With a week to go before Jamaicans near and far partake in one of the biggest culinary feasts of the year, we explore what dishes are a must, or Christmas would not be the same for some.
We spoke to some Jamaicans at home and abroad, and a few of our island neighbours chimed in, too, about the foods that they have to indulge in during the festive season. We are excited to get some secret Christmas Caribbean recipes enjoyed annually in Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago:
Justine Rose (university graduate, Jamaican living in the UK for over 10 years)
Ham! Always ham.
Kai Barratt (lecturer, Trinidad and Tobago married to a Jamaican and residing in Jamaica)
My guilty pleasure is Christmas cake! Also, my Trinidadian Christmas treats: Ponche de crème (an eggnog beverage with rum instead of the traditional brandy), pastelle (a soft cornmeal shell stuffed with minced meat and capers steamed in banana leaf like Jamaicans do blue draws). Making pastelle is a collaborative effort, and I have fond memories of helping my mother and grandmother put together dozens of them at Christmas time.
Kathryn Mullings (graphic designer and Jamaican residing in Florida for more than 10 years)
Christmas ham made by my mommy and icebox cake are the two things I miss the most around Christmas time!
Kerin Scott (marketing executive and Barbadian living in Jamaica for seven years)
Christmas would not be the same without sweet potato pie, pot roast pork, Christmas cake, macaroni pie (a Bajan favourite), Ham fat (I learned Jamaicans like to cut it off! I can't believe it!) and lamb chops/stew.
Nicholas Mahabeer (tech expert)
Christmas cannot pass unless I have ham, ackee and ham, ham bone soup with gungo peas, curried goat and potato salad.
Kadija Richardson (sports psychologist)
Have to have ham!
Gabrielle Miller (communications professional)
I like baked macaroni and cheese, ham with pineapple glaze, crackling (crisp ham skin), Christmas cake with rum sauce and sorrel.
Lancelot Gordon (cook)
Gungo rice and peas is a must or else it's not Christmas. Ham and sorrel are a must, too, and jerk chicken is a good option for non-pork eaters.
Lydon 'Kingy' Lettman (artist manager)
For me, escoveitch fish is a must, and sorrel has to be on the table or else it is not Christmas.
Ponche de Creme (recipe courtesy of Kai Barratt)
15oz evaporated milk
14oz condensed milk
1tsp Angostura bitters
1 to 2 cups of rum
peel of one lime
1. Beat 6 eggs with lime/lemon peel until fluffy.
2. Add 15oz of evaporated milk.
3. Sweeten with 14oz of condensed milk.
4. Add 1tsp of angostura bitters and grated nutmeg.
5. Add 1-2 cups of your favorite rum.
6. Remove lime/lemon peel and serve with ice.
Ackee and Ham (recipe courtesy of Nicholas Mahabeer)
2 cups ackee (pre-cooked or canned)
1 cup shredded Caribbean Passion ham
2 cloves garlic
1 green pepper (diced)
1 Scotch bonnet pepper (finely diced)
2 stalks scallion
2tsp seasame seed oil (optional)
1tbsp vegetable oil
1tsp all-purpose seasoning
1. Heat the skillet and add vegetable oil.
2. Add the ham and allow it to cook until fat is rendered.
3. Add garlic to enrich the oil and ham fat.
4. Add escallion, Scotch bonnet pepper and dry seasoning
5. Add ackee and gently mix into seasoning.
6. After ackee is mixed in, add chopped green pepper. Don't allow pepper to cook too long as it adds a nice crunch.
7. Remove the skillet from heat and add seasme oil.
Bajan Sweet Potato Pie (recipe courtesy of Kerin Scott)
3lb sweet potatoes, boiled and mashed
1 cup crushed pineapple, drained
1/2 salted butter, room temperature
1/2tsp ground cinnamon
1/4tsp grated nutmeg
Salt and pepper to taste
5-6 slices pineapple rings (optional)
5-6 stemmed maraschino cherries (optional)
1 tbsp melted butter (unsalted)
Prep time: 25 minutes
Cook time: 40 minutes
Total time: 65 minutes
Yield: Serves 6
1. Preheat oven to 350F.
2. Combine mashed sweet potatoes, crushed pineapple, room-temperature butter, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste. Mix thoroughly.
3. Transfer mixture to a greased 8 x 8-inch casserole dish. Arrange pineapple slices on top of mixture and place a cherry in the centre of each pineapple ring.
4. Brush the entire top of the pie with the melted butter and bake for 40 minutes or until golden brown.
5. Let pie cool until warm or room temperature before serving.
Macaroni Pie (recipe courtesy of Kerin Scott)
1lb tube-shaped pasta
1/2 cup ketchup
2tbs yellow mustard
1/4tsp dried thyme
1/4tsp freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
1/2 tsp hot sauce, or to taste
13/4 cups Whole milk
1 small onion
18oz grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese (4.5 cups), divided
2tbsp Bajan seasoning
For Bajan seasoning
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. While the water heats, break pasta into thirds and quarters over a 9-by-13-inch pan - it's ok if the pieces are uneven. When water boils, stir in a tablespoon of salt and add the broken pasta. Cook until just al dente, about six to seven minutes, then drain.
2. Wipe away any pasta crumbs from the pan and spray with vegetable cooking spray.
3. In a large bowl, combine ketchup, mustard, eggs, thyme, pepper, and Bajan seasoning and whisk until well combined. Whisk in milk. Grate onion and add to the mixture, along with four cups (16oz) of the cheese.
4. Add drained pasta to the bowl and stir to mix well. Pour into prepared pan, smoothing the surface and mixing to make sure cheese and liquid are well distributed.
5. Sprinkle 1/2 cup (2oz) of the remaining cheese over the surface of the pasta, then top with remaining 1/2 cup (2oz) cheese.
6. Bake until set and surface is a light gold, about 30 to 35 minutes. Remove from oven and let rest 20 minutes; then cut into squares and serve. (Right out of the oven, macaroni pie will still be loose, but it will set after resting.) Add a side salad, if desired.