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  Life   Food  25 Dec 2019  Cooking for Christmas

Cooking for Christmas

Published : Dec 25, 2019, 12:40 am IST
Updated : Dec 25, 2019, 12:40 am IST

Savoury tarts with different toppings are a good idea.


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.


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.


For Pastry Shell
Plain flour: 135 gms
Polenta: 40 gms
Cubed butter: 100 gms
Salt: 1/2 tsp
Cold water: 2 1/2 tbsp
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.

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

Tags: pumpkin soup