From favourite recipes to ridiculous jumpers, there are a plethora of rituals and traditions that make this season gloriously unique. Many of us would be surprised to discover that the origins of some of our Christmas habits go back almost two thousand years.
Quite a few of the die-hard dishes we all know and love are steeped in history and folklore. The good old mince pie, for example, was known as Crib pie. Its original rectangular shape represented the cradle of Jesus. Until sugar became commonplace in the 1800s, it was made with meat and sometimes flavoured with spices brought back from the Middle East by crusaders as long ago as the 11th century.
Christmas pudding has a less appetising past. Known as ‘Frumenty’ it once had the consistency of porridge and was made with various offcuts of meat, fruit and spices before being transformed over the years into our recognisable and much-loved pud.
Yuletide activities add to the ancient magic of the season and celebrate the Winter solstice which occurs just a few days before Christmas. Yule festivities welcome back the light at the tipping point of the shortest day, when the sun is destined to return once more.
Yule logs, unlike their modern chocolate covered cake equivalents, were wood, sourced from ash trees and ritually burned to bring light and merry making to the darkest, coldest depths of winter.
Mulled wine may well be an offshoot of a very old beverage called Wassail. This hot, spiced ale contained curdled cream, eggs and sugar. Sometimes roasted apples were crushed and then added to the drink to create a variation known as Lamb’s Wool. Personally, I think I’ll stick to mulled wine!
The oldest and most common ingredient in many of our seasonal ‘big hitters’ is spice. Warming ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves are all ‘must haves’ to create the best savoury and sweet treats during the winter holidays. Spices are known to help promote good circulation and ward of infections and common winter ailments – so taste is not the only positive here!
Despite America’s notoriety for gingerbread, it is reported to be an English creation. The first gingerbread was apparently made by Catholic monks in England as well as France and Germany, and the French used to refer to it as ‘gingerbras’ which is quite amusing!
The best recipe I have for gingerbread is a very old pagan one. It’s quite easy to make, delicious and extremely versatile – it’s always good to have some on hand at this time of the year.
It seems that in one way or another, we are all adhering to various traditions with our seasonal celebrations, and, we are also creating new ones that will add to the wonderful mix of Christmas in years to come.
Whatever you have planned, I wish you all an extremely delicious and peaceful time and here’s to the coming seasons and all their natural wonders!
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees centigrade
Cream the butter and sugar until smooth, then add the egg and whisk into the mixture
Add remaining ingredients apart from the flour
Mix well, then slowly add the flour and stir until a soft dough is formed
Place the dough in the fridge until firm
Remove the dough from the fridge and roll it out evenly on a floured surface to about half a centimetre thickness, (it will puff up as it cooks so don’t roll it out too thick)
Cut into desired shapes and place on a greased tray (I use baking paper greased with butter) and place in the oven for around 10 min – keep an eye on it, as it cooks quite quickly!
Once firm and golden take the gingerbread out of the oven and leave to cool then place in an air-tight container
Icing and decorations can be used to adorn your gingerbread to decorate the tree or make a gingerbread house. The mix can also be adapted to be sweet or savoury by adding desired spice or savoury seeds (I love adding a few caraway seeds).
You can go for elegance with these simple classic biscuits and even add some of these lovelies to the cheese board. Ginger goes perfectly with the saltiness and sour tones of good quality local Lincolnshire cheese.
I doubt you will have any left over, but if you do, bash them up to make sticky, golden crumbs for ice cream and dessert toppings – or even a base for cheesecake.
- Business +
- Cuisine +
- Culture +
- Heritage +
- Leisure +
- Lifestyle +
- 2020 +
- 2019 +
- 2018 +
- 2017 +
- 2016 +
- 2015 +
- 2014 +
- 2013 +
- 2012 +
- 2011 +
- 2010 +