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Cooking up a no-fuss Christmas feast
Abhirup Dam  14th Dec 2013

A home-cooked Christmas dinner

grew up in Calcutta, a city which becomes even more beautiful during Christmas. Thanks to the colonial hangovers that you'll bump into more often than tea stalls in the city, Kolkata lights up with sudden alacrity every 25th of December. Hence, it is my hometown that I miss most on freezing Christmases in Delhi; the saving grace — unlike Calcutta, is that its actually 'cold' on Christmas here. And I have devised a great way of getting over this homesickness over the years: cooking a Christmas dinner for friends. But first, a quick disclaimer. This is not an elaborate turkey-pudding deal where I slave for a week in the kitchen (though I do slave substantially) and pass out with exhaustion just as my guests arrive. I love cooking, and I cook what I love. Food that reminds me of warm, cosy winter afternoons spent sitting in the sun. Food that I love eating, and over the years have discovered others do too. Food that is Christmassy, but does not require you to be in battle armour. And please do believe me when I say that I have actually served a Thai beef curry with baby eggplants on Christmas. Why? Because it is the kind of dish that comforts me on cold evenings, and I eat it with ardour. Sometimes certain ingredients are hard to find, but a trip to the INA market, my favourite place in NewDelhi, will get you almost everything on your list. Khubchand in Connaught Place is where you'll find uncooked ham and suckling pig (order in advance), if you are keen on going the ham and pig-on-spit way. So here's my guide to a Christmas dinner that is nowhere close to fancy, but a time-proven success.

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Sometimes certain ingredients are hard to find, but a trip to the INA market, my favourite place in Delhi, will get you almost everything.
The Christmas Drink

One doesn't really need to bother when it comes to drinks on Christmas — you will get drunk. But if you are throwing a Christmas dinner, a little slogging is the norm. Rum punches are great, cheap, and easy to make. Find a recipe online that suits your taste, and has lots of oranges or clementines, and definitely ginger-ale (fizzy ginger drinks available at super markets will do). I make sure I serve something warm and comforting to my guests. Eggnog is great, but does involves serious whisking action. Do not try and make mulled wine — I know it's oh-so-British, but I could never get it right. I offer you instead a great (cheat) alternative: Heat apple juice with a stick of cinnamon (not too much, it shouldn't be overpowering) and mix whisky in it — bliss!Image 2nd

Entrées and mains

Frankly, I do not have either entrées or mains. I like food that can be picked at and eaten without a lavishly laid table and complicated cutlery that people are afraid to use. Dips are great for any party, and please do make them in abundance for Christmas too. Try out my friend's wonderful Pushy Me-s (a chilly-heavy version of mushy peas), which I assure you is a killer. Because I never bother with roasts and glazed ham, a spicy honey glazed pork, or orange-flavoured chicken works great. You need to know your Christmas spices and try and incorporate them in any way you like — cinnamon, cloves, ginger, nutmeg. Do try a gravlax once, it works and is wonderful. This Swedish cured fish is easy,

hassle-free and divine when thinly sliced and served atop crackers with rocket leaves and a dash of horse radish dressing (which you'll find plenty of in specialised stores; yes, go to INA).

Dessert

Again, do not fuss over dessert, you are not running a patisserie. Warm apple crumble served with a dollop of ice cream and warm butterscotch sauce, or pears poached in cheap whisky and sugar syrup, with a dash of nutmeg, served with sour cream are both easy and sure-shot crowd pleasers.

 
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