Yury Jaramillo celebrates Christmas with a Colombian feast

Celebrating family: Yury and Mary Jarmillo and Sara and Brett Doust with their Colombian Christmas treats. Picture: Pip Waller
Celebrating family: Yury and Mary Jarmillo and Sara and Brett Doust with their Colombian Christmas treats. Picture: Pip Waller

IT'S been five years since Colombian-born Yury Jaramillo has been home to celebrate Christmas with her extended family.

She can still recall the streets of her home town, Medellin, twinkling with Christmas lights and the smell of natilla (custard) and bunuelos (cheese fritters) in the air.

Moving from a city drenched in Christmas cultural traditions, Ms Jaramillo expressed continued dedication in keeping her culture alive for her Australian-born daughter, Sara Doust.

And this week's Christmas-themed In My Kitchen was the perfect opportunity, with Ms Jaramillo creating natilla y bunuelos.

Traditional dishes: Ms Jaramillo with her natilla (Colombian Christmas custard) and bunuelos (cheese fritters). Picture: Pip Waller

Traditional dishes: Ms Jaramillo with her natilla (Colombian Christmas custard) and bunuelos (cheese fritters). Picture: Pip Waller

"In Colombia you can buy these dishes everywhere for breakfast, lunch and dinner, so I usually never make them," Ms Jaramillo laughed.

"It's my third time making bunuelos which are like cheese fritters, and the first time I've made natilla which is similar to custard, because my family always makes them instead.

"But I want to teach Sara when she is older, so I have to start practicing now."

Ms Jaramillo explained there were two ways natilla could be made, either from a box of cornstarch custard from an international food store or from scratch.

Using the powder she had purchased from a store in Cockburn, which Ms Jaramillo said was "very expensive", she added 750ml of milk.

Over a medium heat, the mixture is warmed, before shredded coconut and raisins or black currants is added, once it has dried out slightly.

This year I'll get Sara a pool to play in for Christmas, but honestly I just want to give her the opportunity to travel back to my home. That's what is most important."

Yury Jaramillo

The mixture is then placed on a plate, sprinkled with cinnamon and put in the fridge for 30 minutes.

While she cooked, Ms Jaramillo shared what traditions Colombians celebrated during the Christmas period, which began on December 7 with putting out candles for Maria, Mother of God.

"Colombians are mostly Catholics, so we light candles for our Festival of Light. It's lighting the way for Maria."

"Colombia in December is the most beautiful time with the most beautiful Christmas lights, candles and music.

"But it does mean that the power bill is a lot more expensive at Christmas."

Traditionally in Colombia, Ms Jaramillo said natilla was usually served sliced with bunuelos or cheese fritters.

Again, the bunuelos can be made from a box or from scratch using tapioca flour, plain flour, baking powder, milk and cheese.

In a bowl, Ms Jaramillo combined three cups of cheese with the dry ingredients.

She said in Colombia, a less salty cheese was usually used, but in Australia she used one and a half cups of feta cheese and haloumi.

Christmas in the community: The Jaramillo/Doust family enjoyed celebrating Christmas early with their neighbours on December 9. Picture: Pip Waller

Christmas in the community: The Jaramillo/Doust family enjoyed celebrating Christmas early with their neighbours on December 9. Picture: Pip Waller

"You grate the cheese and add it to the mixture with some milk and mix it together for eight minutes or until it gets very sticky.

"Then you kneed the dough for three to four minutes, otherwise it can have air pockets."

"My mum Mary usually helps me make bunuelos because she has made them more often than me.

"It's a very easy thing to make but you do have to have the right consistency or the cheese balls will split."

Mary assisted Ms Jaramillo by frying the bunuelos in canola oil for 12 minutes until cooked.

Ms Jaramillo said whilst Christmas in Australia was traditionally celebrated on December 25, celebrations in Colombia began on December 24, Christmas Eve.

Under "huge Christmas trees", she explained that children in Colombia opened their presents at 12am.

"So the kids don't want to go to sleep," Ms Jaramillo laughed.

"On Christmas Eve, everybody gets together and makes all different types of food.

"Then on Christmas Day, the kids are very happy playing with their presents while the adults spend time together."

Feast: Ms Jaramillo's Natilla y Bunuelos. Picture: Pip Waller

Feast: Ms Jaramillo's Natilla y Bunuelos. Picture: Pip Waller

Whilst Western Australians tend to enjoy the beach during Christmas, Ms Jaramillo said although Colombians try to do the same, the closest beach to Medellin was a two-hour plane ride away.

"And if you drive or take the bus, it's 13 hours.

"But the important part of Christmas is that everyone is together - Christmas time, like in Australia, is family time."

Other traditional Christmas dishes in Colombia include tamalas, which are chicken, pork or beef with vegetables served in a banana leaf.

Salpicon, which is essentially a spread of different summer fruits, is also popular.

In addition to wanting to share her culture with Sara, Ms Jaramillo said it was also important for her to teach Sara the importance of gratitude.

"In Colombia, it's not easy for some people to get what they want for Christmas, where it's a bit easier here," she explained.

"I really want to teach Sara not to expect expensive presents. I want her to be simple and not spoiled.

"This year I'll get her a pool to play in for Christmas, but honestly I just want to give her experience and the opportunity to travel back to my home.

"That's what is most important."

In 2022, Ms Jaramillo hopes she can take Sara, accompanied by Mary and Ms Jaramillo's husband Brett Doust, home to Colombia to visit her grandmother Sara Rosa and her brother Jose David, sister Eliana and nephew Daniel.

Would you like to be featured in In My Kitchen in 2022? Email editor@bunburymail.com.au.

This story Cheese fritters and custard: Yury Jaramillo creates Colombian Christmas cuisine first appeared on Bunbury Mail.