RIYADH: Years ago, Christmas in Saudi Arabia was celebrated in private.
With the festive day just around the corner, today, residents of the Kingdom can take part in celebrations by dining at home or outside to mark the occasion.
While Christmas is a Christian holiday, recent years have shown that secular and commercial celebrations are growing in popularity among communities globally, with a dinner feast, bountiful presents and dazzling decorations.
Locals and expatriates can mark the day with a delicious turkey feast as per tradition in the Kingdom.
At Riyadh’s Diplomatic Quarter, a multicultural hub, the Marriott Hotel will celebrate the winter season on Friday with a holiday buffet feast at Goji Kitchen.
Turkiyes are sold at many supermarket chains, including Lulu Hypermarket, Tamimi Markets and Carrefour. While most branches are currently out of stock due to high demand, Tamimi Markets is expecting shipments to arrive shortly.
For a more sustainable option, local organic turkey farm Roomy offers different-sized birds. Buyers can opt for the 2.5-3 kg Roomy light option, which is free from preservatives and GMOs, or a classic 4.5-5 kg turkey. They also offer a “turkey plus” option, which is a larger-sized bird varying from 6-7 kg.
Full-roasted stuffed turkey meals are also available.
Christmas celebrants can enjoy a fully cooked dinner at the Four Seasons Hotel Riyadh at Kingdom Center. For a little under SR2,000 ($530), customers provide a feast for up to 10 people, complete with a 4.4 kg traditional turkey roast and a selection of six side dishes, so long as orders are placed 48 hours in advance.
But if turkey is not your goal this holiday, the hotel restaurant also offers an Angus roast beef dish that comes with various sides, including mashed potato, roasted sweet potato, Brussels sprouts, green beans, and with pecan or pumpkin pie for dessert.
Narcissus Hotel is also a great spot to order a fully made meal. For around SR1,200, the kitchen will prepare a roasted turkey dinner with selected sides.
For shoppers who already have their turkeys rested and ready in the freezer, here is an Arabic-inspired turkey roast recipe to try out this year:
• For turkey
1 5-7 kg turkey
1 onion, peeled and quartered
1 lemon, zested and quartered
1 orange, zested and quartered
1 apple, quartered
20 g fresh rosemary
20 g fresh thyme
20 g fresh sage
2 cinnamon sticks
½ tablespoon pomegranate molasses
2 bay leaves
• For herb butter
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon za’atar
6-8 garlic cloves, minced
Fresh chopped herbs
1 teaspoon of cumin, ground cinnamon and paprika
After making sure to thoroughly thaw your turkey, remove it from the fridge one hour before placing in the oven. Remove the neck and giblets from the center of the bird and pat the skin dry.
Preheat the oven to 165 Celsius.
To make the marinade, combine room temperature butter with garlic, rosemary, thyme, sage, pomegranate molasses, orange and lemon zest, salt, pepper and chopped herbs, making sure to marinade the bottom as well.
Gently separate the skin from the turkey flesh and coat the area with the remaining marinade.
Use the turkey herbs to rub the cavity, and stuff with quartered lemon, orange, onion, cinnamon sticks and apple.
Baste the turkey with the remaining herb butter mixture and place the turkey on the center rack of the oven, roasting for 40 minutes per kg.
Once the roast reaches 70 Celsius, remove it from the oven and cover it with tin foil. Let the turkey continue cooking on the counter.
Allow the turkey to rest for at least 20 minutes before serving it alongside gravy, pomegranate stuffing and preferred side dishes.