A Nigerian Foodie's Guide To Christmas...

Funke Koleosho's Food Blog

In today's post, I am sharing with you ways to get ready to entertain your family and friends, and to celebrate Christmas this year, Nigerian style!

Christmas in Nigeria
Christmas back home is so much fun and its nothing like it is in the UK. For one thing, there are many more family and friends who visit (or who you can visit), which makes your party/celebrations a lot more fun. In addition the weather is much warmer and sunnier at this time of the year.

During this season, there is so much giving and receiving!, I tell you Nigeria ought to be named the gift giving capital of the universe. Giving is expected! every where you are, there is an uncle, aunt, parent, brother, sister, friend, work colleague etc. giving out gifts, which range from cash gifts, electronic gadgets, to food items. Growing up, I remember very much receiving live turkeys, chicken, goat or ram for Christmas. Bags of rice, beans, cooking oil, all sorts of alcoholic and spirit drinks were also gifted. The art of giving is so common place in Nigeria, it has become competitive, among people, with each one trying to make a lasting impression and unwittingly giving one another or receiving almost the same gifts!

Activities during Christmas are pretty much similar to here. The day starts off with Christmas service church attendance then cooking loads of different delicious food and afterwards lavishly dining and wining with friends and family.

Nigerian Christmas Food
Saying that the common everyday dishes eaten in Nigeria are also served during festive seasons would be saying the truth. The different ethnic regions have their favourite dishes, which are most definitely also served during the Christmas season. These vary from one or all of these; Jollof rice, fried rice, pounded yam and lots of different snacks and small chops. The main difference, however, is that special ingredients and preparation go into Christmas food.

Unlike in the western world where turkey is the traditional Christmas meat, it is quite common to serve chicken, turkey, ram, goat, or beef at Christmas in Nigeria. While those in the west will roast their turkey whole, meat served at Christmas is usually chopped up seasoned well and cooked, grilled/fried or stewed. This can then be served with a variety of rice, yam or plantain dishes, and a selection of vegetable soups. A prominent selection of savoury and sweets snacks/appetisers plus a wide range of soft and alcoholic beverages are also featured.

A typical Christmas menu will feature a really wide range of options and in particular several selections of appetizers and snacks to choose from.  

My Planning Guide
Personally, about a week to Christmas, I would already know if I will be the one hosting friends and family or if I would be visiting friends and family instead. Usually, Christmas morning is spent with my immediate family members. Breakfast is served quite early, well before attending Church. Lunch is a well planned event, setting out a specific time to serve and seat at the table. Dinner is more informal and is served up whenever required or when a new guest arrives.

From experience, I would say that in order to ensure things run smoothly, its important to plan well in advance and source all provisions and supplies, so that all your guests will be well looked after. Remember, its an opportunity to thrill, wine and dine your family and make them merry! A time to, frankly, "pull all your culinary stops".

A Week to Christmas:
Decide what the menu would be and have a good idea of who is coming. (Check out my Christmas Food Ideas). Make a list of what you need to prepare your dishes and commence some of your shopping, especially non perishable and non-food supplies.
Determine which of your dishes that can be made on the day and which ones you need to make in advance.Then draw up a schedule of what to prepare and when.

Two Days to Christmas
Finish off your shopping. Go through your list and ensure every item you need has been purchased. Begin some of your preparations. Example: blanch your spinach and keeping in the freezer. Chop up your turkey/lamb/goat/chicken and marinate with spices and herbs. Place in a food bag and allow to marinate in the fridge. The longer the better the flavours develop.
Now is also  time to commence preparation of some of your dessert dishes, especially ones that need freezing.

Christmas Eve
Allocate time for the preparation and cooking of the different dishes to be served. Also work out how best to manage your time and facilitates. For instance set an order for prepping and cooking your dishes. Surely you cannot face this ordeal alone, enlist your friends and family to assist so allocate their roles and duties. It will also be really useful to set the table a day before Christmas, ensuring all crockery cleaned, well layed out and co-ordinated.

Christmas Day
Make it an early start. Any time from 6-7am is ideal, this will depend of course on how you have made your other plans from the preceding days. Start off with breakfast, serve something fresh and quick to make. Boiled yams with some eggs is usually popular with all. Make the eggs a little different from how you would normally make them. Add some fun and delicious bits in.

As much as possible, prepare your main dishes fresh on the day to ensure maximum enjoyment. This would usually involve cooking the meat (either turkey, chicken or ram etc).cutting meat into small chunks, will quicken cooking and save time. Alternatively you can use a pressure cooker. If you have different meal options, cooking each dish simultaneously will be helpful to ensure all the different dishes can all be served at the same time. Ensure there are lots of appetizers available to serve to your guests as they wait for you to finish and serve the main Christmas lunch. Appetizers can be prepared in advance, may be a day or two before Christmas day.

Make it a memorable Christmas!
This year try something different, exciting and fun...Remember this Christmas as one in which you tried exotic Nigerian cuisine. And for all those already familiar with Nigerian cuisine, remember this Christmas as the time you explored, recreated and represented Nigerian cuisine!!!

Don't panic about your dishes going wrong, burning or not well cooked. Its Christmas and these are your friends and family....they would eat whatever your cook for them in appreciation for your labour of love for them! so don't stress yourself.

Its important also to keep calm and glam up and look your best. Its a party after all and you are a major part of it. Have fun and enjoy the company!

Merry Christmas!!!


Funke Koleosho



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