An Indian Reinvention of the Traditional Turkey Dinner

Written by Evita Basilio BSc, Nutrition

Reviewed by Andrea Miller MHSc, RD

Four years ago, my family moved from Dubai, U.A.E. to North America. My brother and I are now in Canada and my parents in the States. We have grown accustomed to the North American culture but blend in our Indian traditions, particularly around food. The holidays bring the family together, as well as old friends and new. Our annual holiday dinner is the main event taking inspiration from different parts of India, while keeping elements of a traditional turkey dinner.

Our spin on the main dish is a Tandoori Turkey, made by marinating the turkey overnight in yogurt and tandoori spices consisting of chilli powder, papaya, garlic, Himalayan salt, ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, black pepper, cumin, cardamom, mace and fennel seed. The morning of Christmas, the turkey is ready to be baked and with such a succulent bird, there’s no need for stuffing.

An alternate to the usual mashed potatoes is Potato Chops – an East Indian speciality of mashed potato filled with delicately spiced beef mince. The ground beef filling is sautéed with onions, chillies, ginger, garlic, turmeric, and cilantro, then tightly enclosed into the mashed potato, covered in bread crumbs and fried till golden brown.

My mother is the queen of variety and fills the dinner table with several types of meats. You may think the turkey was the star, but then comes the Achar Gosht – a dish made with goat and pickle spices; there’s always a Chicken Curry; and Pork Vindaloo – made by grinding red chillies, garlic, cumin, and turmeric in vinegar, marinating the cubed meat overnight in the spice mix, and cooking the next day. My favourite is the Steamed Pomfret in banana leaves – the fish is stuffed and marinated with spices and lemon juice and wrapped in an oiled banana leaf, then steamed on a flat skillet.

The meat dishes sit on a bed of Mixed Vegetable Pilaf, a dish of basmati rice cooked in stock with spices, adding peas, carrots and green beans.

There are a few vegetarian dishes such as French beans julienned and sautéed in onion, chilli, garlic, turmeric and salt; and Aloo Gobi –  spiced potato, cauliflower and peas which derives its main flavours from ginger, red chilli powder and garam masala.

Indian cuisine is aromatic, warm and loaded with spices and ingredients. The spices boost several health benefits and pack incredible flavour. To cool down from the spice, we have a Green Salad made with romaine lettuce, onion, tomato, cucumber, beetroot, salt, pepper and lemon juice. And of course, Raita – yogurt with cucumber, tomatoes, onions, salt, pepper and chilli powder.

For dessert, the table is filled with little treats like rum fruit cake, marzipan, milk cream and cocoa fudge sweets, and coconut cake. A lot of preparation goes into making these with each dessert taking a day to make, and the rum fruit cake needing its ingredients soaked a month ahead of the feast.

After dinner, it’s time to sit back and relax with Masala Chai – a blend of black tea, milk, sugar, ginger, peppercorn, cloves and cardamom, prepared by boiling the combination together on a low flame. We forget about the mess in the kitchen and just relax and enjoy our family and friends.

This holiday season, I encourage you to change things up. Perhaps, tap into your roots and cook a dinner inspired by your culture, travels or even where you may hope to travel! Another fun feast idea is hosting a multinational holiday potluck.


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