Whilst presents and family are all well and good, we all know that the real star of the festive season is Christmas dinner. Sure, you may have roasts throughout the year, but the one at Christmas is extra special and guaranteed to put you in a food coma for the rest of the day at least.
However, there are some little things you can do to ensure your Christmas dinner is that extra bit better…
- If you have a frozen turkey, make sure you’ve given it plenty of time to defrost. A 4-5kg frozen turkey will take around 20 hours to defrost at room temperature, whilst a 9-11kg turkey could take as much as 48 hours to defrost.
- Prepare as much as you can the night before. Leave potatoes to soak in cold water, peel the veg and get out any tools and utensils you know you’re going to need. This will take away a lot of the stress the following day.
- Do away with starters. You’re going to have plenty of other food, and you don’t want to be too full for dessert.
- Turkey legs actually take longer to cook than the breast, and this can often lead to either over or underdone parts of the turkey. Try putting a layer of stuffing between the turkey’s skin and breast to make cooking times more even.
- Make sure your oven is up to scratch. An old oven may have hotspots which can lead to uneven cooking. It’s worth buying quality if you want top quality food, such as these range cookers from HiSpek and you’ll know it will cook the turkey evenly throughout.
- Remember to leave the turkey to stand after cooking. This will allow the juices to expand through the turkey for maximum flavour. Cover the turkey loosely in foil when it’s standing, although not too tightly or the moisture will be sealed in and the skin will lose its crispness.
- After parboiling and before roasting, mash the potatoes ever so slightly to increase the surface area for crispy bits. Buy in some goose fat if you want them extra crispy.
- If you want the best gravy then don’t forget the juices from the turkey in the baking tray. Add that to the stock for the absolute best flavour.
- Big sprouts can be tricky to cook so opt for small ones, about one inch across is optimal. When cutting with this type of precision it’s important to have the right knife, which you are sure to find among the selection of Fiskars chef knives. If you want to do something a little different with your sprouts, pan fry them with some pancetta and garlic.
- Carrots and parsnips are delicious parboiled and then roasted drizzled with honey.
- If you or your children aren’t big fans of Christmas pudding, then try chocolate steamed pudding instead. It even looks a bit like Christmas pudding but the taste is much less divisive, particularly for the kids.
Max Clark from Leiths School of Food and Wine in UK is on hand to help ensure that your Christmas cooking runs smoothly.
Max Clark says: “My best piece of advice for the perfect, stress free celebration? Keep it simple.
“You are not the hired help, but part of the festivities! Quality should reign over quantity, and simple, beautifully presented food will be appreciated and enjoyed more than a complicated menu that doesn’t quite deliver.
“Prepare what you can before the big day, then relax and open your pressies.”
Ten tips from Leiths cooking school for a perfect Christmas dinner
- Decadence is the order of the day, so start by beguiling your loved ones with a bubbly flourish of fantasy and romance. Fill glasses of pomegranate juice with icy Prosecco and float edible rose petals on top for a glamorous breakfast cocktail.
- Serve the cocktails with toasted panettone. Top with warm, roasted figs, pomegranate seeds and a drizzle of honey, and you’re off the starting blocks without even breaking into a sweat.
- Don’t bother with a formal starter. You’ve had a rich breakfast and you’ll be eating all day. Simply thread some fat, fresh tiger prawns onto skewers, interleaved with citrusy, kaffir lime leaves and marinade in a little oil, root ginger and red chilli. Bake in a hot oven (in a disposable aluminium tray) until pink and juicy and serve as a pre-lunch nibble with a glass of fino sherry.
- If lunch is just going to be for you and your partner (and perhaps the future in laws…), why not try something different, such as roast quail? Quail take 20 minutes to cook and lend themselves well to the traditional trimmings. After all, why spend hours battling with a bird that’s bigger than your dog, only to eat turkey curry for the next three days?
- Serve the quail with glazed cocktail sausages, bacon rolls and individual Christmas bubble and squeak cakes. Mix together cooked crushed potatoes, parsnips, Brussels sprouts and chestnuts, stir in a few cranberries and season to taste. Shape into patties and chill until required. They can be made up to two days in advance and are equally good baked or fried. You have just saved yourself an hour in the kitchen, with cheeks rosy enough to compete with Santa Claus.
- Now just add some seasonal leafy greens and baby carrots to bring the contemporary feast to life. Parboil and refresh the carrots after breakfast, ready to reheat in foaming, seasoned butter.
- A jar of cranberry sauce can be jazzed up with a grating of orange zest and a splash of port.
- Make your bread sauce on Christmas Eve, cool and refrigerate. Stir in a little cream and heat in the microwave when required.
- Good gravy can be the bane of the most experienced cooks’ lives, so practice it some other time. This isn’t the day for heroics. Buy a pouch of fresh, quality gravy and up the ante with a generous slurp of Madeira. Its rich, caramel flavor will add extra body and flavor, and a teaspoon of unsalted butter whisked in before serving will make it appear glossy in look.
- Swap hours of boiling a Christmas pudding (that you are too full to eat), for a clementine compote, fragrant with sultry spices. Make it up to 24 hours in advance, and serve well chilled with hot white chocolate sauce. Peel two clementines per serving, place in a bowl and pour over boiling water. Drain and scrape off the white pith. Add a cinnamon stick, star anise and a bay leaf to a pan of sugar syrup, laced with Cointreau and orange blossom water. Bring to the boil and cook until syrupy. Pour over the fruit, leave to cool and chill until needed. So, there you have it; all of the traditional courses and seasonal ingredients, in a fresh, stress free, and most importantly, calamity-free format. This will allow you plenty of time for fireside naps and maybe even some mulled wine; so sit back, relax, and enjoy a romantic and festive day with your loved ones.
Lazy chefs can rustle up a turkey casserole with winter veg, chipolatas, stuffing balls and cranberry jelly in a hassle-free 12 minutes…all from a can.
The self-heating festive feast comes in a compact 400 gram tin.
When December 25 arrives, simply remove the rubber cap, pierce the holes and open the insulated can.
This kick starts an exothermic reaction to warm the meal with all the trimmings, leaving the family more time to relax and open presents.
Retail website Firebox.com are selling the Christmas Dinner HotCan for the first time this year.
A spokesman said: “Christmas Dinner will never be the same again.
“There’s no need for pesky ovens, microwaves or kettles – just sit down, crack open the HotCan, relax and enjoy Christmas turkey with all the trimmings.
“Plus there is no need for washing up afterwards, freeing up more time to sit back and enjoy a good old James Bond film.”
Stressful hours peeling potatoes and preparing a turkey throughout the night could be gone forever thanks to HotCan Christmas Dinner
Budding gastronomes can rest easy, as the can’s contents still tickles the tastebuds.
The spokesman added: “HotCan recipes are really rather delicious.
“You won’t be awarding any Michelin Stars, but they are certainly up there with your respectable ready meals.
“Plus, Your Christmas Dinner HotCan is nutritionally balanced, so as well as satisfying all your Christmas cravings, you’ll stay trim and terrific.”
HotCans consist of a can of food surrounded by an outer can, with a water sachet and processed granular limestone in between.
Customers insert the spike into the rim of the can, piercing the sachet and causing the water to flow into the limestone.
This triggers a natural heat-producing reaction which warms up the food to 60 – 70 degrees Celsius.