Danish roast duck with warm red cabbage
Photo: Shutterstock
Risalamande - chilled rice pudding
Photo: Shutterstock
Glazed potatoes
Photo: Shutterstock

Father Christmas shares culinary delights

As delicious as it is, fine Middle Eastern fare in Bethlehem is no match for cream-soaked, roasted delights that make up staple of Christmas dinner in Denmark

Sitting in a steamy restaurant in a rain-soaked Manger Square in Bethlehem on Christmas Eve, facing a table groaning with all the usual Middle Eastern specialties of hummus, tehina and lamb skewers, the thing I easily missed the most about Christmas in my native Denmark was the food.


Family too, of course, but their Yule spirit also peaks right around the time dinner is served, in all its full-blown, cream-drenched, artery-blocking glory.


Christmas, for me, culminates in indulging the strangely excessive Danish capacity for all things roasted: Roast duck, roast pork, roast goose, roast potatoes.


Winter is a cold affair in our latitude, mind you, and calories are widely disregarded for the season. Potatoes come cooked in butter and sugar, swimming in a sea of thick gravy, alongside a variety of slain beasts and creamy, oh so creamy, salads.

זה לא יול בלעדיהם. ברווז צלוי ותבשיל כרוב אדום (צילום: shutterstock)

Yule spirit. Danish roast duck with warm red cabbage (Photo: Shutterstock)


The traditional Danish chilled rice pudding dessert of "risalamande" (faux French for "rice with almonds", even though it is unknown in France) is another dream of whipped cream, accompanied by hot cherry sauce.


The dessert includes an afikoman-style hunt (although the prize-winning almond is hidden in the pudding, not some obscure place in the house, and thus demands no activity apart from moving hand to mouth).


Unlike the rest of the Christian world, much of Northern Europe celebrates Christmas on December 24. And instead of indulging in the inherent commercialism of leaping onto the pile of presents under the pine tree at first light of day, we eat, and eat some more.


Then we dance and sing, and eat again, and only then, with a bulging stomach, do we get to open presents.

צלחת החג בבית משפחת ברטלסן (צילום: Torben Pedersen)

Berthelsen family's holiday table (Photo: Torben Pedersen)


As kids, that wait for gifts is unbearable. The meal drags on into oblivion, only for you to realize that that was only the first course. As you dance around the tree, you can spot all the presents that bear your name, and yet your grandmother insists on doing just another two carols.


And by the time someone starts dragging the entire hand-in-hand snake of people around the house for the final song, you are just about to burst in anticipation.


But with age, the focus turns to the food. Seeing pictures from my family's feast just about reduced me to tears, especially as I was then armed with naught but a platter of kebabs.


And despite (or maybe because of) his disappointment that I was not home to help chop down Christmas trees for the locals, and even less impressed that there was no one to do the dishes, my father sent me a few recipes and photos of the food, just to remind me what I was missing.


Danish roast duck

Serves 6 people

Preparation and cooking time 2-3 hours



1 or 2 ducks (this recipe is for a 3kg duck)

4-6 apples, chopped

300 g stone-less prunes



(Optional to add water during cooking)


(First things first. Acquire a hunting license, then shoot a duck. Alternatively, track down one of those elusive butchers with access to decent sized poultry.)


If the bird comes frozen, leave it out for two days to thaw slowly.


Rinse the duck thoroughly both inside and out. Remove any feathers and trim any loose fat (put some fat aside for the sauce). Rub salt and coarse ground pepper both inside and outside the duck. If the duck comes with giblets, put these aside – they will go in the pan during the final cooking stages.


Stuff the duck with a mixture of chopped apples and stone-less prunes, and salt and coarse ground pepper. Close the duck with meat needles or tie with cotton thread.


Put the duck in a pre-heated oven at 250 degrees for 30 minutes, breast up.


Reduce the heat to 150 degrees, turn the duck over, and leave for 50 minutes.


