7 Christmas recipes from around the world: Discover the taste of Syria, Zambia or Ukraine
December 5, 2022 News

7 Christmas recipes from around the world: Discover the taste of Syria, Zambia or Ukraine

Have you ever heard of dishes like Buuz, Yalanji or Satsivi? This Christmas, try delicious meals from around the world. We have prepared recipes for you together with colleagues from all the countries where Caritas Czech Republic helps people in need.

Whether you decide to make Moldovan polenta, Iraqi cookies or Georgian turkey, we believe you will love these exotic dishes. Although some countries, such as Iraq, Syria and Mongolia, do not celebrate Christmas, they also prepare special dishes to celebrate the New Year.

1. Syria: Yalanji - Stuffed grape leaves

How about something light to start with? Prepare an alternative to traditional heavy dishes and try stuffed vine leaves from Syria. You can eat them as an appetiser or as a light dinner.

Ingredients:

  • Grape leaves - approx. 200 g
  • Lemon juice
  • Olive oil
  • 3 cups of rice
  • 2 tomatoes (peeled, chopped) or a can of sliced tomatoes
  • Handful of parsley
  • 2 teaspoons dried mint
  • 1 tablespoon tomato puree
  • Pomegranate molasses or more lemon juice
  • 1 potato
  • 1 tomato
  • Salt

Instructions:

  1. Soak the vine leaves in boiling water for a few minutes. After that, drain them and set them aside.
  2. Prepare the filling. Remove the stems from the parsley and chop it finely. Mix the dry rice with the salt, chopped tomatoes, parsley, mint, tomato puree and mix well in a large bowl. Pour the pomegranate molasses, lemon juice and olive oil over the rice mixture and mix thoroughly again.
  3. It's time to start stuffing the vine leaves. First, cut the stems off all the vine leaves and then take one leaf at a time and start filling them. Place a spoonful of the rice mixture roughly in the center of the grape leaf, which you fold and roll up. Repeat the same process with all the vine leaves.
  4. Pour 1½ tablespoons of olive oil into a larger pot. Thinly slice the tomato, potato and lemon and line the bottom of the pot with them. Start filling the pot with the stuffed vine leaves, placing them close together. Once all the stuffed leaves are in the pot, cover them with a plate to ensure that the leaves do not float to the surface. Pour 5½ cups of water over the stuffed leaves (so that the stuffed leaves are submerged) and 2 tablespoons of lemon juice.
  5. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for about an hour.
  6. The finished vine leaves are best enjoyed cold, so let them cool before eating.

2. Moldova: Mamaliga - Traditional polenta

On Christmas Eve, Moldovan families gather around the table to feast on mamaliga, a traditional polenta usually served with braised pork. Mamaliga is easy to prepare and requires only three main ingredients.

Polenta is a traditional Christmas meal in Moldova

Ingredients:

  • 5 cups of water
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • Salt
  • Optional: 2 tablespoons butter

Instructions:

  1. Bring water to a boil in a large pot.
  2. Add a teaspoon of salt and optionally two tablespoons of butter.
  3. Once the water begins to boil, slowly add the cornmeal, stirring with a wooden spoon.
  4. Keep stirring for approximately 10-12 minutes until the mamaliga is ready.
  5. Turn off the heat and flip the mamaliga down on a wooden plate or tray.
  6. Let it cool for 5-10 minutes.

Fun facts:

  • Mamaliga should not be sliced with a knife, but with cotton string
  • No cutlery is needed for this dish, it is mandatory to eat mamaliga with your hands

Tip:

  • Take a piece of farmer cheese and wrap it into hot mamaliga. The cheese will melt inside the mamaliga and you will capture the very essence of an indigenous Moldovan recipe. 

3. Georgia: Satsivi - Turkey in walnut sauce

Satsivi is a thick walnut sauce that is traditionally prepared with turkey at Christmas in Georgia. The rest of the year Georgians usually eat Satvisi with chicken. Transport yourself for a moment to mountainous Georgia and enjoy the thick creamy sauce.

