Kia Ora (Key-Or-Rah)!
Our around the world tour of Christmas Traditions has officially begun and our first stop is New Zealand. Located in the Southern Hemisphere, this island country can be found in the Pacific Ocean, just over 4000km off the coast of Australia.
New Zealand gets almost 200,000 visitors from the UK each year, many of which visit the country during the Christmas period. But what can you really expect if you decide to visit this gorgeous country during the festive season?
Forget Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney - if you're dreaming of a White Christmas, you may want to avoid the Southern hemisphere for the holiday season. Christmas falls right at the start of the summer months in New Zealand, so you can expect temperatures to reach 21 degrees Celcius and not a single snowflake in sight. In fact, Christmas isn't associated with snow, holly or robins at all here! Instead, think maximum daylight hours, beaches and barbies. And on that note...
You might think that roast dinners aren't exactly a Kiwi staple when it comes to Christmas and, you're not entirely wrong, however, you're not entirely right either. The indigenous people of New Zealand, known as the Maori, have their own take on a traditional roast dinner. Known as a Hangi, this 'roast dinner' is meat and vegetables cooked in an underground pit oven, known as an umu, using heated rocks. Traditionally cooked for extended groups of family and friends, also known as whanau, Hangi is a cultural explosion enjoyed by some 700,000 Maori people each Christmas in New Zealand alone.
Of course, if you weren't born into an indigenous Polynesian community, your Christmas meal is likely to consist of the more contemporary Kiwi 'barbie'. Barbecuing is extremely popular at Christmas, with fresh seafood and exotic meats being the staple of a New Zealanders Christmas meal. Accompanied with salads and vegetables, local, organic produce often experiences a surge in demand over the festive period.
British influences are more likely to be felt during dessert where it isn't too rare to see a plum pudding being served up alongside a Pavlova (it is reported that a chef in Wellington, New Zealand, invented the Pavlova when Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova visited his restaurant in 1926). Often covered in fresh fruit and cream, expect to find a pavlova on every Christmas menu around the country.
8 Egg Whites
300g castor sugar
100ml double cream
400g fresh fruit - can be mixed (we like to use strawberries and raspberries)
1 tablespoon rosewater or vanilla essence (optional)
1 tablespoon cornflour
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1. In a bowl, whip the egg whites until stiff peaks are formed when the whisk is removed. Whisk in 250g of the castor sugar one spoon at a time until the meringue appears glossy and stiff.
2. Whisk in the cornflour, white wine vinegar and rosewater or vanilla essence. You can experiment with different types of essence if you wish or leave it out altogether.
3. Line a baking tray with some greaseproof paper and spoon the meringue onto the paper. If you wish, you can draw the shape of your pavlova beforehand to make it easier to shape on the paper. Make a slight dip in the centre of the meringue - this is for your cream and fruit later on.
4. Bake the meringue in the centre of the oven for half an hour, until the outer shell has hardened. Once hardened but not coloured, turn off your oven and leave the meringue in as the oven cools - this will ensure your meringue colours whilst staying gooey in the middle.
5. Take 200g of your fresh fruit and add to a saucepan with the remaining 50g of your castor sugar and 2 tablespoons of water. Cook through until the fruit has softened and reduced to a coulis. Strain this mixture using a sieve and allow it to cool completely.
6. In a bowl, whisk your double cream until it has thickened. Once your meringue has cooled completely, add the cream to the dip in the centre of your meringue. Arrange the remainder of the fresh fruit on top of the meringue and drizzle over you cooled coulis.
7. Your pavlova is now ready to enjoy! We promise this is a winner with all the family!
The Christmas Tree
Bare with us on this one... we know what you're thinking - a tree is a tree. Well, yes and no. There is actually something quite magical about a Christmas tree in New Zealand. The Pohutukawa or 'New Zealand Christmas Tree' as it will be referred to for the remainder of this post, is a tree native to New Zealand which blooms crimson red throughout December and can be found lining beaches up and down the country. This tree is synonymous with Christmas and New Zealand,
Of course, you can find traditional Christmas trees too, the tallest of which stands atop of Auckland's Sky Tower and is 328m high. The tree is beautifully lit up with changing colours and is a huge attraction along with the Auckland Santa parade which has been running each year since 1934. This is the largest Christmas parade in the country and attracts thousands of visitors annually, although you can find such parades dotted up and down the country. If you're lucky, you might even spot Santa on his first stop around the world, although we have a feeling he may have left his sleigh with Mrs Claus. Along with the amazing light shows put on each year, we promise you won't be short of things to do!
Our tour of New Zealand is now concluded and we have purchased our connecting ticket to Australia. Until the next time... Meri Kirihimete!
The Crackers Team