A dozen delicious dishes for your celebration menus

From start to sweet finish, these ideas will have you daydreaming of that special dinner.

From start to sweet finish, these ideas will have you daydreaming of that special dinner

(Photography by Betty Binon)

The holiday season is upon us, and it is time to start planning for the feasts (however changed in size) ahead. So here are some recipes to inspire your thinking around menus for your celebrations. In this round-up there's a little something for everyone: those looking for a vegan dessert, pescatarians, and those on the lookout for a stunning, centrepiece dish! 



(Photography by Soo Kim)

Chunky Halloumi Chips

(Credit: Danny Rohrer)

Everyone knows a celebration starts with appetizers, so here are two we love. Pajeon can be prepared in advance, and enjoyed at room temperature (with a glass of bubbly on the side!). The beauty of this dish is that you can add shrimps to it — for a pescatarian version. 

These cheesy halloumi chips make a delicious addition to a spread of starters spread — make sure to serve them piping hot.

Main Dishes


Vegetarian (Vegan) Biryani

(Photography by Leila Ashtari)

Paneer Makhani

(Photography by Betty Binon)

Everyone loves a one-pot dish; not only does it allow you to focus on the loved ones you are celebrating with, but you'll spend less time washing up at the end of the celebration. If you are dining and celebrating solo, this vegan biryani, scented with saffron and studded with chickpeas and roasted vegetables, tastes great the next day for lunch or dinner, too. 

Paneer Makhani is visually vibrant, and with its depth of spices and flavours, it makes for a perfect main for your celebratory meal. The rich sauce can be made a day ahead, and if you don't have any of the individual spices on hand, you can buy a store-bought garam masala or butter chicken masala mix to make things easier for yourself.  


Harissa-Marinated Chicken

(Photo credit: Jackson Roy)

Mahi — Sea Bass with Cilantro and Walnut Relish

(Photography by Betty Binon)

Don't let the idea of creating a main dish for your feast be daunting. This spiced chicken rests in its marinade for 8-16 hours, giving you ample time to prepare your appetizers, sides and dessert. All you have to do is place it on a baking tray, and slide it into the oven, and voila! your meal is ready. 

This sea bass (a recipe of mine) is served with a walnut and herb relish, which is enjoyable on its own, but is also great for pairing with other sides, and is wonderful to spread on bread. This is another dish which requires less kitchen clutter, as it can be served from oven to table. If you're unable to find sea bass, you can easily substitute it with other fish, such as trout. Halve the recipe and you'll have a fantastic feast for one.

Main rice or grains:

Sabzi Polow

(Photography by Betty Binon)

Charoset Quinoa

(Photography by David Loftus)

Consider serving rice or quinoa to accompany your main dish or as the star of the meal itself. These two dishes would impress on any table! 


Pomegranate and Parsley Tabbouleh

(Credit: Danny Rohrer)

Mezhukkupuratti Zucchini

(Photography by Christian Lalonde)

This pomegranate and parsley tabbouleh is a perfect complement to centrepiece mains. Set it down on your table and let everyone admire it and serve themselves. This salad can be made in advance, with all elements placed in separate containers, and when it comes time to feast, you can throw it all together in no time.

Add this healthy, spicy green vegetable side to your table, too. This mezhukkupuratti zucchini is full of aromatic spices which would balance out any of the more rich dishes on your festive table. 


Rice Pudding


(Photo credit: Andrew Rowley)

And finally, we've arrived: it's time for dessert, the best part of the celebratory meal for those with a sweet tooth. Who doesn't love a fabulous rice pudding? This is a dish which is easy to make days in advance, as it only improves in the fridge as it sets. Cool, creamy and fragranced with cardamom, it's sure to please after a full meal. You can also serve it alongside roasted fruit, maple syrup, or candied nuts — and consider trying a vegan version made with plant-based milks! 

This coconut-fragrant cake is vegan and can be served on a large platter, cut into squares, for anyone to grab a piece and enjoy with a hot cup of tea or coffee following the festive meal. 

Shayma Owaise Saadat is a food writer and chef. She lives in Toronto with her husband and son. You can follow her culinary journey at or on Instagram at @SpiceSpoon.

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