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Recipes for special occasions

Seven recipe ideas for the holidays, if roast turkey’s not your thing

Roast beef rib and guinea fowl are alternatives to a big bird depending on how many you’re cooking for, blinis and eggnog are great for a New Year party, and we’ve twists on some favourite festive desserts

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 15 December, 2016, 12:49pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 15 December, 2016, 12:49pm

Are you a creature of habit when it comes to preparing holiday menus, or are you open to new ideas? We’ve scoured our archives for seven festive dishes and desserts that are deliciously different.

When I plan dinner parties, I rarely cook for more than eight. I make exceptions for the holidays, when I tend to invite “orphans” - friends who have nowhere else to go to celebrate. Sometimes these friends ask if they can bring other friends. The table may be crowded, but we have a great time. A 10kg beef rib-eye roast feeds about 25; if you’re cooking for fewer, cut the roast into the amount you’ll need and freeze the rest. See my recipe for slow-cooked bone-in beef rib-eye roast.

On the other hand, while the Norman Rockwell version of a holiday celebration is gathering with a large group of friends and family for a feast, many people prefer something more intimate. A smaller celebration means you can be more extravagant. See my recipes for roast guinea fowl, and for cornbread, porcini and chestnut stuffing.

Whatever you decide to roast, there’s always going to be room for dessert. The Yule log, or buche de Noel, is a French cake that represents the log burned in the hearth over Christmas. Pastry chefs can get very creative with these, but this one is more home-style, and it’s something children can help make.

I first tasted mince pies only after I had moved to Hong Kong. I think of them as a very English thing. I have never been impressed by commercial mince pies - they always seem too heavy and overspiced, so I was determined to make a version I liked. See my recipes for mincemeat with a twist, shortcrust pastry, and the mince pies themselves.

When I was growing up in multicultural California, my grammar school teachers taught us how various religious holidays were celebrated. The Jewish festival of Hanukkah, or the Festival of Lights, celebrates the “miracle of the oil”. It is traditional to eat fried foods during Hanukkah. See my recipes for Sufganiyot (fried jam doughnuts) and latkes.

New Year’s Eve is a great excuse to get together with friends. I love to serve bubbly and other drinks (including non-alcoholic ones) and a buffet of delicious treats. See my recipes for eggnog, blinis with caviar, and gougeres.

Galette des rois is traditionally eaten in France around the Epiphany on January 6; It’s one of my favourite pastries because it’s flaky and rich but not too sweet. I also love its austere beauty. Don’t even think of making this with commercial puff pastry sheets.

If roast turkey IS your thing, don’t miss Susan Jung’s recipe for turkey with a twist, and a challenge! We’ll post the recipe on Friday. And here is our easy guide to making sure you cook your turkey safely.