Tom Kitchin’s Christmas dinner side dish ideas

Winter vegetables make for great Christmas side dishes
Winter vegetables make for great Christmas side dishes
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ONCE you’ve decided on your meat, poultry or vegetarian choice for Christmas dinner, it can be all too easy to stick with the same starters or side dishes year after year.

However, for me, this is where you can really make your meal stand out and also have some fun trying new things and making the most of the fantastic winter vegetables to be found right on our doorstep. Christmas should be all about that extra wow 
factor, and here’s where you can create it quite simply.

You want your Christmas menu starter to be impressive, but it needs to be light so it doesn’t spoil the rest of the meal. Smoked salmon or gravadlax is a staple starter in our house at Christmas. It’s incredibly simple but if you source fresh, local smoked salmon from a quality producer, it can set your meal off on just the right foot. It can also make the perfect pre-starter or appetiser as it’s clean and simple and whets the appetite.

If you want to try something different, this courgette and aubergine filo tart is a great recipe because the 
pastry is lovely and crisp, which compliments the texture of the vegetables, but it is also light enough to ensure there’s 
plenty of room for what’s to come. You can fill them with any kind of seasonal veg to suit your taste.

I really urge you to think about trying some different side dishes too. There are so many delicious recipes that can be incredibly easy, but give a nice twist on some of those classic Christmas 
table traditions.

The beauty of making plentiful side dishes is they are incredibly economical. Seasonal vegetables are cheap yet delicious and if you cook lots either the night before or on Christmas Day, it doesn’t have to create too much 
extra work.

The other advantage is there will 
always be plenty to go around and you will have an easy Boxing Day dinner ready in no time using all that hasn’t been eaten on Christmas Day. Throw everything together in a warming, hearty casserole, or add some spice to create a home-made curry – it’s so much easier when half the work is done, 
especially at a time when the family still wants to relish the holidays.

Different ways with potatoes can be great to try and usually keep most of the family happy. You can even get some little helpers to assist with the 
potato peeling and cheese grating so you don’t have to do all the work yourself. Roast potatoes are fantastic if you can get them light and fluffy on the 
inside and crisp and crunchy on the outside, and they tend to feature on most festive menus.

Potato gratin is another great 
prepare-ahead recipe, and perfect if you’re feeding a crowd. It was my 
mentor Pierre Koffmann who taught me the secret of making the perfect 
potato gratin. The key is in slicing the potatoes very, very thinly. You also need to make sure you salt and squeeze them to get rid of excess water for just the right texture when cooked. I always think it’s such a luxurious way to serve potatoes and I love to be able to place a big dish in the middle of the table so everyone can help themselves.

If you really want to wow guests, try making gratin with different root vegetables. One of my favourites at this time of year is a pumpkin and parmesan. It looks beautifully vibrant and colourful laid on the table, and it’s great to prepare ahead as the secret to making it is to cook it slowly in a low oven so you get a lovely golden, crisp top layer.

Another great way to enjoy potatoes is colcannon. This is typically a dish of potatoes with kale or cabbage. It’s 
incredibly creamy and comforting and a great one to keep the kids happy but also make sure they eat their greens. If you have the time, it’s lovely to bake the potatoes on rock salt rather than boil them before mashing them, as it really adds depth of flavour.

Whichever way you serve your sides this Christmas, there are lots of tips and tricks to make not only Christmas Day, but also Boxing Day much easier and more efficient. Vegetables should complement and offer a natural 
flavour match to your main dish, so giving them a little thought and effort can be the making of a truly memorable meal this Christmas.

Courgette and Aubergine Tart

Serves nine

50g butter, melted

250g packet ready-made filo pastry

olive oil for cooking

1 aubergine, sliced

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 tsp ground cumin

2 courgettes, sliced

1 garlic clove, peeled and sliced

100g cherry tomatoes, halved

1 tbsp chopped basil, plus a few torn leaves to finish

1 tbsp chopped black olives

100g mozzarella, diced

1 tsp dried herbes de Provence

Heat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4. Brush a nine-hole non-stick Yorkshire pudding tray with melted butter.

Lay one filo sheet on a board and brush with melted butter, then place another sheet of filo pastry on top and brush with butter again. Cut out 12cm squares and use a pair of filo squares to line each mould. Repeat this process to line the remaining moulds. Bake in the oven for five minutes until golden.

Meanwhile, heat a non-stick frying pan over a medium heat and add a generous drizzle of olive oil. When hot, add the aubergine slices, season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with the cumin. Cook, turning as necessary, 
until slightly golden on both sides, 
then remove to a sieve with a slotted spoon and leave to drain.

Heat a little more oil in the pan then add the courgette slices and cook, turning to colour both sides, for three 
or four minutes. Remove and place with the aubergine to drain off excess oil.

Put the aubergine and courgette into a large bowl. Add the garlic, cherry tomato halves, chopped basil and olives and toss together.

Now divide the vegetable filling evenly between the filo cases. Top 
with the mozzarella and sprinkle with the dried herbs. Bake for six to eight minutes until the mozzarella is melted and bubbling. Serve scattered with a few torn basil leaves.


Serves four

1kg potatoes

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

200g Savoy cabbage, trimmed

olive oil for cooking

50g bacon lardons

1 garlic clove, peeled and chopped

100ml milk

freshly grated nutmeg

75g butter

8 spring onions, trimmed and finely sliced

1 tsp chopped parsley

Peel and quarter the potatoes and boil in salted water until tender, then drain well. Meanwhile, shred the cabbage finely.

Heat a heavy-based sauté pan over a medium heat and add a drizzle of olive oil. Add the lardons and sweat for three or four minutes, then add the cabbage and cook over a medium-low heat for two to three minutes. Add the garlic and half a cupful of water. Cover and cook for five or six minutes until the cabbage is tender.

When the potatoes are nearly cooked, bring the milk to the boil and grate in a little nutmeg.

Mash the potatoes in a pan, then slowly incorporate the milk and butter. Season to taste.

Drain the cabbage, then fold through the mashed potato with the spring onions, parsley and a twist of pepper. Serve at once.

Pumpkin and Parmesan Gratin

Serves four

600g pumpkin

olive oil to drizzle

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 onions, peeled

1 bay leaf

1 clove

25g butter, plus a knob

2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped

4 sage leaves, shredded

400ml milk

25g plain flour

100g parmesan, freshly grated

½ tsp Dijon mustard

2 egg yolks

Heat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4. Cut the pumpkin into wedges, removing the seeds but leaving the skin on. Put on a baking tray, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake for 40 minutes or until tender. Let cool slightly, then cut the pumpkin flesh from the skin and chop into cubes. Place in a baking dish.

Slice one onion and stud the other with the bay leaf and clove. Heat a small, heavy-based frying pan over a low heat and add the knob of butter, followed by the sliced onion, garlic and sage. Sweat gently for five or six minutes, then spoon over the pumpkin.

Meanwhile, bring the milk to the boil in a pan with the studded onion. Take off the heat and set aside to infuse. In a separate pan, melt the 25g butter, then stir in the flour and cook, stirring, for two or three minutes to make a roux. Strain the milk and slowly stir into the roux. Cook, stirring, for four or five minutes, then take off the heat.

Stir in the parmesan and mustard, then the egg yolks. Pour the sauce over the pumpkin. Bake for ten to 12 minutes until golden.

Twitter: @TomKitchin