Cooking for Christmas

Christmas is a time for fun, feasting and festivities, and while some classic recipes will never go out of style.

Come December and the air has a festive ring to it! The upcoming Christmas season may be better known for cake, mince pies, cookies, chocolates and gingerbread, but there’s also a whole range of savouries to enjoy.

“Throughout the holiday season, there is an abundance of delicious sweets and decadent beverages, but it is the savoury food that stands out,” says Chef Nikolas Tsimidakis, Executive Chef, Shangri-La Hotel, Dubai, who believes in feeding his guests with good wholesome food while making it fun at the same time.

Savoury tarts with different toppings are a good idea. Nothing compares to warm bread from the oven, drizzled with olive oil. You can choose to opt for any grain for the baguette you use for your crostini, which works particularly well with cranberries and Brie cheese. Also, given that pumpkin season is not officially over, a pumpkin recipe could satisfy any of your cravings — be it sweet or savoury!

And as some would argue, no festive table is appropriately festooned without turkey. Even if you happen to be a turkey-making novice, Nikolas’ recipe is almost impossible to fail.

“Can you have a Christmas without a roast turkey? At Shangri-La Hotel, we stick to traditions but also incorporate our Asian identity in the holiday season along with other dishes that are equally hearty and delicious,” adds Chef Nikolas Tsimidakis, who believes that while Christmas classics are always great, it is wonderful to come up with new favourites. These fun savoury bites are a great way to entice everyone to explore different tastes and textures… and make for an ideal spread on any party table!

Merry Christmas everyone!



Pumpkin: 500 gms
Onion: 1
Chicken stock: 500 ml
Corn flour: 1 tbsp
Water: 1 ½ tbsp
Cream: 150 ml
Butter: 50 gms
Sea salt to taste
Pepper to taste
Olive oil: 1 tsp
Sage: 6 leaves
Pumpkin seeds for garnish
Crumbled Feta cheese for garnish


  • Cut the pumpkin into large pieces, place in a hot pan with a little olive oil until lightly coloured.
  • Add chicken stock, onion and simmer until the pumpkin and onion are cooked — roughly 15 minutes.
  • Add the cream and bring to a boil, then add the corn flour and water.
  • Blitz the mixture with butter until the texture is to your liking.
  • Add sage and bring to a boil.
  • Season with salt and pepper; garnish with sage and pumpkin seeds and feta cheese.

For Pastry Shell
Plain flour: 135 gms
Polenta: 40 gms
Cubed butter: 100 gms
Salt: 1/2 tsp
Cold water: 2 1/2 tbsp
Pastry filling
Eggs: 3
Goat cheese: 100 gms
Pumpkin puree: 260 gms
Salt: 3/4 tsp
Black pepper: 1/2 tsp
Paprika: 1/4 tsp
Grated nutmeg: 1/4 tsp
Milk: 120 ml
Figs: 3 Nos, cut in half


  • Put the flour, polenta, butter and salt in a food processor until fine crumbs are formed.
  • Add the water gradually until the mixture comes together — check this by pressing some of the mixture in between two fingers.
  • Once ready, shape the pastry in a flat round and wrap it in cling film. Place it in the fridge to chill for an hour.
  • Preheat the oven to 190°C.
  • After the pastry has chilled, roll it out to about 5 mm thick.
  • Line the tart tin with the pastry, press it into the edges. Trim any extra pastry.
  • Line the pastry shell with baking parchment and bake in the oven for 25 minutes, then remove the parchment and bake for another 5 minutes. Remove once golden and firm and cool for 5 minutes.

For the filling:

  • Whisk the eggs and goat cheese in a large bowl until smooth. Whisk in all the remaining ingredients, except for the figs.
  • Pour the filling into the pastry shell.
  • Arrange the figs over the top of the filling and sprinkle with nutmeg.
  • Place the tart back in the oven and bake for another 30-35 minutes until the filling is almost firm but still soft.
  • Leave to cool for 10 minutes and serve warm.


Baguette: 1 No
Olive oil to drizzle
Brie Cheese: 145 gms
Red apples, sliced: 2 Nos
Cranberry sauce: 1/2 cup
Pecans (or walnuts): 1/4 cup


  • Heat oven to 250 C.
  • Slice baguette and drizzle lightly with olive oil. Place on a baking sheet.
  • Toast baguette slices for 7-8 minutes until crispy.
  • Slice Brie thinly and place a piece onto each crostini and place into the oven until it is melted.
  • Remove from oven and top with sliced apples, cranberry sauce and pecans and serve.

