Written by Christina Chrysostomou

Alternative Christmas dinner recipes by Meliz Cooks

From slow-roasted lamb shoulder to halloumi Yorkshire puddings and crispy roast potatoes to mince pie Baklava, food blogger Meliz Cooks brings a Turkish-Cypriot twist to classic Christmas dinner recipes.


6 hour slow-roasted shoulder of lamb

6 hour slow cooked lamb shoulder - Credit: Meliz Cooks

Image: Meliz Cooks 

One of her most popular and most-cooked recipes, Meliz first served this lamb dish at her Cook for Syria Supper Club. The beautiful, unique green sauce and concentrated slow-cooked marinade is what makes the dish so special.


  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 tbsp pomegranate molasses
  • 4 tbsp lemon juice
  • 4 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 heaped tbsp oregano
  • 1 tsp pul biber (available to buy from Waitrose or your local ethnic food store)
  • 2 heaped tbsp fresh mint, finely chopped
  • 3/4 tsp sea salt flakes
  • 1.8-2kg shoulder of lamb
  • 1 large red onion, thickly sliced
  • 1 garlic bulb, halved
  • 3/4 tsp freshly milled black pepper
  • 250ml water
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped fresh coriander
  • 100g toasted pine nuts
  • 100g pomegranate seeds


  1. Preheat oven to 140°C (fan) / 160°C conventional.
  2. Add 2 full tbsp each olive oil, pomegranate molasses, lemon juice, red wine vinegar to a bowl and stir well. Add 1 tbsp honey, stir, then add 1 heaped tsp dried oregano, 1 tsp pul biber and 1 heaped tbsp finely chopped fresh mint and a good pinch of salt.
  3. Very lightly score the top of a 1.8-2kg lamb shoulder joint that is sitting in a tray on top of the thickly sliced red onion and halved garlic bulb.
  4. Pour 3-4 tbsp of the herby sauce over the lamb (without contaminating the sauce with the raw meat as the remaining sauce will be served with the cooked lamb), and season well with freshly milled black pepper.
  5. Pour 250ml water in the tray (adding a little more water half way through if you feel it’s necessary), cover the tray tightly with foil and place in a preheated oven at 140°C (fan) on the bottom shelf.
  6. Slow cook for a minimum of 6 hrs (a little more will not hurt at all), and baste every 2 hours, covering the tray tightly back up with the foil when it goes back in the oven.
  7. If you feel like the lamb isn’t crisping up as much as you’d like, take off the foil for the last 20 minutes or so. Before the lamb is cooked, top up the herb sauce made earlier with the remaining 2 tbsp each of extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, red wine vinegar, and add 2 tbsp finely chopped coriander and 1 tbsp each pomegranate molasses and finely chopped fresh mint.
  8. This will be served as the dressing with the lamb. Serve the lamb with the herbs green sauce, toasted pine nuts, and pomegranate seeds.
  9. For a full feast serve with cacik (cucumber, garlic, mint yoghurt) and roast potatoes/vermicelli rice, roasted cauliflower with Tahini Sauce, a green salad and crusty bread/pitta.


Crunchy semolina roast potatoes

Crunchy Semolina Roast Potatoes - Credit: Meliz Cooks

Image: Meliz Cooks 

Meliz is obsessed with potatoes so has kindly shared her (very Instagrammable!) roast potato recipe with us.


  • 1kg Maris Piper or King Edwards peeled and cut into 3-4 inch chunks
  • 1 tbsp semolina
  • 4 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 1 bulb garlic
  • Bunch of thyme
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Start by parboiling your prepared potatoes for 5 minutes.
  2. Once parboiled, drain and shake the potatoes in a colander, coating with the semolina, a few bashed garlic cloves, a few sprigs of thyme and a good sprinkling of salt and pepper.
  3. Carefully add to a baking tray that has been heated in the oven at 200°C for 15 minutes with 4 tbsp of sunflower oil in it.
  4. Roast potatoes for 45-55 minutes, turning halfway through.

Roasted cauliflower with ras-el-hanout, lemon-y tahini and pomegranate

Roasted cauliflower with lemony tahini dressing and pomegranate

Image: Meliz Cooks 

A lighter alternative to cauliflower cheese, this roasted cauliflower side dish oozes flavours of the Middle East with nutty tahini and a crunch of sweet pomegranate arils.


For the roasted cauliflower:

  • 1 cauliflower, sliced into 1-2cm thick slices
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp ras-el-hanout mix
  • 1 tsp finely chopped parsley
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp pul biber (Turkish pepper, available at Waitrose or your local ethinic food store)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 lemon, cut into slices

For the lemon-y tahini dressing:

  • 1 heaped tsp tahini (see important tip below)
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 1 pomegranate, seeded
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 packet of shelled sunflower seeds
  • Bunch of fresh parsley, chopped


  1. Start by pre-heating your oven to 180°C and place the prepared cauliflower into a large bowl.
  2. Mix together the olive oil, ras el hanout mix, parsley, cumin, pul biber with a pinch of salt and pepper and pour over cauliflower; mix with hands so all pieces are coated.
  3. Lay baking parchment on a baking tray and spread the cauliflower pieces on with 5-6 lemon slices (you may need two trays depending on size of cauliflower).
  4. Roast on bottom shelf for 25-30 minutes until slightly softened and browned.
  5. To make dressing mix the tahini with 4 tbsp boiling water and whisk vigorously.
  6. Add 1 crushed garlic clove and juice of 1/2 lemon and pinch of salt and stir. When cauliflower is done, arrange on plate, drizzle over tahini sauce, pomegranate seeds, sunflower seeds and the fresh parsley.

