Wow guests with a Middle Eastern-inspired Christmas dinner, thanks to these delicious dishes from Saliha Mahmood-Ahmed, Masterchef winner in 2017 and author of new book, Foodology: A food-lover’s guide to digestive health and happiness

By Saliha Mahmood-Ahmed (Photos: Stephen Conroy Photography. Food stylist: Amy Kinnear)

Middle Eastern-inspired classic roast turkey

The main event, the va va voom of the Christmas table. Some people are hesitant when cooking turkey for the first time, but if you follow a few basic principles the results will be incredibly pleasing. I like to keep my turkey quite classic as I have done here. Just make sure you give yourself enough time for the bird to thaw fully before cooking it. Serves 6-8

Ingredients:

  • 5kg Humza turkey (defrosted to room temperature), giblets removed
  • 3 lemons, quartered
  • 150g unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 2 tsp flaky sea salt
  • Coarse black pepper

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/gas 4. Pat the skin of the turkey dry with plenty of kitchen towel. Remove the wishbone by gently pulling back the neck skin until the wishbone is located. Then, using a sharp knife, cut underneath the bone just deep enough to ease it out.
  2. Place the turkey on a deep roasting tray. Stuff the lemons into the cavity of the bird and rub the butter over all surfaces. Season liberally with salt and pepper and wrap the bird with plenty of extra wide foil paper before transferring to the oven. Roast for 40mins per kg.
  3. For the last 20 mins of cooking, remove the foil paper and baste the bird with the residual juices in the pan. Increase the oven temperature by 20 degrees to allow the skin to take on some colour.
  4. Remove from the oven and cover loosely with foil, allowing the bird to rest for at least 30 mins before serving. If you have a kitchen thermometer you can make sure the turkey is cooked through by checking the internal temperature is 70 degrees. You can use the juices at the bottom to make gravy if you wish.

‘Turkey is a wonderfully healthy meat. It is a source of lean protein, packed with vitamins and minerals, and it has the added benefit of being a good source of the amino acid tryptophan, which is essential in the production of serotonin,’ says Saliha.

Stir fried brussels sprouts with winter spices

I often think that boiling a Brussels sprout to within an inch of its life is culinary carnage. Sprouts are like miniature cabbages and take so well to stir frying. Here, I use gentle spices with wintery tones and a searing hot pan to lift the humble sprout to new heights. You can combine leftover sprouts with eggs and cheddar cheese to make a wonderful frittata the following day. Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 75ml olive oil
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, grated
  • 3 garlic cloves, grated
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 2 green chillies, finely sliced
  • 800g Brussels sprouts, shredded into approx 0.5cm ribbons
  • 2 heaped tsp honey
  • ½ lemon, juiced

Method:

  1. Pour the olive oil into a wok and place over a high heat. When the oil is very hot, but not quite smoking, add the mustard seeds, ginger, garlic, turmeric and green chillies. When the mustard seeds are popping vigorously, quickly add the shredded sprouts. Stir well so that the cabbage takes on the pale-yellow hue of the turmeric. It is helpful to have the extractor fan on to prevent inhalation of spice fumes.
  2. Add the honey to the sprouts and season to taste with lemon juice and salt. The sprouts will take 3-5 mins to cook through in the wok – they should still retain some bite. If the pan looks too dry, a splash of water will help create some steam and assist the rapid cooking of the sprouts. Serve immediately.

Middle Eastern-inspired firecracker Christmas roasties

You will be fighting for the seat the dinner table! On my Christmas table, the only item with no leftovers will be the roast potatoes… which I suppose speaks volumes. The fiery red colour here adds vibrancy and drama. Just delicious. Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1.25kg Maris Piper potatoes
  • 1 tbsp coarse semolina
  • 100ml light olive oil
  • 1 heaped tsp hot paprika
  • ½ tsp cayenne pepper
  • Flaky sea salt, to taste

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 220°C/200°C fan/gas 7. Place a large, flat roasting tray in the oven.
  2. Meanwhile, peel the potatoes and cut each one into quarters. Boil in salted water for around 4 mins, then drain the potatoes in a colander. Shake the colander to rough up the edges of the potatoes and sprinkle over the semolina. Pour the olive oil into the hot roasting tray and tip in the potatoes, ensuring they are spaced apart from one another in a single layer.
  3. Roast for 20 mins before turning them over and roasting for a further 15 mins. Combine the paprika and cayenne together in a small bowl. Sprinkle this spice mixture all over the potatoes and return them to the oven for a final 15-20 mins, or however long it takes to make them really golden and crisp. Sprinkle over sea salt and serve immediately.