Unbaked pie crust: 1 No
Feta cheese crumbled: 1 1/2 cups
Medium shallot, diced: 1 No
Fresh thyme: 4 sprigs
Chopped basil: 1 tbsp
Kosher salt: 1/2 tsp
Black pepper: 1/4 tsp
Tomatoes sliced: 3 medium


  • Preheat oven to 250 C. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Place the pie crust on a lightly floured work surface and roll the dough out to a 12 inch round.
  • Transfer it to the prepared baking sheet.
  • Sprinkle the cheese evenly over the dough. Sprinkle with the shallots, thyme leaves, basil, salt and pepper. Arrange the tomatoes over the cheese and herbs.
  • Gently fold the edges of the dough over the tomatoes, covering about 2 inches of the filling. Pleat the dough every 2 inches.
  • Bake until the crust is golden-brown and the tomatoes are soft - about 40 to 45 minutes.
  • Cool for 10 minutes more. Serve warm.


Tofu, cut into squares: 24 pcs
Bok choy: 1 pc
Enoki mushrooms: 40 gms
Shiitake mushrooms: 40 gms
Black finger mushrooms: 40 gms
Vegetable oil: 4 tsp
Sliced garlic: 2 cloves
Finely grated ginger: 2 tsp
Dark soy sauce: 3 tsp
Light soy sauce: 3 tsp
Chicken stock: 150 ml
Sugar: 2 tsp
Truffle oil: 2 tsp
Chopped truffle: 2 tsp
Chinese green spring onion: 2 pc


  • Chop and mix all the mushrooms.
  • Chop black truffles, ginger and spring onions.
  • Cut one piece of bok choy into two; blanch in boiled, salted water.
  • In a wok, sauté the mushrooms, truffle, ginger and garlic; add chicken stock, dark soy sauce and light soy sauce. Cook for 2-3 minutes.
  • Add truffle oil and spring onions to the wok and put aside. Keep the sauce hot.
  • Deep-fry the 24 pieces of tofu until the outside is crispy and browned.
  • Stack the crispy tofu in a plate, add the sauce.
  • Garnish with bok choy and spring onion.


Whole turkey, neck and giblets removed: 5 kg
Kosher salt: 2 cups
Melted butter: ½ cup
Peeled and chopped onions: 100 gms
Peeled and chopped carrots: 100 gms
Thyme: 20 gms
Bay leaf: 1 No
Dry white wine: 1 cup
Brussels sprouts: 200 gms
Baby potatoes: 200 gms
Seasonal root vegetables: 200 gms
Butter: 100 gms
Smoked turkey bacon: 100 gms


  • Rub the turkey inside and out with the kosher salt.
  • Place the turkey in a large stock pot and cover with cold water. Place in the refrigerator and allow the turkey to soak in the salt and water mixture for 12 hours or overnight.
  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
  • Thoroughly rinse the turkey and discard the brine mixture.
  • Brush the turkey with half of the the melted butter. Place the turkey on a roasting rack, breast side down in a shallow roasting pan.
  • Stuff the turkey cavity with onions, carrots, thyme and bay leaf. Scatter the remaining vegetables and thyme around the bottom of the roasting pan and coat with white wine.
  • Roast the turkey uncovered for 3½ - 4 hours in the preheated oven until the internal temperature of the thigh reaches 75 degrees C.
  • Carefully turn the turkey breast side up about 2/3 through the roasting time and brush with the remaining butter. Allow the bird to stand for about 30 minutes before carving.

Prepare the vegetables:

  • Blanch the Brussel sprouts in salted boiled water and cool in ice after cooking.
  • Peel and cut the root vegetables in cubes, wash the baby potatoes and keep in a container. Slice the smoked turkey bacon.
  • Mix all vegetables and cook slowly in a pan with butter, add salt, pepper and smoked turkey at the end.
  • Plate the roasted turkey in a dish with mixed vegetables, served with the turkey juice on the side.

(All recipes by Chef Nikolas Tsimidakis, Executive Chef, Shangri-La Hotel, Dubai)

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