BRITISH Christmasses can get pretty samey. There's only so many slices of turkey and Quality Streets one person can eat in a lifetime. And Brussels - no matter how inventive you are, no matter how much bacon you add - are still just Brussels.

If you fancy scoffing something a bit different though, it can be difficult to break the loop, especially if you still want that traditional gluttonous festive hit.

So, this is the point at which you grab New York Christmas: Recipes And Stories by Lisa Nieschlag and Lars Wentrup off the shelf - because nowhere is more Christmassy than New York (see Elf, Home Alone 2, When Harry Met Sally - and yes, that is a Christmas film), and New Yorkers seriously know how to eat.

Here are some culinary swaps inspired by the book, that you need in your life if you're going to do Christmas like a New Yorker...

Instead of mince pies and chocolate coins for breakfast... bagels

While breakfast on December 25 is ordinarily whatever can be found in the bottom of your stocking (although not the orange, never the orange) - the chocolate coins and walnuts supplemented by Buck's Fizz and mince pies - in New York, the bagel reigns supreme. The only way to go is cream cheese and smoked salmon (or lox, if you want to sound truly authentic), with red onion slivers, tomato and capers. It'll make waiting for Christmas dinner that much easier.

Instead of Quality Streets... chocolate-dipped pretzels

Less sickly and more moreish than their wrapped opponents, chocolate dipped pretzels have an addictive saltiness and are fun, yet simple, to make yourself. Also, swap them into rotation and you'll avoid everyone fighting over the last chocolate toffee finger.

Instead of turkey... roast beef

In America, turkey is very much reserved for Thanksgiving, the US' main holiday. Not that Christmas is considered an afterthought, but who wants to cook a whole turkey twice in less than two months? Beef it is then - however, across the pond they are generally strangers to the humble Yorkshire pud, which is an utter travesty. Don't forget yours.

Instead of roast potatoes... mashed potatoes

For some reason, roasties that are goose fat-crisp, fluffy in the middle and golden on the outside, are ditched in favour of mashed spuds in the US. If you can bring yourself to make the change, Lars and Lisa suggest flavouring it with rosemary or garlic.

Instead of Brussels... Waldorf salad

Looking for a lighter side, and have a few family members who'd happily pass on sprouts? Try a classic Waldorf salad; you'll need grated apple and celeriac stirred through with mayonnaise, all topped off with caramelised nuts for crunch.

Instead of Christmas cake... cheesecake

Sure, there's no marzipan involved, or booze, but traditional New York-style baked vanilla cheesecake will certainly suit anyone who can't stand dried fruit or mixed peel. Lars and Lisa suggest dotting it with fresh fruit, or pouring over a thick blueberry compote to serve.

Instead of candy canes... candy cane cupcakes

Rather than cracking your teeth on red and white canes knicked off the Christmas tree, bash up a few into manageable chunks and use to decorate the frosting on simple cupcakes - perfect for keeping little ones quiet when waiting to open presents.


(Serves 4-6)

8 parsnips

4tbsp olive oil

2tbsp honey

Salt and pepper

3 garlic cloves

6 sprigs thyme

70g hazelnuts

50g butter


1. Preheat the oven to 210°C (Gas mark 6-7).

2. Trim and peel the parsnips and quarter lengthwise. Spread them in a single layer on a tray lined with baking paper. Combine olive oil and honey in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle over the parsnips. Lightly crush the garlic cloves and add them to the tray together with the sprigs of thyme. Roast the parsnips in the preheated oven for 35-45 minutes (depending on size), turning a few times.

3. Meanwhile, dry-roast the hazelnuts in a small frying pan. Leave to cool and chop coarsely.

4. Wipe the pan with kitchen roll, then heat the butter over a medium heat. Cook for about five minutes to brown, stirring occasionally.

5. Pick off the leaves of the remaining sprigs of thyme and add to the browned butter together with the hazelnuts.

6. Transfer the roasted parsnips to a serving platter. Remove the garlic and thyme sprigs. Toss with the browned butter, nuts and herbs and season with salt and pepper.


(Makes 8)

60g butter

90g Parmesan, finely grated

100g cornmeal

80g flour

40g polenta

3tsp cream of tartar powder

1 pinch salt

1/4tsp cayenne pepper

1 egg

180ml milk

8tsp sesame seeds for sprinkling


1. Preheat the oven to 190°C (Gas mark 5) and line eight holes in a muffin tin with paper cup liners.

2. Melt the butter and grate the Parmesan finely.

3. Combine the cornmeal, flour, polenta, cream of tartar powder, salt and cayenne pepper in a mixing bowl. Stir in 80g of grated Parmesan. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients. Pour in the melted, cooled butter, lightly beaten egg and milk. Stir all ingredients to combine.

4. Fill the paper cup liners about three quarters with dough and sprinkle the muffins with the remaining Parmesan and sesame seeds. Bake in the preheated oven for about 20-22 minutes until golden brown. Remove from the muffin tin and leave to cool.