I love Christmas, the decorations, the songs, the stories and, of course, the food. While I was out shopping the other weekend, I found Santa’s North Pole Cookbook in a bargain bin and had to grab it – a little early Christmas present for myself.

Santa is a bit of an expert when it comes to holiday food. As he says in the foreword, “During the extensive travel that the delivery of Christmas gifts requires, I’ve been fortunate enough to sample holiday fare in virtually every place on earth where Christmas is observed.” In this cookbook, he shares tradiational Christmas recipes from around the world, some familiar dishes, some exotic.

Each dish is introduced by Santa himself, telling about the food, about the customs of the country it’s from or even about the person who inspired it. Lars, the North Pole Chef has a bit to add, too, and some of the recipes are ones he created himself.

I haven’t tried any of the dishes yet, but I’m planning on trying some throughout the month of December. Maybe Palascinta, Hungarian pancakes, for breakfast one Sunday, if I can find baker’s cheese. That’s the problem with some of the recipes, the ingredients sound like they might be a little difficult to find, at least around here. But Lars’ Favorite Christmas Kebabs sound yummy, and the Nativity Salad from Mexico, Ensalada Navideña, with beets and oranges and bananas sounds unusual in a good way and Santa promises that your family and friends will love it.

It’s definitely the desserts, though, that have my mouth-watering, from Plum Pie Cookies to Candy Cane Crème Brûlée to a traditional French Bûche de Noël. Santa even shares the recipe for his very favorite hot chocolate.

Santa’s Favorite Hot Chocolate

From Spain

PREPARE: 10 minutes BREW: 10 minutes SERVES: 4

Who doesn’t love chocolate in all its edible forms? A better question might be, who knows the real history of this wonderful confection?

Chocolate is extracted from the beans of the tropical cacao tree, and archaeologists searching old ruins have determined that the Mayans enjoyed drinks over twenty-five hundred years ago. They loved the beverage so much that many grew cacao trees in the gardens of their homes.

The Aztecs called this substance chocolatl and enjoyed it in both solid and liquid forms. Chocolatl was so much in demand that Aztec merchants often used it for currency.

Christopher Columbus brought cacao beans back to Spain during his first new World explorations, but it may have been explorer Hernán Cortés who discovered how to produce a drink sweet enough to enrapture members of the Spanish aristocracy by mixing sugarcane juice with liquefied cacao beans. For most of the 1500s, “hot chocolate” was a drink enjoyed almost exclusively in Spain. Explorers for other European nations had no idea what cacao/chocolate was. One legend has it that a British pirate who captured a Spanish barge laden with cacao beans burned the ship and its cargo because he mistook the beans for dried animal droppings.

But Spain couldn’t keep its tasty secret forever, and in the 1600s virtually every country in Europe went chocolate-intensive, drinking it with glee. Eating chocolate as a snack came much later. The first modern chocolate bar wasn’t produced until the 1840s, when an English manufacturer invented the treat that would satisfy everyone’s sweet tooth for generations to come.

Still, at the North Pole we like to honor Spain’s pioneering efforts in what would become modern chocolate consumption. So if you and your family traditionally enjoy cups of hot chocolate as part of your holiday merriment, I gladly recommend this recipe based on the traditional Spanish beverage.

Lars Says: “Once again, you’ll notice I’ve substituted a modern ingredient: They didn’t have vanilla instant pudding back in medieval Spain. Even so, this is one of the richest chocolate drinks you’ll ever enjoy. One delicious cup should be plenty for anyone, even the most devout lover of chocolate!”

  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 4 ozs. Dark cooking chocolate, chopped into small pieces
  • 1 tbsp. vanilla instant pudding
  • whipped cream
  • pinch of freshly grated nutmeg (tinned ground nutmeg will do)

1. Warm 3/4 cup of the milk in a nonstick saucepan over low heat. Add the chocolate and stir until all the chocolate has melted.

2. Mix the vanilla pudding and the remaining 3/4 cup milk until blended. Add the pudding mixture to the warm chocolate mixture, stirring constantly, until the chocolate drink is thick. Do not allow to come to a boil. Remove from the heat and whisk until frothy. Serve in mugs topped with a dollop of whipped cream and a grating of nutmeg (or, if you prefer, grated dark chocolate).

Certainly sounds richer than the powder stuff I’ll be using tonight!

Just a comment, this cookbook is focused on the recipes and the stories and traditions behind them. It;s fun and informative to just read through and I like the idea of sharing these food from around the globe, adding the ones we like to our own traditions. There are no photos, though, for those of you who need to have illustrated cookbooks.

Category: Christmas – Cookbook

Amazon | IndieBound | Book Depository

First published 2007
272 pages

Book source: Purchased