Turn it over again and cook for approximately another 1 hour 40 minutes. NOTE: If the duck is not 3kg, at this stage cook it for 50 minutes per kilo.


If the duck came with giblets, place these in the roasting pan for the final hour.


Remove the duck from the oven and let stand for 15 minutes. Do not cover it.


Drain the juices from the roasting pan, you will need these for the sauce to accompany the duck.


Duck sauce

Serves 6 people

Preparation and cooking time: 10-20 minutes



Trimmed fat from the duck

Juices from the roasting pan

2 teaspoons flour (optional)

Packet of cooking cream


In a large pan, fry any fat trimmings from the duck until lightly browned, then add the juice from the roasting pan, and as much cream as desired. Thicken the sauce with a teaspoon or two of flour, or reduce it to a stock. Add sauce coloring and season with salt and pepper.


Serve with potatoes (we have boiled potatoes and glazed roast potatoes), any left-over stuffing from the duck, red cabbage and gravy.


Serve rice pudding for dessert. Don't forget to hide an almond inside.


Bon appétit!


Glazed potatoes

Serves 6 people

Preparation and cooking time: 1 hour



1kg potatoes

50g granulated sugar

50g butter

רוטב ותפוחי אדמה מאודים. ברווז צלוי וחברים (צילום: Torben Pedersen)

Potatos swimming in a sea of thick gravy (Photo: Torben Pedersen) 


Rinse, peel chop the potatoes into 4-8 regular pieces, depending on size. Put the potatoes to boil, and in a medium pan, brown the sugar, then add the butter and mix well. Rinse the boiled potatoes in cold water, mix them with the caramelized sugar and butter mix on a low heat, stirring until the potatoes are glazed golden. Serve immediately.


Warm red cabbage

Serves 6 people

Preparation and cooking time: 45 minutes



40g butter

6 tablespoons red currant jelly

3 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

½ teaspoon allspice

1½ teaspoon coarse salt

750g finely chopped red cabbage


Put butter, jelly, vinegar, allspice and salt in a large saucepan and bring to the boil. Add the red cabbage, cover and cook over a moderate heat for approx. 15 min. Remove the lid of the saucepan and cook on a high heat while stirring for about three min. or until the liquid has evaporated. Season to taste and serve immediately.


Risalamande - chilled rice pudding

Serves 6 people

Preparation and cooking time 1 hour



300ml water

180g (approx 250 ml) pudding rice

1 liter milk

2 vanilla pods, chopped

100g peeled almonds

4 tablespoons sugar

2-4 tablespoons Madeira wine or sherry (optional)

Approx. 400ml whipping cream

אוף, כמה שזה טעים. ריס א-לה מאנד (צילום: shutterstock) 

Another dream of whipped cream. Risalamande (Photo: Shutterstock)


Make the rice pudding itself the day before serving. Bring water and rice to boil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Boil the rice on a moderate heat and stir for approx. 2 minutes.


Add the milk and cook the mixture on a low heat, still stirring, for another 10 minutes.


Cover and cook for approx. 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cover the mixture and refrigerate until the following day. (If you do have to make the pudding on the day of serving, refrigerate until cold).


Put one almond aside, and finely chop the rest. Mix the vanilla, sugar, ground almonds and wine into the pudding. Whip the cream to light foam and fold it gently into the porridge, together with the whole almond.


Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Serve with hot cherry sauce.


The rice pudding can be kept in the freezer for 2-3 months


Hot cherry sauce

Serves 6 people

Preparation and cooking time: 15 minutes



2 cans (approx. 1 kilo) of preserved cherries

200ml water

2 teaspoons corn flour

2 teaspoons sugar (optional)


Bring cherries and 100 ml of water to boiling point. Mix the corn flour and remaining water well. Mix together and gently heat, do not boil, for 1 minute while stirring. Serve warm.



פרסום ראשון: 12.31.11, 10:37
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