Food & Drinks

Top chefs share their favourite Xmas recipes

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Chef Anibal Torres of The Social House. PHOTO | POOL

Summary

  • These are the most fantastic festive dishes that top chefs in Kenya’s high-end hotels think you should cook.

You have survived a pandemic, so far. You have all the reasons to celebrate. You have not travelled and wish to make a memorable Christmas meal for your family. These are the most fantastic festive dishes that top chefs in Kenya’s high-end hotels think you should cook.

Crispy Pork Belly by Chef Anibal Torres of The Social House

“In my family, we eat pork for Christmas as a tradition. Pork is easy and available and very quick to make,” he says. According to Chef Torres, the pork belly is the best part to make crispy pork.

“The pork belly is the boneless cut of fatty meat from the pork’s belly. Back at home, we use it to make pancetta (salt-cured pork).”

To prepare the pork belly, Chef Anibal advises that it needs to be soaked in salt water for 24 hours. For every litre of water, add 15 grammes of salt and make sure the water fully covers the meat. He explains that curing the pork in salt will enable it to have more flavour inside.

When removing the cured pork the next day, wash it in running water. Cut it into pieces and pressure cook for 20 minutes with one bay leaf, whole black pepper, cumin, and one garlic clove. After this, put the pork in a glass baking tin and into the oven at 180 degrees for 30 minutes. “This part is only to make the skin crispy, otherwise the entire cooking process is completed in the pressure cooker,” he says.

The pork belly can be accompanied by mashed sweet potatoes or salad. The popular South American cocktail, Cuba Libre (Rum, Coke, and Lime) would pair well with the pork.

For Christmas, Chef Anibal advises using the oven as it makes the cooking process easy and fast.

For the vegetarians, he recommends Andean pumpkin, potato, and black mint stew.

“In Peru, we have a pumpkin dish made with cheese that would be perfect for Christmas. We make it with potatoes, green peas, marigold leaf, and shredded cheese. To make it, boil the pumpkin and the other ingredients together. The marigold leaf adds more flavour to the stew,” he says.

This, he suggests, can be served with a tortilla or a salad. He advises that a glass of white wine or a gin and tonic is best to pair with the vegetarian meal.

RECIPE

The Crispy Pork Belly By Chef Anibal Torres (Serves 4)

Ingredients

- 1kg pork belly (with skin)

- 200gms of salt

- 2lts of water

- 1 clove of garlic

- 1 piece of ginger

- 5gms of black peppercorn

- 5gms of cumin powder

Method

1. Cut the pork into individual pieces, make sure each portion has the skin (each person to be served with 250gms of the pork)

2. Put the pieces of pork into the water, add salt and leave it for at least 24 hours (this helps the pork to have enough salt and flavour)

3. After the soaking is done, clean the pork with clean water.

4. Put the pork in a pressure cooker, add garlic, ginger, black peppercorn, and cumin, then cook for 20 minutes after you hear the first splash of the pressure pot.

5. Remove the pieces from the water and put them in the oven (preferably a salamander oven which has a metallic resistant top.)

6. Cook in the oven for 20 minutes at 180 degrees Celsius or ¾ of your gas power (The idea to finish cooking in the oven is to make the skin of the pork crispy and melt off some of the fat)

7. Remember when cooking in the pressure pot you need to add all the flavours you want, as that is the best moment for the product to absorb all the flavours.

RECIPE

Andean Pumpkin, Potato & Black Mint Stew (Vegetarian Option Serves 4)

Ingredients

- 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil

- 1 red onion chopped into cubes

- 3 cloves of garlic

- 1kg of any yellow pumpkin

- 2 units of potato in cubes

- 1 fresh corn

- 200gms of green peas

- 130gms evaporated milk

- 50gms feta cheese

- Salt

- Pepper

- 2 teaspoons of black mint or marigold

Method

1. Heat the vegetable oil in a saucepan over medium heat, sauté onion, garlic, until the onions become soft

2. Add the pumpkin, potatoes, corn, salt, and pepper.

3. Lower the heat and cook until all the veggies are soft.

4. Add the green peas.

5. Turn off the heat, add the evaporated milk, cheese, and the herbs (black mint or marigold)

Kienyeji Chicken Stew Served with Ugali and Traditional Vegetables By Chef Ian Iganza of Ibis Styles

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Chef Ian Iganza of Ibis Styles. NMG PHOTO

“I recommend the Kienyeji chicken, wet fry. Christmas to me is all about food. There cannot be a celebration without food and this dish is local and very easy to prepare," says Chef Ian. Boil the free-range chicken, for about one or two hours to make it tender. For the vegetables, you can mix them up. For instance, you can have spinach, terere, managu, and kales.

“This will result in a nutritious and more flavourful combination as opposed to using one specific vegetable,” he says.

Chef Ian’s tip when making this Christmas dish is to make sure you get the chicken in advance. Whether you are slaughtering it at home or purchasing it, get it in advance and avoid the last-minute rush that can result in a disastrous experience for your guests or family.

“Another thing that I wish people knew about these vegetables is they don't necessarily require to be finely chopped. They shrink when sautéed and so there's no need to spend a lot of time trying to cut them into fine sizes,” he says.

