My new year dinner fit for a MasterChef

My new year dinner fit for a MasterChef: Nikita’s the new champion of TV’s toughest cookery show. But there’s only one critic who really matters — her mum. Here they present a showstopping feast they promise is as easy as pie to make

  • MasterChef champ Nikita Pathakji shares the inspiration her mother brings her  
  • Rima grew up in India and enjoyed watching food programmes around the world 
  • She said she felt immense pride at watching Nikita achieve her goals 
  • READ MORE: Doctor: The five ways to minimise your hangover this New Year’s Eve – and the one drink you should avoid at all costs

When Nikita Pathakji won the prestigious MasterChef: The Professionals after 18 challenging rounds, judge chef Marcus Wareing declared her dishes ‘sublime’. But that compliment was nothing compared to the honour bestowed by her mother, Rima.

‘Even after being a chef for six years, I was allowed to do only the canapes and petits fours at Mum’s dinner parties,’ she says, laughing. ‘Now Mum is finally letting me do some of the mains. Her friends want to taste my food.’

You can’t blame Rima, 48, for being nervous about promoting her daughter. Dinner parties at her house in Clapham, South-West London, which she shares with Nikita, 25, her older daughter Isha, 26, fiance Neil, 50, and goldendoodle dog Dexter are a massive deal, involving eight elaborate courses and at least three days of preparation. Rima — a self-confessed ‘control freak’ — has long been in charge of the tiniest detail.

‘I’ll wake up at 3am to go to Billingsgate Market to buy fish, Smithfield to buy meat and New Covent Garden for flowers,’ says Rima, who works in financial services. But that’s all part of the fun. ‘I have quite a stressful job. Some people play golf to decompress, I cook.’

When Nikita Pathakji (pictured) won the prestigious MasterChef: The Professionals after 18 challenging rounds, judge chef Marcus Wareing declared her dishes ‘sublime’

Rima grew up in India, obsessively watching food programmes from all round the world, but frustrated she couldn’t obtain most of the ingredients mentioned. When she moved to the UK, aged 20, she was overwhelmed.

‘A world opened up to me — the supermarkets!’ she says, sitting with her daughters in her immaculate living room, Nikita’s MasterChef trophy glinting in the corner.

‘I’d seen so many shows about making spag bol — now I could get my hands on pasta, soy sauce, risotto rice, avocados for guacamole. It was so exciting.’

Nikita and Isha (who, like her mum, works in financial services, but also makes cocktails on TikTok) grew up in Derby, helping Rima prepare regular family feasts. But they were very much sous chefs.

Nikita moved in with Rima (pictured right) to follow a culinary apprenticeship while also working at the five-star Lanesborough Hotel, making finger sandwiches for teas

‘If things are not happening quickly enough I just say, ‘OK, leave it, I’ll just do it myself,’ ‘ Rima says.

After splitting amicably from her husband and moving to London, Rima would treat her daughters — who stayed in Derby to finish school — to Michelin-starred dinners on their weekend visits.

It was all an eye-opener to Nikita, who was doing science and maths A-levels and planning to read chemistry at university.

She says: ‘My family is very academic but in my last year at school they could all tell I wasn’t happy. I decided to do something that I loved. These guys were all like, ‘Well, what is it?’ and I said: ‘I think it’s cooking.’ ‘

So Nikita moved in with Rima to follow a culinary apprenticeship while also working at the five-star Lanesborough Hotel, making finger sandwiches for teas.

‘I begged my head chef to move me into the kitchen but he wouldn’t. So I’d rush through all my tasks, get them done and then just hang around in the kitchen until someone was like, ‘Well, you’re here — peel some onions’.’

Jobs followed at various Michelin-starred restaurants before her current role as junior sous chef at the one-Michelin-starred Kitchen W8 in Kensington, where she met her boyfriend, Charlie.

Rima watched in pride. ‘She’s the baby of the house, so it was such a surprise to see her work so hard and so passionately at something I could never do. Isha and I are better off in office jobs — we could never be like Nikita; in some of her previous chef jobs she’d leave the house at 6am and wouldn’t be back until 2am, with no social life or weekends off.’

Having never bothered faffing with canapes and petits fours, Rima permitted Nikita to start making them for her dinners. Next she delegated desserts to her, ‘because I’m not a big baker’. Meanwhile, she was pushing Nikita to enter MasterChef.

‘My mother begged me for years and years but it was only this year it seemed like the right time,’ says Nikita.

Every week of the competition Nikita tried out her recipes on her exacting mum and sister.

‘They would analyse every single detail. We had to be brutally honest; not a single dish ended up the way it started,’ Rima says.

They were especially harsh about her Thai-style tom yum consomme. ‘It has to be a crystal-clear liquid or I’d be booted out, but Mum also said ‘It has no flavour’. Fixing that was the hardest one, for sure.’

Having already cancelled a couple of business trips, eventually Rima had to travel and so wasn’t around to test the pigeon dish Nikita made for the so-called ‘Desert Island dish’ round. ‘That was terrifying!’ Nikita says. ‘Isha had to critique it for Mum on FaceTime.’

‘She was like, ‘If I go out after this round it’s your fault’,’ adds Rima. ‘But the biggest lesson MasterChef taught Nikita was how to deal with not everything going to plan. ‘In the earlier episodes someone described her as ‘stress personified’. But by a later one she was laughing and joking.’

For the very first round, Rima took Nikita to the studio, then ‘hung around outside looking like a lunatic for three hours, because if she came out crying somebody needed to be there’.

