Chefs Share Vegetarian Side Dish Recipes For The Grand Feast
Image Credit: Riverford Organic Farmers

When you think of a Christmas feast, the first thing that comes to mind is an opulent table groaning under the weight of a roast turkey or pig, gleaming from its time in the oven. This centrepiece, surrounded by the usual suspects of bread, roast potatoes, Brussels sprouts, sorpotel, salads and pudding, is only the tip of the iceberg as far as holiday eating is concerned. Often times, chances are that a handful of guests who might be invited tend to steer clear of the meat for personal dietary reasons that limits their options on the feast table.

With alternative diets becoming all the fad and more people opting for plant-based diets, it is only fair to have a few vegetarian options that make them feel welcome and special. Although vegetarian elements aren’t part of a traditional feast – barring the odd sprouts or green beans, celebrating our culture’s legacy through food is something that an opportunity like this presents. Using ingredients that are underrated and in a refreshing manner can really mould the scope of your feast and extend it beyond what is typically expected of it. Slurrp caught up with two chefs, each with their distinct memories of the holiday season, to share delicious vegetarian recipes that are no less delicious than their meat counterparts, for you to try recreating at home.

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Anglo-Indian Christmas Tradition Is A Blend Of English Charm And Local Spirit

Anjali Ganapathy: PigOut Coorg Kitchen

When asked about Christmas, Anjali reminisces about the time when she grew up in defence. With her father’s posting in Delhi and Secunderabad between 1986 and 1995, she shares how the spirit of community living meant every festival was a grand affair. Anjali’s fondest memory is of one of her mother’s friends, who would make the most amazing Christmas cake and roasts. “Her devil's food cake is seared in my memory. She’d flambé it with old monk and serve with cream,” she adds. In Secunderabad, Christmas was a kiddie party with Santa Claus showing up in an open-backed military truck to drive children around, after which a dinner in the military mess lawns ended with a trifle pudding.

On being asked about how the idea of Christmas evolved for her as a chef, Anjali quips that she is influenced by both, the early exposure to different cuisines across the country and her Kodava roots. “The plantations and military life, have parallels that lean into my creative side. The dining experience is made complete by finding a balance, between eating local and playing with presentation. For example, my grandmother – the inspiration behind PigOut – was cooking in earthen or cast-iron pots, and serving (food) in pretty English cutlery. I draw inspiration from these memories. And with each meal, I try to dig deeper into ways that can make the diner feel indulged with a luxurious touch, whilst enjoying the wholesomeness of a home cooked meal.”

It goes without saying that Anjali’s favourite part of Christmas is the feast. “A full table, multiple dishes, family and friends; that sense of ease, which comes when you’re around the table with loved ones. The holidays are all about great company, full tummy and a post meal snooze.” Anjali’s pick for a vegetarian side dish fit to be a part of the feast is the kaad maange curry, made using the Coorg wild mango – a small egg shaped tart-sweet fibrous fruit. She says that the curry is a fuss-free recipe, big on flavour and easy to make, making it a mouth-watering blend of roasted spices, with sweet and sour flavours. “To me, this curry is worthy of any celebratory occasion, and a strong contender to possibly swing the vote in favour of vegetarians!”



1 kg ripe kaad (wild) mangoes/can use sugar baby variety (sacre gutli) of mango as substitute

  • peel and marinate in salt, turmeric and chilli powder
  • squeeze all juice out of peels and add to marinade. Set aside.

Roast and grind

  • 1.5 tablespoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • ¼ teaspoon fenugreek seeds

For Curry

  • 2 tablespoons cooking oil
  • ½ teaspoon mustard seeds
  • Half handful of curry leaves
  • 7-9 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 4-5 tablespoon jaggery syrup if using kaad maange. (No sweetener is needed if using sugar baby (sacre gutli) mango.)
  • 2 medium-sized onions, sliced


  • Take a small shallow frying pan and heat the oil. Season with mustard seeds, curry leaves and garlic.
  • Add the sliced onions and the ground spice mix and stir fry. Add this to the mangoes in the vessel along with 1 cup of water.
  • Cook on medium heat for 10 minutes with a lid covering the pan. Check for sweet/sour balance and add the jaggery syrup (if kaad maange) or tamarind juice (for sugar baby variety) to balance flavours.
  • Cook for another 10 minutes and check to see if the mangoes have cooked. If the flesh is soft and gives easily, the curry is almost ready.
  • Check for salt and take off the heat. The final gravy should be thick and saucy. You can optionally add a teaspoon of roasted pepper for a bit if heat.
  • Serve with steamed rice and a dollop of ghee.

