Dreamy Christmas side dishes to spark joy

Looking for meal ideas for your holiday lunch? These easy and delicious side dishes are non-traditional but standout stars of the festive table.

Move over, boring Christmas side dishes. See you later, complicated and time-consuming recipes. And, while we’re at it, get outta here old-fashioned and ‘meh’ accompaniments.

This year, we’re craving simple, stylish and scrumptious sides, and we’re not averse to a bit of non-traditional, Mediterranean influence in our quest to find them. We’re talking olive oil, loads of herbs and zingy flavours. Savoury smatterings of nuts, rich cheeses, lovely globs of butter and bacon, decent glugs of maple syrup, and lashings of mash, too.

From classic and comforting to fresh and flavourful, we’re All About The Sides this festive season and we’ve come up with the easiest ones imaginable. You’ll want these four side dish recipes in your repertoire!

1. Roast Onion Salad with Honey, Sumac and Pomegranate

Place 8 unpeeled red onions in a single layer in a roasting dish. Drizzle with 2 tbsp olive oil. Roast at 200˚C (390˚F) for about 1 hour or until they're soft. Cool slightly.

For the dressing, whisk 1 tbsp honey, and 1½ tbsp each pomegranate molasses and red wine vinegar in a bowl. Whisk in 100ml (3.5 fl oz) extra virgin olive oil and season with salt and pepper and more pomegranate molasses if you like things tart.

When the onions are cool-ish, halve them then separate the layers. Discard the skins and any tough outer layers. Toss in a bowl with the dressing, 1½ tsp sumac, a small handful of mint leaves and coriander (cilantro) sprigs. Season well. Transfer to a platter or a serving bowl, scatter with more herbs and sumac, and serve immediately.

MAKE AHEAD Make your dressing and pick your herbs the day before (store herbs, dry, in a ziplock bag). Roast your onions on the day (don’t refrigerate or they go a funny colour). Toss just before serving.

SUBSTITUTES Scatter over a few pitted black olives if you like; the dried Turkish ones are our faves.

TRANSPORT RATING High. Keeping the onions, herbs, sumac and dressing in separate containers, then dress in situ. 

BEST SERVED WITH Turkey, roast beef, pork, lamb or fish, Anything, basically. 


2. Skillet-Roasted Sweet Potato with Maple-Bacon Butter 

Scrub 1.25kg (2 lb 12 oz) unpeeled orange sweet potatoes, then dry. Cut into slices about 8mm thick, making them as even as you can.

Arrange the slices in neat, tight circles over the base of a 27cm (10¾ inch) cast-iron frying pan. Drizzle with olive oil, then bake for 25 minutes in a 200˚C (390˚F) oven.

Finely chop 4-5 rashers smoky bacon and add to a bowl with 50g (1.7 oz) soft butter and 80ml (2.5 fl oz) maple syrup. Get in there with your hands and mix well. Dot over the sweet potato, then bake, uncovered, for 30 minutes or until deep golden. To serve, tilt the pan to access the lovely cooking juices and spoon them over the top.

MAKE AHEAD Slice the sweet potatoes the day before, storing them in a large ziplock bag and lightly coated with olive oil. Mix the bacon-butter mixture the day before and refrigerate.

SUBSTITUTES Use honey instead of maple syrup and thyme sprigs instead of rosemary.

TRANSPORT RATING High. But make sure the pan is cool-ish (#burns). And that you wrap it in a clean bathroom towel so it stays steady during the ride. There’s nothing worse than maple syrup all over your back seat. 

BEST SERVED WITH Ham. Actually, anything pork-y. Turkey. Chicken. Duck.


3. Potato and Comte Casserole

Cook 1.5kg (3 lb 5 oz) peeled, chopped potatoes in boiling, salted water until tender. Drain well, return to the saucepan and add 50g (1.7 oz) butter and 125ml (4 fl oz) pouring cream. Mash well. Stir in 150g (5 oz) grated comte cheese, a large pinch of grated nutmeg, and salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to a greased 1.5 litre (6 cup)-capacity baking dish.

Combine 45g (1.5 oz) panko breadcrumbs, 50g (1.7 oz) grated comte, 100g (3.5 oz) grated parmesan and 60g (2 oz) chopped almonds in a bowl. Rub in 25g (¾ oz) butter until the mixture is a bit clumpy. Scatter over the potato, then bake in a 200˚C (390˚F) oven for 30 minutes or until golden and crunchy. Scatter with sage leaves, then serve.

MAKE AHEAD Make your crumb mix the day before and refrigerate. 

SUBSTITUTES Throw chopped chives or parsley into the mash, use creme fraiche instead of cream, and gruyere or a sharp cheddar instead of comte. 

TRANSPORT RATING High. Assemble but don’t bake it, then shove it in your host’s oven when you arrive.

BEST SERVED WITH Whatever you darned well like – honestly, you can’t go wrong with this Christmas side dish. 


4. Vinegared Braised Leeks with Walnuts, Dill and Goat’s Cheese

Place 6 trimmed, cleaned leeks in a large baking dish. Simmer 750ml (3 cups) chicken stock and 2 tsp sugar in a saucepan, then pour over the leeks. Cover the dish tightly with foil, then bake in a 180˚C (350˚F) oven for 1 hour 10 minutes or until the leeks are soft but still holding their shape. Drain the liquid into a large saucepan and set aside. Cool the leeks.

Place the walnuts on a tray, then roast for 3-4 minutes until light golden. Cool, then coarsely chop. 

Boil the reserved liquid for 10 minutes or until it reduces to a bit over 125ml (4 fl oz). Cut the leeks on a slight diagonal into 5cm (2 inch) pieces. Arrange in a large serving dish, then pour over the reduced liquid. Scatter with crumbled goat’s cheese to taste, the walnuts and some chopped dill. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, season with sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper, then serve.

MAKE AHEAD Cook the leeks, reduce the cooking liquid and roast the walnuts the day before. Store the leeks with the liquid thrown over, in the fridge in an airtight container. Bring to room temp before serving.

SUBSTITUTES Add some finely grated lemon zest to the reduced liquid, sub shaved parmesan for the goat’s cheese, and use roasted, peeled hazelnuts instead of the walnuts.

TRANSPORT RATING Moderate; transport unassembled, then put together in situ. 

BEST SERVED WITH Chicken, fish, red meats. Turkey, obvs.