The signs sneak up on you. Mom and dad hold clandestine talks that stop when you come along. TV adverts sell everything from turkeys and gammon to toys cars and new cars, vying for our jolly dollar. When Dad comes home with a big Christmas tree tied to the roof of his car, you knew the festive season had arrived. Soon grannies and grandpas, uncles and aunts, cousins and friends will come bearing gifts and food. Christmas is for children, but it is for grownups too - a time for hearts to open up. Christmas, and in a broader more inclusive sense, the festive season, is love in action. Christmas you see, is a state of mind.
While living in the Middle East for 10 years I got to know many cultures outside my own Christian cocoon. It surprised me how everyone embraced the spirit of the season. One of our clients, Brigadier Al Marai, a kind, wise old Bedouin businessman and high-ranking official in the Police force, used to surprise me every year with a personal, timely delivered Christmas card and gift. You’d be astonished to see the malls of Dubai the day before Christmas. Muslims, Hindu’s, Buddhists, Zoroastrians, you name it, are out there frantically mall trawling for gifts.
Somehow we all have an appointment with Christmas. It examines us, and makes us examine ourselves. For many it is a time of great anxiety, loneliness and heartache and when the joy of family and goodwill doesn’t extend to you, it can be painfully isolating.
Pope Francis recently said, “True charity requires courage: let us overcome the fear of getting our hands dirty to help those in need.” Since becoming head of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis has consistently called for open interaction with people from all walks of life, especially the poor, weak and vulnerable. His message is by no means new.
Do you ever watch “The Secret Millionaire” on DStv’s, BBC Knowledge? In each episode a millionaire goes undercover into needy U.K communities to look for charities in need. At the end the millionaire reveals his or her identity and gives away tens and sometimes hundreds of thousands of pounds to these charities. The millionaire’s are always so affected by the experience they frequently become patrons and continue to give. One such donor said: “I now have a new purpose in life, a new drive; that is to make more money, so I can give it away to charities.” Another proclaimed tearfully that he didn’t think he needed to make more money, until now. The gift of giving is indeed more precious than the gift, and you don’t have to be a millionaire either.
One man in particular, Phillip Le Roux, a strong man in his mid seventies, regularly loads his car and trailer with boxes of food and clothes collected from benevolent folk. He travels hundreds of kilometers to the Karoo to distribute goods to poverty stricken communities in backwater towns. He can hardly tell of the bleak, colourless existence of hungry people without breaking down. Their plight has become his plight.
Christmas is a time of generosity and in this spirit I hope you extend invitations to those who might need it. Call up people who need generosity and love and invite them over to enjoy my delicious Norwegian Salmon stuffed with Kaffir Lime leaves and Galangal drizzled with a very secret sauce and festive salad. Personally, me and my daughter Aja have decided, on Christmas day, to help out at a charity. Even if it means I have to clean some elderly fella who didn’t make it to the loo in time, so be it. After all true happiness comes from making other people happy.
Norwegian Salmon stuffed with Kaffir Lime leaves & Galangal, accompanied by a very Secret Sauce with a Festive Salad by Roddy Louther
The salmon we got was huge and could easily feed 15 or more people – perfect for a feast. As you might imagine, the bigger the salmon is the longer it needs to cook. Ours was a 6 kg whopper and cooked for more than an hour.
stuffed with Kaffir Lime leaves and Galangal, accompanied by a very Secret Sauce with a Festive Salad
FOR THE SALMON
1 LARGE NORWEGIAN SALMON, HEAD AND TAIL INTACT – SCALED, GUTTED AND TRIMMED OF ALL FINS.
1 LARGE HANDFUL OF KAFFIR LIME LEAVES
1 LARGE GALANGAL ROOT SLICED (FRESH IS BEST BUT PICKLED OR DRIED THEN RE-HYDRATED WILL ALSO DO)
OR 1 LARGE ROOT GINGER, SLICED
10 SMALL LIMES, SLICED
3 MEDIUM RED ONIONS, SLICED
1 LARGE BUNCH OF DILL
250ML WHITE WINE
FOR THE SALAD
3 FRESH BABY GEM LETTUCE HEADS
1 BUNCH SMALL SALAD LEAVES, BEETROOT, MUSTARD
1 PKT POMEGRANATE ARILS
1 CAN SWEET CORN KERNELS
FOR THE SECRET SAUCE
350ML RICE WINE VINEGAR
1.5 CUPS SUGAR
3 KAFFIR LIME LEAVES
FOR THE SALMON
- Cut a piece of tin foil longer than the fish and rub the foil with plenty of butter.
- Create a bed for the fish using some of the dill, onions, lime leaves and limes.
- Place the salmon on its side on top of the bed. Stuff the stomach cavity with the rest of the onions, dill, lime leaves and sliced limes.
- Use a second piece of foil to create a parcel for the fish. Before wrapping it all up pour the white wine over the fish, then seal the edges tightly.
- Bake the fish in a pre-heated oven at 200ºC for half an hour to an hour depending on the size of the fish.
FOR THE SALAD
- Pull the outer leaves from the baby gem lettuce. They have a nice spoon shape.
- Add some baby salad leaves in the hollow.
- Spoon some corn kernels inside, then some pomegranate arils.
- Just before serving, drizzle with Secret Sauce.
FOR THE SAUCE
- Slice the chilies open lengthwise but keep them whole. Put them in a small saucepan along with the lime leaves, sugar and rice wine vinegar.
- Reduce over high heat until you get a syrupy consistency.
- Remove lime leaves and chillies.
The secret sauce is called that because it should be as clear as water and so invisible. It usually delights people because the source of the sweet and sour is a mystery, then the chili kick which follows slightly afterwards is another surprise. Delicious!
- ONCE THE FISH IS COOKED, PLACE ON A LARGE SERVING PLATE AND MAKE DEEP CUTS ALONG ITS SIDES TO INDICATE PORTIONS.
- DRIZZLE THE SECRET SAUCE INTO THE CUTS, RESERVING SOME IN A SERVING JAR.
- SERVE WITH HERB BUTTERED BOILED POTATOES OR MASH, AND GARNISH WITH THE BABY GEM LETTUCE SPOON SALAD.
- Using a sharp pairing knife, cut the through the outer skin of the fruit.
- Twist the two halves in opposite directions till they separate.
- Over a bowl, hold one half in a cupped hand then smack the fruit vigorously with a wooden spoon, the kernels will collect in the bowl. Remove the unwanted bits.