FOOD

Assemble the perfect Noche Buena without having to cook

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It’s never too early to start assembling your Noche Buena. Photo courtesy of MAKATI DIAMOND RESIDENCES

Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — When it comes to Noche Buena in the Philippines, it won’t do to cram or underprepare. Planning what to eat at Christmas eve deserves serious thought and attention, especially in the Philippines where Christmas is celebrated at length and is synonymous with delicious food traditions.

In my family, Noche Buena staples include a small roast suckling pig, kaldereta, spaghetti or pancit, homemade morcon with just the right amount of tomato sauce, a steamed, foil-wrapped lapu-lapu with light sauce and filling, ube halaya, kakanin, a lot of fruits, baked salmon with cheese, and more cheese via the quintessential queso de bola. My mother (as with most of our mothers, I suspect), cooked for all of us.

As we all grew older and busier, with less time to spare, Christmas eve dinner meant more culinary adventures outside my mother’s kitchen. After all, Christmas is also a time to relax, and compared to losing time to traffic while shopping for ingredients, pre-ordering some of our favorites just in time for Dec. 24 became the smart and necessary thing to do. Out of the many convenient choices for Noche Buena fare, Makati Diamond’s Gourmet Goodies to-Go is the most indulgent, and its selection strongly reminds me of what my mother usually whips up for Noche Buena. (It’s nostalgic home cooking, but French.)

Take your pick from baked cheesecake, supermoist chocolate, jasmine, le royale, and earl grey raspberry. Photo courtesy of MAKATI DIAMOND RESIDENCES

For appetizers, Makati Diamond’s Gourmet Goodies to-Go offers a caviar pie with salmon, cashew cheese, and onions, which definitely is an interesting and more decadent twist to my favorite baked salmon with cheese. An equally savory way to start Noche Buena is the duck liver terrine (similar to a pâté but not quite), great as a topping to your crostini or your favorite bread. And if you’re really up to tickle your tastebuds, consider the seabass brandade. A brandade is usually an emulsion of salt cod (a really salty fish) and olive oil; Makati Diamond’s version is an upgrade, featuring the sea bass’ light and tender flavors.

For Noche Buena, I always insist on serving seafood — so it’s great that Makati Diamond’s Gourmet Goodies to-Go features fish on the menu. There’s baked seabass al cartuccio (‘al cartuccio’ means cooked in a paper wrapper or in foil) and baked salmon with pistachio crust and tomato concassé: all my favorite and healthy ways to cook and season a fish.

Makati Diamond’s Gourmet Goodies to-Go also features three exciting carving options. For those who love their steaks, you can’t go wrong with the roasted US prime Angus ribeye with wine sauce, and for those who would want to try Thanksgiving fare, there’s a wonderful roast turkey with all the trimmings of foie gras stuffing and stewed apple cranberry with giblet sauce.

Gourmet Goodies to-Go includes a cochinillo with either truffle rice or pinakbet paella with crispy bagnet strips to complete your spread. Photo courtesy of MAKATI DIAMOND RESIDENCES

Most importantly, if your Christmas table is missing the roast suckling pig — or lechon, the Philippines’ shining culinary beacon — Makati Diamond’s Gourmet Goodies to-Go includes a cochinillo with either truffle rice or pinakbet paella with crispy bagnet strips to complete your spread. I never thought I’d put the goodness of lechon, truffle rice, pinakbet, paella, and bagnet all in one sentence, but during Christmas, miracles do happen.

I always look forward to ending rounds (yes, plural) of Noche Buena meals with a spoonful of ube halaya. There have been many delightful iterations of this purple dessert, and Makati Diamond’s offering is the ube ensaymada generously slathered with butter and topped with cheese (available in boxes of six). For when you can’t get enough of Makati Diamond’s bestseller cakes, take your pick from baked cheesecake, supermoist chocolate, jasmine, le royale, and earl grey raspberry.

Of course, despite having to-go food as an option, my mother still prepares our favorite dishes for Christmas — our Noche Buena will not be complete without them. But as our Christmases begin to seem shorter and our family grows both in love and number, you realize traditions are what you make it, and a Noche Buena does not always have to be what it always was. The true function of food is, and always have been, to bring people together. As many Noche Buenas come and go, we’d gladly let old traditions give way to new ones — if it means more time spent together, and more stories shared over the last few servings of cochinillo and cheesecake.

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Make more time for family and plan your Noche Buena with Makati Diamond’s Gourmet Goodies to-Go. Place your order now by calling Makati Diamond Residences at (02) 5317 0999, (02) 88789699, or (0917) 636 4975 or email dine@makatidiamond.com. Orders must be placed 3 days prior the pickup date. Visit www.makatidiamond.com/specialoffers for other hotel holiday offers.