The Philippines is a predominantly Roman Catholic country, so Christmas is the biggest holiday for Filipinos. In anticipation, Filipinos attend nine days of devotional Masses leading up to Christmas Eve, called Simbang Gabi.
Filipinos celebrate Christmas Eve with a huge holiday spread, called Noche Buena, which is eaten at midnight(ish) after returning home from the final Simbang Gabi Mass.
One of my favorite things about Noche Buena is fruit salad. It’s so strongly associated with the Christmas holiday that I rarely make it at any other time of the year. (The one time I did, my friend’s first response was, “Why? Is it Christmas?”)
This was also one of my earliest forays into holiday cooking. It’s so fast (15 minutes cooking time!) and simple that even a kid can make it.
Ingredients (serves 4-8):
1 can fruit cocktail
1 16-ounce (i.e., 1 pound) package shredded young coconut (in the freezer aisle)
1 7.6-ounce can media crema/table cream (in the international aisle; I recommend the Nestle brand)
1 14-ounce can condensed milk
*Defrost shredded young coconut on the countertop (do NOT microwave!) and drain off excess water.
*Drain water from fruit cocktail.
*In a huge mixing bowl, mix coconut, fruit cocktail and media crema/table cream.
*To the mixture add slightly less than half a can of condensed milk. Then sweeten to taste with more condensed milk. (I like my fruit salad sweet, so I generally add a little more than half a can.)
*Try adding other canned fruit. Canned apricots, peaches and pineapples work well. Fresh red apples and raisins work well, too. Do NOT add kiwi fruit; they will make your salad bitter. (I learned this the hard way.)
*Try adding tiny cubes of cheddar cheese. This is my dad’s innovation—it adds a sweet, salty creamy texture to your fruit salad. (If you are not sure about this, test it on one serving.)
Get more of Stella’s recipes at her blog, Cooking with Stellaaa.