Food & Drink

Hallacas ( Tamales ) Recipe - Alternative Christmas Fayre from Venezuela

Northern Living - Hallacas ( Tamales ) Recipe - Alternative Christmas Fayre from VenezuelaWell it's nearly time to wrestle your turkey into the oven and site back for 6 to 8 hours... So this is the last in our series of alternative Christmas recipes. Today we have a traditional Christmas meal from Venezuela. For no better reason than to demonstrate the wide variety of customs and recipes throughout the world. You might struggle to get hold of some of these ingredients in the UK in winter, but large Asian super markets sell plantain leaves earlier in the year.

Hallacas are traditional Venezuelan Christmas Eve gifts. The filling usually starts with whole chicken, pork shoulder, bacon, and beef chuck all separately seasoned, stewed, and shredded or chopped. This lightened version uses leaner cuts of meat, skips the bacon, and stews all the meats together to save a little time. The measures are in the America style, as it's a South American dish.

Our previous alternative Christmas dishes can be found here 


1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil

1 (8-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast half, chopped 

6 ounces beef sirloin, chopped

6 ounces pork tenderloin, finely chopped

1 1/2 cups finely chopped leek

1 cup finely chopped onion 

1/3 cup chopped Spring onions

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 2/3 cups chopped green or red bell pepper

1/2 cup chopped seeded Cubanelle or Anaheim chile

3/4 cup chopped seeded tomato 

2 1/2 cups of Chicken stock

1/3 cup red wine vinegar 

2 tablespoons brown sugar 

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

1/2 teaspoon salt 

1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper

1/4 teaspoon black pepper 

1/2 cup sliced shallots

1/2 cup sliced roasted red bell pepper

1/2 cup raisins 

1/3 cup sliced pimiento-stuffed olives

1/2 cup finely chopped sweet pickles

1/2 cup capers

1/2 cup sliced almonds

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro 

1 tablespoon annatto (achiote) seeds

1 1/3 cups butternut squash puree

3 cups precooked white corn flour

Fresh Plantane leaves cut into 12" squares

3 hard boiled eggs, thinly sliced lengthwise

Reduced-fat sour cream,


1. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add chicken; cook 5 minutes or until done, stirring occasionally. Remove from skillet. Add 1 1/2 teaspoons oil to pan; add beef and pork, and cook 5 minutes or until done, stirring occasionally. Remove from skillet. Reduce heat to medium; add 1 1/2 teaspoons oil. Add leek, onion, green onions, and garlic; sauté 5 minutes. Add bell pepper and chile; sauté 5 minutes. Add tomato; cook 5 minutes or until tomato softens. Mash with a wooden spoon. Add 1 cup stock, vinegar, and next 5 ingredients above (through black pepper); bring to simmer over high heat. Return meats to pan; reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer 30 minutes or until liquid almost evaporates and mixture is thickening. Remove from heat; cool slightly, and stir in next 8 ingredients (shallots through to cilantro).

2. Combine 1/4 cup oil and annatto seeds in small saucepan; cook over low heat 4 minutes or until oil is deep orange in color and seeds just begin to darken. Remove from heat; let stand 10 minutes.

3. Place remaining 1 1/2 cups stock in a large glass measure and warm over a low heat.

4. Discard annatto seeds; reserve 1 tablespoon annatto oil. Scrape remaining annatto oil into a food processor using a rubber spatula. Add warm stock, squash puree, corn flour, and 1/2 teaspoon salt; process 2 minutes or until well blended and dough forms. Let the dough stand in the food processor, covered, 30 minutes.

5. Shape dough into 16 (2-inch) balls with moist hands; place on a cutting board lined with damp paper towels (cover with plastic wrap to prevent drying).

6. For each tamale, place 1 plantain square, shiny side up, on work surface; lightly brush annatto oil down center of square. Place 1 dough ball in center of square over oil; pat dough into a 6-inch circle with moist fingers. Spoon about 1/3 cup filling onto dough circle, leaving a 1/2-inch. Top with an egg slice. Use the leaf to fold dough over filling, top to bottom then side to side, using moist fingers to seal the edges. Wrap the leaves over tamales top to bottom then side to side like a package and tie with string. Steam tamales, covered, 1 to 1 1/2 hours or until dough is firm. Unwrap and Garnish with sour cream and cilantro.

Scallops with Pancetta and Julienne Leeks with Puff Pastry Crowns

Northern Living - Scallops with Pancetta and Julienne Leeks with Puff Pastry CrownsIngredients:-

1 pack of ready rolled puff pastry

8 large scallops in their shells

1 leek

100g cubed pancetta

30g butter

50ml vermouth

50ml double cream

400ml fish stock

1 egg, beaten


1. In a frying pan melt the butter on a medium heat and fry off the pancetta.

2. Chop  the leek, if you have a food processor with chopping function this will save time. Add the leek to the pancetta and reduce the heat. Sweat the leek down until the pancetta is well cooked and the leek is well softened. Season well.

3. In a pan, reduce the fish stock until you have something resembling a syrup, about 100ml liquid. Add the vermouth and cream. Reduce, taste and season. Stir into the leek and pancetta pan.

4. Clean the scallops. Take them out of their shells, cut off the roes and discard. Give 4 of the shells a really good clean.

