Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home |Volume 5, Issue 50, Tuesday, December 21, 2010




Away from home

"It's not that easy to get into a Christmas mood in Dhaka", says Verena Siegenthaler with a smile. The Swiss lady lives in Gulshan, her husband is the Counsellor at the Embassy of Switzerland. In their home country, the couple's relatives and friends are experiencing a cold winter and their hometown Berne is covered in snow.

Although Dhaka with its sunshine and warm weather provides a completely different atmosphere, Mrs. Siegenthaler will even so decorate her house. There is a small fir tree standing on her terrace. "I am planning to decorate it with fairy lights. You can buy those in small shops in Gulshan."

On Christmas Eve, she and her husband will celebrate with a nice meal. Probably, Mrs. Siegenthaler will cook a turkey and, as side dishes, prepare mashed potatoes, broccoli and cauliflower. Furthermore, the couple will enjoy some fresh leaf salad from their own garden. On 25th December, they will share a festive meal with friends.

As it is the tradition in Switzerland, Mrs. Siegenthaler has already baked a delicious selection of Christmas biscuits. She brought hazelnuts and Swiss chocolate with her from her home country to ensure an authentic flavour.

On December 6, the Swiss community gathered at the ambassador's residence, where the ambassador's wife organised a St. Nicholas Day celebration. Traditionally, on this occasion the children recite short poems and are rewarded with sweets, nuts and tangerines.

In Dhaka, Christmas traditions mix, as some of the expat families have a multicultural background. "At Christmas, we try to bring the different cultures together", says Dominica Jachnow. She is Argentinian, works as a self-employed language and music teacher and also offers theatre workshops. Her husband Alex, originally from Germany, is an adviser with the German Society for Technical Cooperation.

From the German butcher in Gulshan, Dominica and Alex will buy special sausages. On Christmas Eve, they will accompany them with potatoes, red cabbage and a homemade sauce. "In Germany, we would normally go for a walk after the meal and open presents when we come back," says Dominica. As there is no snowy wood in Dhaka to go for a Christmassy stroll, the Jachnows celebrate the Argentine way and the gift giving takes place the next morning.

For their sons, Dominica and Alex create a special ambiance at their home. The boys aged ten and seven have an Advent calendar with 24 numbered small bags to be opened, one each day, until the 24th of December. Inside, there are sweets and stickers waiting for them. On Christmas Eve, their parents will read a story to the boys and sing Christmas carols with them. The next day, Dominica will stage a puppet show, not only for her family, but also for an audience.

At Jachnow's house, the Christmas season lasts until 6th January. The night before Epiphany, the children arrange water and wine for the three kings, following the Argentine tradition. The next morning, the boys will find some toys in exchange.

As the family's relatives live in Europe and South America, new communication technology comes in handy, especially on Christmas. "We use Skype on the Internet", says Dominica. Thanks to this technology, grandparents in Argentina and Germany can talk to their grandsons in a videoconference. And maybe, the boys will even catch a glimpse of German snow.

By Andrew Jones


Delicious Christmas recipes

BY Tommy miah

Christmas is one of the biggest celebrations for the people belonging to the Christian faith but it would be wrong to assume that it is only limited to the people of a particular religion. With the world becoming a global village, Christmas is now celebrated in many countries around the world. Christmas is celebrated with high spirits. Although the mode of celebration and the traditions vary, the spirit remains the same everywhere.
Make sure your Christmas dinner is extra special this year with my selection of tempting festive recipes to impress your family and guests.
The main meal is the star of the show, so whether you're serving a succulent Christmas turkey, a roasted beef, lamb or fish to suit everyone, these recipes are sure to hit big.


Spicy roast turkey
1 medium turkey, 6-7kg
500g yoghurt
200ml mustard oil
50g ginger paste
40g garlic paste
50g red chilli powder
50g turmeric powder
60g cumin powder
40g coriander powder
50g chopped green chilli
100g chopped coriander leaves
40g fenugreek leaves

Score the turkey with a knife. Mix the ingredients for the marinade together and baste turkey. Chill for 24 hours. First cook at 220°C/425°F/gas 7 for 40 minutes. Then turn oven down to 170°C/325°F/gas 3 and cook for 3 ½ hours. Finally remove foil and brown at 200°C/400°F/gas 6 for 35 min.

Roast beef with cranberry sauce
1kg beef, topside
2 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp fresh mustard
200g cranberry sauce
1 beef stock cube, made up with 300ml water
100g redcurrant jelly
1 tbsp fresh thyme, finely chopped
Freshly ground black pepper
2 large parsnips, peeled and sliced
3 tbsp horseradish sauce
3 tbsp water
1 tbsp cornflower

Preheat the oven to 180°C, fan 160°C, and gas 4. Cut slits in the surface of the beef and insert the garlic slices. Place the joint in a deep-sided roasting tin. Combine the ginger and mustard and rub over the beef. Spoon over half the cranberry sauce. Pour in the beef stock.

Cover the meat with foil and cook in the preheated oven for approximately 2 hours depending on the degree of rareness that is required. Baste the joint occasionally during cooking time.

Meanwhile, make the cranberry sauce. Combine the remaining cranberry sauce with the redcurrant jelly and thyme, stir over a low heat until melted.

Season to taste. Pour into a dish and keep warm.

Meanwhile, make the parsnip puree. Boil the parsnips until tender, then drain and mash. Add the horseradish sauce, seasoning and 2 tablespoons of water to thin down the consistency until it is easily spoonable.

