I am often asked these questions about the main course of Christmas dinner, so here are the regular questions answered...
I hope you find them useful and informative. Feel free to add any other questions in the comments below and I will get back to you ASAP...
Turkey and stuffing - to stuff or not to stuff the bird?
How to brown the turkey? / putting butter and herbs under the skin? / cooking time / how to check it's done
To stuff the bird, I would normally push stuffing up under the skin and then stuff the cavity with an orange that I have stabbed all over with a small knife, along with a few cloves of garlic and a fresh sprig of rosemary.
To make the stuffing:
6 strips of streaky bacon-roughly chopped
1 sprig of sage leaves
2 cloves of garlic-diced
2 sticks of celery-diced
1 red onion-diced
A large handful of breadcrumbs
500g pork mince
500g pork mince
Half a nutmeg-grated
1 medium egg
Fry off the chopped bacon and sage leaves with some olive oil in a large frying pan over a medium high heat for a few mins until the bacon is browned and going crispy. Add in the garlic, celery and onion and continue frying until all is softened and golden brown.
Remove the pan from the heat and add in the bread crumbs, give this a good stir.
Once cooled add in the pork mince, lemon zest, nutmeg and crack in the egg, season really generously with sea salt and black pepper. Give it all a good stir until well combined.
Work your hand gently under the skin of the breast until it comes free then push the stuffing up evenly under the 2 skin of the 2 breasts. There will be some stuffing left, this can be rolled into balls and cooked along side the turkey or placed into the cavity.
Weigh the stuffed bird and then work out your cooking time to this... 20 mins per 500g/1lb 2oz
eg a turkey of 4.5kg/9lb 14oz will take 180 mins=3 hours (This is a guide)
Have your oven pre-heated up at max. Chop up some veg.. onions/celery/carrots and place them in your turkey roasting tray, stuff the cavity of the bird with the orange, garlic and rosemary. Drizzle the bird with olive oil and season all over with sea salt and black pepper. Stab stuff the legs a few times with a sliver of garlic and a snippet of rosemary. Place the bird into the tray and cover with tinfoil.
Place the tray into the oven and turn the heat down to 180c. Baste a few times during the cooking time with the juices and 45 mins before it is done, remove the tinfoil to brown off the skin. Take your turkey out of the oven and stick a small sharp knife into the fattest part of the thigh. If the juices run clear and the meat pulls apart easily, it's ready. If not, pop the turkey back in the oven to cook for a bit longer then check again.
Making gravy from the juices
To make the gravy, remove the fully cooked turkey from its roasting tray and place it onto a suitable sized tray, cover with foil and allow to rest for at least 20 mins before carving to allow the rest of the juices to settle in the meat.
Skim off the fat from the roasting tray and set aside. Stir in 2 tablespoons of flour into the remaining juice in the tray (this may be minimal) and add in 1 litre of good chicken stock. place the tray over the hob and bring to the boil, scrape around the dish getting lots of flavours from the caramelized bits and the remaining veg. Once it has boiled for about 2/3 mins carefully and with help, strain it through a sieve into a saucepan and place onto a medium/high heat. At this point I usually add my holy trinity of sauces- a tablespoon of dark soy sauce, a tablespoon of oyster sauce and a tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce... and a generous pinch of freshly cracked black pepper. Allow to simmer and thicken. Before serving, once taken off the heat, add in a knob of butter and stir it in, this will add a bit of richness and gloss to your gravy.
Ham - best way to cook it / what's better - on the bone or rolled and boned? Honey / Glazes for ham?
Have a pot large enough for your ham so it can be covered with cold water. Add in some chopped veg- An onion, 2 sticks of celery and a carrot... also add in a bay leaf and 8/10 whole black peppercorns.
Bring to the boil and cover for about 3 hours for a 4kg ham that will feed 10 people with leftovers.
When the ham is cooked remove it carefully from the pot and allow to cool slightly. The skin should easily remove and can be discarded. Keep the cooking water, a cup of it can be used in the roasting tray to keep the ham moist when in the oven and the rest can be kept for stock, frozen in batches.
Carefully with a sharp knife score the fat in criss-cross fashion. Stick a clove in each 'diamond'.
To make a quick and easy glaze, mix together 3 tablespoons of honey, a teaspoon of mustard, a teaspoon of brown sugar and the grated zest of an orange... spread this over the fat and roast the ham for 30/35 mins until golden.
A rolled ham will be much easier to carve, however a ham on the bone will be more flavoursome.
Brussels sprouts - any fancy recipes to spice them up?
I have 2 quick ideas to liven up the poor sprout...
