Christmas in Chile

Christmas in Chile

Ximena talks to us about a typical Christmas in Chile and her family Traditions, and how she carries on these traditions with her own family in Bristol

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Originally from Chile, Ximena who now lives in Bristol loves to bake delicious South American style cakes using her family recipes and Latin American ingredients.

December is here and even though it’s the most wonderful time of the year for most, it feels bittersweet for me, because of the inevitable feeling of homesickness that comes along with it.

Christmas in Chile, where I am originally from, is quite a different experience from that in Bristol. December is summertime in Chile, so we have lots of garden parties, barbecues, and cocktails in the sunshine. But we still adopt some of the European traditions including snow frosted Christmas trees, snowflake decorations and Father Christmas impersonators, except they are wearing heavy coats in 30°C weather, poor them! 

Like here, the holidays are a time to share with family eating delicious food. In Chile, it is customary to have large family gatherings on Christmas Eve.  These often include extended family, so big parties are common. Most stores and offices work a half-day so that people can make it home to their families (or to the busy supermarkets on their way home!).

The most traditional Christmas dinner is roast turkey, my grandmother cooked this every year when I was growing up.  My aunts, uncles and cousins would come to her house and she would spend all day in the kitchen getting things ready. Come dinner time there would easily be 25-30 family members around the table trying to fill their plates before the favourites ran out.

Potato salad, celery with avocado salad, and sweet corn with harts of palms are what I remember the most. Not everyone likes turkey, beef is more popular in Chile, so lots of people choose to have barbecues instead.

One of my favourite things to have around this time of the year is ‘Cola de mono’, a traditional drink we only have in December. The name means ‘Monkey tail’, a silly name for a seriously delicious cocktail made with “aguardiente” (a spirit popular in South America), mixed with milk, sugar, coffee, and spices. You can find this drink in the shops early in the season, but it can also be easily made at home, which is what I do here in Bristol.  

The nibble of choice to accompany this drink is ‘Pan de Pascua’, a Chilean take on the German stollen. Most families have their own secret recipe for this loaded fruit bread, usually containing candied fruits, raisins, walnuts, peanuts, and almonds mixed to form a cake batter and then flavoured with honey, coffee, cinnamon and ginger.  There really is nothing better than getting home after a long day at work to the smell of a ‘Pan de Pascua’ in the oven.  That’s what I call instant Christmas! Come 1st December I’ll be sure to have one ready to bake. 

As much as I miss the summertime Christmas fun in Chile, I must admit, there’s a special kind of cosiness about having Christmas during a cold winter. Snuggly jumpers, mulled wine and roasted chestnuts by the fire have all become an unmissable part of our celebrations in the northern hemisphere. Not to mention the gingerbread houses! My kids loved them, and it has become an adopted tradition in our family to build them every year. I can’t believe they haven’t made their way to Chile – they’re so much fun to make!

Last year I sold ready-to-make kits.  I had lots of happy customers, so I decided to do the same this year. 

I wish you all have a warm and wonderful holiday season, even a snowy one if we’re lucky. 

Cheers!

Ximena 

related blogs

We eat with our eyes…

We spoke to award-winning photographer, Mireya Gonzalez about her passion for taking pictures and what it’s been like meeting some of Bristol’s incredible home-cooks.

Read More »

Christmas in Chile

Originally from Chile, Ximena who now lives in Bristol loves to bake delicious South American style cakes using her family recipes and Latin American ingredients.

Read More »

An Italian Christmas

Originally from a small town located in the heel of Italy’s boot, Elena now lives in Bristol. She loves nothing more than to cook incredible Italian dishes learnt from family recipes.

Read More »

An Italian Christmas

An Italian Christmas

Elena talks to us about her family food traditions during the festive season, and how she plans to celebrate this year.

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Originally from a small town located in the heel of Italy’s boot, Elena now lives in Bristol. She loves nothing more than to cook incredible Italian dishes learnt from family recipes.

Christmas time has always been special for me and now that I live abroad, this felling intensifies with the strong desire to be alongside my family at my Mum’s house in Salento.

From the first days of December and precisely from the 8th, which commemorates ‘Festa dell’Immacolata’ the Christmas spirit is already evident in the small town of Parabita in south-east Italy where I grew up.

Walking around Parabita and in almost every other town in Salento, you are surrounded by the enchanting smell of traditional dishes being prepared with love by the local residents on the eve of this special annual celebration.

From all the culinary efforts made during the festive season, making Pittule is an absolute must. These small dough balls can be prepared as an aperitif or as a sweet treat for after a meal. Some choose to brush them with sugar or honey, or they can be dipped in a thick wine-based syrup (called vincotto). Others opt for a popular savoury version known as pizzaiol by adding ingredients such as tomatoes, onions, black olives, and capers.

My sister Silvia’s Pittule Salentine recipe

500 gr of Flour

10 gr of fresh yeast

1 tb of salt

½ tsp of sugar

400 ml room temperature water

  1. Mix salt and flour in a bowl.
  2. Dissolve the yeast into a cup with a small amount of water, add sugar and leave it to rest for a few minutes.
  3. Pour the water with the yeast into the flour and gradually add the remaining water, while stirring it constantly with your hands.
  4. Continue to stir energetically to reach a fluffy dough. The dough will be ready when air balls start to show.
  5. Let it leaven for at least three hours.
  6. Create small dough balls with the help of a wet tablespoon and your hand forming a ring between your index finger and thumb.
  7. Place them into the hot oil. Let them reach a light brown colour
  8. Serve, eat and enjoy!

And… Buon Appetito

My family tradition is to come together on Christmas Eve for dinner and wait for midnight when the children flock to the gracefully decorated Christmas tree to open their presents. The Christmas Eve dinner menu is mainly full of seafood and fish dishes. The Christmas Day lunch mainly meat dishes. I really enjoy coming together to cook with my mum and my sisters.

My sister, Silvia makes the best Pittule I have ever tasted (I am so proud of having learnt from her). My elder sister, Florinda ensures the roast beef is cooked to perfection. I prepare starters and sides, while my mum puts together the Pasta al Forno ready to go into the oven.

It’s a true effort of teamwork and we all work hard to make it happen. It’s not only food that unites us, but also the sharing of Christmas songs, stories and poems, told by the little ones, that bring us together.

Different sweets grace the table, including panettone, pandoro, torroni and torroncini, plus some typical local sweets such as purceddhruzzi and cartellate.

Although this year, it won’t be possible to share this feast with my family in Italy, I’ll let my thoughts fly to Parabita, to have my dear ones a bit nearer.

This Christmas if lockdown eases, my husband, daughter and I will share time together with our close friends in Bristol, otherwise we will spend it at home, where we have already agreed to cook the same Christmas menu as my Mum to help me feel even closer to my family in Italy.

Silvia's Pittule

related blogs

We eat with our eyes…

We spoke to award-winning photographer, Mireya Gonzalez about her passion for taking pictures and what it’s been like meeting some of Bristol’s incredible home-cooks.

Read More »

Christmas in Chile

Originally from Chile, Ximena who now lives in Bristol loves to bake delicious South American style cakes using her family recipes and Latin American ingredients.

Read More »

An Italian Christmas

Originally from a small town located in the heel of Italy’s boot, Elena now lives in Bristol. She loves nothing more than to cook incredible Italian dishes learnt from family recipes.

Read More »