From traditional fish to showstopping pasta: eight delicious meals to cook on Christmas Eve.

For those who stick with culinary tradition, Christmas lunch may take some prep, but it’s a breeze in terms of not having to think too hard about things. So long as there’s turkey, crispy potatoes, cranberry and bread sauces, the ever-divisive sprouts and a chipolata or two in evidence – and as long as all of said components combine to necessitate a lie-down by 4.30pm – all will be festive and well on the food front.

Christmas Eve, meanwhile, can pose more of a conundrum. No one wants to overindulge and be fed up with the whole affair by the time the main event rolls around. And neither does any designated cook want to be chained to the kitchen in an effort to pull off something overly ambitious. But equally, it’s Christmas Eve; it should be more special than beans on toast (cosy as we think beans on toast are). There are some dishes that hit just the right note betwixt being special, comforting, easy and lovely to look at. Here are our favourite recipes for the night before Christmas, to wolf down as you await Santa’s annual bestowal of bounty.

Nathan Outlaw’s Smoked Fish Pie

Delicious Magazine

It’s not quite the Feast of the Seven Fishes, but Nathan Outlaw’s wonderfully homey and delicious fish pie does riff on the tradition of serving up surf on Christmas Eve, while also being perfect winter comfort food. There are, of course, fish pie recipes and fish pie recipes. But, for us, the smokiness of this number – thanks to the trinity of smoked haddock, smoked mackerel and smoked salmon – elevates it wonderfully. And as he suggests, if you happen to come across smoked mussels or oysters, simply throw them in. The whole affair is lent a salty tang, thanks to the winning combination of English mustard and parmesan. Hearty yet special: in other words, perfect Christmas Eve fodder.

Rick Stein’s Crab Linguine

Delicious Magazine

Rick Stein is the reigning king of seafood. So who are we to argue with this sublimely simple and perfectly delicious affair? Ahead of the carnivorous onslaught that awaits, this feels light even though the carby linguine ensures it is comforting, and the addition of chilli flakes that it is warming. We’ll eat this from spring right through to mid-winter, such is its versatility, but we especially love it on Christmas Eve night, washed down a crisp bottle of Gavi. Minimal effort; maximum rewards.

Salmon En Croute

Jamie Oliver

Retro yet showstopping, Jamie’s salmon en croute ticks the fish box, while also being comforting and looking pretty spectacular. The good news, too, is that it can be made in advance, and isn’t half as tricky as it might appear – in no small part down to buying in ready-made pastry, a recommendation we are fully on board with. If you want to keep things light, serve it with a zesty, citrussy green salad. Otherwise, very simple boiled new potatoes with sea salt and a knob of melted butter are ideal.

Potato Gnocchi With Pork Ragu

Country Living

This recipe awakens our perennially hovering-close-to-the-surface dreams of spending Christmas in Italy, going for post lunch passeggiate and conducting the whole affair to the glorious soundtrack of pealing campanile bells. But even as we awaken from our dream of wafting about Florence like Lucy Honeychurch in A Room With A View, we realise we can at least recreate a slice of that fantasy in our kitchens, if nowhere else. This recipe is simple and delicious. It suggests that you make your own gnocchi, but if you don’t that’s fine too; the sauce is easy and gorgeous and completely redolent of Tuscan hill villages. Sigh.

Pork Rillettes

Olive Magazine

The recipe suggests that this dish be deployed as a starter on Christmas Day. But we say, for those wishing to keep things light yet delicious, it makes a good Christmas Eve supper if simple, rustic and absolutely delicious is what you’re going for. Do note, however, it requires several hours of chilling.

Lobster And Caviar Gratin Served In The Shell

Great British Chefs

Lobster is one of those knock-out dishes that always looks impressive and yet is actually pretty simple. After all, it is mostly about the raw ingredients. We love chef Will Holland’s take, which is all luxury: a creamy gratin, caviar and lobster meat. We may be at home, but this is one to dress up for and accompany with a glass of something very cold and deliciously sparkling. The recipe suggests that this is perfect dinner party fare. It could well be, but after the year we’ve had, we think it works equally well a deux.

Gordon Ramsay’s Beef Wellington

Good To Know

If your tastes cleave more towards the turf than the surf, Gordon Ramsay’s Beef Wellington is an absolute winner. So much easier than it looks, it takes just twenty minutes to prepare and never fails to draw gasps of delight. In the absence of guests, it is one for larger families this Christmas.

Smoky Mushroom And Kale Lasagne

Anna Jones

Oh, how we love Anna Jones. Time and again, she roundly proves that Christmas doesn’t have to be a culinary wash-out if you don’t happen to be of a carnivorous persuasion. And she does it again with this gorgeous, robust and healthy mushroom and kale lasagne. The recipe hails from the Le Marche region in Italy, Anna swaps out the original Parma ham for oven-roasted kale, and gives options on how to make it suitable for vegans too. Warming, nourishing and just what we want to eat on Christmas Eve.

By Nancy Alsop
December 2020


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Nancy Alsop


Nancy is a magpie for the best in design and culture.