Georgian Christmas dish looks delicious. Source: https://www.gurmania.ge/geo

Ingredients:

  • 5 kg whole turkey
  • 700 g walnuts
  • 5 medium-sized onions
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon dried coriander
  • 1 teaspoon blue fenugreek
  • 1 teaspoon dried marigold
  • 1 teaspoon dried red chilli
  • Half teaspoon cinnamon
  • 5 crushed cloves
  • Salt

Instructions:

  1. Pour 2 litres water into a deep pot and add the turkey. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat and cook for about an hour and a half.
  2. Remove the turkey carefully from the pot and transfer to a roasting tray greased with oil. Do not discard the water in which the turkey has been cooking, you will need it later. Use some of the fat from the pot to roast the turkey.
  3. Roast the turkey at 180 °C until cooked through.
  4. Cut the cooked turkey into medium-sized pieces.
  5. Chop the onion finely and fry it in the fat left over from cooking the turkey. Blend the fried onions until smooth.
  6. Grind the walnuts using a grinder. If the nuts are not old, you will get a little oil when grinding them, which you should set aside. Add the dried coriander, blue fenugreek, dried marigold, cinnamon and crushed cloves to the ground nuts. Stir and rub the mixture. Add the red pepper, garlic and salt together with two tablespoons of white wine vinegar and mix thoroughly.
  7. Gradually add the water from the pot the turkey was cooked in to the nut mixture and stir until you get a smooth mixture. Strain the mixture into the pot in which the turkey was cooked. Add the pieces of cooked turkey, bring to the boil and remove from the heat.

Satsivi is traditionally served cold in Georgia, but you can also enjoy it hot. If you have nut oil left over, pour it over the dish just before serving.

4. Mongolia: Buuz - Steamed Meat Dumplings

As a predominantly Buddhist country, Christmas is not celebrated in Mongolia, but locals gather to celebrate the New Year and feast on a good dinner. The traditional Mongolian New Year's Eve dish, dumplings stuffed with minced meat, can be prepared at home.

Dumplings are tradtional for Mongolians

Ingredients:

For the filling:

  • 300 g lamb
  • 1 onion finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 3-5 tablespoons of water
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Cumin

For the dough:

  • 250 g flour
  • 150 ml water

Instructions:

Prepare the filling:

  1. Mix the minced meat with the onion and garlic.
  2. Add the water and stir until you get a smooth mixture.
  3. Add salt, pepper and cumin to taste.

Prepare the dough:

  1. Mix the flour and water to make a soft and pliable dough. Let it rest for 15 minutes.
  2. Cut the dough into several pieces and roll them out into long doughnuts, then cut them into pieces of about 3 cm. Squeeze these pieces slightly with your finger to flatten them.

Prepare the dumplings:

  1. Roll out the dough into rounds about 7 cm in diameter, with the centre slightly thicker than the edges. Ideally, roll out as many rounds as you can fill in a few minutes. The dumplings will be easier to shape if the dough is not dry.
  2. Hold the rolled out dough with one hand and place about a teaspoon of the meat mixture in the centre.
  3. Hold the edges of the dough from one side and press them together (so you don't touch the meat mixture). You will get a small crease. Next to this fold, make another fold in the same way and press the dough together. Continue with the rest of the dough, turning the dumpling slowly until you have a pocket in which the meat mixture is hidden. This will leave a small hole in the top centre of the dumpling.

Cooking the dumplings:

  1. Buuz dumplings are cooked in steam over boiling water. For example, you can use a dumpling steamer.
  2. Brush the steamer with oil and carefully place the dumplings on it so that they do not touch.
  3. Cover the pot with a lid and do not remove it until the dumplings are done. This takes about 15 minutes.

Traditional Mongolian cuisine does not use many vegetables, so you can eat the dumplings on without any side dish.

5. Zambia - Traditional chicken with rice

Zambians love to celebrate Christmas. Although gift-giving is not a very common trend in Zambia probably because of the poverty levels in the country, families still get together to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. They usually eat traditional chicken with rice.

This is how our colleagues from Caritas Czech Republic in Zambie celebrate Christmas. Chicken and rice is part of the celebration

Ingredients:

  • 1 whole chicken
  • Rice (to taste)
  • Oil for frying
  • 2 tomatoes, cut into medium-sized pieces
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • Curry spices
  • Paprika

Instructions:

  1. To get started, cut the chicken into pieces. Rinse your pot and put it on the stove. Rinse and put the chicken pieces into the pot and let it boil until it is well cooked. In the meantime, you can cook the rice.
  2. Then pour 4-5 tablespoons of cooking oil into a frying pan. Once the oil is heated, put the cooked chicken pieces in it and let them fry until brown.
  3. Put the chopped onions and tomatoes in the remaining oil in the pan to make gravy. Once the tomatoes and onion are well cooked, add paprika and curry spice and then let it cook for 5 minutes. Remove from heat once fully cooked. 