1. Add 400g sprouts to some salted water and bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer for 2/3 mins until tender, DON'T LET THEM COOK TOO LONG.
Strain them in a colander and when cool enough to handle coarsely chop them. Heat a frying pan and fry off some bacon lardons and chopped garlic, add in the chopped sprouts and fry off for about 8-10 mins until the flavours combined.
2. Add 400g sprouts to some salted water and bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer for 2/3 mins until tender, DON'T LET THEM COOK TOO LONG.
Strain them in a colander and when cool enough to handle cut them into quarters. Grease a suitable sized oven dish and toss the sprouts into it, pour in 225ml of double cream and season well with salt and pepper and even some nutmeg. Top this mix with a layer of breadcrumbs and a few knobs of butter, bake in the oven for 25 mins at 200c until golden and bubbling.
Seasonal veg for Christmas?
Any root veg is well matched to Christmas dinner, A big dish of mixed roasted veg will go a long way... carrots, parsnips, beets mixed with onions peppers... anything goes.
kale is in season and can be cooked to the latter part of both sprout ideas above.
Here are a few ideas for Christmas dinner veg:
Mixed Roasted veg with Maple syrup
Tip: If you are feeling adventurous, then feel free to add flavouring to this dish, some herbs like rosemary, thyme, sage… spices like fennel, cumin or caraway seeds… wholegrain mustard, balsamic vinegar, soy sauce… basically whatever you like!
2 red onions
1 red pepper
1 yellow pepper
1 green pepper
5 cloves of garlic
Sea salt & black pepper
2 tablespoons of maple syrup
Preheat the oven at 200°c. Peel the carrots and parsnips and cut into batons. Chop the beets into chunks, peel the onions and cut into wedges. De-seed and slice the peppers. Bash the cloves of garlic.
Pour all the prepared veg into a roasting tray. Drizzle with olive oil and give a generous amount of seasoning. Place in oven for 30 minutes.
Remove from oven and drizzle the maple syrup over the veg mix and give a good toss around. Then back into oven for 10 minutes.
Serve hot and remove the garlic cloves if desired.
Roasted red onions with port and bay
750g small red onions
10-12 bay leaves
Sea salt & black pepper
Preheat the oven at 180°c. Trim the tops of the onions and peel, keeping the root end intact. Slice the onions from root to tip into 8 wedges; the root end should hold the pieces together
Pour some oil into a roasting tray and throw the onions into it. Give the bay leaves a twist to tear them but not the whole way through. Scatter them over pushing them in through the onions. Season well and pour the port over it all.
Cover with foil and bung into the oven for 40 mins. Take out of oven after this time and give a stir around. Place back in oven without the foil for a further 30 mins.
When ready the liquid should have reduced to a thickened syrup. Serve hot, warm or cold.
Braised Red Cabbage and Bramley Apple in Cider Vinegar
1 small red cabbage
1 Bramley apple
150ml cider vinegar
150g light brown sugar
1 cinnamon stick
Pinch of ground white cloves
Sea salt & black pepper
Preheat oven to 180°c, cut cabbage into quarters, core and finely shred. Peel and core the Bramley apple and finely slice it. Set aside.
In an ovenproof saucepan add the butter, vinegar and sugar and dissolve the sugar over a medium heat. Add in the cinnamon and cloves and season with salt and pepper.
Toss in the cabbage and apple coating it all. Place lid on saucepan or wet crumpled greaseproof paper and bung into oven. Bake for about an hour stirring occasionally until tender and the apple has all but dissolved. Lift off the lid or paper and bake for a further 10-15 minutes so the remaining liquid has reduced to a nice glossy syrup.
Broccoli and Leek Bake
1 head of broccoli
2 large leeks
50g of butter
50g of flour
175ml semi-skimmed milk
100g low-fat cheddar cheese
Half a nutmeg
A vegetable stockpot/cube
Large handful of breadcrumbs
100g parmesan cheese
Cut the broccoli into small pieces and steam or par-boil them.
Cut and wash the leek then thinly slice. Finely chop the shallots and add them and the butter to a pan on a medium-high heat, sauté for a few mins before stirring in the flour. Once it is all absorbed add the leeks and sauté for another few mins until softened.
Stir in the milk a little at a time over a low heat until you have a creamy consistency, add in the grated cheddar and stir until dissolved. Grate in the nutmeg and add the stockpot or ‘crumb’ in the stock cube. Again stir until dissolved.
Add the steamed broccoli, give all a good stir then transfer it to a suitable sized oven dish. Level out the contents and add a layer of breadcrumbs topped with the grated parmesan cheese. Place in a preheated oven at 200°c and bake for 25 mins until golden and crunchy on top and bubbling around the edges.