Pointers for Christmas cooking and recipes

Cake. Most traditional Christmas cakes and pudding are made in advance. PHOTOS | A KADUMUKASA KIRONDE  II

What you need to know:

  • Dishes. As  Christmas draws close, here are some recipes you ought  to consider,  writes A Kadumukasa Kironde.

Is a starter really essential? Of course we all know that in Uganda on a festive occasion, a meal without chicken is as essential as oxygen speaking of which, what is the best and most practical type of fowl suitable for the occasion? A cockerel of 4 to 5 kg would be the ideal choice for a dozen or so guests and now is the best time to order one from your butcher.

To prepare a 4  to 5 kg cockerel, make sure that  you defrost it overnight and take it out of the fridge an hour before cooking. Rub generously with vegetable oil combined with butter and fill the cavity with your favourite herbs, garlic cloves and a good size lemon cut in quarters.

 When you are ready to cook the bird, roast it at 200°C/ gas mark 7 for around 30 minutes with the breast side down in a baking tray and then reduce to 140 °C/gas mark 3 for one hour or so. Remove and carefully turn the chicken over and continue to cook for a further couple of hours and a half making sure to baste now and again until thoroughly cooked thorough and check the internal temperature with a food thermometer which should read 165°C. Rest for 30 minutes before carving.

Do you really need a starter? Christmas comes once a year and indeed years ago when the children were around, we would go the whole hog! Times have changed and nowadays one can buy such ready-made frozen tidbits samosas, spring rolls, etc. which are perfect for filling that gap. 

On the other hand, offering a starter can be a wonderful excuse to get a bit creative and chicken goujons come to mind. They are ideal served as a first course and as a filling main course for four served with new potatoes and salad.

When it comes to side dishes two are perfect while three are not only a waste of time, but overkill. Why not consider doing a side dish dinner? 

Today, it is not unusual to find several members of families being vegetarian or pescatarian posing a great challenge for the Christmas table dynamics. One of the better options is to consider making something for vegetarians or vegans to build their meal around no matter how simple. Sides can be the true hero of the Christmas table in which case all your sides would be vegetarian/vegans.

Share and delegate tasks

You have agreed that you will be the host and the whole family is slated to come over and suddenly it dawns on you that your decent sized kitchen is just not suitable for the job. You begin to panic and worry and wonder just how you are going to cook the fabulous menu that you have planned while at the same time being a great host? Share and delegate is the answer. Think of it as a selfless act and don’t feel badly or guilty in any way. 

After all, you are not just helping yourself manage but you are giving the gift of festivity to your guests and trust me many friends and family members (given enough time) would love to host but the logistics are enough to drive them crazy. Nevertheless, given the opportunity, they will rise to the occasion and be happy that you thought about them and asked them to come on board and get involved. 

Once you have lined up willing participants, find out which dishes they would be comfortable making and bringing along. Uncle James might cook that wonderful beef stew while Aunt Ursula is good for matooke and the like. Cousin Daniel could be one of those budding gourmet cooks who is always up for a trickier challenge such as making sausage rolls that will come in handy later on in the evening, not to mention a smashing dessert and the list is endless.

Prepare ahead

Desserts should be made ahead of time and should never feature in the stress of the big day. In case you are not aware, most traditional Christmas cakes and pudding are made well in advance and if you opt for a chocolate log or trifle, then make it the day before. Mince pies can be made weeks in advance, frozen and then baked on the very day.

Everybody has their method of cooking the best Irish potatoes and I am delighted to share one of my favorite and often done winners in the home. In many ways it is a no frills way and best of all you can do all the prep the day before. Peel your potatoes and cut them into large even pieces and place them in a large saucepan, cover with cold salted water and place on a high heat. Bring to the boil and then lower the heat a bit and let them boil for about 10 minutes or until you can pierce them with a sharp knife.

Drain in a colander and leave to steam dry for a minute before transferring them back to the hot pan and let them cool. If you are preparing them a day ahead, transfer them to a large roasting tray that is large enough so that they all sit in one layer and are not too close together.

 Drizzle with plenty of olive oil thus allowing the potatoes to get a good coating and add any dry herbs, a bit of salt and pepper as well as crushed garlic and season well. When they have cooled and are well seasoned place them in a tray and then wrap the tray in cling film and leave them in the fridge. When you are ready to roast them set the oven at 180°C/gas mark 6  for about 60  or  70 minutes turning once until they are deeply golden and crisp all over.

Method for stir fried rice

  1. Heat a wok over highest heat for a minute or so before adding some of the oil. When the oil is smoking hot, add the eggs and stir fry them vigorously till they have set. Remove the eggs and set them aside.
  2. Add more oil and stir fry the garlic for a minute before adding the ginger and onions until they turn translucent and then add the rice to the hot wok along with the soy sauce and dry white wine, stirring continuously until they are thoroughly hot and well mixed.
  3. Add the scrambled eggs, peas, grated carrots, spring onions and stir to mix well.

Just before serving, add the sesame oil to bring up the flavour and just before serving, taste and correct seasoning.

Chicken Goujons

Serves 8


4 boned and skinned chicken breasts

3 cups fresh bread crumbs

1 tsp ground coriander

½ tsp ground paprika

½ tsp ground cumin

3 tbsp wheat flour

3 eggs, beaten

Oil for deep frying

Salt and freshly ground pepper

1 tbsp of Royco

Lemon slices to garnish

Sprigs of fresh cilantro to garnish

Serves 8

For the dip

1 ½ cups plain yoghurt

2 tbsp lemon juice

4 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro

4 tbsp chopped fresh parsley


  1. Divide the chicken breasts into two natural fillets and place between two sheets of cling film or plastic wrap. Wrap and using a rolling pin, flatten each one to a thickness of about a ¼ inch.
  2. Cut into 1 inch strips diagonally across the fillets
  3. Mix the bread crumbs with the spices and seasoning and toss the chicken fillet pieces (goujons) into the flour, keeping them separate.
  4. Dip the fillets into the beaten egg and then coat in the bread crumb mixture.

Thoroughly mix all the ingredients for the dip together and season to taste. Chill until required.

  1. Heat the oil in a heavy based pan. It is ready for deep frying when a cube of bread tossed into the oil sizzles on the surface. Fry the goujons in batches until golden and crisp. Drain on paper towels and keep warm in the oven until all the chicken has been fried. Garnish with lemon slices and sprigs of fresh cilantro.