• The Listener
  • North & South
  • Noted
  • RNZ

Christmas dinner: Everything you need for a three-course festive feast

There’s something for everyone in the family this Christmas dinner.

We’re planning a traditional family Christmas this year. The menu is organised so that everyone brings one dish, which makes the preparation manageable.

We’ll start with two fish dishes, one designed to appeal to the youngsters. Then it’s a turkey with two savoury stuffings and a celebratory side of salmon with dill mayonnaise, which will also go well with the fish bites and use up some of the leftover yolks from the meringue cake. There will be plenty of vegetables, including a roasted vegetable salad with quinoa to satisfy those who don’t enjoy meat. To finish, we’ll have a meringue cake with berries. If you can’t find raspberries, use more strawberries or add blueberries.

Some of the preparation, such as the stuffings, can be done ahead, but ensure they are cold before they go into the turkey. Make the cake a day or two ahead, and roast the vegetables and cook the quinoa, too. Refrigerate everything made in advance. Enjoy the feast and have a very happy Christmas.

Coconut fish, avocado and macadamia. Photo/Rebekah Robinson; styling by Kate Arbuthnot

Coconut fish, avocado and macadamia

750g fresh snapper fillets

juice of 5 limes

2 tbsp flaky sea salt

400ml fresh (or canned) thick coconut cream

freshly ground black pepper

2 tbsp chopped coriander or parsley

2 heads of baby cos lettuce

2 avocados

a handful of macadamia nuts 

Macro alias: ModuleRenderer

Cut the fish into bite-size pieces. Place in a glass bowl and cover with the lime juice and salt. Cover, then marinate for at least an hour in the fridge.

An hour before serving, strain the fish and lime juice through a sieve, then discard the juice. Do not wash the fish. Return the fish to a clean serving bowl, then add the coconut cream and stir well. Grind over the black pepper, then add the herbs and more salt if necessary.

Place the cos leaves on a platter, then spoon a little fish mixture into each leaf. Chop the avocado into tiny cubes. Finely chop or grate the macadamia nuts.

To finish, scatter a little avocado and nuts over each serving.

Serves 8-10 as a starter
Wine match: champagne or sauvignon blanc

Crumbed fish bites

500g firm white fish (gurnard, ling, hoki, bluenose)

½ cup flour

1 tsp salt

1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

2 eggs

2 cups panko crumbs

6 tbsp vegetable oil

2 tbsp butter

mayonnaise (see salmon recipe below) 

Cut the fish into 4-5cm cubes. Combine the flour, salt and pepper, then toss the fish in it until lightly covered.

Break the eggs into a bowl, then beat thoroughly. Tip the crumbs into a shallow dish. Line a flat plate or tray with baking paper.

Dip each floured fish piece into the egg, then roll it in the crumbs to completely coat. Place them separately on the paper-lined dish. The fish can be prepared ahead to this point.

When ready to cook, heat the oil and butter until hot but not smoking. Fry the fish until golden, turning once. Remove and place the pieces on paper towels.

To serve, pile the fish pieces onto a platter, with the mayonnaise in a separate dish. Provide small forks or baby skewers.

Serves 8-10 as a starter
Wine match: champagne or sauvignon blanc

Roast turkey with two tangelo-inspired stuffings, quinoa and roasted vegetable salad with vincotto dressing and parsley, new potatoes with butter and mint, tomato and avocado salad with basil, and roasted salmon with dill mayonnaise. Photo/Rebekah Robinson; styling by Kate Arbuthnot

Roast turkey with two tangelo-inspired stuffings

3.5-4.5kg turkey (Crozier’s Organic)

4 litres water

1 cup coarse sea salt

3 bay leaves

1 tsp each of peppercorns, fennel seeds, coriander seeds and juniper berries

5 tbsp olive or avocado oil

3 tbsp butter

salt and freshly ground black pepper

small sprigs of thyme

1 cup riesling or dessert wine


1 cup dried cranberries

1 tangelo, zest and juice

3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 large onion, finely chopped

pinch of cinnamon

2 cups roughly cubed sourdough bread

1 cup chicken stock or wine

2 tbsp fresh tarragon, chopped

salt and freshly ground black pepper


400g good pork sausages

2 tbsp butter

2 tbsp olive oil

1 small onion, finely chopped

2 tbsp chopped sage

1 tangelo, zest and juice

1/2 cup fresh white sourdough breadcrumbs

salt and freshly ground black pepper


2 tbsp flour

1 litre chicken stock

Defrost the turkey in the refrigerator over 2 days. To brine the turkey, bring a litre of water to a boil in a large stainless-steel preserving pan, then add the salt, herbs and spices, stirring to dissolve the salt. Leave to cool completely before adding the remaining 3 or more litres of water and the turkey. Ensure the cavity fills with brine, then weight the bird so it is completely submerged. Refrigerate overnight or for 24 hours.

