumptious pre (and post) dinner snacking.
When it's time to dig in to the main course two types of meat will be served. Slow roasted pork and duck will be accompanied by potatoes. For those who are feeling particularly Nordic there will be some pickled herring- although I may leave that small element to the natives!
You may have noticed that this menu is primarily a meat lover delight. My boyfriend's mother insists that the Christmas meal excludes such decorative features because the people of Denmark are traditionally farmers who do not indulge in such light fare when celebrating feasts. Lucky for us modern office goers it is just the one day per year...
The meal is crowned by a large serving of a curiously French named, but wholly Danish dessert tradition: Ris a la Mande (almond rice). Only served at Christmas time, Ris a la Mande is a cold rice pudding made almost entirely with whipped cream and glutinous rice. Flaked almonds are added and then the sumptuous pudding is topped with a rich cherry sauce.
It is truly delicious, which is probably why some canny Danish mum invented the tradition of sticking a whole almond in the pud. Whoever is lucky enough to find the unscathed almond gets a small gift. This little coup has the effect of making everyone eat extremely slowly for fear of smashing the precious almond with an overzealous bite.
It also prevents the tummy aches that would no doubt result from consuming too much whipped cream too quickly...
Merry Christmas (or Festive Season) to all!