Festive culinary traditions from both sides of the Channel

By Valentine Benoist

As the holiday season is almost upon us, everyone starts planning and plotting the festive menus of the year, filling the air with excitement and wonderful aromas of the delicious family and friends gatherings ahead.  

Festive culinary traditions from both sides of the Channel

But what’s the main draw where? While both France and the UK share the love of a traditional festive roast and a glorious dessert, their approach and all the trimmings may vary from one corner to the other. Let us take you on a culinary journey, shedding the light on some of the most delectable regional particularities around the two countries!  


No seafood in that Christmas special: “coquille de Noël” 

In Northern France, when Saint-Nicolas finally comes on December 6th, the festive season is officially launched. Which means breakfast can only mean one thing: the “coquille de Noël”, which would translate quite literally to Christmas “scallop” or “shell”.  Eaten throughout December, this recipe is said to find its roots in the XVIth century in Flanders. 

But fear not, no type of seafood gets paired with a comforting morning “chocolat chaud”! We’re talking golden brioche richness here - generous amounts of butter, eggs, milk, sugar beads, sultanas or chocolate chips to top it off. Its shape takes inspiration from a swaddled baby, which is why it may also be found under different names, such as “Jesus bread”. 


The mediaeval English tradition: Christmas pudding 

© nickyp2

The undisputed star of the festive show, the Christmas pudding originates in England in the 14th century. It started as a sort of mediaeval porridge made of beef, mutton, dried fruits, wine and spices, before evolving into a plum pudding and then its modern form, more or less untouched since the Victorian era. 

Firmly steeped in tradition, the Christmas pudding recipe has evolved over the centuries, but remains true to its origins: amixture of dried fruits, suet, spices, soaked in brandy and lit at the festive table. Served it with a dollop of brandy butter and a generous helping of warm custard sauce. A legendarily rich dessert!  


The Corsican twist on roast turkey: u caprettu di Natale 

© SamanthaNicolArtPhotography

Corsica, the island of Beauty off the coast of the French Riviera, has its very own spin of Christmas classics. Raised on the island since time immemorial, the endemic breed of Corsican baby goat - or “caprettu” -  is king comes the festive season, a homage to their rich pastoral heritage. 

Usually slow-roasted with maquis herbs until the meat falls off the bone, is served with the traditional polenta, a warming side of cornmeal porridge. A beautifully humble dish bursting with the fragrant flavours of myrtle, rosemary, everlasting and nepeta island aromatics, making the most of the local resources. A Christmas dish firmly rooted in its insularity, to be enjoyed before the Christmas chesnut log. 


Only in Scotland: the kilted soldiers 

© DianaMiller

A Christmas staple, these wrapped small cocktail sausages may have crossed your path already, as pigs in blankets. Drawing on their ancestral tartan tradition, the Scots have their own name for this seasonal delicacy, traditionally served as a side to the Christmas table. 

Easy as pie to make, these juicy little sausages are wrapped in decadent streaky bacon and served warm. Not to be confused with their sausage roll sibling, comfortably nestled into pastry. 

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