Meanwhile, make the stuffings. For the cranberry stuffing, combine the cranberries and tangelo juice and zest, then leave for at least 30 minutes. Heat the oil in a large frying pan, then gently sauté the onion until golden. Add the cinnamon and cook for a minute. Add the bread cubes with the stock or wine and combine well. Remove from the heat and add the soaked cranberries and juice and the tarragon. Season to taste with salt and pepper. When the mixture is cold, fill the turkey body cavity and tie the legs together with string and bamboo skewers to keep the stuffing inside.

For the sausage stuffing, lightly brown the sausages, then set aside to cool. Slice. Melt the butter and oil together in a frying pan, then fry the onion and sage until golden. Remove from the heat, cool and add the sliced sausages with the tangelo zest and juice, breadcrumbs and a generous amount of salt and pepper. When the mixture is completely cool, stuff it into the turkey’s neck cavity and close it with a bamboo skewer.

To prepare the turkey, rub the surface with the oil and butter, then sprinkle liberally with salt and black pepper. Dot small sprigs of thyme over the top. Place in a roasting pan with the wine.

Bake in a preheated 190°C oven for about 2 hours or the time recommended on the wrapping. Baste occasionally with the juices. When completely cooked, the turkey should be crisp and golden, with loose legs. Rest the bird, loosely covered in foil, while you make the gravy.

To make the gravy, discard most of the fat in the roasting pan, retaining the meat drippings on the bottom. Add the flour, then stir well over the heat, loosening the drippings, until slightly brown. Add the stock. Stir until the gravy comes to a simmer, then let it bubble slowly while the turkey is being carved.

To serve, arrange the meat slices on a platter, then surround with spoonfuls of stuffing. Serve the gravy in a jug.

Serves 12, but the recipe can be scaled up for a larger turkey
Wine match: chardonnay or pinot noir 

Roasted salmon with dill mayonnaise

1 side of fresh salmon

1 cheek of preserved lemon, finely chopped

1 tsp salt

freshly ground black pepper

a large handful of fresh dill sprigs

juice of 2 lemons

garnish: dill sprigs and lemon wedges


3 egg yolks

1 tsp salt

2 tsp dijon mustard

1 lemon, juice and zest

1 large cup avocado oil

2 tbsp finely chopped dill 

Preheat the oven to 170°C. Place 2 long strips of baking paper on a large baking tray, then arrange the salmon on top, skin-side down. Scatter the preserved lemon, salt, pepper and lots of dill sprigs over the top. Pour the lemon juice over the top.

Place 2 pieces of baking paper over the top, then roll and fold all the edges together to seal the salmon into a parcel. This can be done ahead and the fish baked for an hour before serving, or it can be cooked ahead and refrigerated until needed. I prefer it served slightly warm.

To bake the salmon, place the baking tray in the oven for 15-20 minutes. When it is just cooked through, remove from the oven and leave to stand on the paper for about 10 minutes.

To make the mayonnaise, whizz the yolks, salt, mustard and lemon juice and zest together in a food processor. Then, with the motor running, slowly pour the oil down the feed funnel. It will form a thick emulsion. Stir in the dill, then taste and add extra salt if needed.

Makes 1 large cup that will last for 3-4 days in the fridge.

To serve, remove the top layers of paper, place the salmon on a serving platter and decorate with sprigs of fresh dill and lemon wedges. Serve the mayonnaise separately.

Serve 10-12
Wine match: chardonnay

New potatoes with butter and mint

1kg fresh new baby potatoes (little perlas or jersey bennes)

2 sprigs plus a handful of sliced mint

4 tbsp butter

salt and freshly ground pepper 

Scrub the potatoes, then gently simmer in salted water with a sprig or two of mint until tender. The fresher the potatoes, the more quickly they will cook – 10-12 minutes. Strain the potatoes, then return to the pan and toss in the butter, extra salt if needed and lots of black pepper. Leave over a gentle heat. When ready to serve, tip everything into a bowl. Scatter the sliced mint on top.

