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Happy Fijian

Chef Lance Seeto
Sunday, December 16, 2012

Christmas in Fiji is unlike anywhere else in the world. Not only is it a religious fest of traditions and belief, but it is also a time when loved ones and friends come together to celebrate the single best thing I love about Fiji — family. Whether you are religious or not, the Christmas and New Year holiday gives us time to reflect on what truly matters in our lives. Loving life and celebrating with our family and closest friends should be at the top of the list during December.

The holiday season is also a time when you can put a smile on all your family's faces by cooking up a storm using the fresh local produce and the flavours of the South Pacific. As viewers have seen on many of the episodes of Taste of Paradise, cooking more healthy food that is also medicine for the body is not too difficult. This Christmas, instead of doing the same old food, why not try a few different dishes to surprise and tantalise your family and friends.

Roasted meats can be easily infused with more herbs and spices before you cook them in the lovo or oven.

The smells and aromas will have your neighbours wondering what you are having for Christmas lunch!

Creating refreshing salads for the tropical weather is easy with the abundance of organic and hydroponically grown lettuce, salad vegetables and sun kissed tropical fruits. Go to any of Fiji's markets and a rainbow of colourful produce that farmers and villagers have painstakingly brought to sell from their homes and farms confronts you. For any home cook, Fiji's markets are a treasure trove of ideas and organic produce that can turn your Christmas feast into something festive infused with Fijian flavours, and more importantly, healthy for the body.

Last week on Taste of Paradise I had the pleasure of visiting one of Fiji's best known exports — Pure Fiji. This family run establishment reminded me a lot of Castaway Island. The Pure Fiji family of workers greeted the Fiji TV crew with a huge welcoming as everyone dropped what they were doing to perform one of the grooviest Fijian welcomes!

I imagined the factory would be filled with machines to make their wonderfully fragrant beauty and skin care products, so I was surprised to learn that everything is packed, wrapped and finished by loving Fijian hands, even those cute little soaps infused with herb and coconut oil with the bow on the top!

The reason why I wanted to film the episode at Pure Fiji was to demonstrate how people can adopt their healthy philosophy in cooking. For the same reasons they mix their lotions, oils and soaps with Fiji's herbs, flora and tropical fruit to beautify and revitalise the outside, the medicinal properties of these ingredients can do the same for inside the body. They help rejuvenate, replenish and reinvigorate all the cells, blood, nerves and organs from within.

Using lemongrass, which most Fijians thought was only for tea, this episode showed how many plants and herbs on the land can add great flavour and taste to food. The roots provide the infusion of herbal flavours and smell, whilst the harder and inedible leaf ends can be creatively used as skewers to hold the meat. Lemongrass Chicken is ideal for family BBQs and functions because all you need is a BBQ grill or wood fire, and no cutlery! Like bamboo skewers, you should soak the hard, leafy ends of the lemongrass in water for an hour to stop them from burning.

Don't forget to watch the last two episodes for Season One of Taste of Paradise. Next week I take viewers to the Reddy's Peking Duck farm in Lautoka, to learn why Hindi and Muslim people should eat more duck for the iron, in replacement of beef. Iron-deficiency can cause weakness, inability to concentrate, the susceptibility to infection, impaired performance, and in general, ill health, say many doctors. The final episode on December 27th is my special one-hour long episode filmed on and around Castaway Island in the Mamanuca group of islands in the West.

I take viewers to my home to see where I work everyday, and to discover where my safari of life, happiness and healthy food started. This Fiji Food Safari season finale also includes me cooking with Australian TV chef and mentor, Elizabeth Chong, who shares a simple and healthy snack that can be easily prepared at home or in the village. And viewers will get to meet my Fijian family that I will be spending Christmas with — all 160 of them and their families!

From my family to yours, have a Merry Christmas and enjoy these new recipe ideas for your festive lunch, with even more in next week's bumper Christmas issue of the Sunday Times.

* Lance Seeto is the host of Fiji TV's "Taste of Paradise" broadcast in Fiji and across the South Pacific region every Thursday 8pm and Saturday 5.30pm on Fiji One. Follow his adventures on Facebook at "Fijian Food Safari" and "Taste Of Paradise".

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