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Christmas Food

Chef Shaun Kenworthy pens an ode to Christmas memories and Yuletide feasts

Plus, a classic Christmas recipe with an Indian twist, where plum pudding meets lamb shoulder!

Shaun Kenworthy | Published 21.12.23, 04:52 PM
Chef Shaun Kenworthy (second from left) at Glenburn Cafe’s Christmas cake mixing event in December 2023

Chef Shaun Kenworthy (second from left) at Glenburn Cafe’s Christmas cake mixing event in December 2023

Courtesy Shaun Kenworthy, MyKolkata

Come on Shaun, love. Father Christmas has been!

That would always be the start of every Christmas Day when I was little, with my mum quietly waking me up, and as soon as it had sunk in, I’d fly out of bed and run downstairs to see what was under the tree. So much so that one Christmas Day morning, out of soooo much excitement, I whacked my head on the cast iron book stand at the side of my bed and ended up needing a stitch in my head!


Christmas, as I’m sure any festival the world over, is kept alive because of childhood memories. For me, it is the smells of turkey cooking and that heady aroma of Christmas pudding — both of which I disliked when I was little, but those olfactory memories still spring into action, punching me in the face and telling me that Father Christmas has come (well, we can still live in hope, I suppose). In hindsight, unless he was Casper the Ghost, he was never getting down our gas-fired chimney, I can assure you, even if the sherry had been drunk and the mince pie and carrot for Rudolf had indeed been eaten!

In the present day, all of a sudden, the city has cooled, my local market has the most beautiful-looking sabji, and Kolkatans have started drinking coffee over tea. All draped in shawls, heads wrapped in scarves and monkey caps, but feet still almost nangu in chappals, with maybe a pair of socks if you’re lucky!

Park Street area takes on a new sparkle with lights and decorations during Christmas and New Year

Park Street area takes on a new sparkle with lights and decorations during Christmas and New Year

Amit Datta

New Market and Park Street are decked out to the nines with lights and tinsel aplenty, and filled with foreign tourists and NRIs. There’s that sudden realisation that Christmas, once again, is upon us, and, at least for me, I get that childish feeling where the hairs stand up on the back of my neck and I get a slight warm flutter in my tummy.

But that’s enough of all of that. This Christmas, I thought it quite apt with the amount of, let’s call it ‘desi’isation of any and everything in the Indian food scene over the past few years, that I do something with an Indian twist. Make that turkey redundant for a season but still make the most out of that plum pudding. Maybe go all out and try to force a marriage of sweet, spicy, and savoury all at the same time to bring out the Bengali in me, and, well, hopefully something will turn up trumps!

Spices, dried fruits, and nuts have always been synonymous with Christmas pretty much the world over, which I’m sure goes back to the days of the great Spice Route. If you think about it, The East India Company, and Calcutta itself more than likely, had a lot to do with the making of that imperative part of Christmas history. And after all of that, I bring to you:

East India Plum Pudding Stuffed Shoulder of Lamb

Now, I know for many of you, how awkward this may sound, but it really is delicious and much more savoury than the plum pudding makes it sound.

East India Plum Pudding Stuffed Shoulder of Lamb

East India Plum Pudding Stuffed Shoulder of Lamb

Courtesy Shaun Kenworthy

Recipe will serve roughly 4

The lamb

You’ll need a decent sized full hind leg of lamb; 3kg would be perfect. And if you ask the butcher nicely, I’m sure he’ll remove the bone and flatten it for you.

Once you have that, for the stuffing you will need to mix together — preferably by hand, in fact, two hands — in a big mixing bowl, 300g plum pudding, 50g finely chopped onion, 150g cooked rice, an egg, 50g of soft butter, 100g of fresh bread crumbs and salt and pepper to taste.

Next, roll out some aluminium foil, enough with some extra to lay out that lamb’s leg onto, but first rub on a little butter and season well with salt and pepper before you do. Make sure it’s flesh side up and then place your stuffing in the centre, covering the whole of it with the lamb and completely wrap in foil. Wrapping it in foil will do two things, it’ll keep the whole thing held together and stop the lamb from drying out during the slow cooking.

Place it into a roasting tray and with around 1 inch of water or stock in the bottom and cook in a preheated oven / OTG set at around 160°C and as you’ll not be able to see it cooking, cook slowly without wanting to touch it, other than maybe topping the tray up with water if it becomes dry, for around 3 hours (be patient!) Once it’s done, remove it from the oven and leave it to rest without opening it for around 15 to 20 mins which will also give you time to make the gravy.

The gravy

Brown around three sliced onions and one red capsicum in 30g of butter or ghee with ½ tsp freshly-made garam masala, scrunch in around 100g of plum pudding, 200 ml of apple juice and let it thicken, whisking throughout until you have a smooth spoon-able consistency (add a little more apple juice if you need to). Season with salt and pepper and finish with a generous sprinkling of coriander.

To serve

Now you can open that foil pouch, place the lamb onto a chopping board and slice into thick rounds. Then, optionally, fry in a little oil to give it some nice colour. Make sure that any juices you have go into the sauce, don’t waste a drop and serve with any accompaniments of your choice, potatoes, roasted roots (as in photo), even a rice pulao and a side or whatever else takes your fancy with your sauce on the side. And, of course, a glass of spicy mulled wine to wash it down with! Merry Christmas x

[Here is Shaun’s simple recipe of homemade mulled wine].

Last updated on 21.12.23, 04:54 PM

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