Avinash Martins: Cavatina

Avinash talks about how his earliest memories of Christmas stemmed from his days as a young schoolboy where his uncles celebrated a Christmas feast once the mass was over. The Natal Jantar – as Avinash knows it – was a celebration of meats, bakes and Christmas desserts. He points out that these memories, combined with his proficiency as a chef, helps him evoke nostalgia through food in a modern format. While his favourite part of a feast is the suckling pork and the Goan-style bafat preparations, he adds that the roast is a quintessential aspect of a Christmas table.

He gets candid and shares that although vegetarian dishes weren’t necessarily part of a traditional feast, Avinash remembers enjoying roasted potatoes and eggs as an accompaniment to roast pork or turkey. This Christmas, Avinash takes a leaf from his childhood days and his core memories of Christmas as a young individual. “The idea for this dish stemmed from the monotony of tambdi bhaji as a household vegetable. My goal was to try and make this ordinary vegetable into something a lot more exciting above a wilted homestyle preparation. Taking something globally recognised such as a spanakopita and incorporating local Goan produce such as red amaranth and cashew butter gave the dish a completely new flavour profile without taking away from the delicate, buttery nature of filo pastry that we all love.”


For Filling

  • 500g Red amaranth leaves

  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon garlic, finely chopped

  • 60ml white wine
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt and white pepper, to taste

For Cashew Butter

  • 75 grams broken/whole cashew nuts

For Pastry

  • 165 grams/9 sheets Filo pastry
  • 1 cup melted unsalted butter
  • A silicone/kitchen brush


  • Wash and roughly chop the red amaranth leaves, and strain the excess moisture.

  • Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a pan and begin by sautéing the garlic until fragrant and light brown.
  • Add in the onions and sauté until softened well but not brown. Deglaze the pan with white wine, reduce and add in the red amaranth.
  • Season the amaranth immediately with salt to speed up the release of moisture, toss and sauté well for 2-3 minutes.
  • Once all the water from the leaves has evaporated, adjust the final seasoning with salt and white pepper and set a aside in a bowl to cool.
  • Roast the cashew nuts in an oven or pan on low to medium heat until golden-brown and set on a tray or plate to cool.
  • Once cooled, blend in a mixer to a smooth paste until the natural oils of the cashews split from the paste.
  • Using a spatula or whisk, add in the cashew butter to the cooked tambdi bhaji and mix well.
  • Adjust the mixture for seasoning before setting aside to cool in the fridge for at least 1-2 hours before shaping.
  • Lay out a single whole sheet of filo pastry as it is from the packet. Ensure to cover the rest of sheets with a cloth to prevent them from drying out.
  • Brush melted butter along all the sides of the filo pastry and random strokes in the centre of sheet. Be sure to be generous since the butter enables the sheets to stick together.
  • Next, lay another sheet of filo on top of the first, ensuring to line up the edges as much as possible, to reduce wastage. It’s best to get help and have two people lay the sheet by holding all 4 corners of the sheet.
  • Repeat the process until you have 3 sheets layered on one another. Three sets of three-layered sheets typically yields 24 pieces, which is ideal for 6 servings. 

  • Divide the layered filo sheets into eight rectangular strips of equal size. To do this, fold the filo in half, crease lightly and repeat again. 

  • Unfold the sheets, cut along the folded creases to get four even quarters of the sheet. Next, simply cut all 4 quarters in half again to obtain 8 even strips.
  • Next, brush the top two inches of each strip with butter to help seal each filo parcel. Spoon half a tablespoon of the amaranth-cashew mixture at the bottom of each strip diagonally.
  • Take the bottom left corner of the strip and fold over the mixture by aligning the bottom edge of the strip with the side edge, ensuring the mixture is encased under the filo pastry without any leaks.
  • The fold should resemble a right-angled triangle. Take the bottom tip of the triangle and fold vertically upwards to lock in the mixture.
  • Then fold the bottom right corner of the triangle to match the bottom edge of the current 
triangle with the left edge of the filo sheet.
  • Repeat the process until you reach the top of the strip and seal with the final edge brushed with butter.
  • Once all the spanakopita are folded, lay on a baking sheet brushed with butter and bake in the 
oven at 180°C for 7-8 mins and golden brown on all sides. Flip them halfway while baking to ensure the sides don’t burn. Serve hot and crisp straight out of the oven.

Avinash also shares that the spanakopitas can be shaped and stored in the freezer for up to two weeks and baked frozen, whenever needed. Make sure to store them wrapped individually in an aluminium foil to avoid them sticking to one another.