A traditionally cooked lovo feast prepared with love is the ultimate Fijian Christmas dinner to enjoy with family and loved ones.
Friday 3rd December, 2021
Christmas is a favourite holiday for many Fijians for a lot of reasons. The opportunity to give and receive gifts, spend time catching up with family and friends, and perhaps indulge in a little too much good food and drink.
Christmas dinner around a crowded table loaded with plates of traditional and seasonal dishes is the highlight of the holiday season for many families.
Every family’s Christmas dinner could look a little different. Part of what makes the occasion so special is the opportunity to indulge in those classic holiday favourites that our grandmas, mums and aunties cook so well.
THE ULTIMATE FEAST
It wouldn’t be a classic Fijian Christmas dinner without a huge lovo feast as the centrepiece. The tantalising aromas of spiced chicken, pork, beef, fish, cassava, dalo and other vegetables cooked to perfection help to set the scene for
a day of merriment.
Enjoying a lovo banquet with plenty of extended family and friends is the perfect way to spend Christmas Day, while honouring one of the oldest and most beloved Fijian culinary traditions.
The lovo feast tradition has been passed down for centuries, with older relatives teaching younger generations how to prepare the cooking pit and ingredients just right.
Traditionally, women will prepare the lovo for cooking, while the men prepare the fire and tend to the lovo oven while the food is cooking. Preparing the feast in this time-honoured way helps to keep traditions alive while forging bonds between
generations of family.
After the challenging year that we’ve had, preparing and enjoying the Christmas lovo feast might be the first opportunity that some extended families have had for many months to gather together and celebrate.
MADE WITH LOVE
Once the pit for the lovo oven has been dug, lined with stones or bricks, the fire has been lit and the coals are ready, it’s time to add the food.
Each family’s feast could vary somewhat depending on local tradition and preference. Chicken, beef, pork, lamb and freshly caught fish can be marinated in freshly-squeezed coconut milk flavoured with herbs and spices.
The meat and fish is wrapped in foil packets and placed closest to the coals. Palusami made from taro leaves, coconut cream, onion and corned beef is added next, then a selection of hearty root crops including cassava, dalo, turnips and uvi, all
seasoned with cooking oil, salt and pepper.
Braided banana and palm leaves are used to wrap and protect the food from the coals and in turn impart a delicate fragrance while the feast is baked to perfection.
IT’S ALL ABOUT THE SIDE DISHES
While carefully marinated meats and seafood, tasty palusami and seasoned veggies are the cornerstones of every epic lovo feast, it wouldn’t be a proper Christmas dinner without a little extra indulgence.
Vakalolo made from cassava and coconut with caramel and egg custard is a favourite dessert option and a guaranteed crowd-pleaser.
Batches of the traditional sweet can be wrapped in foil and extra banana leaves and placed on top of the vegetables within the lovo oven.
Cooking time will vary, but is generally between about three and four hours. Extra banana leaves can be layered on top of the packets of tasty food in order to help lock in heat and ensure the delightful, smoky flavours permeate every part of
Knowing exactly when the food is ready to be unearthed can be a little tricky and it’s probably best to refer to older family member’s expertise here - after all they’ve presided over plenty of lovo feasts in their time.
The layers of banana leaves and earth are removed one by one to reveal the perfectly cooked meal - like unwrapping the ultimate Christmas present!