McCormick Culinary Team International Holiday Favourites
December 06th 2018
Faces of Food Science
McCormick’s Culinary Team International Holiday Favourites
What’s on our Christmas list this year? Oh not much… just the world!
When it comes to holiday eating, the word “tradition” means different things to different people. Cultures all over the globe have their own particular traditional dishes and treats. One of the joys of living in Canada is that so many of these wonderful foods find their way here. Perhaps you’ve been lucky enough to try Costa Rican Tamales, or you’ve cooked a goose instead of a turkey, as is common throughout much of Europe.
A few members of our Flavour Development and Culinary teams were kind enough to share some of the international traditions carried on in their families. Not surprisingly, they all sound incredibly delicious!
Christine Rush, Product Development Director for Canada Flavour Solutions, tells us that tourtiere is the favourite international dish with her family. Tourtiere has a long history in Canada, and Quebec in particular, stretching back to the area’s earliest settlers. But, that’s not where the history of this meat pie begins.
“Tourtiere is one of the earliest dishes known to humanity,” says Christine. “Clues to the existence of gastronomy in antiquity were found in the form of three recipes dating back to 1600 BC,” including for a basic meat pie that wouldn’t look out of place on a modern dining table. Christine continues the history lesson, telling us that Crusading knights often brought exotic spices home to western and northern Europe like cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg, spices we now closely associate with the holiday season. They were often used to flavour pies made with mincemeat and fruit. A classic tourtiere today uses all these ingredients, minus the fruit. The Rush family enjoys theirs alongside turkey, stuffing, and mashed potatoes. Sounds like a flavourful feast!
Food Scientist Margarita Luy takes inspiration from the sea and South American cuisine. Ceviche brings colour and bold flavour to her table. And you shellfish lovers will be looking for an invitation: “Mussels, cold on the half shell with red onions, tomato, corn, and chili pepper, are always present at our Christmas dinners!” Seafood is a great alternative to poultry and ham, especially for pescatarians, or anyone looking for a lighter choice that’s still popping with flavour.
For dessert, we’re planning on heading to Executive Chef Juriaan Snellen’s place for cookies. Chef Juriaan has maintained the Dutch tradition of celebrating Sinterklaas on Dec. 5th. It’s a family celebration with a strong focus on the kids.
As Chef Juriaan explains, “This tradition is always accompanied by a lot of treats. One of the popular treats that get handed out is speculaas. It’s a spiced brown sugar biscuit, traditionally seasoned with pepper, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg and a little touch of cardamom.”
“As a kid growing up,” he continues, “we used to make those cookies ourselves. It would fill the whole house with the aroma. We used to make a ton of them and hand them out to neighbours, or take them to school to give as treats to classmates and teachers. It’s still a tradition in our household here to make those cookies. Even our Canadian friends have come to expect them!” If you find any, they are best enjoyed with hot chocolate or a good glass of red wine.
Most intriguingly, Chef Juriaan tells us how they use their ‘extra’ cookies. “We put leftover cookies on sandwiches, preferably with white bread, a little butter and two of those biscuits. It’s pretty common; so much so that a manufacturer has developed a speculaas butter. It’s got little pieces to provide a little bit of a crunch.” We love this idea of taking a popular folk tradition and adapting it for mass consumption.
Canadians are expecting to spend more than 19% of their Christmas budget on food, alcohol, and sweets, more than any other category of expenditures. That’s a lot of money up for grabs for the industry. Offering a product that scores high on the curiosity factor and then delivers on sensational flavour, could be the way to breakthrough into a lucrative market. Are you ready to go international for the holidays?