Christmas; a time of year that remains in a league of its own, where people come together to be with their loved ones and say goodbye to another year gone by. It’s also a time for comfort, with great food being up front and centre and classic dishes—paired with new ones—adding to the fun.
With appetites firmly in tow, HELLO! celebrates this season with four exceptionally talented restaurateurs and chefs who have each created something special by way of an Xmas feast — chef Gurmehar Sethi of Klap, Gauri Devidayal of The Table, chef Hussain Shahzad of O Pedro and Prateek Gupta of Café Dali.
Chef-Approved Recipes To Try For Your Christmas Dinner Party
Chef Gurmehar Sethi : Chef and Entrepreneur
Restaurant: KLAP, New Delhi
‘Tis the season
“To me, Christmas means spreading joy and love, spending quality time with loved ones and indulging in delicious festive treats. It’s a magical time of year when homes are filled with twinkling lights, carols fill the air and the spirit of giving is in full swing. I love the excitement of decorating the tree, the anticipation of exchanging thoughtful gifts and the warmth of gathering around the table for a festive feast. Ultimately, Christmas is a reminder to be grateful for the blessings in our lives and to embrace the joy of the holiday season.”
“One common holiday tradition is decorating the Christmas tree. Many people have fond memories of gathering as a family to adorn the tree with lights, ornaments and garlands. Some families also have unique traditions like playing festive music or exchanging personalised ornaments. It’s a special time when loved ones come together to create a joyful and festive atmosphere.”
Favoured festive ritual
“Sunday afternoon, Xmas carols playing in the background and the entire family gets together for a mixing and baking of the Christmas cake!”
Recipe for Christmas Cake
- 1kg mixed dry fruits (figs, dates, raisins, cranberries, currants)
- 100g – whole/ flaked almonds, chopped hazelnuts
- 150ml sherry/brandy
- 2 oranges (zest and juice)
- 250g unsalted butter
- 250g brown sugar
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 200g refined flour
- 4 eggs
- 2 tsp mixed spice
Put your dry fruit mixture into a large bowl with your choice of sherry/brandy, orange zest and juice. Mix well, cover and leave it overnight.
Heat oven to 160°C, grease the cake mould with butter and place in the fridge.
Beat the butter, sugar and vanilla extract until you achieve a creamy texture, then add the eggs slowly, followed by refined flour, mixed spices, chopped nuts and alcohol-soaked dried fruits. Stir everything together well, then scrape into the cake mould.
Reduce the oven’s temperature to 140°C, cover the top of the cake with baking parchment paper and bake for 2 hours. Once the cake is cooked, take it out from the mould and place it on a baking tray for it to cool down. Slice and serve.
Gauri Devidayal : Co-Founder and Director, The Food Matters Group
Restaurant: The Table, Mumbai
‘Tis the season
“Enjoying the holidays of course (though I think our teams work the hardest in December out of the whole year!) But also fairy lights, presents, having family around and the yummiest food!”
“I lived in London for almost nine years, where I went to university and worked. My favourite things to do there are ice skating at Somerset House, visits to Christmas Markets from Covent Garden to Borough Market and seeing the Regent Street Christmas lights come on!”
Favoured festival ritual
Watching Love Actually for the millionth time. It just never gets old!
Recipe for Roasted Cornish Hen with Panzanella
- 1 Cornish hen
- 4 sage leaves
- 1 sprig rosemary
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 sprig thyme
- Zest of one lemon
(For the Panzanella)
- 80g clarified butter
- 500g sourdough bread or Goan poee bread
- 250g dark chicken stock
- A few splashes of white wine
- 1 sprig sage
- 1 sprig rosemary
- 1 lemon
- 1 bunch frisée
- 1 clove garlic
- A handful of chives, sliced
- Nice olive oil
Cut along the backside of the hen, remove the rib cage and thigh bone. Leave the uncovered skin side up on a rack for 2 days. Brush with olive oil and a little lemon juice. Chop the herbs and evenly coat the meat side.
Sear chicken skin side in butter till golden, then salt to taste. Press with a weight and bake at 380°F for 5 mins. Baste with the warm butter, flip and keep on a rack. Reserve the drippings.
Tear the bread into chunks, toss in olive oil and salt. Bake till crisp at 320°F.
Once the chicken is ready, deglaze the pan with white wine. Once reduced, add the stock. Cool down and add a few frisée leaves. Dress the frisée with olive oil, lemon juice, salt and chives. Then add the bread to the pan. Add reserved chicken drippings and toss. Place the chicken on top of the bread mix and serve.
