Venezuelan Christmas dishes are a great opportunity to share time with family in the kitchen during the holiday season. This year, I made these three principal Venezuelan Christmas dishes with my parents, both born and raised in Venezuela.

Hallacas

Hallacas is the main Christmas dish. The general recipe is the same throughout Venezuela but the ingredients of the filling vary throughout the Venezuelan regions. This recipe is representative of the recipe prepared in the Andean region of Venezuela in the state of Merida.

Ingredients

  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 2 bundles of green onions, chopped
  • Yellow achiote
  • 1/4 liter of oil
  • 3 pounds red meat
  • 1 pound of pork
  • 1 can of GOYA chickpeas
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground nutmeg
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 cup of white wine
  • 2 garlic heads
  • 5 pounds of plantain leaves
  • 1 1/2 pounds of yellow Harina Pan maize meal (cornmeal)
  • 2 onions
  • 1 red pepper
  • 20 oz of olives
  • 4 oz of capers
  • 1 cup of raisins
  • string

Directions

Day 1: Cook chicken breasts in 1 liter of water, 3 green onions and salt. Separate the chicken from the broth (this broth will be used with the dough the following day).

Place oil in a pan with the achiote to pick up the color of the achiote. Set aside. Cut meat and pork into very small cubes. Add chopped green onions, chickpeas, ground nutmeg, salt, garlic, white wine, and a half of the colored oil. Refrigerate overnight. Thaw plantain leaves.

 

Day 2: Clean, wash and dry plantain leaves and cut into squares.

Shred the chicken and add it to the rest of the stuffing.

To make the dough, use the chicken broth from Day 1 and add half of the remaining colored oil. Mix with the dough until it is very soft and combined with the oil and chicken broth. Slice the onion into thin strips and sauté them in a bit of oil. Once they are soft, add the remaining colored oil and set aside. Then, Cut red pepper into thin strips. Place the colored oil onions, red peppers, olives, capers and raisins in separate bowls. Also bring out the dough and meat stuffing.

  

Grab a handful of dough and make a ball out of it. Then place it on the plantain leaf covered with the colored oil in the center of the leaf. Place the ball of dough over the oil and spred out into a flat circle. Then add the meat stuffing, red peppers, olives, capers, raisins and a bit of the colored onions. Finally, bring up both sides of the leaf (like a taco) and roll the leaf down and fold the ends of the leaf towards the center (like a present). Wrap the hallaca-filled leaf with the string.

   

 

To cook the Hallacas, set a big pot of water to boil. Once the water is boiling, place hallacas in the pot for 3 hours. After the 3 hours, drain the water and once the hallacas are cold, put them in the refrigerator. When you want to eat one, boil again for 20 minutes and enjoy!

Pan de Jamón

This bread is the perfect side to accompany the Hallacas. It is essentially a loaf of bread filled with ham, raisins and olives and covered with a honey glaze.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups of milk
  • 2 tablespoons of sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of yeast
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 stick of butter, melted
  • 1 tablespoon of salt
  • 2 pounds of flour
  • Honey
  • 2 pounds of ham
  • 7 oz of bacon
  • 1 cup of raisins
  • 7 oz of chopped olives
  • 4 oz of capers
  • 1 egg yolk to cover the bread

Directions

In one cup of warm milk, add the sugar and yeast. Mix and cover for 20 minutes. After the 20 minutes, mix the milk with sugar and yeast with the eggs, melted butter and salt. Then add the flour and knead the dough. Set aside for 2 hours or until the dough doubles in size.

Knead again and roll out the dough with a roller into two separate rectangles.

First place a very light layer of honey on the dough. Then add ham as another layer with about four strips of bacon on top.

Leave a frame of dough around the ham so it can be rolled easily once all ingredients are placed inside. Sprinkle the raisins, olives and capers to finish the filling. Do the same on the second rectangle of dough.

Roll the dough tightly along the longer side of the rectangle so that it is a long and skinny roll (as opposed to a short and fat roll).

 

Set aside for another 30 minutes. After the 30 minutes, cover the top of the roll with the egg yolks. Put in the over for 1 hour at 300 degrees F and if it is not golden after the hour, leave for another 15 minutes at 350 degrees F.

Hallacas and Pan de Jamón

 

My BWF partner tried them and liked them a lot! And she is not Venezuelan!

Dulce de Lechosa

A common Christmas dessert is this papaya dessert that is soaked in sugar overnight to create a delicious syrup that surrounds the papaya. 

Ingredients

  • 6 pounds of unripe red papaya
  • 2 pounds of sugar
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • 10 cloves

Directions

First, clean and peel the papaya.

Cut into four slices that run up and down the fruit. Then, take off the skin and seeds of the fruit.

Finally cut into small slices.

In a large pot place a layer of papaya and then a layer of sugar. Continue to do this until there is no more papaya or sugar.

 

Place in the refrigerator overnight. The next day, add cinnamon sticks and cloves and cook on the stovetop until the papaya is cooked and the sugar turns into a light syrup.