A festive evening dedicated to fine food and entitled ‘Stuff the Turkey’ is almost self-explanatory.
This is an ‘everything but’ the traditional menu for Christmas. And considering that Christmas is celebrated by Christian cultures around the world, irrespective of local custom and climate, feast dishes vary enormously – as do the celebrations and in some cases the timing and date of festivities.
Colin Norden, Centre for Life’s head chef (conference and banqueting) and Noel Jackson, head of education (famous for his ‘science through the medium of alcohol’ workshops), present this ‘Stuff The Turkey’ evening at the Newcastle visitor attraction on December 8, a fairly untypical occasion which aims to differ substantially from the more ‘traditional’ seasonal event prevalent at this time of year.
The pair have devised a menu which recognizes the many different Christian cultures which have interpreted the Biblical story through their own culture and tradition.
Whilst enjoying the different courses, Noel will provide a unique and often anecdotal commentary on the social history, the culture, quite often the science and certainly the traditions surrounding each course. The Mexican Christmas and New Year feast dish Bacalao a la Vizcaini (salt cod with tomatoes, onions, peppers, olives, chillies and capers served with crispy bread pieces) will be the first dish as Noel tells of the significance of the salt trade in primitive cultures, fisheries management and the invasion and shaping of a continent from the Spanish conquistadors onwards.
Beetroot and vegetable bouillion (borsch) with mushroom ravioli topped with sour cream, is a meatless Christmas Eve Polish dish eaten with much relish after a day of fasting and abstinence and only after the first star has appeared in the sky. It will allow Noel to impress with his knowledge of plant breeding pertinent to brassicas and the beet family, as well as the story of the Christmas Star in astrological terms.
Toutieres Saguenay-lac-Saint Jean, a deep hearty dish of slow cooked pink veal, pork and game enjoyed in Canada, particularly around Quebec on Christmas Eve, will see Noel expounding on the migratory patterns of the early Arcadians, French pioneers who originally settled in the Deep South.
Original versions of the pie would, of course, have included caribou and moose. But here it will be served with saute kale with garlic, a traditional festive Brazilian dish.
Our heavy, rich alcohol-infused Christmas pudding is a million miles away from ‘White Christmas’, a raisin, glace cherry, coconut, rice bubble and white chocolate chilled concoction which acknowledges that people across the world enjoy the Yuletide celebrations in beach seafood barbecue style.
Cue Noel and his take on navigation and the challenges the early explorers faced whilst charting their way through the Southern hemisphere.
And it wouldn’t be a Noel night without a couple of alcoholic Christmas concoctions – expect an interesting and totally original aperitif and a digestif served with a traditional Calisson treat, candied fruit paste topped with ground almonds and icing, a French delicacy with its origins in medieval Italy.
Stuff the Turkey is on December 8 between 7pm-12pm and costs £45 for dinner and accompanying drinks. A pay bar will also be open. Booking is essential on 0191 243 8216.