Christmas in Trinidad

Christmas in Trinidad

Originally from Trinidad and Tobago, Liam and Shalimar have lived in the UK for the past 11 years, and love to bring the diversity and flavour of Trinidad and Tobago to Bristol, with their tried and true family recipes.

A Trini Christmas is all about family, music, and arguably most importantly, food!

Every step of the day is marked by sharing food and drink with loved ones, catching up, reflecting on the year, and making memories for the years to come.

A traditional Christmas breakfast is pineapple-glazed ham and a crusty yet pillowy bread roll, called hops. It’s a simple, but delicious start to the day, as the preparations kick into gear for the feasting to come.

Trinidad and Tobago is a small country (only 1.3 million people) so Christmas day practically demands that you visit with and host as many friends and family members as possible. And of course, each of those visits requires a full plate of food. This is little exaggeration, as there is usually not one big meal on the day, but a series of Christmas dinners with every visit.

The main spread hinges on the afore-mentioned pineapple-glazed ham, complemented by any number of other meat dishes, and surrounded by a spread of hearty, festive side dishes. Cheesy macaroni pie, beef pastelles, creole rice, pigeon peas, cassava pie, plantains, and much more. Christmas Day is not the healthiest on the Trinidadian calendar, but it usually is the most comforting and satisfying. And dessert is not a major feature on the day, because we’re usually so full from everything else!

As for the drinks, sorrel is the seasonal favourite, a brewed hibiscus drink, with cinnamon, cloves, and bay leaves. It is a bit like a non-alcoholic mulled wine. For later in the day, ponche-de-crème is the feature, an eggnog style drink, with rum. These flavours are synonymous with Christmas in T&T, and we rarely ever drink them at any of time of year. See receipe below.

For the past decade, Christmas in the UK has been a much different affair, and one that we love. But nothing can truly beat a Trini Christmas.

Ponche-de-Crème (8 portions)


6 eggs
1 (390g) can condensed milk
400ml evaporated milk
2 tbsp Angostura bitters
1 cup of rum
1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 tsp lime zest (optional)


  1. Blend the eggs with the lime zest (if using) until full mixed.
  2. Add in the condensed milk and blend until fully incorporated.
  3. Pour in the evaporated milk slowly and blend until mixed in fully.
  4. Stir in the rum and bitters and freshly grated nutmeg.
  5. Serve chilled or on ice.

It is recommended that you use pasteurised eggs, such as those bearing the British Lion stamp.

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Fika: a Swedish thing

Fika: a Swedish thing

Elin talks to us about the traditional Swedish custom of Fika, and how this important part of her culture has shaped her home-cooking in Bristol.

Originally from Sweden, Elin has lived in Bristol for 13 years and runs Fika Bristol from her home bakery in Southville. She makes new and traditional Swedish biscuits, cakes, cardamom, and cinnamon buns.

 In Sweden, we never just ask someone around for a cup of tea, it’s always fika. Fika is one of the first concepts you learn growing up in a Swedish family. 

Fika is Swedish for a coffee break that’s more about socialising than drinking coffee. Swedes prefer not to translate the word fika. They don’t want it to lose significance and become a mere coffee break. It is one of the first words you will learn when visiting Sweden, right after tack (thank you) and hej (hello).

Fika is much more than having a coffee. It is a social phenomenon that is essential in Swedish daily culture. It is about setting aside moments for quality time and to relax. It can happen at any time, morning to evening. It can be savoured at home, at work or in a café.  It may be shared with family, friends, colleagues, or someone you want to get know. The tradition is practised frequently, preferably several times a day. Sweet accompaniments are crucial; cinnamon buns, cakes, biscuits, even open- faced sandwiches are acceptable fika fare.

It comes as no surprise that Swedes are among the top consumers of coffee and sweets in the world – or that Swedes appreciate the good things in life.

I run “Fika Bristol” from my house in Southville and being part of All About the Cooks give me a chance to share the concept of fika with fellow Bristolians. My most popular bakes are probably my cinnamon rolls.

On the 4th of October the cinnamon roll has it’s own day in Sweden, started back in 1999 by the home baking society. I love making (and eating) cinnamon rolls. One of my best childhood memories is coming home after school to a kitchen smelling of cinnamon rolls, then enjoying a warm roll with a glass of cold milk – heaven!

 I bake cinnamon rolls in my kitchen in Bristol weekly, and my daughter likes to say, “I wish I could eat the smell”. They are not difficult to make, just be sure to give yourself plenty of time.

 Why not have a go? Below is a recipe from my baking booklet BAKA. Or order online here.

Go and fill your house with the smell of freshly made rolls and invite someone over for a fika! Elin x



50g fresh yeast (or 14g fast-action dried yeast then mix it with the flour)
500ml of full fat milk
125g butter
0,5 tsp salt
130g sugar
1 tbsp. ground cardamom 
900g Plain flour


150g soft butter
130g sugar
1-2 tbsp. ground cinnamon 


1 egg                        

100ml of pear sugar or flaked almonds



1. Melt the butter.

2. Add the milk to the butter and warm the milk to 37C. (feel the heat of the milk with your fingers. Rather a bit cooler than too hot).

3. Crumble the yeast in a bowl and add a little of the milk to dissolve it.

4. Add the rest of the milk along with all the other ingredients for the dough and knead it by hand for 15min or 10 min in a dough mixer.

5. Let the dough rise while covered for 45-60 minutes.

6. Mix the filling together and turn the oven on 220C fan oven, 240C conventional (Gas mark 7)

7. Roll out the dough so it’s approximately 3mm thick and 60 x 30cm. Then spread the filling over the rolled out dough and then roll it up from the long side.

8. Place the rolls in cases (optional) on a baking tray and let them rise under a tea towel or cling film for about 45 minutes or until the buns have roughly doubled in size. 

9. Beat the egg and brush carefully on the buns. Sprinkle pearl sugar on top.

10. Bake in the oven for 7-8 mins. Allow to cool on a rack and then tuck in!    

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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

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. 



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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.

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

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