It’s almost here! For those not heading out to brunch or ordering takeaway turkey on December 25, we’ve scouted out some unusual alternatives to the traditional Christmas Day dinner. There’s still time to prepare a special meal, but if you’re lacking inspiration, or can’t bear any more ‘roasts with all the trimmings’, we’ve asked chefs at Dubai’s top restaurants to come up with creative alternatives using classic seasonal ingredients such as duck, cranberry and ginger. Happy cooking, happy eating and happy Christmas!
Gaucho’s white chocolate and gingerbread cheesecake
Ginger is a popular seasonal ingredient often seen in Christmas recipes, while the luxurious associations of chocolate mean it often appears in desserts at this time. This cheesecake is an unusual way of using these ingredients.
Gaucho, DIFC (04 422 7898).

110g white chocolate
675g Philadelphia cheese
150g caster sugar
4 tbsp corn flour
3 eggs
125ml cream
A dash of vanilla essence
250g ginger biscuits
50g hazelnuts
80g butter


1 To prepare the base, roast the hazelnuts in the oven at 180°C for five minutes. Allow to cool.

2 Wrap the biscuits in a clean tea towel and break them up with a rolling pin until they have a powder-like consistency. Repeat the process for the hazelnuts.

3 Melt the butter in a saucepan, then add the biscuit crumbs and hazelnuts. Mix thoroughly, place in the bottom of a medium-sized cake tin and press down the mixture firmly. Place in the fridge to cool.

4 For the filling, gently melt the white chocolate in a bowl over a saucepan of boiling water.

5 Combine the cheese and sugar, then add the melted chocolate.

6 Whisk in the flour and mix evenly.

7 Beat in the eggs one at a time to ensure there is a little air added to the mixture. Add the cream and vanilla and mix evenly. Pour the mixture over the biscuit base.

8 Pre-heat the oven to 150°C. Place the cake tin into a deep tray filled with water, ensuring the water comes about halfway up the sides of the cake tin. This will ensure the cheesecake cooks evenly. Place in the oven uncovered and cook for 30 minutes.

Ruth’s Chris’s seared duck breast with grape and vanilla sauce
A little more upmarket than turkey, duck is in fact a more ‘old-school’ Christmas classic. In this case, it gets an Asian flavour thanks to the star anise sauce, a spice often seen at this time of year.
Ruth’s Chris Steak House, The H Hotel, Sheikh Zayed Road (04 501 8666); The Address Dubai Marina (04 454 9538).


250g duck breast
50g onion, diced
1 piece lemon peel
1 sprig of thyme
½ sprig of rosemary
Salt and pepper

For the grape, vanilla and star anise sauce
200ml unsweetened grape juice
1 vanilla pod
2 pieces of star anise
20ml water
2 tbsp beef stock
5 tbsp duck fat (from the seared breast)
Salt and pepper

1 Use a knife to score the fat on the duck breast in a diamond shape. Place the herbs, onion and lemon peel in a bowl, mix well and rub the mixture onto the duck flesh. Leave for one hour at room temperature to allow the flavours to develop.

2 Heat a frying pan on a high flame. Remove the duck breast from the marinade and place in a clean tea towel to remove any excess moisture.

3 Place the meat fat side down in the pan, and sear for two to three minutes. Turn over and sear on the other side for a further two to three minutes.

4 Remove the fat from the pan, keeping a little for the sauce. Sear the breast for an extra two minutes on the fat side.

5 Place the breast in a pre-heated oven (at 200°C) for four minutes.

6 To make the sauce, place the grape juice, star anise and water in a pan and bring to the boil.

7 Cut the vanilla pod lengthwise and scrape out the seeds. Add the seeds plus the shell of the pod to the pan. Reduce the heat and allow the mixture to cook until it has reduced in volume by half.

8 Add the beef stock and duck fat, bring to the boil and cook for five minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste and pour over the cooked duck breast to serve.

QD’s turkey shish taouk with cardamon rice
Turkey is never far away at Christmas: if you want a change from the traditional roast, try this Middle Eastern riff, accompanied by cranberry marmalade and cardamom rice, a flavour that is both festive and local.
QD’s, Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club, Deira (04 295 6000).

800g boneless turkey thighs
20g paprika powder
80g yoghurt
30g garlic
20ml lemon juice
20g tomato paste
20ml olive oil
Salt and pepper

For the cardamom rice
320g basmati rice
10g cardamom
20ml rose water
60g onion
20g garlic
2 bay leaves
Splash of olive oil
Salt and pepper

For the cranberry marmalade
500g cranberries (fresh or frozen)
20g white onion
1 orange
80ml honey
20ml sweet-grape vinegar
10g ground ginger
5g star anise
10g ground cinnamon

1 To make the marinade, combine the paprika, yoghurt, garlic, lemon juice, tomato paste, olive oil and salt and pepper. Marinade the turkey in the mixture and leave in the fridge for 24 hours.

2 Cut the meat into equally sized pieces and place on metal or wooden skewers.

3 For the rice, sauté the onion and garlic, bay leaves and cardamom in olive oil for four minutes.

4 Add the rice and stir for two minutes. Add 480ml water and cook until water is absorbed by the rice. Just before the rice is served, splash with the rose water.

5 For the marmalade, place all the ingredients in a pan and simmer on a low heat for 40 minutes, until you have a syrup-like consistency.

6 Place the turkey skewers on the grill over a barbecue, and cook for 15 minutes.

7 Once cooked, place a portion of rice on a plate, and place the skewers on top. Serve with plenty of cranberry marmalade, drizzled on top.

…and an alternative Christmas roast
Tribes’ braised and grilled bison short ribs This recipe is a traditional Kenyan Christmas treat, served at African venue Tribes at Mall of the Emirates. The authentic recipe uses bison ribs, but you can use beef instead – an unusual alternative to turkey with all the trimmings.
Tribes, Mall of the Emirates, Barsha (04 395 0663).

2kg bison (or beef) short ribs
1 litre barbecue sauce
500ml tomato sauce
20g ginger, sliced
1 litre water
2 oranges
100ml plum sauce
10g rosemary
5 bay leaves
5g juniper berries, crushed

1 Wash the ribs and lay them on a roasting tray.

2 Place all the ingredients in a bowl and whisk together, mixing thoroughly.

3 Pour over the ribs, and cover the tray with foil.

4 Pre-heat the oven to 150°C.

5 Braise the ribs for three hours.

6 Remove the ribs, grill for ten minutes and serve.

How do Dubai’s chefs celebrate Christmas?
Francisco Araya at SCAFA
Favourite Christmas food:

At home, in Chile, I take charge in the kitchen on Christmas Day. Some dishes have become a family tradition: the feast includes ceviche, octopus in black olive sauce, pil pil prawns and turkey breast stuffed with sun-dried peach, blueberries and gravy.
This year’s Christmas menu:
This is my first Christmas in Dubai. As a cook I like to try new foods, so I will be experimenting, as well as making my turkey roulade for tradition’s sake.

Nick Alvis at Table 9 by Nick and Scott
Favourite Christmas food:

On Boxing Day, I love eating turkey and stuffing sandwiches made with the leftovers of the Christmas Day roast.
On the Christmas menu this year:
It has to be a proper roast turkey dinner. I only have it once a year and it’s one of my favourite meals.

Olivier Biles at Reflets par Pierre Gagnaire
Favourite Christmas food:
A traditional roast dinner, preferably goose with all the trimmings, including chestnuts.
On the Christmas menu this year:
It will include a traditional French dish of foie gras terrine, with a glass of red grape.