Nikita emerged smiling, so from then on Rima (slightly) backed off. But on the day of the final, she hovered anxiously over her phone.

‘I knew Niki would only call if she won. If she lost, she’d have texted me.’ But then the phone rang. ‘I was jumping and crying. I ran around the house for about five minutes screaming ‘She won! She won!’ ‘

This was back in July, since when the family have had to keep the win secret from curious friends and family, who had to find out on television earlier this month.

‘Now all my friends have downgraded me. They want to see what Nikita can do,’ Rima says.

The pair are a fully-fledged kitchen team (with Isha at the bar). ‘We take it in turns to be sous chef, asking, ‘How would you like me to chop this? How much caramelisation do you want on this?’ ‘ Rima says.

Since the final, they have had Rima’s boss’s family around for Indian food and thrown a party for Nikita’s MasterChef competitors, including fellow finalist Charlie Jeffreys. ‘We had to kick Charlie out at 2am — ‘You’ve got to go to work tomorrow!’ ‘ Rima says.

Christmas Day was traditional turkey, but now they’re gearing up for their New Year banquet. ‘And with Nikita doing all the cooking I can actually enjoy myself for once!’ Rima says.

Here, Nikita reveals how you can host a New Year’s Eve party to meet even your sternest critic’s approval.

Stellar new year’s eve dinner party

For me, a great dinner party is all about the company. You can have the most amazing food but if you’re not spending time with the guests it feels like a waste.

That’s why it’s important to have a plan. Make sure as much as possible is done in advance so you can spend time with your guests on the big night. For a really special New Year’s dinner you want to go all out, so use ingredients you would never use day-to-day. The dishes I’ve chosen are all about comforting luxury — cosy food such as chicken and mash but with shaved black truffle on top and an insane amount of butter in the potatoes, so that it feels indulgent. You can see the full recipes by scanning the QR code on this page or visiting

This menu may sound daunting but the dishes can all be adapted so any amateur chef can tackle them. Ahead of New Year’s Eve on Saturday, cook as much as you can on Thursday and Friday.

For example, chicken has to be cooked on the day, but the mash can be made earlier. The base of the cheese souffle can be made the day before — then it’s just a question of combining it with whisked egg whites and cooking it at the last minute. The spinach mix for the oysters can also be done the day before and then sit in the fridge.

For our dinner parties we have a system that, on the day, the table is set at 5pm and we go and have showers and get ready, so by the time people arrive it looks like nothing ever happened in the kitchen. During the meal you should only have to spend about ten minutes before every course doing the last-minute bits and bobs.


‘Jammy Dodger’; Celeriac tartlet; Oyster Rockefeller

The Jammy Dodgers were Mum’s idea, inspired by the Great British Chefs website. We use a chicken liver parfait with blackcurrant jam in the middle between two crackers, so it looks like a Jammy Dodger biscuit but savoury.

It doesn’t have to be blackcurrant. We’ve also used grape jelly — whatever’s in the house. You just want that sweetness to set off the chicken livers.

We like stuff to be homemade but of course you don’t have to make the parfait or jam — you can buy both and maybe assemble them in front of the guests to give a sense of theatre.

The celeriac tartlets have a puree at the bottom, with the other two toppings mixed at the top and some black truffle to make it a bit special. The oysters are one of mum’s classics — people always ask for them. It’s baked oysters topped with spinach, tarragon and breadcrumbs.


This menu may sound daunting but the dishes can all be adapted so any amateur chef can tackle them. Pictured, a cheese souffle 

Scallops and chorizo; cheese souffle

We always like to have scallops because they are [mum’s partner] Neil’s favourite — he’d eat hundreds if he could. This time we’re giving them a Spanish twist with chorizo, piquillo peppers, tomatoes, chillis and Manchego cheese on top.

The souffle is something Mum remembers Raymond Blanc making on TV and Neil proposed to her in 2018 at [Blanc’s] hotel Le Manoir. So it has become her classic. She makes it every time friends come round, using Comte cheese, instead of the traditional Gruyere.

Sometimes it doesn’t turn out the prettiest, but it always tastes so good — and I’ve been able to teach Mum a few tricks I’ve learned in professional kitchens to increase the chances of it rising, such as using a touch of egg white powder in with the egg whites as it stabilises the mixture. Plus brushing the ramekins with melted butter using upward strokes, instead of just greasing them with your fingers.

It’s quite a boring job, so Mum’s made it mine!


Chicken breast and truffle mash, caramelised shallot puree, pickled walnuts, chanterelles and salt and vinegar crisps

Chicken breast and truffle mash, caramelised shallot puree, pickled walnuts, chanterelles and salt and vinegar crisps

I thought about doing this dish in the MasterChef final but it felt too risky — chicken’s a little bit too accessible for such a grand occasion. But I made this dish for friends a few years ago and they still bang on about it.

It’s warming and comforting and super-indulgent — basically chicken and mash upgraded with truffle oil. The crisps give you that crunch through all the richness; I make them myself but there’s no reason you couldn’t use Walkers.


Clementine granita with spiced cream

We always like to do a palate cleanser before dessert, something light to break up the tastes. I wanted to do clementine because it has a festive feel. In the past Mum’s done coffee, champagne or prosecco granitas, even a coriander one. It just depends what the menu is and what you have in the house that can tie the ingredients together. We serve them in tiny cups.


Banana chocolate fondant with banana ice cream

Banana chocolate fondant with banana ice cream.

I used to experiment a lot more with fancy desserts but it turns out all people want is a rich, classic, indulgent one. Mum says she doesn’t want her dessert to be challenging.


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