Christmas dinner is a wonderful time for everyone getting together, eating way too much and putting on a feast that likely won’t be seen for the rest of the year.
There are lots of traditional recipes that different families make year after year, some people are naturals at the stress and heat of a Christmas Day dinner, however, some are newbies.
As the resident chef here at HertsLive, I wanted to put together a list of some great Christmas side dishes that not only give the wow factor but also mean you don’t need to spend hours and hours in the kitchen.
Read More: Latest Christmas news
I have used my many resources and several years of cooking Christmas dinner to put together recipes that can be used for the first course, main and dessert.
I chose four of the best side dishes. In my opinion, I don’t feel the need to create five or six sides – I think that keeping it simple and minimal creates a much better dinner.
Keep in mind, I am not saying anything that anyone else hasn’t before but I never realised how simple it was to make some mind-blowing Christmas dishes.
Oh and before people start, there aren’t pigs in blankets on this list because you can just buy them.
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An absolute devil food in some people’s eyes, the Brussel Sprout is often boring, grey and basically mush, but in recent years people have started to come to terms with the fact that sprouts can indeed be sexy.
If you’re having sprouts this Christmas there are just two ingredients that can be added to really liven them up.
A lot of us will know what they are; pancetta/bacon and chestnuts.
An old recipe but one that very few people used to really make until chestnuts became more widely available in supermarkets.
All you need is some humble sprouts, some pancetta and chestnuts. These can be bought vacuum sealed or even frozen now and they are very, very good.
Cook the sprouts until al dente which means they retain a bite when eaten and begin cooking the pancetta in a cold pan – starting in a cold pan will help to render out the fat.
Once the fat has rendered and you have some nice crispy pancetta, add the chestnuts (now chopped) and toast them with the bacon before adding the sprouts and ideally crisping those up too.
It’s a promise that people will love these, even if they do cherry pick the bacon and nuts, at least you’ve served a good sprout dish.
Add a bit of lemon zest and parsley too if you’re feeling really fancy.
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Most of us can agree that one of the ultimate British staples is a roast potato, alongside the Yorkshire Pudding or pig in a blanket.
Roasties are generally alright but what if you want to really knock someone’s Christmas socks off?
Well this is the perfect recipe for roast potatoes. They are all very similar but each maintains one thing in common, they are simple.
Get some potatoes, Maris Piper or King Edward’s work best because they achieve optimum fluffiness.
Peel them, pop them into some cold water and bring it to a rolling boil. At the same time get a deep baking tray and add some sort of fat.
Goose fat is the most luxurious and traditional but honestly, any oil will work you just won’t get the snootiness of saying ‘Goose fat roasted potatoes’ to your awaiting guests.
Add about three to four tablespoons of fat to the tray and pop it into your preheated oven, about 200C.
Back to the taters. You want to cook the potatoes until you can put a knife into them with little to no resistance, they want to be on the verge of falling apart.
Once par-boiled take them out and add them to a colander or just pop a lid on the pan. Then get to bashing them about a bit.
What you are trying to achieve here is getting the edges of the potatoes to have a fluff, rounded texture that will crisp up when roasted.
Now take out the fat (very carefully) from the oven, it should be shimmering, and add the potatoes – be mindful of splashback.
At this point you also want to add any seasoning, for example, rosemary is a good shout as well as some black pepper. I tend to season with salt at the end just for appearance’s sake and with the hot oil, it sticks better.
Now you’re going to roast them, and this often takes longer than people think hence why you sometimes end up with slightly pale roasties that won’t hold up to an Aunt Bessies.
45 to 50 minutes should do it, an hour tops but what emerges should be golden, crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside pillows of starchy goodness.
There are tons of vegetables you could serve at Christmas – broccoli, carrots, asparagus, cauliflower (cheese obviously), sprouts (mentioned above), the list goes on.
But here are two veggies that I think are unbeatable.
We’re talking chilli roasted carrots and honey roasted parsnips. Chilli? On Christmas dinner? Yeah, that’s right.
I choose these because they take what are some pretty boring vegetables and absolutely ruin any nutritional integrity by turning them into sticky, sweet gravy vessels.
For this recipe, you will need a bag of carrots and a bag of parsnips, some garlic, red chilli and some honey.
Salt and pepper too.
Straight off the bat, I don’t bother par boiling carrots or parsnips, I don’t think it’s necessary but if you want to you can.
Chop your veggies into thick-ish batons.
I would say chop the carrot down the middle and then do it again, unless they are really small then just roast them whole.
Once your veg is prepped and your oven has preheated to 200C or 180C for fan assisted – that’s gas mark 4 – pop the veggies into two baking trays and begin seasoning.
For the parsnips, warm up the honey (about three tablespoons) in a pan so it’s runny, you can also add some festive spices such as clove, cardamom or cumin at this point but I prefer just honey with salt and pepper.
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Pour the honey onto the parsnips and the aforementioned salt and pepper and mix them around until covered, sticky and generally a mess. That’s it. Parsnips prepped.
For the carrots there is a little more work, you want to chop up a red chilli and 2 cloves of garlic.
Layer the carrots in a baking tray and drizzle on some good quality olive oil, then mix the garlic and chilli over the carrots. Once again, that’s it, carrots are prepped.
Some people add honey to their carrots, I don’t because, like me, they’re sweet enough.
Then you want to roast both of these at the same time for about 40 to 45 minutes or until tender, golden brown and barely resistant to a paring knife.
There you have it, four simple sides that are perfect for Christmas dinner. Of course just go as mad as possible, do as much as you can muster but don’t wear yourself out, it’s been a hard year for everyone.
Keep an eye out for my next rambling about the best main dishes for Christmas, including some vegan alternatives that don’t suck.
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