• Beetroot ravioli with sage butter. (Alan Benson)Source: Alan Benson
If your eyes glaze over at the mention of ham at Christmas, tuck into one of these dishes instead.
9 Dec 2021 - 5:30 AM  UPDATED 9 Dec 2021 - 10:17 AM

The Christmas ham is so ubiquitous these days you can even pick a decent one up at a service station. But ham isn't for everyone. Especially the non-meat eaters among us, but plenty of others prefer to skip the giant glazed slab as well.

If you're one of them, planning your Christmas dinner can feel a bit like you're lost in the wilderness. Nobody really talks about a good roast or eggplant dish at this time of year. The occasional turkey conversation comes up, but, let's face it, turkey hasn't taken off in Australia quite as rapidly as the turkey farmers of the world would like.

You don't need ham (or even turkey) for good Christmas feasting. Try one of these festive mains instead and there'll be no wee-wee-weeing all the way home.

Caramelised Christmas

A caramelised onion and pumpkin tart is so full of flavour your guests won't miss the ham. Serve it with a suitably festive salad like this one or this one.

Up in smoke

Smoking your lamb shanks gives a memorable flavour that your guests will be only too happy to associate with Christmas at yours.

Smoked lamb forequarter

"Attila Yilmaz loves fire. He has a blowtorch that sounds like an express train, which he fires up to turn a pile of ironbark logs into a raging fire in his huge wood-fired oven; the coals then smoke and roast his signature smoked lamb shoulder to melting perfection." Maeve O’Meara, Food Safari Fire

Nice and Scandi

It may be 47 degrees in the shade out there, but inside you're summoning the freshness of Scandinavia with a side of dill-cured salmon, Norwegian style.

Chicken in

Chicken is how they Christmas on the Balearic Islands. It's full of stuffed full of more spices than the Three Wise Men could carry.

Kylie Kwong's ‘radical’ roast chicken

The chicken is first ‘steamed’ in the oven under foil, so it doesn’t dry out, then the foil is removed and the heat turned up to give it a lovely crispy skin.

Peking roast chicken

This recipe is for a Chinese banquet favourite, Peking chicken roasted until the skin is crisp, then served with stir-fried greens, spring onion, hoisin sauce and wrappers.

King of dishes

Is it Christmas in Australia if you don't have prawns? Bump them up from entrée to starring role and everyone will be saying, 'ham? What's ham?'

Grilled prawns with jalapeño sauce

Nothing says summer more than a barbecue and these zingy grilled prawns will be a hit with the family on a hot summer’s day. Team them up with a simple avocado salad for a perfectly light meal.

Grilled prawns with mango and curry mayonnaise

These prawns are brushed withy coconut oil, kecap manis, fish sauce and lime leaves then dressed with a sweet and spicy mango curry mayo.

Not so crabby

Black pepper crab makes an unexpected but welcome main at any event. It's an informal way to really get things cracking at Christmas.

Get in our pork belly

Hardly anyone ever knocks back pork belly as a favourite (unless they're a non-meat eater, in which case, see dish below). Get Christmas cracklin'!

Five spice roast pork belly

Five spice is a traditional Chinese spice mix that is said to represent five flavours: sour, bitter, sweet, pungent and salty. Combined with hoisin sauce and sugar, it gives a delicious rich brown glaze to pork belly. 

Crispy roast pork belly

Ever wanted to recreate the magic of crispy Asian pork belly at home? Keep reading! With tender meat, incredible crackling and a dipping sauce of coconut sugar, star anise, ginger and chilli, this recipe is the perfect centrepiece for a dinner party or Asian banquet. 

Salad jewel

A festive cauliflower, pomegranate and pine nut salad will crown your Christmas menu most pretty.

Blue-eyed joy

Don't limit your seafood choices to a shellfish starter. Put this roast blue-eye front and centre and offset the green of the walnut and coriander sauce with the red of a glass of good bloody Mary.

Christmas parcels

Beetroot ravioli with sage butter.

How stunning these sage butter beetroot ravioli are. A worthy candidate to star on the big day.

Haloumi with baba ganoush and pomegranate dressing

Serve with grilled flatbread and lemon wedges as a snack or appetiser.

Crisp tofu cooked in tomato-pepper sauce (dau hu sot ca)

"Tofu is one of my favourite ingredients", says Luke. "Fried until golden and puffed and paired with this deeply flavoured sweet and sour sauce it is simply delicious." This dish is designed to served as part of a banquet or shared meal.

Lamb takes a spin

Roast lamb with red wine and rosemary is always a good idea, especially when it takes a quick trip to Japan on its way to the table. One teriyaki glaze later and you've got something extra special for your festive table.

Duck's got you covered

Move over turkey, pan-seared duck's where it's at. Especially when it comes swimming in a colourful cherry sauce. It's enough to make any ham-less Christmas positively merry.

Ham-less feasting
Roast whole lamb percik

This whole roast lamb is the ultimate celebration dish to feed a crowd. If there is no crowd to feed you could halve the marinade recipe, do just a leg at home and freeze the rest for the next percik. 

Roast chicken with whole mushroom sauce

A whole roast butterflied chook covered in Adam's rich, buttery mushroom sauce with white wine and cream.

Whiskey-braised short ribs with mustard and radish

A hearty filling meal, perfect for autumn and winter. Serve with your preferred condiment, roast sweet potatoes, or maybe a lush potato mash...

Braised beef short ribs (galbi jjim)

In Korea, this hearty dish is typically served on traditional holidays and special occasions, especially during Chuseok (the mid-autumn harvest festival).

Pomegranate and fennel chicken (pollastre amb magrana)

This vibrant, tangy dish, which rings in autumn on the Balearic Islands, is another example of the Moorish influence on Spanish food.

Duck breast with roasted cherries

Crisp, golden skinned duck roasted till tender, served with deep-red cherries roasted in butter, orange zest and vinegar.

Apple bourbon turkey

A bourbon, orange and maple flavoured butter truly lifts this bird, adding flavour and moisture. 

Spanish roast chicken with garlic aioli (pollo la parilla con all i oli)

This is garlicky and good! Full of flavour from a marinade that includes garlic, thyme and paprika, the skin is crisp, the chicken is tender, and the garlic aioli a delicious finishing touch.  

Eggplant meatballs (polpettine di melanzana)

The Milanese poet Giovanni Raiberti called Milano "the capital of meatballs". Anything left over from a previous meal can go into a polpetta or polpettina. It’s a good way to avoid wasting food.

Chickpea, pumpkin and cavolo nero “cassoulet”

I know, cassoulet is all about meat or the “cassole” it’s cooked in. But cassoulet is a much nicer-sounding dish than “hotpot” or “stew thing with crumbs”. This is such a great one-pot meal that you'll probably want to become a vegetarian for the winter.