Intimidated by Christmas cooking? You’re not alone. But it doesn’t have to be that way. We’ve enlisted the help of the SORTEDfood chefs and some of our favourite guest chefs this year to put together some handy hints for cooking the perfect Christmas dinner.
Whether it’s planning for your festive feast, making Brussels sprouts edible or transforming your leftovers into something that isn’t a turkey sandwich, we’ve got you covered.
1. Get ahead on your prep…
Rav Gill, author and pastry chef
“I utilise Christmas eve pretty heavily by pre-preparing anything I can, like lining the mince pie trays with pastry and getting the gravy made ready to add to it again the next day. I make the cranberry sauce either on Christmas Eve or a few days before because it keeps so well, and the bread sauce the day before too.”
2. … and don’t be afraid to buy a few bits too!
James Currie, chef
“If spending time with family means buying in a few pre-prepared bits then that’s ok! Stuffing, cranberry sauce and pigs in blankets can be really nice when shop-bought.”
3. Brine your bird in advance
Karan Gokani, director of Hoppers London
“Always brine your bird, particularly if it’s chicken or turkey. I make a simple brine consisting of 10% salt and 5% sugar (treacle, brown sugar, palm sugar or simple granulated) and some lightly toasted dried whole spices. Brine chicken for about 2-3 hours, and turkey for no more than 6-8 hours.
Dry thoroughly and cook as you would. If you have time, leave the bird to dry out uncovered on a rack in the fridge for about 24 hours. The brine results in a deeply flavoured succulent bird, while the drying out gives you crisp skin.”
4. It’s all gravy, baby
Ben Ebbrell, SORTEDfood chef
“Gravy making doesn’t have to be a long, drawn-out process. Speed things up with flavour bombs like soy sauce and redcurrant jelly – they will make the gravy taste like it’s been cooking for hours!
Roast your bird on top of a layer of chopped-up vegetables and herbs – this will form the base of your gravy as it slowly cooks and mixes with the delicious juices in the oven.”
5. Try a gadget for your turkey…
“Use a wireless or remote probe that you can stick into your bird and monitor through the cook. These are popular BBQ accessories but work equally well in a standard oven. They are great to ensure you pull the bird out as soon as it’s done and avoid having to open and close the oven, creating unwanted fluctuations in temperature.”
6. … and leave it to rest once done!
Poppy O’Toole, chef and TikTok sensation
“REST YOUR TURKEY! For the most juiciest meat, I will leave my turkey to rest for as long as I cook it. This gives a delicious juicy turkey and will prove anyone wrong who says turkey is dry! It may be slightly less hot, but serve with piping hot gravy and you’re good to go.”
7. Perfect your potatoes
“Of course I needed a potato tip! For the perfect crispy roasts, I wouldn’t cook these until the last minute. While your turkey is resting, get cooking those spuds. Parboil, leave to steam-dry in the colander over the pan with a tea towel on top, give them a quick shake and then into your hot fat (whether that’s oil, goose fat or beef dripping). As soon as they’re done, serve them with your turkey that will have finished resting!”
8. Spruce up Brussels sprouts
“Brussels sprouts tend to divide a lot of people as they are. But slice them up (whack them through the slicing disc of a food processor if you’re short on time) – as shredded sprouts they are so much more versatile.
A sprout slaw with mustard mayo and dried redcurrant/cranberries to accompany a venison burger at this time of year is brill. Or stir-fry them with sesame oil, soy and oyster sauce to form the bed of pan-steamed fish as a lighter dish in the lull between Christmas and New Year.”
9. Mix things up with cauliflower cheese
“This is a staple in my house and a rookie error is parboiling your cauliflower first! No one likes soggy cauli! Use raw florets (throw the leaves in too for zero waste), cover in your cheese sauce and cook for about an hour while your turkey’s resting and your spuds are in the oven.”
10. Make more than you need
“Always make more than you need. Nothing beats Christmas leftovers from the fridge. I love a cold roastie dipped in cold gravy!”
11. And make sure you have back-up!
“Get some nice cheeses and things that [are] easy to present later in the day if anyone [is] still hungry.”
12. Get creative with your leftovers
“Turn your Christmas leftovers into a delicious Kothu. Shred your Brussels and any leftover greens, chop up leftover roast turkey, then add shredded carrots, spring onions, roti and a curry sauce. Crack an egg and stir fry it all in a scorching hot wok. This is my ultimate Boxing Day meal!”
Check out our video with Karan for a full kothu recipe and more tips.
13. Enjoy it!
“I’d say my number one tip is to make sure you’re having fun and leaving room to spend time with your family outside of the kitchen. There’s nothing worse than spending the whole day stressed out because some TV chef says goose is better than turkey…”
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