Sunday 17th December, 2006


Tips for perfect Christmas favourites

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By Abby De Four

The Christmas season is a time for family, giving and merriment. Several traditions make this festive holiday memorable—decorating the home, sewing curtains and polishing every piece of furniture until it gleams are some of them. For some folks, the last-minute rush of painting and shopping on Christmas Eve adds to the enjoyment.

High on the list of things that contribute to the celebratory atmosphere is the preparation of traditional Christmas culinary delights. Fruits that have been soaking in cherry brandy for ages and the pastelle press that has been inactive for 11 months are called up for duty. Without a doubt, the prime ingredient in a true T&T Christmas is the sumptuous food we enjoy, often special to this time of year.

Jamellia Jeremiah, a student of the Hospitality and Tourism Institute (TTHTI) gave WomanWise some tips for the preparation of three popular Christmas items. The 22-year-old has a diploma in culinary arts and is currently pursuing an associate degree in culinary management.

Despite her youth, Jeremiah has mastered the tricks of the trade through observing her mother and grandmother in the kitchen as a child in her hometown of La Brea. Now she is widely sought-after for her skill in the preparation of traditional fruitcake, pastelle and ponche de creme.

Although she has been able to formalise her knowledge of food preparation, she said it was the time spent in the kitchen with her family that laid the foundation for her career.

Here are her tips for optimum Christmas specialities.


No need to despair if you have not been able to soak your fruits this Christmas. Chop your prunes, raisins, almonds, candied cherries and red cherries into small pieces. Mince these chopped items in a blender with cherry brandy or rum.

Place the minced ingredients in a pot to simmer for 90 minutes. The fruits are now ready for use in your cake mixture and will have the same effect as fruits that have been soaked for months.


Use fresh meat in pastelles, especially if using minced meat.

Use warm water to mix cornmeal to ensure a smooth consistency.

Season cornmeal with salt and butter. Wrap pastelles with fig leaves, not foil. The leaves add to the flavour of the pastelle and are easier to handle than foil.

Ponche de creme

Ensure all utensils are thoroughly sterilised, as this drink can be easily contaminated. Examine eggs for freshness individually before use.

Flavour with spice, cinnamon, nutmeg and aromatic bitters.

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