Hussain Shahzad : Executive Chef at Hunger Inc. Hospitality
Restaurant: O PEDRO, Mumbai
‘Tis the season
“Growing up in Chennai in a Bohra Muslim family, the holiday season was always a big deal. The end of the year brought heaps of joy. But Christmas took on a whole new meaning when O Pedro came into my life. Especially when we started doing our special Christmas menu there every year. I’m always excited for this part of the year to dish out an awesome Goan Catholic feast at what we call our happy place. The best part of this celebration is the food and the stories that come with it. Even though I didn’t grow up with the Christmas traditions, knowing the (late) Chef Floyd Cardoz (who was a mentor to me and the Culinary Director at Hunger Inc. Hospitality) and his family, listening to their stories during dinner, made Christmas really special. We try to create a feast using Chef Floyd’s family recipes. The menu features his special heirloom recipes that bring so much warmth and togetherness.”
“Christmas at the restaurant is a big part of our yearly celebrations. We always put Chef Floyd’s mum’s special Smoked Pork Sorpotel with Sannas on the menu. That’s my absolute favourite tradition – it never changes. When I see it being cooked, I know Christmas is around the corner! It feels like a symbol of tradition, memories and good times. Christmas, for me, is all about making special memories and being with family.”
Recipe for Pork Belly Assado
- 1kg pork belly, boneless and without skin
- 3 cups thickly sliced onions
- 10 dry red Kashmiri chillies, medium-sized
- 1 tbsp brown sugar
- 60 ml dark rum or coconut palm feni
- 60 ml toddy vinegar
- 1 tsp cumin
- ½ tsp black pepper
- ½ inch cinnamon stick
- 6 pcs cloves
- 2 inch ginger, peeled
- 10 cloves of garlic
- 1 tsp turmeric powder
- 1 litre chicken stock or water
- Salt to taste
In a medium blender, grind to a fine paste the cumin, cinnamon, cloves, black pepper, turmeric, ginger, garlic and brown sugar with the feni and toddy vinegar. It should be a yellowish marinade. Now reserve this marinade in a cool place.
Salt the pork belly generously and reserve in a cool place for 30 mins. As the pork belly sits with the salt, slice the onions and break each Kashmiri chilli into a couple of pieces. Now marinate the pork with all the marinade and let it sit in a refrigerator for 6 hours.
Preheat your oven to 160°C. In a medium roasting tray, lay the sliced onions and Kashmiri chillies at the bottom to form a trivet for the meat. Now place the marinated pork belly clean side up on the sliced onions. Pour in room temperature water or chicken stock in the roasting tray, ensure it comes up halfway to the sides of the meat.
Roast for 60-90 minutes, making sure to baste the pork every 20 minutes. Once finished, the fat on the pork belly should be crusty, not crispy and the meat tender and juicy. Let the meat rest in the pan for 30 mins.
Transfer the meat to another tray, take all the onions and residual roasting juices from the roasting tray and put into a heavy bottomed saucepan. On a medium flame reduce the sauce and season with salt if necessary. The sauce should be tangy, slightly sweet and unctuous.
Slice the pork with a sharp knife and serve with roasted potatoes, warm bread and the assado sauce.
Prateek Gupta : Restaurateur
Restaurant: Café Dali, New Delhi
‘Tis the season
As Christmas approaches, it signifies the turning of a calendar, inviting excitement and new possibilities. This festive season prompts me to slow down and unwind. It’s an opportunity to reflect on the blessings and positive moments from the past.
My favourite Christmas tradition growing up was getting the tree out of the loft and meticulously spending a few hours decorating it with beautiful ornaments passed down from my grandmother. We still have the same tree and ornaments from our childhood that we set up every year. The ornaments are the ones you see hanging on the chandelier in Dali. They carry so many warm memories for me.
Favoured festival rituals
“As kids, we would go buy a red sweater every Christmas and stubbornly refuse to wear anything else for a week. It gave us so much joy. My wife and I still wear an ugly sweater every Christmas to keep the tradition going! We also enjoy watching Home Alone, a true old- school Christmas classic!”
Recipe for Maple Roasted Carrots with Rosemary
- Olive oil
- 300g carrots, cleaned, trimmed & halved lengthwise
- 3 sprigs rosemary
- 3 tbsp maple syrup
- Pinch of sea sal
Fire up the oven 200°C. Add a little olive oil and a sprig of rosemary to the baking tray and place inside the oven to warm up.
Once the pan is warm, add the carrots and the remaining rosemary, and drizzle with a little more olive oil. Return the pan to the oven and bake for 10 minutes, or until the carrots are golden brown and softened.
Drizzle the maple syrup over the carrots and continue cooking for another 2-3 minutes, or until the carrots are caramelised.
Remove the pan from the oven and sprinkle the carrots generously with the sea salt–and serve.
This story has been adapted for the website from a story that was originally published in Hello! India’s December 2023 issue. Get your hands on the latest issue right here!