Christmas is a time of tradition, and this is especially true for the dinner menu. Each family has their own set of traditions, often drawn from their heritage. Heritage-rich countries like England have an especially rich Christmas setting, complete with dishes that would be a travesty were they to be left out.
While traditionally Americans favour the ham and turkey dishes, the English menu is a little more varied, with several main dishes to choose from. The table is often set with two main courses, plus the usual trimmings.
Turkey is often a main dish, with chipolata sausages that are roasted around it and the stuffing cooked inside. A beef rib roast is also served, smothered in sauce. For those favoring the traditional Dickens’ novel meal, goose is a staple to the menu.
A list of appetizers and side dishes also make their appearance. The famous Yorkshire pudding is a must, along with roasted brussels sprouts, which are cooked with chestnuts and lardon. Other roasted dishes include potatoes and parsnips. Chipolata sausages are wrapped in strips of bacon and baked to form pigs in a blanket. As with American dishes, mashed potatoes are often added to the table. Mince pies are another well-known English favourite. A wide range of vegetable dishes fill the table, such as carrots that are either glazed or soaked in sherry, and overcooked peas. Many times the vegetables, especially the carrots and peas, are mashed.
Various sauces and gravies are served, as well, such as bread sauce that is cooked with onions and cloves for flavor to serve with the turkey. Another turkey gravy sauce that is traditionally added to the menu is bisto gravy. Hard sauce is so named for the alcohol it is made with; similarly, brandy butter is also a traditional menu addition, though it is more of a dessert sauce.
Dessert, or “pudding,” consists of a variety of cakes and puddings, served with brandy butter and cream. Apple crumble, familiarly known as apple crisp in the U.S., is served with ice cream or sweet cream; it can also be made as a rhubarb crumble. Christmas pudding is a definite must, while a Yule log is more optional, though still very traditional. Different kinds of simple but creamy custards make a very firm traditional presence. A trifle is a sponge cake layered with jam, fruit, or custard. Sometimes it can be soaked in an alcoholic beverage such as sherry. When time is lacking, a hasty pudding makes a very delicious, but still traditional, after-dinner treat.
In the traditional Christmas dinner menu, there are certain drinks that can be found at every English table. Fragrant mulled cider is served hot, and it can be either alcoholic or non-alcoholic, or a pitcher of each. Other alcoholic drinks are also traditionally available, such as the Christmas cocktail or the sweet and fruity Wonderland drink. Eggnog is also a much-loved favourite.