In the lead up to Christmas I am met with one reccuring question, “What is a typical feed at a Lebo Christmas?” I have been lucky enough to experience five years of larger than life Lebanese style Christmas’s in Oz since marrying into my extended family. In the 22 years before that my Christmas’s were very much of the British variety featuring a turkey, carol singing, board games, Love Actually and of course a stack of cherished and loving memories.
I bloody love Christmas! And I count my lucky stars that I now have double the family and double the opportunity to celebrate this awesome holiday with double the amount of love. So here goes, come on in, make yourself at home and get ready to experience the full glory of a Lebanese Christmas.
“Miracle on MERRIDOWN Drive.”
It starts at about 6am with the sound of clashing pots and pans, the faint singing of classic Christmas songs and the bubbling of the kettle ready to wake everyone up with a hot cup of coffee.
Now this year was a little different from the norm. In 2015 Georges and I were in the UK for Christmas so the family decided to have a mass sleepover at Mona and Sid’s house so they could all wake up together on Christmas Day. Turns out it was bloody good fun so this tradition has stuck and last year we did exactly that. Of course no good Christmas begins without matching nighties, kindly supplied by Marianne. Quite different from the Xmas onesie you would expect in chilly England. Cotton, breathable and loose, perfect Australian sleeping attire. Perfect Lebanese eating attire too!
Right let’s get stuck into it. Breakfast! A couple of staples on the Ghorayeb breakfast menu are scrambled eggs cooked in ghee with either mint, green beans or meat. On this occasion we had……….all three, obviously.
One of my all time favourite breakfast dishes is called tissikieh, pronounced tiss-eh-yeah. So much so I even came up with a cheer in honour of it. “When I say Tiss-eh, you say Yeah!” “Tiss-eh” “Yeah!” “Tiss-eh” “Yeah!” You get the idea. When you start writing songs for food you know food blogging is where you’re meant to be.
It starts with a layer of crispy Lebanese bread broken up into pieces and laid out on the bottom of the dish. Then a layer of chickpeas which have been boiled until soft. Followed by yoghurt mixed with garlic and salt and finally drizzled with pine nuts cooked until golden in lots of ghee. It really is the breakfast choice of kings. Or overly enthusiastic food bloggers.
Before I could even swallow my last mouthful it was time to start cracking on with the main event. Yes, breakfast was merely the warm up. Something to line the stomach before the real feast begins.
The centrepiece for a Lebanese Christmas lunch is called Ablama we riz we jej, which is otherwise known as chicken and rice. But not any old chicken and rice, the beauty of this dish is that each part helps to cook the next. For example, the onions which get fried with the chicken are conserved and used to make the sauce. The water used to boil the chicken becomes the stock in which the rice is cooked etc etc. Nothing is wasted and each part of the dish compliments the next until you end up with a mountain of greatness. The rice is topped with the mince, is topped with the chicken, is topped with the pine nuts, is topped with the almonds, is topped with the onion sauce. Sadly Christmas only comes once a year and so does the Ablama.
Of course one centrepiece is never enough so a sticky, pineapple glazed ham, which was cooked in the BBQ (when in Australia) and roast pork with crackling accompanied the main main. Clearly we have no vegetarians living under the Ghorayeb household.
“FOOD… glorious, GLORIOUS, glorious FOOD.”
The beauty of Christmas with the Ghorayebs is that every part of the day is made into an occasion, something exciting, something everyone can get their hands stuck into. Washing up becomes fun!! Setting the table becomes a thrill!! And tiding up becomes a life changing experience!!!!……Too far? OK, but you get the idea that there is never a dull moment.
Now it’s finally time to get our glad rags on. This year I opted for a traditional pine green silk top and a pair of floral flares both from Zara, a splash of red lip and I had Christmas written all over me.
Strangely enough breakfast was well and truly digested and my stomach was ready for round number two. Laying all the food out on the table is always my favourite part. Not only because it means we’re about to eat it but because seeing all the hard work and love come together so beautifully is a very satisfying feeling.
Now you can’t have a centrepiece without a trimming, and trimmings we had plenty of. Duck fat roasted potatoes, asparagus, carrots, roasted pumpkin, pomegranate salad, cabbage salad and broccoli.
Oh and don’t forget the starter! Every year it is tradition to have a chicken soup. A light, fragrant broth flavoured with parsley and chicken from the Ablama dish.
Lunch is long and relaxed, no one is in a rush to go anywhere or do anything. This is our time to sit, eat, talk, laugh and enjoy the fruits of our labour.
“It’s a RIGHT Lebo-ccasion.”
Now if you thought that was it you are well and truly mistaken. This is the part of the day where my nicely thought out Christmas outfit becomes a pile on the floor and my loose fitting, baggy clothes make a welcome appearance. It’s time for dessert. You’ve probably guessed by now that we don’t do things by half so it should come as no surprise that we had not one, not two, not three, but four desserts on offer.
Every year I make a dessert, something different, never tried before. One year it was a key lime pie, next I had a go at an ice cream filled Panettone and this year it was a Mangomisu. A mango flavoured tiramisu type creation.
Unfortunately it wasn’t a hit with everyone but luckily we had back up in the form of Mariannes Gingerbread Cookies…
Yasmines Eton Mess…
And Viviannes Christmas Log. Literally a long roll of chocolate filled with nuts and Turkish Delight…
Once we were pumped full of sugar and calories there was only one thing left to do……dance! And dance we did. Clearing the table and chairs we busted out our best moves and danced until we collapsed into a food/dance coma.
For those that were still hungry later (yes, people actually got hungry again!) there were plenty of leftovers. The finally a quick game of Speak Out (because who didn’t play that last Christmas) before curling up in a food filled ball to do it all again tomorrow. You didn’t forget about Boxing Day did you?
The Lebanese Christmas Boxing Day was hosted at Gina and Michaels waterside house. Sitting out under the canopy of the tree we indulged in yet more food. I rustled up a croissant bread and butter pudding for the occasion which went down like a dream. Not sure bouncing on the trampoline was the smartest idea post breakfast but probably very necessary. Here are a few snaps from our Boxing Day shenanigans….
What I’m Wearing
Top: H&M (old) // Pants: Zara (old) // Overalls: Vintage