Christmas treats, with plenty of trimmings

Treat your guests to stuffed chicken and a half bake rum and raisin cake Photo: K. Pichumani  

The air is filled with the aroma of decadent cakes being pulled out of the oven, juicy chicken being roasted to perfection, potatoes being sautéed and salads tossed. The holidays are the perfect time to satiate those taste buds, and if it’s a cosy Christmas meal for friends, pull out all the stops and whip up a feast. Of course, it would be perfect if you could conjure the said feast. After all, who wants to slave over a hot stove all day long?

Sandesh Reddy of Sandy’s Chocolate Laboratory gives us a lowdown on how to whip up the perfect Christmas dinner — within three hours.

“A Christmas meal takes time to prepare; it’s not one boring meal. That said, there’s no reason why one shouldn’tkeep it simple yet interesting,” he says. To start with, Sandesh says, he would begin a meal with a deliciously juicy warm grape salad.

“It is my newfound love. All you have to do is heat a little grape-seed oil in a hot pan, throw in two handfuls of seedless grapes (black are nice) and toss for a quick bit. Now drain them on a paper towel and season with rock salt and pepper.

This will also dehydrate the fruit a little, without making it too soggy. On the side, make a dressing with balsamic, maple syrup or sherry vinegar and grape-seed oil and a tiny bit of Dijon mustard. Throw in lots of rocket leaves and toss everything together. You’re set. It’s that simple,” he says.

For Sandesh, Christmas is about a table full of food — good food. So a cheese board will definitely feature prominently on his.

“Add some crusty bread and olive oil and it’s perfect. Serve some cured meat too; bellota {Spanish ham} if you get any.”

For the main course, he says a roast duck will be the winner. “Pan roast it, if you must, till the skin is nice and crispy. Deglaze the pan you roast the duck in with sherry, and that’s your sauce. Plate it with some pumpkin purée and roast asparagus and voila!”

If a roast duck is not really what you want to serve, then there’s also the wonderfully juicy stuffed chicken you can make with just as much ease. With a filling of wilted spinach, mushrooms, garlic and olive, this dish will bring you rave reviews.

“Also, since it is Christmas, I would do a bake of some sort. If there are children at the meal, then a good old Mac and Cheese, or a simple baked vegetable dish for the adults. But don’t really sweat it; roast the vegetables ahead when you roast the pumpkin for the main course. Also, keep the bake simple with vegetables like sweet potatoes, zucchini, sundried tomatoes, pearl onions, a lovely tomato sauce {can be store-bought} and lots of parmesan and cheddar. Bake for 45 minutes, and we have a lovely creamy dish ready.”

Finish it all off with some delicious dessert; after all, what’s Christmas meal without a cake? Sandesh recommends a good, old rum-and-raisin one; you could, of course, give it a twist by making it half-baked. It’s quick, gooey and simply put — sinful.


Half-baked rum-and-raisin cake


125 gm softened unsalted butter

125 gm castor sugar

125 gm flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 tbsp milk

2 eggs

3 tbsps raisins soaked in dark rum over night (more if you want it boozy)

1 tsp vanilla extract (pure vanilla, not the cheap alternative)


Combine the butter and sugar till the mixture is pale. It’s best to use an electric whisk or a stand mixer for this — or you can give your arms a good workout. Add the eggs and mix further. Sift in the flour and baking powder. Add the vanilla, rum-soaked raisins and milk. Mix them through. Pour into small tea cups or ramekins. Fill only halfway through. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. In the meantime, preheat your oven to 190 degree Celsius. Bake the cakes for six minutes, or until you see a crust forming. They should be runny in the centre. Remove them and serve with cold heavy cream.

Stuffed chicken


2 chicken breasts, deboned and skinless

A bunch of spinach, roughly chopped

4 cloves of garlic, crushed

1 large onion

15 button mushrooms, roughly chopped



Peri peri powder

Olive oil


Butterfly the chicken breast and flatten using a kitchen mallet/ rolling pin/ tenderiser/ heavy pan. Marinate the inside with salt, pepper and olive oil. Marinate the outside with salt, pepper, peri peri powder and olive oil. Let this sit in the fridge for 30 minutes. In the meantime, prepare the filling. Heat olive oil in a pan. Add the onion and garlic, and sauté till soft. Add the mushrooms with some salt and pepper, and cook till they are soft. Add the spinach with some salt and pepper. Cook just till it wilts. Remove the mixture and place two heaped spoonfuls on the inner side of the chicken breasts. Roll the chicken and hold it together with toothpicks or kitchen twine. Pre-heat an oven to 180 degree Celsius. Take a frying pan and heat about three tablespoons of olive oil, till it is smoking hot. Fry the chicken till it’s brown on all sides. Now, place it on a tray and place it in the oven for 10 minutes. Take it out and rest it for five minutes. Serve it with a salad and mashed potatoes.

If you want some sauce on the dish, then just reduce some tomato juice with salt and pepper and a touch of Tabasco sauce. Whisk some cold butter into this and you have a lovely tangy sauce to go with your chicken.

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Printable version | Jun 19, 2021 1:04:20 PM |

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