Middle Eastern-style spiced stuffing balls

Sweet, spiced and utterly magnificent. For some in my family, these Middle Eastern-inspired stuffing balls are the absolute highlight of the Christmas meal. You can adapt with whichever dried fruits and herbs you have to hand but using fresh rather than dried breadcrumbs is essential. Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 75g butter
  • 275g onion, finely chopped
  • 6 sage leaves, finely sliced
  • 1 tbsp parsley, finely chopped
  • 50g dried cranberries
  • 50g pistachios, chopped
  • 125g fresh breadcrumbs
  • 50g dried apricots
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • ½ tsp Kashmiri chilli powder
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil

Method:

  1. Heat the oven to 220°C/200°Cfan/gas 7. Melt the butter in a saucepan. Add the chopped onion and sage leaves and fry off till the onions are soft and translucent, but have not yet started to caramelise.
  2. Pour the onions into a mixing bowl and add the parsley, cranberries, pistachios, apricots, breadcrumbs, egg and chilli powder and season liberally with salt. Mix everything well to form walnut-sized balls. If you have trouble forming them, add a little more melted butter as the varying dryness of the breadcrumbs may affect the amount of moisture required.
  3. Place the stuffing balls on a sheet lined with greaseproof paper and brush each with a small amount of vegetable oil. Bake for 20 mins till crisp and golden brown.

Very merry cranberry chutney

There is no shame in cheating at Christmas. And while I do love making cranberry sauce from scratch, sometimes, needs must. This recipe is a great way of zhuzhing up pre-made cranberry sauce. If you really want to fool your guests, throw in a handful of frozen cranberries when simmering the chutney. Gosh I do love a little Christmas time culinary deceit. Serves 6.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 tbsp root ginger, grated
  • ½ stick cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground cloves
  • 1 star anise
  • 1 tsp red chilli flakes
  • 250g shop-bought whole cranberry sauce
  • 1 large orange, juiced and zested

Method:

  1. Heat the oil in a saucepan and add the ginger, cinnamon, cloves, star anise and chilli flakes. Stir vigorously so that the spices don’t catch.
  2. After a minute or two, when the spices have heated through and are releasing their aroma, add the cranberry sauce and the grated zest and juice of an orange. Stir well to combine.
  3. Simmer for 5 mins on a low-medium flame to allow the flavours to develop and the sauce to thicken to your desired consistency. Serve warm, or at room temperature.

Harissa turkey salad with bulgar wheat, pickled chillies and onions

The indulgences of Christmas Day make way for a much lighter Boxing Day feast. This is light, nutritious and exploding with an array of flavours to tantalise the taste buds.

This Middle Eastern-inspired Christmas recipe is all about adaptation; use whatever leftovers you have to hand. I can almost guarantee you will not want to wait another year for Boxing Day to come round to make this salad again. Serves 6-8

Ingredients:

  • 1 red onion, finely sliced
  • 2 red chillies, finely sliced
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • Salt to taste
  • Pinch of sugar
  • 250g bulgur wheat
  • Olive oil
  • 300g shredded turkey, or whatever leftover meat you have
  • 2 tbsp rose harissa
  • 1 bunch flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 100g pomegranate seeds
  • 100g pistachios, toasted and roughly chopped

Method:

  1. Combine the sliced red onions with the chillies, lemon juice, a pinch of salt and sugar. Rub the onions gently between your fingers to ensure the lemon juice coats all surfaces and set aside to rest.
  2. Prepare the bulgur wheat by boiling in salted water according to the manufacturer’s instructions; add a drizzle of olive oil while it is still warm.
  3. Drizzle 1 tbsp of olive oil into a frying pan and add the shredded turkey. When the turkey starts to crisp up and turn golden, add the rose harissa and season with salt to taste.
  4. Build the salad by mixing the bulgur wheat, rose harissa-flavoured turkey and flat-leaf parsley in a large serving platter. Sprinkle over the pomegranate seeds, toasted pistachios and top with the pickled onions and chillies.

These tasty Middle Eastern-inspired Christmas recipes were created to mark the launch of Humza Halal Turkeys going into selected supermarkets. Humza medium whole turkeys and Humza medium turkey crowns are available in selected Asda and Morrisons stores this December.

Click here for our top tips on staying healthy this Christmas!