6. Iraq: Kuleicha - Sweet date cookies

Kuleicha is a traditional Iraqi sweet enjoyed by people of all religions, ethnicities and nationalities. Kuleicha, which are usually made by women and girls at their homes, has been prepared by Iraqi families for hundreds of years. It is one of the most important sweets in Iraq and it is served to guests during holidays, especially around Christmas, celebrated by Iraqi’s Christians, and New Year’s.

Date cookies are beloved among all Iraqis.

Ingredients:

For the dough:

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1 cup melted butter
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried yeast
  • 1/2 cup warm milk
  • Warm water for the batter - as needed

For the date filling:

  • 1/2 cup date paste
  • 1 teaspoon cardamom
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Eggs to brush on the cookies before baking.

Instructions:

Prepare the dough:

  1. Mix flour, vanilla, baking powder and cardamom in a deep bowl.
  2. Add the butter and mix the dough well with your hands.
  3. Dissolve the yeast, sugar and salt in the warm milk. Pour the mixture over the dough.
  4. Gradually add warm water and start kneading the dough until it holds together well. Cover the dough and let it rest for 30 minutes.

Prepare the date filling:

  1. Heat the oil in a pan and add the date paste until it softens.
  2. Add cardamom and sesame seeds and mix well.

Prepare the cookies:

  1. Roll out the dough with a rolling pin to form a rectangle.
  2. Coat the dough with the prepared date paste and roll it into a long roll. Then cut the dough into approximately 1,5 cm pieces.
  3. Place all the pieces on a baking tray lined with baking paper.
  4. In a small bowl, whisk the egg with a tablespoon of milk and brush the top of the cakes with it.
  5. Place the baking tray in an oven preheated to 200 °C and bake the cookies until golden brown, about 15 minutes.

Serve the Iraqi Kuleicha cakes with tea or coffee.

7. Recipe from Ukrainian children in the Czech Republic: Kutia

Do you know Kutia? According to the Ukrainian children who attend the Young Caritas Centre, it is the best Christmas food. When we ask them what they like to eat during the holidays, they don't think long. "Kutia, kutia, kutia," we hear from all sides. While the Czech workers at the Young Caritas Centre have no idea what they are talking about, our colleague Oksana Stehnyak smiles knowingly. The joke is that this Christmas food has been so popular for centuries, not only in Ukraine but in Eastern Europe in general, that the whole Christmas Eve is often nicknamed after it.

The children from Young Caritas club painted Kutia

There are many variations on the popular Kutia and, as social worker Oksana says, everyone likes to add something different to it. From nuts to raisins to all kinds of fresh and dried fruit.

Ingredients:

  • 50 g of ground poppy seeds
  • 300 g wheat (or buckwheat)
  • 4 cups of water or milk
  • 150 g raisins
  • 100 g shelled walnuts
  • 100 g almonds
  • 4 tablespoons finely grated orange peel
  • 1 cup honey
  • 1 cup sweet heavy cream (you can substitute soy milk)

Instructions:

  1. Rinse the wheat and soak the night before in hot water. Drain the water in which the wheat has been soaked, remove the fallen husks, and cover with 4 cups of fresh water or milk. Boil until tender, it takes 2 hours or more.
  2. Meanwhile, rinse the poppy seeds and boil them in water for about 15 minutes. Drain and grind the poppy seeds 3 times. Steam the nuts and almonds and chop them coarsely. If you are using other dried fruits such as plums or apricots, steam them too. Steam the orange peel in the same way.
  3. Heat the honey in a saucepan until it is liquid. If using sugar, heat it with a little water to dissolve it into a syrup.
  4. Mix everything together, let it cool, and store covered in the refrigerator for a few hours.
  5. Serve with a jug of sweet cream.

Do you already know which recipe you will try this Christmas? Maybe all of them? Enjoy delicious dishes from around the world and enjoy them the best way - in the company of your loved ones.

Bon appetit!