5. On a baking tray make 4 ‘nests’ out of foil (these are to place the scallops on so that they stay upright.)

6. Place the shells on top of the foil nests, evenly spoon the creamed leek and pancetta mixture between the scallop shells and place 2 scallops on top of the mixture in each shell. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

7. Cut the puff pastry sheet into 4 and indent a scallop shell so you have a lovely shell indentation on the pastry. Place over the shells with the indentation facing up. Shear off the spare pastry with your hands and press lightly to seal. Glaze with egg wash and rest again in fridge for another 30 minutes.

8. Cook in preheated oven 190°C for 15 minutes.

Courecy of The Food Network -


Herb Roasted Pork Shoulder

Northern Living - Herb Roasted Pork Shoulder RecipeFor those of you who are not overly keen on Turkey, or are simply looking for an alternative this year this is the fifth in our series of alternative Christmas dishes. You can find the previous suggestions here.


1 - 5 to 6 pound pork shoulder 

3 cloves garlic chopped 

1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary 

1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage 

Salt and black pepper

Olive oil


(1) Heat oven to 200C with a rack in the middle position. Score the skin of the pork in a criss-cross diamond pattern. 

(2) Mix the garlic, herbs, salt and pepper into sufficient olive oil to make a thin paste.

(3) Turn the pork skin-side down and rub with the paste. Repeat over the skin side rubbing into the scores. Place on a rimmed baking sheet.

(4) Roast the pork for 1 hour. Reduce heat to 180C and continue to roast until the skin is very crispy and pulls away from the meat easily, 2 to 2½ hours more.

North African Brisket Pot Roast

Northern Living - North African Brisket Pot RoastNorth African cuisine draws inspiration from European, African, and Arabic culinary traditions. From the tagines of Morocco to the harissa-spiced dishes of Tunisia, these flavour packed recipes are perfect for any occasion. Although it is probably impossible to say where the concept of pot roasting originated, this North African brisket pot roast is packed with traditional flavours.


1 cup dried garbanzo beans, soaked overnight in water

1 medium onion, chopped

4 Carrots cut into generous slices

5 garlic cloves, chopped

1/2 cup of raisins

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon mace

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

2 lbs of brisket

2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch slices

3 large eggs

3 -4 cups chicken stock

salt and black pepper


1. Combine the chickpeas, onion, garlic, raisins, pepper, cinnamon, mace, and turmeric in a clay pot or casserole dish.

2. Place the meat on the chickpea mixture.

3. Arrange the sweet potatoes, carrots and whole eggs around the meat.

4. Add enough stock so the meat and eggs are nearly covered.

5. Cover the pot and place in a cold oven.

6. Set the oven temperature to 160C.

7. Cook for about 4 hours, until the meat is tender, adding liquid as needed so the eggs are always at least partly submerged.


Ancient origins of Gravadlax

Northern Living - Ancient origins of Gravadlax.Gravlax recipeUntil recently the origins of Gravadlax were presumed to date back to the Middle Ages 

“During the Middle Ages, gravlax was made by fishermen, who salted the salmon and lightly fermented it by burying it in the sand above the high-tide line. The word gravlax comes from the Scandinavian word grav, which literally means "grave" (in Swedish, Norwegian, Danish), and lax (orlaks), which means "salmon", thus gravlax means "buried salmon". “ Wikipedia -

However an archaeological survey team in Siberia have recently sent a Birch bark parcel for analysis and radio carbon dating. According to the spectral analysis lipids within the parcel were from Salmon and the radio carbon date was broadly in the 2000 to 2500 BC range. Although the date was not very specific due to contamination from partially melted permafrost in the vicinity, the find certainly pre-dates the middle ages by a thousand years or more.

So In celebration of our Bronze Age ancestors and their refined taste and knowledge of food preservation, here's a Gravlax / Gravadlax recipe:-

In the bronze age if seems they preferred Birch bark to cling film, feel free to go with tradition if you wish.....


2 sides of salmon, about 1kg each

100g sea salt

150g caster sugar

8 black peppercorns, lightly crushed

60ml  Vodka

150g bunch fresh dill, finely chopped, plus an extra 100g 


1. Lie the salmon sides skin-side down on a work surface and run your finger along the flesh to check for pin bones. Using tweezers, remove any you find. 

2. Place a double layer of cling film on the work surface. (It needs to be large enough to wrap the 2 fillets, sandwiched together.) Place one of the fillets on top, skin-side down. 

3. Make the cure. Mix the salt, sugar and peppercorns in a bowl. Add the Vodka and chopped dill, then mix well. Spread the mixture evenly over the fillet. Top with the other fillet, flesh-side down, to form a sandwich. 

4. Wrap tightly in the cling film and place in a ceramic or glass dish that’s just big enough to hold the fish snugly. Weigh down with a small chopping board and some weights (full cans are ideal) and chill for 24-48 hours, turning every 12 hours or so. Drain off any liquid that collects in the dish.

5. Unwrap the salmon and rinse off the cure under cold water, then pat dry with kitchen paper. Finely chop the extra dill, then spread evenly over the flesh of both fillets. 

6. The gravadlax can now be sliced  and eaten, or will keep in the fridge for up to a week, re-sandwiched and wrapped in fresh cling film. When ready to eat, unwrap, separate and slice. Serve on rye bread with black pepper and a squeeze of lemon, or with mustard and dill sauce. 



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