Serves 8-10 

Tomato and avocado salad with basil

about 1kg of assorted ripe tomatoes

2 firm, ripe avocados

½ cup basil leaves

1 lemon, zest and juice

salt and freshly ground pepper

2 tbsp avocado oil 

Slice the tomatoes, then place on a salad platter. Chop the avocados into neat chunks and add. Strew the basil leaves and zest over the top, then sprinkle on the juice. Season with salt and pepper, then drizzle with the oil.

Serves 8-10

Quinoa and roasted vegetable salad with vincotto dressing and parsley

1 cup of quinoa (Ceres Organic or NZ grown)

3 cups water

2 kumara

3 carrots

3 fennel bulbs

4 courgettes

1 tsp ground cumin

4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp salt

fresh thyme sprigs

1 red sweetie capsicum


2 tbsp vincotto (or balsamic vinegar)

4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

1 cup finely chopped parsley 

Wash the quinoa thoroughly under cold water using a fine sieve while gently rubbing the seeds to help remove residues. (The seeds are often coated in saponins, a natural insect repellent, which need to be removed.)

Add the quinoa and water to a saucepan, then bring to the boil. Reduce the heat, cover, then simmer for 15-20 minutes until little “tails” appear. Uncover and let the quinoa sit until the liquid is completely absorbed. Lightly fluff up with a fork.

Preheat the oven to 190°C. Peel the kumara and carrots, then cut into neat chunks. Neatly slice the fennel and courgettes. Put the kumara, carrot and fennel into a roasting pan, sprinkle over the ground cumin, oil, salt and thyme sprigs, then place in the oven.

Seed the capsicum, then cut into thick slices. After the vegetables have been roasting for 20 minutes, add the capsicum and courgette pieces, tossing well in the oil. Roast until all the vegetables are tender and starting to turn golden. Remove from the oven and cool slightly.

Make the dressing by shaking the vincotto, oil, salt and pepper in a jar.

To finish, toss the vegetables and quinoa together in a serving dish with the dressing and parsley.

Serve warm or cold, but if the salad has been in the fridge, allow it time to come to room temperature.

Serves 8-10

Raspberry meringue cake. Photo/Rebekah Robinson; styling by Kate Arbuthnot

Raspberry meringue cake

6 egg whites

330g caster sugar

1 tsp pure vanilla essence

1 tbsp dried raspberries (Fresh As)

300ml cream

2 punnets strawberries

2 punnets raspberries

optional: 1 tsp raspberry powder (Fresh As)

Preheat the oven to 150°C. Line a baking tray with baking paper and draw 2 circles 24cm in diameter on it. You may need 2 baking trays, depending on the capacity of your oven.

To make the meringue cake, use an electric mixer to beat the egg whites until stiff and standing up in peaks. Slowly add spoonfuls of the caster sugar while keeping the motor running. Add the vanilla essence. Turn off the beater, then fold in the freeze-dried raspberries.

Using a dessertspoon, place spoonfuls of meringue inside the circles, making sure each one joins up. There shouldn’t be any gaps. When both circles are filled with meringue, they should look like cakes with spiky tops.

Place the tray(s) in the oven and bake for 70-80 minutes until the meringue is crisp and starting to turn pale pink. Remove from the oven and cool. They can be made a day ahead. Store in layers in upside-down airtight containers, so they are easy to remove.

Whip the cream until it forms soft peaks. Place one meringue cake on a round, flat plate, then cover with whipped cream. Slice half the strawberries and layer these onto the cream with half the raspberries.

Carefully place the second meringue cake on top, then dust it with the raspberry powder and decorate with the remaining raspberries. Use extra strawberries to decorate the plate.

Serves 8-10
Wine match: sparkling rosé

Thanks to Regal Salmon, Crozier’s Organic Turkeys and Golden Gourmet potatoes. Pastel platters and plates by Frolic @frolicceramics, cake plate by mooimooi.co.nz; decorations and salad servers by greenwithenvy.co.nz.

This article was first published in the December 9, 2017 issue of the New Zealand Listener.