Alternative Christmas dinner recipes: Four top London chefs share their favourites

Joy to the world: (left to right) chefs Karan Gokani, Judy Joo, Brian Danclair and Calum Franklin   (Daniel Hambury/Stella Pictures Ltd)
Joy to the world: (left to right) chefs Karan Gokani, Judy Joo, Brian Danclair and Calum Franklin (Daniel Hambury/Stella Pictures Ltd)

Christmas lunch can be a bit of a turkey, but there is another way. Here, four top chefs share their alternative festive favourites to spice things up on your festive menu.

Salmon en croute

Judy Joo, Seoul Bird

 (Daniel Hambury/Stella Pictures Ltd)
(Daniel Hambury/Stella Pictures Ltd)

Growing up, during the festive season, my mom used to boil a large pot of Christmas spices to make the house smell nice and cosy. To this day, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and allspice mixed with citrus make me think of Christmas. We would also always make eggnog, full of fragrant nutmeg, and Christmas cookies, usually fluffy cinnamon sugar snickerdoodles. Every year my sister and I would leave a glass of eggnog and a couple of these sweet buttery cookies for Santa. It is these aromatic winter spices that create a truly memorable and detectible holiday spirit. Whatever’s there, it’s always wonderful when there’s a centrepiece too — this salmon is ideal.

Serves: 8-10


  • 1.1kg boneless skinless side of salmon, sliced in half, dried on paper towels and kept in fridge

  • 12 medium stalks of asparagus, trimmed

  • 90g baby spinach

  • 2/3 tsp fresh rosemary, chopped

  • ½ tsp both fresh tarragon and

  • fresh thyme, chopped

  • 2 cloves garlic, grated

  • 3 tbsp crème fraiche

  • 2 tbsp parmesan cheese, grated

  • ¾ tsp fresh lemon zest

  • 1 egg, beaten

  • 2 large sheets pure butter puff pastry, thawed

 (Alamy Stock Photo)
(Alamy Stock Photo)


  1. Heat oven to 205°C. Prepare an ice bath.

  2. In boiling water, cook the asparagus for two to three minutes until dark green, but still firm to the bite. Then plunge it into the ice bath, allow to cool completely and remove. Slice into pieces about ¼ cm thick.

  3. Cook the spinach in boiling water for about one to two minutes, then plunge in the ice bath, before removing and squeezing out any excess water. Roughly chop.

  4. Place the asparagus pieces into a medium bowl and add the spinach. Mix in the rosemary, tarragon, thyme, garlic, pepper, salt, crème fraiche, parmesan and lemon. Mix well and season to taste.

  5. Make an egg wash by cracking the egg into a small bowl and whisking it together with a splash of water.

  6. Roll the puff pastry out to about twice the width of the salmon with about 5cm extra on each end, depending on how thick your salmon is. Dust your counter with flour and roll the puff pastry to the right size and about ¼ cm to ½ cm thick. Position the pastry with the long side of the rectangle facing you. Cut it in two lengthwise, with one piece slightly wider than the other — the larger piece will be the top piece that goes over the fish.

  7. Place the smaller piece of pastry onto a large piece of parchment paper, then place the bottom of the salmon on the middle of it. Carefully spoon over the asparagus and spinach mix in an even layer. Now put on the top half of the salmon, but place the thicker end over the thin tail end of the bottom piece, to create a more even shape overall. Using a pastry brush, brush the edges around the salmon with the egg wash.

  8. Cover the salmon with the larger piece of pastry, running your fingers along the sides to tuck it into place alongside the salmon, removing any air pockets and pressing to seal. Using a sharp knife, trim the edges to leave about 2.5cm for a crust, and reserve the trimming. Using your fingers, crimp the crust and cut two or three steam vents in the top of the pastry. Use any trimmings for decorations and egg wash it.

  9. Cover loosely with clingfilm and allow to chill for 20 minutes in the fridge before baking. Once chilled, place into the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes until the pastry is golden brown.

Seoul Bird, Westfield London Shopping Centre, Ariel Way, W12,

Geera-roasted rooster with chimichurri

Brian Danclair, Danclair’s Kitchen and Fish, Wings n Tings

 (Daniel Hambury/Stella Pictures Ltd)
(Daniel Hambury/Stella Pictures Ltd)

My Christmas is spent with my wife and children and some times we have some relatives from France or Trinidad. The cooking is the most important, we always do a Trini style dinner, this includes Trini Pastel, stew chicken, boiled vegetables, Callalloo, cured roasted ham, fried fish, the traditional turkey. As desert, we have Fruit Bread and the most important Ponche Creme (eggnog drink prepared with copious amounts of rum!). This rooster has those Trinidad roots, just right if turkey isn’t wanted.

Serves: 8-10


  • 1 large rooster

  • 1 head of garlic peeled

  • Juice of 2 squeezed limes

  • 2 tbsp of chopped coriander

  • 1 ½ tbsp ground geera

  • ½ scotch bonnet pepper halved, deseeded and chopped

  • 6 sprigs of thyme

  • 3 table spoons of virgin olive oil

For the chimichurri:

  • 1 bunch each of flat leaf parsley, coriander, mint

  • 3 cloves of garlic

  • 1 red and 1 white onion, both peeled and chopped

  • ½ scotch bonnet pepper

  • ½ cup of virgin olive oil

  • 4 tbsp white wine vinegar

 (Brian Danclair)
(Brian Danclair)


  1. Start with the rooster. Combine two teaspoons of salt, all the spices, herbs and lime juice in a food processor and blend finely.

  2. Put the rooster in a deep baking tray, and rub thoroughly both the outside and the inside of the bird and under the skin with this spice mix. Cover and marinate for at least two hours in the fridge.

