Whether it is a glazed butterball turkey stuffed with cranberries and raisins, a roast ham, pecan pie or a simple beetroot and apple salad, entrepreneur and food professional Anna Minocher makes sure each item on her Christmas menu is crafted with great care for her friends and family. During the festive season, Anna, who runs a catering business, lets work take a back seat so that she can focus on preparing the perfect Christmas lunch. What does this entrepreneur have to say about making the festive season special? YS Weekender caught up with Anna Minocher to talk about the traditions of the season…
Anna Minocher: I would say that the Christmas mood has scaled up since last year. There are festive decorations everywhere and every hotel seems to be pushing Christmas goodies, right from gingerbread houses to plum cakes. So many artisanal bread makers are making special breads too. The spirit of the season just gets better and better every year, and I am loving the whole vibe.
AM: I find that Christmas cakes are very popular and nowadays there are many home bakers making cakes at home and selling them to people. On the days leading up to Christmas, I get a lot of orders for roast chicken with trimmings, brioche, quiches and pies. Chocolate puddings and chocolate cakes are a perennial favourite too. The traditional Christmas pudding, however, is an acquired taste as many people don’t like eating desserts with too many raisins and nuts. People also love eating chocolates, marzipans, kalkals, gingerbread and rose cookies over the season.
AM: I do not take too many orders over December because I do an elaborate Christmas lunch at home. This year, I am planning to roast a butterball turkey, which will be the star of our meal. I will start working on the turkey on the morning of December 24, and begin to prep it for the roast. I soak the turkey in a mix of water, honey, sea salt, thyme and peppercorns. It is refrigerated for 24 hours and I ensure that the turkey remains moist during that period. On Christmas morning, I rinse out the turkey, pat it dry and smear olive oil over it. Then, I slide butter under the skin and stuff the turkey with some orange and lemon in one part of it and with sausages, raisins and cranberries, pine nuts and bread in the other cavity. Then I roast it for two hours and serve it with gravy which is usually a mixture of cranberry sauce and turkey drippings.
By the way, you can follow the same recipe for chicken as well.
As for dessert, I make a pecan pie for my kids but our Christmas pudding is brought to us from Selfridges or Harrods by our other family members.
AM: I think mulled wine is loved by most people during Christmas. To make mulled wine, use red wine as a base, add cloves, orange peels, sugar, cinnamon and star anise and orange juice. Bring the liquid to a slow boil and then, take it off the heat so that the flavours infuse into the wine. Another wine that is very popular is the ginger wine.
AM: Since the batter is very heavy, you need to bake this cake very slowly, for at least 45 minutes.
The secret of a good cake lies in the quality of the fruit. I get my cakes from my aunt in Mangalore. Though they say you need to soak the fruit for some months prior to Christmas, only three or four days are enough. Another tip: pour liqueur or brandy on the cake once it is baked, so that the cake absorbs it and it tastes special. A Christmas cake can be kept for almost a year as it does not spoil.
AM: I have been running my business for over 25 years. My forte is European, South Indian, Parsee and some Thai cooking. I also specialise in canapés for cocktail parties and special events. I started this business because I was a stay-at-home mom with three kids. Among all my foods, my clientele seems to love my chocolate cake the most for their birthday parties and I have been baking these cakes for years.
AM: I feel that Christmas is a time to spend time with your family and friends. In our home, we love having friends over, especially those who are living alone in the city. It is good to take a little effort for the festival and make the Christmas table as gorgeous as possible.
AM: I find that the trend in New Year parties this year is all about keeping get-togethers small and intimate. There was a time when people would invite a lot of people to their homes but then their guests would have to do a lot of party-hopping all night. So, these days it is best to keep parties small, by inviting not more than 14 people. It is good to have seated meals at your table with good food and wine. In my home, I do a lot of French food as you can plate it beautifully and the flavour is great too.
AM: Recently, I travelled to Vietnam and loved the place and the cuisine. I would like to learn to make Vietnamese food and include this cuisine in my menu this year.