Russian Kitchen: Christmas Dinner

Russian Kitchen: Christmas Dinner. Source: Flickr/o.e_85

Russian Kitchen: Christmas Dinner. Source: Flickr/o.e_85

Christmas, celebrated on January 7 in Russia is a family occasion, where a special dinner is cooked to mark the end of a 40-day lent period.

While most people celebrate Christmas on December 25, in Russia and many parts of Eastern Europe, Christmas is celebrated after the New Year. Since the Russian Orthodox Church still uses the old Julian calendar, Christmas falls on January 7 in Russia. 

“S Rozdestvom” is the Russian way of saying “Merry Christmas.” People in Russia celebrate Christmas by having a family dinner, attending Christmas liturgy in the church, visiting relatives and friends and giving presents. Some people follow a 40-day lent period preceding Christmas Day when they don’t eat any meat; sometimes fish is allowed. The lent period ends with the first star in the night sky on January 6– the symbol of Jesus Christ’s birth.

The Holy Supper also known in Russia as “sochelnik” usually is very festive. The most important dish is “sochivo” or “kutia” - a porridge made from wheat or rice served with honey, poppy seeds, berries and chopped walnuts. The kutia is eaten from a common dish to symbolise unity. Some families used to throw a spoon full of kutia up to the ceiling. According to the belief, if some kutia stuck on the celing, there would be a plentiful honey harvest.

Traditionally, the “Holy Supper” consists of 12 different types of food, symbolic of the 12 Apostles of Christ.

Below is one of the variations of Russian Holy Supper:

  1. Mushroom or sour craft soup.
  2. Lenten bread
  3. Grated garlic
  4. Bowl of honey
  5. Baked cod
  6. Fresh oranges
  7. Nuts
  8. Kidney beans, slow cooked and seasoned with garlic, salt and pepper.
  9. Peas
  10. Boiled potatoes
  11. Small biscuits in the shape of animals like goat, cow, and sheep.
  12. Red Wine

 

Most of the people nowadays don’t follow vegetarian Sochelnik. For us the Christmas dinner should definitely have non-vegetarian items.

The centre piece of the Christmas Dinner is meat: whole pig, roasted goose, stuffed duck, chicken, pig’s head and sausages. After 40 days of lent, when one eats very lean soups and vegetarian dishes, people are looking forward to a non-vegetarian feast.

There are no customs of roasting turkey like in western countries. For Russia it is more often goose or duck. The stuffing is also different from other countries. The fat of the goose is balanced out by pickled cabbage stuffing. Sometimes the soaked apples are used as an accompaniment to roasted poultry.

Christmas Roasted Chicken with Vegetables

This is my version of roasted chicken. It is not exactly the traditional Russian version. I don’t picture Indian foodies making pickled cabbage and stuffing their roasts with that. I also don’t think that it will appeal to the taste buds of Indians.

I prefer to use chicken with the skin because after roasting it will be very juicy inside with the crispy skin outside. The technique is to mix the spices together and stuff it under the skin of the chicken. The masala will penetrate the meat and the skin will become crispy.

Ingredients (serves 6-8 people):

Whole chicken with skin 1 pc

Garlic 15 cloves

Rosemary 1 tb sp

Kashmiri chilli 1 tb sp

Vegetable oil 2 tb sp

Black pepper 1 tb sp

Sugar 2 tea sp

For the vegetables:

Potatoes 4 pc

Large Carrots 2 pc

Zucchini large 1 pc

Garlic 6 cloves

Rosemary 1 t sp

Chili 1 t sp

Olive oil or butter

Black pepper

Salt

Vegetables:

There is no need to peel the vegetables as long as you wash them thoroughly. Cut the potatoes into equal segments, the thickness depends on your taste. Cut the carrots and zucchinis into the similar segments. Rub all the spices and oil on the vegetables and it is ready to be roasted!

Chicken Roast:

There is never too much garlic for roasting. It is better to chop the garlic yourself rather than use garlic paste. Mix all the ingredients together; you can use the mortar pestle for that. The tricky part of this recipe is to separate the skin of the chicken from the flesh. It should be done by gently inserting your fingers under the skin trying not to damage it. After you are able to do that, you can take the marinade and spread it under the skin.

Preheat your oven to 240°C. Turn the heat down immediately to 200°C and cook the chicken for 1 hour and 20 minutes. If you are doing roasted potatoes and veggies, get them into the oven for the last 45 minutes of cooking. 

Check the chicken halfway through cooking and if the vegetables look dry, add a splash of water to the tray to stop them burning. When cooked, take the tray out of the oven and transfer the chicken to a board to rest for 15 minutes. Cover it with a layer of tinfoil and a tea towel and put aside.

S Rozhdestvom!

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