  3. Heat the oven to 175°C. Cover the rooster with foil and cook for roughly two hours, taking off the foil the last 20 minutes.

  4. Serve with chimichurri on the side. To make, simply combine all the ingredients with half a teaspoon of both salt and pepper in a food processor, blend for a minute, and plate it up at room temperature.

Danclair’s Kitchen, 67-6 Granville Arcade, Coldharbour Lane, SW9,

Fish, Wings and Tings, Brixton Village, Granville Arcade, Coldharbour Lane, SW9,

Roasted pumpkin curry

Karan Gokani, Hoppers

 (Daniel Hambury/Stella Pictures Ltd)
(Daniel Hambury/Stella Pictures Ltd)

At home we have about four big Christmas meals through December, which allows me to cook goose, duck, turkey and lamb and consequently I don’t have to choose just one! On the 25 we are usually at Sunaina’s parent’s place, where there is no dearth of good cooks or food. It’s always traditional Christmas fare. But come boxing day we are all craving spice, and the rest of the holidays are all about curries — be they Indian, Lankan, Malaysian or Thai! This one always fits the bill.

Serves: 4


  • 500g pumpkin, cut into 2inch-thick wedges

  • ¾ tsp ground turmeric

  • 2 tbsp of both roasted Sri Lankan

  • curry powder and

  • red chilli powder

  • 4 tbsp coconut oil

  • ½ tsp of both black mustard seeds and fenugreek seeds

  • 1 cinnamon stick

  • 4-6 cloves

  • 5 green cardamoms

  • 12-15 curry leaves

  • 1 small red onion, finely chopped

  • 200ml thick coconut milk, fresh or canned



  1. Heat the oven to 180°C fan. Then, in a large bowl, mix 1 tbsp coconut oil with a generous pinch of sea salt, ½ tsp turmeric, 1 tbsp curry powder and 1 tbsp red chilli powder. Add the pumpkin wedges to the bowl and spread the spiced oil all over.

  2. Next, place the wedges on a roasting tray and cook for 15 to 18 minutes. You want them to cook through completely but still hold their shape.

  3. Heat 2 tbsp of the oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat and add the mustard and fenugreek seeds. Once the mustard seeds stop crackling, add the cinnamon stick, curry leaves, onions, cardamom and cloves. Stir well to coat in the oil, add a pinch of salt and continue to cook for six minutes, stirring occasionally until the onions are soft.

  4. Then add the curry powder, remaining turmeric and chilli powder. Cook for a further minute, adding a splash of water if the spices begin to stick.

  5. Finally, add the coconut milk, reduce the heat to low and cook for three to four minutes until the liquid has reduced by half and you have a curry sauce. Season to taste and cook for a final minute.

  6. To plate up, ladle some sauce into a flat bowl, place the roasted wedges on top and pour over any spiced oil from the roasting tray.

Hoppers, Soho, Marylebone, Kings Cross,

Honey and five-spice glazed ham

Calum Franklin, Holborn Dining Room

 (Daniel Hambury/Stella Pictures Ltd)
(Daniel Hambury/Stella Pictures Ltd)

When done properly, a glistening, mahogany-coloured, honey-glazed roast ham in the middle of a dining table is jaw-dropping. As it feeds so many, a ham is great for any large family gathering, where people can come and take a slice off whenever they feel like it. Plus there is the benefit of leftovers the next day too. It is important to use a pan big enough to cook the whole ham, as it will need to be submerged in water throughout the entire cooking process - so beg, borrow or steal a giant pan if you don’t already have one.

Serves: 12


  • 5kg bone-in, unsmoked gammon joint

  • 2 celery stalks, roughly chopped

  • 2 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped

  • 1 onion, peeled and halved

  • 1 leek, roughly chopped

  • 3 garlic cloves

  • 4 bay leaves

  • 40 cloves

  • 150ml runny honey

  • 1 tsp five-spice powder

 (John Carey)
(John Carey)


  1. Put the gammon joint in a large pan and cover it completely with cold water. Bring to a simmer over a low-medium heat; skim off and discard any scum that rises to the surface of the water until it has mostly stopped. If necessary, top up the pan with more water. Add the celery, carrots, onion, leek, garlic and bay leaves and bring back up to a simmer.

  2. Gently simmer the gammon for two and a half hours, or 20 minutes per 500g, topping up with more water as necessary so the meat is always covered. It will be ready when, inserting a digital probe thermometer to its centre, the joint is at 70°C or above.

  3. Heat the oven to 190°C fan/210°C.

  4. Using a clean dish towel around the largest exposed bone at the top of the gammon joint, carefully pull the meat out of the pan and place it in a roasting tray. Set aside the cooking liquid to use later for the glaze.

  5. Using a small, thin knife, carefully strip the rind from the outside, leaving the layer of fat underneath intact as much as possible (this will protect the meat and stop drying it out). Without slicing into the meat, score the fat in a decorative diamond pattern. Push a single clove into the centre of each ‘X’. Discard the rind.

  6. Place the tray in the preheated oven and roast the gammon joint for 10 minutes, then turn the tray in the oven and cook for a further 10 minutes.

  7. Pour two medium ladlefuls of the reserved cooking liquid into the roasting tray. Add the honey and five-spice powder to the tray and mix with the cooking juices to make the glaze. Baste the meat all over with it, push it into the scored lines with a brush, and then return to the oven for a further 10 minutes. Continue to baste the gammon joint every five minutes, turning the meat in the tray each time until it is covered in a sticky glaze.

  8. Carefully remove the ham from the oven and serve.

Extract adapted from The Pie Room by Calum Franklin (Bloomsbury Absolute, £26)

Holborn Dining Room, 252 High Holborn, WC1,

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting