Holiday cooking: It’s irresistible

Succulent meats. Farm-fresh veggies. Decadent desserts. Enticing flavours. Amazing textures… Holiday cooking is about all this and a whole lot more!

Recently, the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Foreign Agriculture Service organised a cookout around its Taste of America campaign at Foodhall in Mumbai. The campaign was launched with the US Consul General David Ranz and Celebrity Chef Boo Kim.

Here, we get Chef Boo Kim to tune us into the experience of aromatic holiday cooking...

You are considered an expert in holiday cooking. Which are your favourite flavours and ingredients?

I have many favourites and honestly, it’s hard to pick! My favourites change, depending on the holiday. For example, my fave Thanksgiving meal is turkey with mashed potatoes, stuffing and gravy.

What is the significance of traditional holiday recipes?

Traditional holiday recipes are all about the comfort of familiar flavours, plus happy memories made while making and eating those dishes. Personally, I enjoy trying something new every year. Traditional recipes serve as a great guide to innovate and bring in one or two new elements. The tradition is to get one’s family and friends together.

Is there an easy way to replicate holiday favourites in India?

It’s very easy to replicate ingredients and adapt. We get so much great produce and ingredients out here in India. Where the exact ingredient is not available or is too expensive, substituting it with local ingredients and condiments is ideal.

This works two ways: the dish becomes easily adaptable and you also get to enjoy a little bit of familiarity in terms of flavour. With a little bit of planning, it’s quite easy to find the right kind of ingredients for your big festive meal.

What other flavours and dishes can be added to the home cooking holiday menu in India that will suit the Indian palate?

There are no set combinations for flavours. The rule of thumb is to just have fun with the recipe – don’t hesitate to experiment with your favourite flavours or condiments.

The only thing I am particular about is that my family and friends are together, sitting down to enjoy the spread and having a great time! Ultimately, that's what the holiday spirit is all about. Which holiday dishes can be cooked in advance and refrigerated for the traditional Christmas meal?

As always, pre-prep is a great way to organise time. Preparing dressings, sauces, broths and mise en place (a French term for having all your ingredients measured, cut, peeled, sliced, grated etc before you start cooking. Pans are prepared, plus mixing bowls, tools and equipment are set out. It is a technique chefs use to assemble meals quickly) a day prior to the big event is a great idea – it helps flavours intensify and gives your dishes that little extra something!

What drinks go best with the festive holiday menu?

Christmas brings warm memories of enjoying steaming cups of hot chocolate while there’s food being prepared (usually enough to feed a small army!).

Almost all drinks are great for a holiday menu. The trick is to get creative with flavours and spirits that your family and friends enjoy. Toddies, in particular, are delicious and packed with immunity-building ingredients such as ginger, spices and lemon.