A vegetarian dish he shares is a yellow gram curry, served with vegetable rice.

“A perfect drink to accompany the chicken for me would be a cold Tusker Lager,” he says.

RECIPE

Kuku Kienyeji

Ingredients

- Kuku kienyeji – whole 1 to 1.2kg

- Onions – two pieces

- Tomatoes – 3pcs

- Garlic – 30gms (3pcs)

- Salt – to taste

- Pepper - to taste

- Sweet peppers. – 1 pc of each

- Cooking oil – 10ml

- Ginger – 10gms

- Coriander – 1 bunch

Method

1. Boil the chicken in a sufuria for 1.5 to 2hrs

2. On a pan, put oil, onions, garlic, and saute until golden brown add in the ginger.

3. Add in the peppers and let cook for 2 mins.

4. Add in the diced tomatoes and cook to form a thick paste season to taste.

5. Put your chicken in the paste and mix it up using a wooden spatula.

6. Add in some chicken stock (0.5l) and let it come to a boil. Check the seasoning again and be sure it is the right amount.

7. Garnish with Coriander and put off the flame, let it settle for 5mins before serving.

8. Serve with Ugali and local mixed vegetables. (spinach, terere, managu)

Christmas Mince Pie Desserts by Chef Michael Mwangangi, The Kitchen by Sarova at Urban Eatery

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Chef Michael Mwangangi, The Kitchen by Sarova at Urban Eatery. NMG PHOTO

“This is a delicious dessert made of a pastry crust, nuts (soaked in brandy), chopped pecans, apples, raspberries, and dried figs," he says.

Dessert during Christmas is a must-have. It is just wonderful to indulge in a sweet treat after savouring delicious meals. For the mince pies, Chef Michael soaked the nuts in brandy to give them additional flavour. When cooking Christmas desserts, he recommends selecting the freshest ingredients. The pies, when combined with a mulled wine, pair to be a wonderfully indulgent treat.

Recipe:

Mince Pie

Ingredients

For The Pastry

- 350G all-purpose flour plus extra for dusting

- 225g unsalted butter

- 1 pinch salt

- 1 egg ( beaten)

- water ( cold as needed)

For Filling

- 175g raisins

- 110g currants ( dried)

- 110g candied mixed peel( finely chopped)

- 175g vegetarian suet/ shortening

- 200g brown sugar

- ½ teaspoon nutmeg (freshly grated)

- 2 teaspoon mixed spice

- 1 lemon & orange grated zest & juice

- 1 apple

- 60ml brandy

- 80g slivered almonds.

- 100g glazed chopped cherries

- 75g golden syrup

- 40ml fruit essence

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C gas 4.

2. Combine all of the ingredients for the mincemeat in a large bowl and mix thoroughly. Cover with cling film and leave for 48 hours (the longer the better), Best results when done a month before.

3. For the pastry, sift the flour into a bowl, add the softened butter, icing sugar & orange zest, gently incorporate with your hands until the mixture resembles rough breadcrumbs. Mix in the egg yolks and then add 2-3tablespoons of water to help bring it together. Squeeze the pastry together gently until you have a softball of pastry. Flatten to a disc, wrap in clingfilm and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

4. Grease a bun tin or muffin tin, depending on how deep you like your mince pies. Unwrap the pastry and roll out on a lightly floured work surface to the thickness of a one-pound coin. Cut out 12 discs of pastry with a pastry cutter slightly bigger than the size of the bun tin holes. Press a round of pastry into the bottom of each hole. Fill each pastry case with mincemeat and then cut a further 12 rounds of pastry(this time one size smaller). Brush the rims of the pastry cases with a little beaten egg and press the lids on, pressing the edges with the ends of a fork to seal them shut.

5. Brush the lids with a beaten egg and then use a small knife or skewer to make a slit in the top of each pie. Sprinkle with sugar and then transfer the tray to the fridge for 30 minutes.

6. Bake the mince pies for 20-25minutes, or until golden-brown and crisp. Transfer to a wire rack to cool and then turn the mince pies out and serve. Any leftover mincemeat should be spooned into sterilised jars and sealed.

Mulled Wine by Angeliqua Rivera, Mixologist Urban Eatery

“This is a drink that reminds me of home when my mum would make it for us during Christmas. You know in the Philippines we celebrate Christmas in September. Our house normally smells like oranges, cinnamon and cloves thanks to all the mulled wine we have during this time,” says Angeliqua.

Mulled wine is a festive drink enjoyed by the Europeans and here in Kenya, since we love our drinks warm and sweet, it makes for a perfect drink to sip on.

It is made of very common ingredients, red wine, brandy, sugar, cinnamon, cloves, and orange zest.

Simmer this for a few minutes and enjoy it while still warm.

Recipe:

Mulled Wine

Ingredients

- 150ml red wine

- 10ml brandy

- 15ml oleo saccharum

- 100ml caster syrup

- cloves

- cinnamon powder

- orange peels +oil

Method

- Simmer for 10 minutes or less

- Garnish with cinnamon sticks and orange wedge with cloves