RSS feed

Christmas dinner: What would you eat?

At Christmas would you eat any one of these?

Thinking about trying something new this Christmas? How about snails, dried fish or stuffed pig's foot?

Christmas dinner around the world can be as diverse and interesting as the gifts we give.

From Brazilian roast turkey with curdled pig's blood to spicy Goan pork curry, the Christmas meal comes in many forms.

BBC Food takes a look at five cuisines that might inspire you.


Brazilian families serve their Christmas dinner at midnight on Christmas Eve.

Roast turkey comes with sarrabulho (curdled pig's blood), or decorated with pineapple, while enormous baked hams are accompanied by fruit preserves and dried fruit.

Traditional farofa (toasted manioc flour mixture) mixed with spices and bacon is often served. Plus the Christmas feast nearly always includes bacalhau, dried and salted codfish.

Dessert is most likely to be rabanada, which is a kind of French toast of day-old bread softened in eggs and milk and fried, served with sweet syrup made from spiced port wine.


Perhaps snail soup isn't what you'd imagined eating for Christmas dinner this year.

But on Christmas day many Ghanaians tuck into a soup made with dried fish, smoked fish, chicken and chopped African land snails.

Worldly tastes

Jollof rice with fried plantains

Feast on African jollof rice with fried plantains

Enjoy a Goan pork vindaloo

Treat yourself to Italian soft chocolate nougat

Flip a batch of Goan coconut pancakes

The snails are egg-shaped and as big as a fist. They're not easy to come by in the UK - look for them in ethnic markets, or you can buy snail meat pulled out of the shell of smaller snails from some suppliers.

Ghanaian Christmas dinner isn't necessarily structured around courses or a set meal. Goat stew, jollof rice, peanut soup, guinea fowl and fufu (cassava or yam powdered to a pulp) are some of the dishes that might appear at the table.

Families' favourite Sunday dishes, from rice to goat, lamb or chicken, are jazzed up for the holiday period.

An array of fruits such as mangoes, oranges and pawpaw follow dinner.


Pungent fish flavours feature heavily in the main Swedish Christmas meal, served in the evening on Christmas Eve.

Lutfisk, an aged dried fish served with a creamy sauce, pickled herring, cured salmon or Jansson's frestelse (Jansson's temptation), a casserole with potatoes, anchovies and cream might form part of the meal.

Swedes call their Christmas dinner julbord, and it is a version of the Swedish buffet-style smorgasbord.

Nordic nourishment

Jansson's temptation

Indulge with Jansson’s temptation (fish bake)

Create a stir with a glass of glogg (mulled wine)

Make a marinade for gravad lax (cured salmon)

Bake saffron flavoured Swedish Lucia rolls

This meal can take several hours to get through.

"We eat julskinka for Christmas dinner. It's a cooked ham with a lovely mustard crust," says Bronte Aurell from London restaurant and deli Scandi Kitchen.

"We also eat Jansson's temptation… plus lots of herring, spiced bread, meatballs and beetroot salad. We wash it all down with copious amounts of glogg - our mulled wine - and aquavit snaps.

"For pudding we eat creamed rice pudding - and in this dish, there is one whole almond. The person who finds the whole almond gets a present."

Other Swedish families let the winner make a wish or suggest that they might get married the following year.

The dried fish needs to be prepared in advance.

"The white fish is soaked for several days in water - and then it is soaked in a preparation containing lye. Yes, lye. Before you cry, 'but there's lye in my oven cleaner' - there are different types of lye and higher grades of lye (caustic soda) are used in food prep," Bronte says.

"Before you eat it [lutfisk] you need to re-soak it or a few days - and eventually cook it. Something for the advanced epicurious."

Indian (Goan)

"Goans love to feast," says chef Cyrus Todiwala, of Cafe Spice Namaste, who spent many years working in hotels in Goa.

He says Goan food is an "amalgamation of cultures and flavours".

"The Muslims ruled Goa for a while and hence it had some Middle Eastern influence; the Portuguese held sway for many a year and this brought about much change in the habits of the local converts," he says.

A Goan Christmas table laid out with food A Goan Christmas feast features pork vindaloo and red snapper fish in reshad masala

Pork is integral to Christmas celebrations in Goa. Find it in curries like sorpotel, a traditional Goan curry made with pork meat and liver, of Portuguese origin. Or pork vindaloo, which might be part of the main course of a Christmas meal.

"Pork will be a must across all Christian communities. In the large hotels where the big festivities take place there will be turkey, gammon, apple and honey-roasted ham, loads and loads of cold meats, roast beef, a host of desserts, plus Christmas pudding and cake."

Chicken is the most popular bird, says Mr Todiwala, followed by duck. Turkey isn't readily available, but some of the bigger hotels import it.

Other dishes include: Pork sorpotel... several sweets and cakes, most definitely a fish mayonnaise salad, some traditional homes will make feijoada (a Portuguese beans, beef and pork dish) too."


"Christmas is not such a great festivity in Italy as it is in northern Europe," says Italian-born food writer Anna Del Conte, "and the northern regions celebrate it far more than the southern ones."

However Christmas lunch is the most important meal of the holiday and, like all good Italian feasts, is a marathon of courses.

Nigella's Italian Christmas

Nigella Lawson

Nigella travels to Venice to create a Christmas buffet menu for Nigellissima: An Italian Inspired Christmas

Ms Del Conte is from Milan where she celebrated with all her family, "presided by Zia Eugenia, an old great aunt, who was totally unable to subdue our shouting and singing".

"The food was always the same, year after year, starting from the smoking mountain of yellow risotto, lavishly showered with truffles and finishing with the panettone, torrone, marrons glaces , candied fruits, Malaga grapes, walnuts, mandarins, hazelnuts, oranges, dates, stuffed dried figs, almond fruits and other sweet things."

"In the middle of these two courses the tacchino alla milanese arrived, turkey Milanese-style, which is in fact very similar to turkey English-style, the roast bird being stuffed with chestnuts, prunes, sausage and all the rest."

Other delicacies that might find their way onto an Italian Christmas dinner table include lo zampone, a pig's foot filled with spiced mincemeat or il cotechino, a sausage made from pig's intestines.

Worth considering for a change from pigs in blankets this Christmas?

Follow BBC Food on Pinterest and on twitter: @BBCFood

More on This Story

More from Food

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

  • Seared salmon saladSeared salmon

    Indulge in a healthy salad with spicy smoked chorizo

  • Vegetable risottoVegetable risotto

    Prepare a summertime dish with fresh mint and runner beans

  • Cake representing BBC Food on Facebook Like us

    Join us on Facebook for top cooking tips, tricks & treats

  • Peppered mackerel

    Enjoy this fish recipe with fresh apple and celery


BBC iPlayer
  • John Torrode and Gregg WallaceMasterChef Watch

    Amateur cooks compete to win the MasterChef title

Copyright © 2016 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.