Festive recipes: 3 international options to add to your Christmas feast

Spanish gambas, Indian curry and British tenderloin and tatters make for a worldly mix

Nana Monica's chicken curry has all the warmth of a grandmother’s hug. Photo: Nicole Barua
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As much as I adore all the regular dishes found in a Christmas lunch spread, it’s interesting to add a few wild cards into the mix by including dishes from all over the world.

The great part about living in the UAE is that varied produce is available all year round, so you could have fresh seafood treated with a Spanish touch, made possible with my sunny version of gambas al ajillo.

My umami tenderloin is amusingly easy to make, and I hope will make you want to lick the pan clean.

Most notably, though, I offer you a family favourite – my grandmother’s chicken curry. After years of tweaking, I’ve managed to recreate Nana Monica’s curry that adorned our Christmas plates every year. Rather than spicy, this warm broth is akin to a grandmother’s hug.

Nana Monica’s chicken curry

Serves 6

Ingredients and method for the masala

6-8 Kashmiri chilis

5-6 garlic cloves

130g red onion

½ inch ginger

4 cardamom pods, dehusked

6 peppercorns

2 tsp white rice

8 tbsp coconut, grated

1 tsp coriander powder

1 tsp turmeric powder

½ tsp cinnamon powder

5-6 kokum pieces in ½ cup of warm water

Dry roast the ingredients individually being careful not to burn them.

Roast the coconut and the powdered spices together in the end on a low flame. Blend to a fine paste by using a fourth of the kokum water.

Ingredients and method for the curry

750-800g chicken on the bone

1 tsp turmeric

Salt, to taste

2 tbsp neutral oil

160g tomatoes, skinned

1½ cup chicken stock

500g potatoes

Salt, to taste

Coriander, to garnish

Score the chicken and rub with turmeric and salt.

Heat the oil in a big pot, then add the chicken in batches. Set aside once browned.

In the same oil (add more if needed), fry the tomatoes, then cover on a low flame for a few minutes to break them down.

Add the masala stirring constantly on a high flame for about two minutes.

Add the chicken stock and remaining kokum water on a low flame and stir to incorporate.

Back on a high flame, add the potatoes and let the curry come to a boil. If it looks too thick, add some water or stock.

Lower the flame, cover with a lid and allow the potatoes to cook almost completely. Stir to avoid the curry sticking to the pan.

Season with salt, then add the chicken and stir. Cover with a lid and cook for 10-12 minutes or until the chicken is completely cooked.

Check seasoning and garnish with coriander.

Serve with rice or bread.

Umami tenderloin with goose-fat potatoes

Serves 8-10


1,150g tenderloin, trimmed

75g Dijon mustard

25g marmite

35g soya sauce

Sea salt and pepper, to taste

1½ tbsp brown sugar

3 large brown onions, sliced in whole rounds

520g Australian potatoes, skin on, cubed and parboiled

4 tbsp goose fat

30g semolina

Handful of sage

5 sprigs of thyme

1 garlic head

Neutral oil


In a mixing bowl that will fit the entire tenderloin, mix the mustard, marmite and soy sauce.

Add the tenderloin, poke holes in it with a fork, then cover well with the sauce. Cover with cling film and allow to marinate for at least an hour.

Heat a large skillet or roasting pan and add 4 tablespoons of oil. Remove the beef from the extra marinade and rub all over with sea salt and freshly crushed pepper. Sprinkle all sides of the tenderloin with the brown sugar.

Pre-heat the oven to 180°C with the broiler on three-fourths of the way.

Once the oil is very hot, start sealing the tenderloin (it will splatter, so be careful). Turn the tenderloin and lightly caramelise on all sides.

Once browned, remove and turn off the stove. Store the remaining marinade in the fridge if you want a gravy.

Deglaze the pan with a 1/3 cup of water and reduce a bit.

Add the onions, leaving space for the tenderloin in the centre.

Place the pan into the oven on a middle rack and roast for 30 to 40 minutes for medium rare.

Check the doneness by touching the thickest part of the meat (fairly firm is medium to medium rare). Once done, remove the meat and set on a plate to rest for 35 minutes covered with foil*.

Simultaneously start on the potatoes. To the parboiled potatoes, add half of the melted goose fat and toss.

Add the semolina, garlic cloves with the skin on, herbs and seasoning.

In a roasting pan, heat the remaining goose fat. Once melted add the potatoes and mix well.

Roast the potatoes on the same rack as the beef, making sure to toss them every 15 minutes for even gold browning on all sides. The potatoes may take a little longer than the roast.

Once the meat has rested, slice the steak and set on a serving plate, surrounded by the goose-fat potatoes.

Note: If you’re marinating the tenderloin overnight, keep the meat out for about 10 minutes before roasting.

*If you wish to make a drippings gravy, remove the tenderloin onions and chop finely. Deglaze the pan with half a cup of water and a tablespoon of corn flour, then add the remaining marinade and the onions back and set on a stove. Stir and reduce for 10 minutes. Check for seasoning. When it reaches the desired thickness, add chopped parsley and serve alongside the beef.

Saffron gambas al ajillo

Serves 6


12 king prawns or tiger prawns (shells on if you like and deveined)

1 tbsp smoked paprika

4 tbsp + ¼ cup olive oil

120g chicken or beef chorizo (optional)

50g unsalted butter

6-8 garlic cloves, grated

1 tsp fresh parsley

1 tsp saffron

Sea salt, to taste

Juice of one lemon

Fresh parsley

Chili flakes


Marinate the clean prawns with olive oil and paprika, cling film and for at least two hours or overnight.

Remove casing of the chorizo, if using, and cut into quarters.

Heat four spoons of olive oil until hot and add the chorizo, allowing them to crisp up. Cook on a medium to low flame.

Remove the chorizo and set aside.

Add the butter and allow it to melt in the residual heat. Then turn the flame to medium and, once most of the butter has melted, add the garlic and stir (you only want it to cook through without changing the colour).

Add the parsley and stir along with the garlic.

Add the saffron and a generous amount of salt, stir and immediately add the prawns on a low flame.

Gently poach the prawns in the butter and oil, using a spoon to pour the butter on top of the prawns as well, essentially basting them.

Flip after a few minutes and cook until just firm and curled.

Garnish with freshly chopped parsley, chilli flakes and lemon juice.

Serve hot with crusty bread.

Updated: December 20, 2023, 3:56 AM