Christmas is the time we pull out all stops to impress. Last week it was all about wine and more wine and this week it’s all about food— some really easy and some more complicated — you choose. If it’s all too much for you, head for your local supermarket, buy what you want, crack a bottle of champagne, and put your feet up. Otherwise here are some great recipes to get you going from the chefs at Capsicum Culinary Studio –  recipes for a couple of side dishes to go with that roast turkey or glazed ham. They have also recommended a festive salad wreath as well as a Pavlova dessert wreath, both of which would also make fabulous centrepieces for the table.



Hasselback Potatoes



1.5kg potatoes

4 tbsp vegetable oil

4 garlic cloves, minced

Sprigs of rosemary

sea salt flakes



Heat oven to 200ºC. Use a metal skewer and insert through the back of one of the flatter sides of the potato. Place on a chopping board, skewer-side down, and make thin slices through the potato taking care not to cut all the way through on both ends. Remove the skewer and repeat with the remaining potatoes. Put the potatoes cut-side up on a shallow baking tray and drizzle over the oil making sure they are coated well and there is oil between the slices. Toss in the minced garlic, rosemary, and season well. Roast for 50 – 60 or until the potatoes are tender throughout and the tops are golden and crisp. Baste with any oil in the pan halfway through the cooking process to get extra crisp potatoes.



Best Brussels Sprouts


450g Brussels sprouts, cleaned and halved

2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

125ml balsamic vinegar

2 tbsp honey

1 tbsp Dijon mustard

2 cloves garlic, minced

Salt and pepper



Heat oil in a large pan over medium heat then add the Brussels sprouts, cut side down and cook undisturbed for 3 to 4 minutes until golden on the bottom. Add ¼ cup water and cover. Let Brussels sprouts steam until tender (3 minutes). Remove sprouts and set aside. In the same pan, add the balsamic vinegar, honey, mustard and garlic and whisk to combine. Bring to a simmer and cook until thick and syrupy (6 – 8 minutes). Return sprouts to pan, toss to coat, and heat through for about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and serve immediately.


Festive Salad Wreath


75g walnuts, broken into pieces

130g bag mixed green salad leaves

3 pears, peeled, cored and sliced

250g blue cheese, crumbled

50g pomegranate seeds


For the dressing

3 tbsp white wine vinegar

1 tbsp runny honey

1 tsp wholegrain mustard

2 tbsp olive oil



Heat a large dry frying pan, then add walnut pieces. Toast for 3-5min, shaking pan until the walnuts smell toasted. Tip into a bowl and set aside to cool. In a small serving bowl, whisk the dressing ingredients with some salt and freshly ground black pepper. Set aside.

On a large board or platter, arrange salad leaves in a round wreath shape. Place the slices of pear in and amongst the leaves and scatter over the cheese. Sprinkle the pomegranate seeds and toasted, cooled walnut pieces. Place the bowl of dressing in the centre of the wreath.


Pavlova Wreath


6 egg whites (at room temperature)

2 cups caster sugar

1 tsp white vinegar

2 tsp cornflour

600ml double cream, whipped

Fresh summer berries and mint leaves for garnish

Berry coulis to drizzle



Preheat oven to 110ºC. Place baking paper on an oven tray and using a suitable plate as a guide, draw a 24cm circle in the middle of it and a 12cm circle in the middle of that. This will act as a guide for your wreath. Turn the baking paper over so the drawn circle is underneath but still visible. In a large bowl or in the bowl beat the egg whites on moderate speed until soft peaks form. Continue beating while adding the caster sugar, about a tablespoon at a time. The mixture should become glossier and thicker with each addition. This should take about 10 minutes. Beat in the vinegar and cornflour. Using a large spoon, dollop the mixture onto the baking paper in between the two circles. Slightly level the top so that it creates a flattish surface to add the cream on later. Bake for approximately 90 minutes until dry and crisp and it lifts easily off the baking paper. Turn the oven off and leave the pavlova in the oven for at least an hour before removing. Finish cooling on a wire rack. Once completely cool, place on a serving plate, top with whipped cream and garnish with fresh summer berries. Drizzle over the coulis and then add the mint leaves as a finishing touch.