We’re less than a month to go until the big day, and the stress of cooking the biggest dinner of the year is definitely hanging over us now. Perfecting the Christmas dinner is no small feat, and preparing it for your family and friends can be a little bit overwhelming, so we sat down with our Head Chef, Damian, to find out his top tips for cooking the perfect dinner.
Ask your butcher to prepare the turkey for you. For this, you’ll want them to bone and roll the legs, and leave the breast on the crown. Ask for the bones, the neck and the offal, which you’ll need later.
- Dissolve 250g salt in 5 litres of water, and add 2 chopped bulbs of garlic and 2 bunches of sliced sage.
- Leave your turkey in the brine for 24 hours, then take out and dry in the fridge for 4 hours.
- Take 200g soft butter and mix with 50g sea salt, 1 bunch of chopped tarragon and 1 bunch of chopped sage. Gently separate the skin from the breast and pipe the butter in between the skin and breast meat ensuring its evenly spread out.
- Cook the turkey crown and legs at 180ºc and check after 2 hours with a temperature probe. It should read 65ºc, so if it’s not quite there, carry on cooking and check back regularly.
- Once your probe reads 65ºc, take it out and cover with foil to rest, saving the juices from the pan.
Choosing the right potato is the most important step. You’ll need a good floury potato – something like a Desiree or a King Edward – otherwise, you’ll never get them crisp on the outside and light and fluffy within.
- Peel and cut into the same size pieces, cover with cold water and bring to the simmer. Cook until tender and drain, before fluffing up in a colander.
- Heat a good layer of sunflower oil and add a spoon of duck fat. Add the potatoes and toss until coated, then season well and cook at 200ºc until crispy and golden. Turn every 20 mins.
As it’s one of everyone’s favourite parts of the dinner, stuffing is a make or break for Christmas. Some people like to add cranberries or something similar to sweeten it up, but I like mine quite savoury.
For this you’ll need:
300g finely chopped onion
2 cloves garlic crushed
Livers and hearts from turkey, chopped
500g sausage meat
400g sourdough bread crumbs
10g chopped lemon thyme
20g chopped sage
- Cook the onion and garlic until golden, cool and then mix all the ingredients together.
- Place in a buttered dish and cook at 180ºc until coloured on the top – check with temp probe that it has reached 65ºc, then leave to rest for 20 minutes before serving.
A roast wouldn’t be complete without a healthy lashing of gravy, and since this is the king of all roasts, only the best gravy will do. Not a tub of Bisto in sight!
50g plain flour, roasted in the oven until golden brown
Turkey bones chopped
1kg chopped chicken wings
3 carrots chopped
2 onions chopped
1 bulb garlic, sliced in half
1 litre chicken stock
- Roast the bones and veg until golden brown, add in plain flour, and stir until all the fats have been soaked up.
- Add the chicken stock and marmite, and simmer for around 2 hours, then strain and add the reserved cooking juices from the turkey.
This one’s really simple. All you have to do is wrap pork chipolatas with paper-thin pancetta and grill until golden and crispy.
Add a little extra to your lunch and pop some of this on the side of your plate. This sweet but tangy sauce is the perfect way to round off a turkey dinner, and you can really taste the difference when you make your own.
1 cinnamon stick
1 bay leaf
1 zest of orange
Just mix everything together and cook for around 1 hour until thick and shiny, then take out the cinnamon and bay leaf.
I like to serve roasted roots and sautéed sprouts to add some variety to the taste and texture, but you can always serve your own favourites.
I like to use:
- Peel the veg and cut into large chunks, lightly dress with oil and season well.
- Add chopped garlic, thyme and bay leaf, before cooking at 180ºc until soft and caramelised.
Love or hate them, one thing’s for sure, it wouldn’t be Christmas dinner without them.
1 kg sprouts prepared and blanched
2 shallots sliced
200g peeled and chopped chestnuts
10 sage leaves
- In a large pan add a touch of oil and around 50g butter. When foaming, add the bacon and shallots.
- Cook for around 4 minutes, then add the sprouts and cook until they start to colour. Season lightly and add the chestnuts and sage.
To find out how Damian bakes the perfect Christmas cake, click here.