Christmas at Hema’s

Hello darlings! I hope you had a wonderful Christmas, and had your fill of all the festive delights.

At Christmas time, I usually feel quite home-sick. I miss a good old Kiwi Christmas and all its trimmings.

However, I got lucky this year! My good friend Hema and I go back a long time. She used to live in New Zealand too, and unlike me, has a major passion for cooking. When she heard of my yearning for a Kiwi Christmas, she made it her mission to recreate one right here in the UAE. How blessed am I with a friend like Hema!

And lucky you… Hema has agreed to share some of her prized recipes here. Read on!

hema's christmas recipes

Hema is the Chief Accountant at Oregano (the Italian pizza and pasta chain), and when she gets a break from the numbers, she loves to spend quality time in the kitchen trying out new recipes and creating ones of her own.

Hema’s Christmas menu was nothing short of epic. She really went out of her way to stuff us! And how she managed this entire list of home-made goodies while juggling a full-time job is beyond me.

Have you had Mulled Wine? It’s pretty much like Christmas in a cup (or rather, a wine glass!).

Hema brewed a beautiful mulled wine. It was packed with festive punch, and she added lemongrass for an added burst of flavor. Here’s her recipe:

Hema’s Mulled Wine

  • Grated rind of one whole orange
  • 2 lemongrass stalks, bruised
  • 3 tablespoons caster sugar
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 3 fresh bay leaves
  • 1 whole nutmeg
  • 1 whole vanilla pod, halved
  • 2 star anise
  • 2 bottles of Chianti, or other Italian red wine

On medium heat, melt the sugar and add all the spices. Slowly pour in the wine, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to a simmer. Be careful not to boil the wine as it will evaporate. Let it simmer for about 20 minutes till the flavors are perfectly infused. Serve warm.

mulled wine recipe
Hema and hubby toasting to Mulled Wine

Hema made some deliciously spicy mutton cutlets.

Cutlets are such a versatile dish. She served them as appetizers with drinks, but you could easily have these as a main dish with a green salad, or pack it between bread for a quick lunch option.

Hema’s mutton cutlet recipe is influenced by her Indian heritage (Hema hails from the South Indian state of Kerala, famous for its spicy cuisine, and beef cutlets are a favorite on Malayalee Christmas menus).  Here’s Hema’s recipe:

Hema’s Mutton Cutlets

  • Half kilo minced meat (either mutton or beef)
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 cup finely minced onions
  • 2 tablespoon finely chopped green chilies
  • A handful of curry leaves
  • 2 tablespoon ginger paste
  • 1 cup mashed potatoes
  • Bread crumbs and eggs for coating
  • Oil for frying

Cook the minced meat with garam masala and salt. Add the vinegar, cook till done. Mince the mixture finely.

Saute the minced onion, ginger and green chili pastes, add a few curry leaves. Fry till golden brown.

Add the cooked minced meat and potato, mix well.

Take the mixture off the heat and make oval cutlets.

Dip each cutlet in beaten egg, and roll into bread crunbs to coat.

Deep fry in hot oil. Serve hot.

meat cutlets
Hema’s traditional Christmas turkey also had an Indian twist. It was marinated in a spicy Indian mix to satiate the palettes of her chili-loving friends.

indian style roast turkey

This turkey weighed a whopping 6 kilos.

Hema’s Spicy Turkey Marinade was a mixture of the following:

  • Garlic paste
  • Ginger paste
  • Green chili paste
  • Tomato paste
  • Ground coriander
  • Turmeric powder
  • Yoghurt
  • Lemon juice
  • Salt

She left the turkey to marinade overnight, and baked it in the oven till cooked through.

Hema’s tip: Keep basting the turkey with the marinade every half hour or so. Ensure it is covered in aluminum foil to avoid the marinade burning. The foil can be left open for the last half hour of cooking.

Hema also made a mean Aussie leg of lamb…


…and a scrumptious Salmon Pie.


Christmas is incomplete without a traditional fruit cake. Hema’s Rich Fruit Cake was super moist and soaked in a generous pour-down of brandy.


Hema also baked one of my favorite treats… Caramel Tarts!



Cooking is in Hema’s genes. Her grandmother was a great cook, and Hema inherited one of her prized recipe books…

hema book

Want more recipes from Hema? Watch out world… she’s coming up with a recipe blog real soon so stay tuned!

Thank-you Hema, I’m coming over for leftovers!