Good Homes top tip: When buying tahini (sesame seed paste), you may find a layer of sesame oil that has risen to the top – ensure you stir this before using.

Halloumi Yorkshire puddings

 Halloumi Yorkshire puddings - Credit: Meliz Cooks

Image: Meliz Cooks 

An adaptation of a recipe from Meliz’s mother, these are effortlessly quick and delicious and perfect as a savoury snack with a cup of tea. Take them straight out of the tray once they’re cooked so that they don’t collapse.


Makes 10-12 puddings:

  • 170ml semi-skimmed milk
  • 3 large eggs
  • 70g plain flour, sifted
  • 1/2 tsp sunflower oil
  • 100g halloumi cheese, grated
  • 1 tsp dried mint
  • 1 tsp nigella seeds
  • 1 tsp sesame seeds


  1. In a large measuring jug, whisk together the milk, eggs and flour until no lumps are visible and then pop in the fridge.
  2. When oven is hot, fill each round of a muffin tray with the sunflower oil making sure you also grease sides so that you can easily pop out the puddings when they’re done.
  3. Pop the tray in the oven on the top shelf for at least 15-20 minutes until oil is smoking. While the tray is heating up, mix together the halloumi with the mint, nigella seeds and sesame seeds and leave to one side.
  4. Take pudding mixture out of the fridge and turn oven down to 190°C (fan), give mixture another quick stir, then carefully take out muffin tray and quickly pour in equal measures of the batter into each round.
  5. Add a heaped teaspoon of the halloumi mixture to each pudding then quickly pop tray back in the oven on middle shelf and do not open over door until Yorkshire puddings are cooked which should take 20-25 minutes when they’re golden brown and risen.
  6. Serve immediately or allow to cool, pop in freezer bags, freeze, and just take out and reheat (no need to defrost), at 190°C (fan) for 8-10 minutes.

Meliz’s tip : Add a handful of sultanas to the halloumi and mint mixture to give a lovely sweet and salty vibe reminiscent of Cypriot baked delights.


Christmas Baklava

Christmas Baklava - Credit: Meliz Cooks

Image: Meliz Cooks 

This mince pie flavoured baklava is a total game changer and is one of the naughtiest, most indulgent recipes Meliz has ever made; well, it is Christmas after all!


Makes 1 large tray

For the mincemeat mixture:

  • 300g mixed dried fruit
  • 150g chopped almonds
  • 150g chopped walnuts
  • 1 small apple, peeled, cored and finely chopped
  • 50g butter cut into cubes
  • 25g muscovado sugar
  • 1 level tsp cinnamon
  • 1 level tsp mixed spice
  • 1 tsp orange blossom
  • Juice and rind of 1/2 orange

For the orange blossom syrup:

  • 400ml water
  • 300g granulated sugar
  • 5 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp orange blossom water
  • Couple of cinnamon sticks

For the baklava pastry:

  • 250g butter
  • 24 sheets of filo pastry (equivilent to 2 packs of pastry)


For the mincemeat:

  1. Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and cook on a medium heat for around 10 minutes.
  2. Remove from the hob and allow to cool.

For the orange blossom syrup:

  1. Combine all of the ingredients in a pan and cook on a medium heat.
  2. Stir occasionally and take off heat once mixture has reduced down by about a 1/3.
  3. Allow to fully cool.

To assemble:

  1. In a separate pan melt 250g butter.
  2. With a pastry brush, grease the bottom of a deep roasting tray.
  3. Place a layer of filo in the tray, liberally brush with butter then repeat 7 times.
  4. Evenly sprinkle on 1/2 of the mincemeat, then 8 layers of the filo (buttering each layer every time again), the other 1/2 of the mincemeat, then 8 more layers of individually-buttered filo sheets.
  5. Brush the top with lots of butter (pouring over the last bit over) then cut the baklava into diamond or small rectangle shapes, making sure you cut all the way through to the bottom.
  6. Place in a preheated (175C) oven on the bottom shelf (on a baking tray) for 40 mins or so until crispy/golden brown.
  7. Remove the tray from the oven, then immediately pour over cooled syrup so it sizzles vigorously.
  8. Allow to cool, place in fridge and cover with foil. 

Top tip: Meliz advises that this dessert is best served the next day.


About Meliz

Wife, mum, music teacher, singer/songwriter and foodie, Meliz’s aim is to show you how to create fresh, easy and nutritious meals for the whole family. If you liked this recipe, why not follow her on her Instagram, @Melizcooks, or check out her blog when you’re in need of Middle-eEstern moments of ‘mmmspiration’.


Have you recreated Meliz’s recipes? Tweet us at @goodhomesmag, or tag us in your Instagram posts, using the hashtag #thisgoodhome for your chance to be featured on our Instagram feed. 



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