Winter food and drink: Yotam Ottolenghi's party spread recipes (2024)

At the centre of the typical Christmas table stands a whole bird, the star ofthe show against which all the rest – vegetables, stuffing, sauces – are mere supporting acts, there to garnish without claiming any of the glory. My meal is more egalitarian, with each dish made and presented to stand proudly on its own, each complex enough in its own right to satisfy and please. Such an approach allows everybody to have a little bit of this and a little bit of that, take a break, then go back for more, while still feeling abundant, generous and plentiful. As Christmas should be.

Stuffed chicken thighs with barberries and feta

Winter food and drink: Yotam Ottolenghi's party spread recipes (1)

Barberries, or zereshk, are tiny dried red fruit with a tremendously sharp flavour. They come from Iran, where they're used to add freshness to rice and chicken dishes. Buy them from Middle Eastern grocers or specialist online shops. If you can't get any, use cranberries, chopped and soaked in lemon juice, instead. Serves four.

8 small chicken thighs (or 4 large ones), boned but with the skin on
For the stuffing
70g sourdough, cut up into very rough chunks
80g feta, crumbled
15g barberries, soaked in 3 tbsp boiling water
4 spring onions, trimmed and thinlysliced
3 tbsp chopped coriander
3 tbsp chopped parsley
1 garlic clove, chopped
50g pecans, lightly toasted and roughly chopped
½ tsp salt, plus a little extra to season the chicken
Freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oven to 200C/400F/gas mark 6. Blitz the sourdough in afood processor until you have small crumbs. Place in a large bowl, add allthe other stuffing ingredients andmix well. Taste and adjust the seasoning to your liking.

Place the chicken thighs skin-side down on a baking sheet lined with nonstick paper. Place one to two tablespoons of stuffing in the centre of each thigh, filling it up well, then roll up and secure with a co*cktail stick. Turn the thighs over, so that the seam side faces down, and season with a little salt.

Roast for 25 minutes, or until cooked though. Leave to rest for fiveminutes, then serve hot or at room temperature.

Char-grilled squash with labneh and pickled walnut salsa

Winter food and drink: Yotam Ottolenghi's party spread recipes (2)

Buy labneh, which is thick, strained yoghurt, from an Arab grocer, though it's quite easy to make your own– just hang natural yoghurt in muslin for a couple of days. Or use goat's curd or a very fresh goat's cheese instead. Serves four.

100g pickled walnuts
½ red onion, cut into 0.5cm dice
1½ tbsp cider vinegar
1 tsp caster sugar
1 mild red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
¼ tsp ground allspice
3 tbsp olive oil, plus extra to finish
Maldon sea salt and black pepper
1 crown prince squash (or other variety), weighing about 900g
30g rocket leaves
150g labneh
10g dill leaves

First make the pickled walnut salsa. Rinse the walnuts briefly under cold water to remove the black outer skin, pat dry and cut into 0.5cm dice. Place in a small bowl along with the onion, vinegar, sugar, chilli, allspice, a tablespoon of olive oil and some salt. Set aside.

Heat the oven to 200C/400F/gas mark 6. Cut the squash in half, discard the seeds and cut into wedges about 1.5cm thick at the base. Place in a large bowl, season with salt and pepper, add the remaining olive oil and mix with your hands to coat the squash in oil.

Place a ridged griddle pan on high heat. When red-hot, cook the squash in batches for about two minutes on each side, to get good grill marks all over. Transfer to a baking sheet lined with baking parchment, and roast for 10-15 minutes, until tender. Remove and leave to cool.

Arrange the squash and rocket on a serving plate, dotting with dollops of labneh as you go. Spoon over the salsa and sprinkle with dill. Finish with a dribble of olive oil.

Stuffed squid with quinoa and dried shrimp

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Stuffing the squid, I must admit, is pretty time-consuming – give yourself a good hour – but what's Christmas if not an occasion to take your time in food preparation as well as in consumption? Dried shrimps are available from most Asian grocers. They taste quite fishy, so if that's not for you, reduce the quantity or leave them out altogether – some crumbled feta would work well as a substitute. The sauce and squid can be prepared in advance, ready to put together shortly before serving. Just make sure the squid is at room temperature and the sauce is hot when you put it in the oven. Serves six to eight.

50g dried shrimps
250g quinoa
15g oregano leaves, chopped
Grated zest of ½ lemon
5 garlic cloves, peeled; 2 crushed
90ml olive oil, plus extra to finish
Salt and black pepper
1kg baby squid, cleaned
120ml white wine
800ml chopped tinned tomatoes (ie,two cans)
2 tsp caster sugar
2 sprigs fresh thyme
½ red chilli, chopped
1 orange
2 tbsp capers, drained
2 tbsp chopped parsley

Pour plenty of boiling water over thedried shrimps, leave to soak for 10 minutes, then drain.

Add the quinoa to a medium saucepan filled with boiling water and simmer for five minutes, just topar-cook. Drain into a fine sieve, refresh under cold water and shake to remove all the water. Transfer thequinoa to a mixing bowl, adding the shrimps, oregano, lemon zest, the two crushed garlic cloves, two tablespoons of oil and some black pepper. Stir and taste for seasoning – you probably won't need much salt.

Remove the tentacles from the squid and set aside. Use your hands to stuff the squid with the quinoa mixture. Once done, wipe the squid clean with kitchen towel, then place in a large, shallow, ovenproof dish. Fill any gaps with the reserved tentacles. Heat the oven to 190C/375F/gas mark 5.

