Magnificent main course meat dishes might be the centrepiece of your festive table but side dishes also need to live up to expectation. 

Sides and accompaniments should complement and showcase the mains — they are the bridesmaids in this celebration. But if some veggie dishes can act as a substitute bride then this makes it easier for menu planning — especially when there are vegetarians at your get-together.

Veggie dishes that can be prepared ahead are a cook’s best friend. There are many potato and vine veggie dishes that can be semi-prepared a day ahead and finished prior to serving. For example, the roasted butternut and the potato strata that follow.

Most of us enjoy hot vegetables with hot meats but salads are easy to prepare and serve and are more than acceptable as one of the sides. 

Ideas for dressing up veggies:
• Spruce up roast potatoes with a hazelnut and herb crumble.
• Caramelise roast pumpkin or kumara with brown sugar and spices. 
• Drizzle beans, asparagus or broccoli with a home-made Hollandaise. (Make the Hollandaise ahead then keep warm in a vacuum flask.)
• Toasted chopped nuts or dukkah add pizzaz and goodness to veggies.
•Finely grate the rind of an orange and sprinkle over roast veggies or steamed greens.


Parmesan Dressing: 3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 large clove garlic, crushed
4-6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons finely grated parmesan cheese
freshly ground black pepper to taste
Salad: 500g (2 bunches) asparagus 
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen peas
1 cup snow peas
1 avocado, halved, peeled, stoned and sliced
1 cup pea tendrils

To make the dressing, combine the lemon juice and garlic in a bowl. Gradually whisk in the olive oil adding enough so the dressing is not too acid or too oily. Add the parmesan. Season. Refrigerate until required.

To make the salad, bring a large frying pan of water to the boil. Have a large bowl of icy water on the side.

Trim the asparagus. Blanch in the boiling water until crisp tender. Remove with tongs to the bowl of iced water.

Add the fresh or frozen peas and snow peas to the boiling water. Boil for 1 minute. Drain and refresh in the icy water.

Drain all the vegetables and pat dry. Place on a serving dish. Cover and chill until just before serving. 

Top with the avocado and pea tendrils and drizzle with a little dressing. Serves 4-6.  


The butternut can be cooked a day ahead then reheated with the pineapple sauce.

1 butternut (approx. 1.2kg) halved lengthways, seeded 
2 tablespoons olive oil 
1 cup lightly packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons water
1/2 cup each: cider vinegar, pineapple juice 
1/2 pineapple cut lengthwise, peeled, eyes removed 
2 tablespoons fish sauce 
juice 2 limes

Preheat the oven to 200°C. Lightly oil a large roasting pan. Line with baking paper.

Place the butternut cut-side up in the prepared pan. Brush with oil. Roast for 40 minutes or until just tender. 

Meanwhile, prepare the sauce. Place the brown sugar and water in a saucepan. Heat until the sugar is dissolved. Stir often. Add the vinegar and pineapple juice and simmer until reduced by about 1/3. Cut the pineapple into 7mm slices. Add to the saucepan and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the fish sauce and lime juice.

Pour the sauce over the pumpkin and continue cooking for a further 30 minutes or until the pumpkin is tender and the pineapple is caramelised. 

Cut the butternut into serving sized pieces and transfer to a serving dish with the pineapple. Top with the remaining cooking juices. Serves about 8. 


This makes an excellent vegetarian main or side dish. Prepare a day ahead, cover with foil and chill until ready to bake.

1kg potatoes
2 eggs, lightly beaten
500g ricotta or cottage cheese 
salt and pepper to taste
1 1/2 cups passata or tomato-based pasta sauce
2 teaspoons each: dried oregano, basil
125g grated tasty cheddar cheese
Preheat the oven to 190°C. Lightly oil a 30cm x 20cm baking dish.

Slice the potatoes into 7mm rounds. Steam, microwave or boil, until just tender. Beat the eggs, ricotta or cottage cheese and salt and pepper together. 
Arrange half the potatoes on the base of the baking dish. Top evenly with half the ricotta cheese mixture, half the passata and half the herbs. Repeat the layers. Sprinkle with the cheddar cheese.
Bake for 35-45 minutes. Serves 6-8.


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