Sunday, September 24, 2023

Christmas Dinner Sorted! Part One: Sensational Starters and Summer Sides…

When it comes to Christmas Dinner (or Christmas Lunch if that’s what you’re into!) this year, we’re looking for simple, stylish recipes that involve as little stress as is humanly possible.

Well, fire up the BBQ, because Julie Le Clerc has just the ticket! From summery starters to a show-stopping dessert and everything in between, we’ve got a beautiful menu for the big day, just for you!

BBQ Avocado & Prawns with Sriracha Dressing

Smoky, lightly charred avocado is a revelation and makes a great base for these spicy prawns or served as a side to other barbecued foods.

Serves 6

  • 3 firm ripe avocados
  • 2-3 lemons, halved
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 12-18 large prawn cutlets, thawed
  • ½ cup sour cream, to serve 
  • ¼ cup fresh coriander leaves, to garnish


  • 2 tablespoons sweet-hot Sriracha 
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated fresh ginger
  • 2 teaspoons minced lemongrass
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • 2-3 teaspoons fish sauce
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Preheat a barbecue to medium-high. Cut the avocados in half, remove the stones. 

Drizzle the cut sides with lemon juice then brush with olive oil. 

Season the flesh with salt and pepper and place on the grill, flesh-side down. Cook for 2-3 minutes or until the avocado releases itself from the grill.

Toss the prawns with a little oil and grill for 30-60 seconds on each side until bright pink and cooked through. Remove and put to one side. Add the lemon halves to the grill, cut-side down, and cook for 1-2 minutes to char. 

Make the dressing by placing all ingredients in a screw top jar.

Screw on the lid and shake well to combine.

Arrange the avocados on a platter and scatter over the prawns. 

Dollop with sour cream; drizzle over the dressing and scatter with coriander. Serve with grilled lemons on the side, to squeeze over.

Grilled Asparagus & Buckwheat Salad with Rocket Dressing

Naturally gluten-free buckwheat is a good addition to any summer vegetable salad combination. The slightly nutty flavour of buckwheat is complemented in this salad by the vibrant, peppery kick of the rocket dressing.

Serves 6

  • 1 cup buckwheat (groats)
  • 2 bunches asparagus, trimmed
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper 
  • 1 cup rocket
  • 1/3 cup roast pistachio nuts, roughly chopped
  • Pomegranate arils (if available)


  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 cup rocket, tightly packed
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cook buckwheat in boiling water for 8 minutes, or until just tender to the bite. Drain well and set aside to cool.

Preheat a barbecue to medium-high. Toss the asparagus with a little oil to coat. Season with salt and pepper and place on the grill. Cook for 1-2 minutes on each side until lightly charred. Remove to cool then slice spears on an angle into thirds. 

To make the dressing, put the garlic and rocket in a food processor and pulse to chop. Add lemon juice and then, with the motor running, pour in oil slowly and process to form a smooth dressing. Season with salt and pepper to taste. 

Combine the buckwheat, asparagus and rocket in a large bowl. Pour over the dressing and toss well to coat. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Serve scattered with pistachios and pomegranate arils.

Agrodolce Eggplant with Whipped Ricotta & Dukkah

The Italian sauce agrodolce translates to mean sour-sweet. Here, grilled eggplant acts like a sponge, soaking in these addictive sweet and sour flavours as it rests.

Serves 6-8

  • 750g small eggplants, thickly sliced lengthways
  • Olive oil, to brush
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ cup red wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoon honey
  • 2 tablespoons sultanas or currants
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • ½ teaspoon smoked paprika flakes
  • 2-3 tablespoons dukkah
  • Torn fresh mint leaves


  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more as needed

Preheat a barbecue to medium-high. Brush eggplant slices with oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill eggplant for 3-4 minutes on each side or until softened and lightly charred. Transfer to a large bowl. 

Make the agrodolce sauce at the same time. Combine vinegar, honey, sultanas or currants, garlic, paprika and 2 tablespoons olive oil in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a gentle simmer. Cook for 5-8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until reduced to half a cup. Drizzle sauce over the cooked eggplant, to coat. Leave to cool to room temperature.

Put the ricotta in a food processor; season with salt and pepper. With the motor running, add the oil in a thin stream. Process until creamy. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve. 

To serve, arrange eggplant on a serving platter. Dollop over whipped ricotta; scatter with dukkah and mint.

Recipes, styling and photographs Julie Le Clerc, NZ House & Garden Food Editor

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