To make the tomato sauce, heat the remaining oil in a medium saucepan. Finely slice the three remaining garlic cloves, add to the oil and fry for about a minute, just until light golden. Add the wine (careful: it will spit) and let it bubble away for aminute. Add the tomatoes, sugar, thyme, chilli and some salt and pepper. Shave two short strips of peel off the orange, add these, too, and leave the sauce to simmer for 10minutes. Remove from the heat, stir in the capers, taste and adjust the seasoning.

When you are ready to cook the squid, pour the hot tomato sauce over the squid until it is just covered. (You may have some sauce left over. It will keep in the fridge for a few days – use it on rice or noodles.) Put the squid tray in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes, until the sauce is bubbling and the squid cooked through. Remove from the oven, drizzle with more olive oil, sprinkle with parsley, grate over the remaining orange zest and serve.

Braised lamb meatballs with yoghurt and herbs

Winter food and drink: Yotam Ottolenghi's party spread recipes (4)

The main "voices" in this dish are deep sweet and sour, achieved by the combination of dried figs, sour cherries and yoghurt. The figs get quite soggy through the long cooking, but they're essential for theflavour. If you mind that, remove them at the end. Serve with couscous or rice. Serves six.

750g minced lamb
2 medium onions, peeled and finely chopped
20g parsley, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
¾ tsp each ground allspice and cinnamon
70g dried sour cherries, roughly chopped
1 free-range egg
Salt and black pepper
100ml sunflower oil
700g banana shallots, peeled
200ml white wine
500ml chicken stock
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs fresh thyme
2 tsp sugar
150g dried figs
200g Greek yoghurt
3 tbsp mixed soft herbs (such as mint, coriander, dill or tarragon), torn roughly

In a large bowl, put the lamb, onions, parsley, garlic, allspice, cinnamon, sour cherries, egg, halfateaspoon of black pepper and ateaspoon of salt. Mix with your hands and roll into rounds about thesize of a golf ball.

Heat one-third of the oil in a large, heavy-based pot for which you havea tight-fitting lid. Over medium heat, cook the meatballs a few at atime, turning them around for a few minutes on medium heat, until coloured all over. Remove from the pot and set aside. Repeat with the remaining meatballs.

Wipe the pot clean and add the remaining oil. Add the whole peeled shallots and cook them over a medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until golden-brown all over. Pour in the wine, leave it to bubble for a minute or two, then add the stock, bay leaves, thyme, sugar and some salt and pepper.

Arrange the figs and browned meatballs around and about the shallots; the meatballs need to be almost submerged in liquid. Bring toa boil, cover the pot with a lid, reduce the heat to minimum and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove thelid and simmer for another hour,until the sauce has reduced and intensified in flavour. Taste andseason as needed.

Transfer the contents of the pan toa large, deep serving dish. Whisk the yoghurt, pour this over the top, sprinkle with herbs and serve.

Basmati and wild rice with chickpeas, currants and herbs

Winter food and drink: Yotam Ottolenghi's party spread recipes (5)

I've loaded this with flavours, so it could easily stand on its own. It looks the (festive) part, too. Serves six.

50g wild rice
2 tbsp olive oil
220g basmati rice
Salt and black pepper
330ml boiling water
2 tsp cumin seeds
1½ tsp curry powder
240g cooked chickpeas (tinned are fine), drained
180ml sunflower oil
1 medium onion, peeled and thinly sliced
½ tbsp plain flour
100g currants
2 tbsp chopped parsley
1 tbsp chopped coriander
1 tbsp chopped dill

Put the wild rice in a small saucepan, cover with plenty of water, bring to a boil and simmer for 40 minutes, until cooked but still quite firm. Drain and set aside.

To cook the basmati rice, pour a teaspoon of olive oil into a medium saucepan and place on high heat. Add the rice and a quarter-teaspoon of salt, and stir as it warms up. Add the boiling water, reduce the heat to minimum, cover with a tight lid and leave for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat, lift off the lid, cover the pot with a tea towel, then put the lid on top and leave to rest for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the chickpeas. Heat the remaining olive oil in a small saucepan. Add the cumin and curry powder, and after a couple of seconds add the chickpeas and a quarter-teaspoon of salt; act fast, or the spices may burn. Stir for a minute or two, just to heat the chickpeas, then transfer to a large mixing bowl.

Wipe the pan clean, add the sunflower oil and place on a high heat. Once the oil is hot, mix the onion and flour with your hands. Take some of the mix and carefully place in the oil. Fry for two or three minutes, until golden-brown, transfer to kitchen paper and sprinkle with salt. Repeat in batches until all the onion is fried.

Finally, add both types of rice to the chickpea bowl, along with the currants, herbs and fried onion. Stirand season to taste. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Yotam Ottolenghi is chef/patron of Ottolenghi in London.

And to drink…

The big flavours in Yotam's dishes (aren't there always?), plus the fact that they are designed to be put onthe table all at once, makes it impossible to come up with an exact match. Soinstead of even trying to find one, you need to focus the attention on picking wines that aregoing to rub along, bearing inmind that quite a lot of these dishes have a sour or sharp element that will accentuate thesweetness in any wine you choose (a lot of new world reds, for example, will taste super-jammy in this company, so it'sbest to avoid them). Myfirst thought – though it's not anobvious one for Christmas – is astrong, dry rosé such as the refreshing Château Guiot Rosé 2009 Costières de Nimes (usually £6.99, but currently £6.49 if you buy two ormore bottles, Majestic; 13.5% abv). For those who can't live without a red at the Christmas table, meanwhile, you could do alot worse than a generous, fruitycôtes du rhône such as MChapoutier's Côtes-du-Rhône Belleruche 2008 (usually £8.99, currently 20% off at £6.99 if you buy two or more, Majestic; 13.5% abv). Fiona Beckett

Winter food and drink: Yotam Ottolenghi's party spread recipes (2024)
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