Christmas with the chefs

We asked Abu Dhabi’s top chefs about their perfect Christmas dinner. Discuss this article

© ITP Images

Chef Alexandre Kachehan

In Brazil, Christmas is just a big excuse for a big family get-together, but it is always the mothers that cook.All my memories of Christmas dinner are of my mother cooking. She does this special roast pork packed in cloves, honey and golden roasted. It’s very tender. A Brazilian Christmas always has a lot of options. In Brazil, it is traditional to have a lentil and vegetable stew – it is thought that this dish brings luck. For a main course, we’d have something like turkey farofa (a smoked, salty meat dish coated in manioc flour). Normally we would serve four or five dishes with 10 companion dishes. You’d see a lot of game meat, perhaps Brazilian picania rump steak and skewered turkey, grilled and served with dried fruit and vegetables. You don’t get fat, you just take your time, enjoy your family, enjoy your food and try different things. It’s best to keep with tradition.

Head chef Luciano Gandolfo

My most memorable Christmas dinners are those celebrated amongst family and friends in my hometown of Cecily, Italy. The ritual starts by eating and drinking traditional Italian Christmas food followed by going to the church to attend a two-hour mass. The street aesthetics with the live music and colourful decoration, surrounded by old men barbecuing chestnuts, adds a lot to the occasion. Cooking should not start at the last minute, preparation should start early, as dishes take time to have a tender and juicy taste. A typical Italian dish prepared on such an occasion is Zampone Cotechino, which is pork stuffed with marinated boiled meat and served with typical Italian red wine. There’ll be a choice of cold cuts with fresh mushrooms, lamb, nuts, goat’s cheese, beef sauce and fresh pasta. There should be no ordinary, everyday food (eg spaghetti); there should be a mix of traditional fancy dishes and both original and traditional side dishes like eggplant, goat’s cheese and walnuts.

Executive chef Ernst Frank
Beach Rotana Hotel

My best memory of Christmas dinner is from when I was a child in Germany. It’s that smell you get when you make the dinner and it fills the whole house. I think of braised apples and cinnamon; a traditional German dish where you take the apples and put them in to ceramic dish with butter, white wine, brown sugar and cinnamon – the smell of it is fantastic. Traditionally we would serve a stuffed goose, chestnuts, braised red cabbage and potato dumplings. Obviously for Christmas Eve in Germany, we have very light meals; it’s a strictly family affair, where we’d serve potato salad and frankfurter sausage only, then when the wider family gets together on Christmas Day, we’d have an elaborate lunch with smoked fish and goose, followed by gingerbread. It should be traditional, I don’t like to see too many frills or elaborate gourmet meals – that is all to do with the commercialisation of Christmas.

Head chef Fabrice Cannelle

Looking back, without a doubt, my best memory of Christmas dinner would be from my childhood in France. It’s that time of year when the family gets together and celebrates. My parents, grandparents, uncles and cousins are all crowded at the same table and the young kids eating in the kitchen. As a kid food, was not important, but sipping a glass of champagne was an event. The ultimate Christmas would be cooking for children in need – the ones which in reality need a happy day. Children these days have too many Christmases in a year.

By Gareth Clark
Time Out Abu Dhabi,

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