Remove the meat and keep it wrapped in foil. Blend the cornflower with the remaining water and add to the roasting tin, bring gently to the boil, stirring as it thickens. Serve with seasonal vegetables.

Whole poached salmon or sea bass and lemon
1 whole salmon 2.5-2.75kg
1 onion, chopped
2 bay leaves
4 tbsp white vinegar
1 lemon, quartered
Cracked black pepper

Place the salmon in a fish kettle. If you haven't got one a large roasting tin will do fine.
Add enough cold water to cover the fish (it must be covered). Add the onion, bay leaves, vinegar and lemon and a good pinch of salt and a little black pepper.
Cover with a lid or tin foil, and bring to the boil on the stove. It is easier and quicker to put two rings on underneath the fish. Once it is boiling, turn off the heat and allow the fish to stand in water until cool.
Carefully remove the salmon and place onto a board. Carefully scrape off the skin and place on a large flat serving dish. Serve with a bowl of lemon wedges and a bowl of hollandaise.

Raspberry and white chocolate cheesecake
100g chocolate biscuit crumbs
3 tbsp caster sugar
50g butter, melted
280g frozen raspberries
2 tbsp caster sugar
2 tsp cornflower
125ml water
360g white chocolate, chopped
120ml single cream
3 (200g) tubs cream cheese, softened
100g caster sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract

In a medium bowl, mix together biscuit crumbs, 3 tablespoons sugar and melted butter. Press mixture into the bottom of a 23cm (9 inch) spring form tin.
In a saucepan, combine raspberries, 2 tablespoons sugar, cornflower and water. Bring to the boil, and continue boiling for 5 minutes, or until sauce is thick. Strain sauce through a mesh strainer to remove seeds.
Preheat oven to 170 C / Gas mark 3. In a metal bowl over a pan of simmering water, melt white chocolate with the cream, stirring occasionally until smooth.
In a large bowl, mix together cream cheese and 100g sugar until smooth. Beat in eggs one at a time. Blend in vanilla and melted white chocolate.
Pour half of batter over biscuit base. Spoon 3 tablespoons raspberry sauce over the batter. Pour remaining cheesecake batter into tin, and again spoon 3 tablespoons raspberry sauce over the top. Swirl batter with the tip of a knife to create a marbled effect.
Bake for 55 to 60 minutes or until filling is set. Cool, cover with clingfilm and refrigerate for 8 hours before removing from tin. Serve with remaining raspberry sauce.


Kisses under the mistletoe

“Silent night, Holy night”, “ On the first day of Christmas my new love gave to me'” and other Christmas Carols will float in the air in churches and other gathering places like five star hotels in town, even before the 25th comes. In homes and schools the same sweet music will fill the ears.

This is a message of peace and contentment on earth. The occasion comes down from the Roman times, when this was for the yuletide celebrations. Since Christ belonged to one of the revealed religions and it shouldn't be that big an error for us to get together and have a pause of joie de vivre.

Lately, a professor, trained in Sorbonne, placed a silver running band in a lift of some apartment houses, saying “Merry Christmas “ and “Happy New Year”. This, in the 21st century, in many malls and card shops even in Dhaka, is a commonplace phenomenon.

In any case, we are supposed to be a secular nation. Surely there should be no outcry against celebrating the day, as it has been celebrated in local newspapers and magazines, in the metropolis for ages now.

The city of Dhaka alone has carols being sung at the Baridhara schools for expatriate children, centres run by missionaries and large hotels where there will be plenty of rejoicing and merry making.

Preparations for the day are done in every Christian home. Cakes, biscuits and delicious sweet and savoury goodies are made. Individuals with other religious beliefs visit these homes to share in the spirit of bonhomie.

“Pithas”, made from “gur”, cocoanut, “taal”, banana, rice and dates are similarly included in the village “Boro Din” menus. Fish fingers, kebabs, ball with jaggery -- “moas' , “laddus” and “pithas” of all shapes and sizes are there to share with family and friends.

Fish from the rivers, chicken and beef items are not to be ignored either. These may not be as inviting or memorable as Dickens' “Christmas Carol” where Bob Crachitt's family feasts with a tantalising roast, but it is no less memorable .

One knows of a group of friends, who gather together on this occasion, and celebrate with coffee, “Ovaltine” and two croissants, shared by four people. And does this foursome look forward to it every year!

These are people with tight schedules and tight budgets. Yet the ambiance of “Sheraton” feeds their nostalgia of years in Melbourne and Paris. They treasure their Bangladeshi roots, but need a vital quick break to remind them that God is in heaven and all is well with the world. The two Eids are big bashes to share with the family. This is just a hurried and contrived “girls' day out”.

It's around December 25th that certain individuals get their overseas mails - bringing them a yearly greeting - with round-ups of family and friendly matters. Despite being senior citizens, these individuals are workingwomen. So are also their friends and families abroad. And so the single solitary packet of pictures and cards is highly coveted. This can be matched for its value with only the yearly birthday cards.

When overseas, Christmas meant carrying a dish of meat or pudding and driving miles to see my husband's brother at the other edge of the town. This included, of course, exchange of sought after gifts and pleasantries. The extended family was included in his happy get together. A lot of talk, kisses and cuddles were included in this once-a-year merrymaking and feasting. This unique occasion could only be rivalled by Easter lunches.

By Fayza Haq



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