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Our step-by-step guide to cooking Christmas dinner

PUBLISHED: 12:30 21 December 2018

How to cook the perfect Christmas dinner   Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto

How to cook the perfect Christmas dinner Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Archant

Follow our get-ahead guide which will help you get that turkey on the table with less stress.

Have you been waking up in a cold sweat worrying about whether you’ll ruin Christmas with your cooking skills this year?

You’re not alone. Almost everyone I speak to about cooking Christmas dinner says they spend days fretting about killing the family off with raw turkey or (disaster) serving up soggy, windy sprouts.

As chef Richard Bainbridge always says, all you’re really doing is making a big Sunday roast. So chillax. Get some tunes on in the kitchen. Have a bottle of wine and a pair of helping hands nearby. And follow my guide to getting that turkey on the table stress-free. You can do it!

For six people you will need

A 3.5kg turkey (I use a Norfolk bronze) (this will give you some leftovers)

For the gravy: 10 chicken thighs, 2 chicken stock cubes, a bay leaf, 25mls brandy, 1 onion, 1 carrot, 1tbsp cornflour

For the bread sauce: 1 large onion, 6 cloves, 1 bay leaf, 1tsp peppercorns, 570ml milk, 110g white breadcrumbs, fresh nutmeg, seasoning

For the red cabbage: 1 large red cabbage, 1 knob unsalted butter, 2tbsps balsamic vinegar, 4 cloves, 1 cinnamon stick, fresh nutmeg, 1 eating apple, ½ bottle red wine, 300ml apple juice, 50g brown sugar, seasoning

For the roast potatoes: 3 medium potatoes per person, 1 jar goose fat

650g sprouts

For the carrots and parsnips: 8 carrots, 8 parsnips, large knob butter, 3tbsps marmalade, 2 sprigs fresh thyme, seasoning

For the pigs in blankets: 16 chipolatas, 16 rashers rindless smoked streaky bacon

1 large pack sage and onion stuffing

1 jar cranberry sauce

1 large roasting tin for the turkey, 2 baking sheets, 2 roasting tins, 3 small to medium saucepans, 1 large saucepan

The day before Christmas

So let’s get cracking to make the day itself as easy as possible.

1. To begin, let’s get those pigs in blankets out of the way. Cut the bacon in half lengthways so you have 16 long pieces. Wrap each sausage snugly in bacon and pop on a large tray lined with foil. Stick in the fridge ready for action tomorrow.

2. Now stick on the kettle and pour your stuffing mixture into a bowl. Once boiled, pour in the correct amount of water according to instructions, stir and leave to cool. Once cold, form into small balls (a heaped teaspoon is about right) and place on a greased baking sheet. Cover with foil and leave on the side until tomorrow.

3. Let’s get the bread sauce on the go now. Pour the milk into a saucepan. Peel the onion and stud it with the cloves. Pop this, and the bay leaf into the pan with the milk. Bring to the boil then simmer for 20 minutes. Turn off the heat and leave to infuse for an hour.

4. While the milk is infusing, make your red cabbage. Slice the cabbage in half and cut out the tough core. Slice the cabbage as finely as you can (I use a food processor). Put the butter and vinegar in a large pan and melt on a low heat. Add the cabbage and turn up the heat, cooking it off for one minute. Add the sugar and cook for another minute. Now peel, core and roughly chop your apple. Add this to the pan with the wine, cloves, cinnamon stick, apple juice and a few grinds of fresh nutmeg (or 1/4tsp of ground). Give it a stir, turn the heat down and cook on low for one hour. Once the hour is up, remove the cinnamon stick and cloves (if you can see them) and season. I like this with lots of fresh ground black pepper. Pour into a bowl, cover and pop in the fridge.

5. Go back to your infusing milk. Take out the onion and bay leaf and add the breadcrumbs. Turn the heat back on and cook on low gently until it thickens. Add a grinding of fresh nutmeg (or a generous pinch of ground) and taste for salt and pepper. Once you’re happy, cover, allow to cool then pop in the fridge.

6. We can get the gravy going now. Halve the onion and roughly chop the carrot. Put these and the chicken wings in a roasting dish with the bay leaf and half a mug of water. Cook at 200c for 40 minutes. Set the roasting dish aside and shred the chicken from the bones. Pop the bones and the chicken meat into the roasting dish and put the dish on the hob. Set a pint of water to the side of the hob in a jug. Turn on the heat to medium and when you hear sizzling, add the stock cubes and cornflour, stirring vigorously to cook out the flour. Add the water, bit by bit, stirring well to get out any lumps. Once all the water is added, give it a good mix and turn the heat down to very low, cooking for 20 minutes.

7. While the gravy is cooking peel your potatoes, carrots and parsnips. Cut each potato into three pieces. Cut the tops and bottoms off the carrots and parsnips and halve them lengthways. Bring a large pan of water to the boil and add the veg. Take the carrots and parsnips out after five minutes and set aside. After 10 minutes drain the potatoes, shake them in the pan and add 2tbps flour to coat – they may break up a tiny bit at the edges but that’s fine. Prepare two roasting tins with a few tablespoons of goose fat each and put in the oven at 200C. Spread out the potatoes on the tray, turn in the fat and cook for 15 minutes then take out and allow to cool. Once cool put all the potatoes in one tray, cover with foil and set aside.

8. Place the carrots and parsnips in a roasting dish with 1tbsp oil and 1tbsp butter. Cover and set aside.

9. Go back to your gravy. Sieve the mixture into a jug, cover and put in the fridge.

10. Prepare the sprouts by removing the outer leaves and cutting away the very base of the core. Place in a shallow pan of cold water.

11. Go pour yourself a glass of Baileys. You’re all set for tomorrow!

On Christmas Day

Assuming a 1pm lunch kick-off time, we want to get the turkey in the oven at 9am.

You’ll need to take it out of the fridge around 7am-8am so it’s not too chilled at the start of cooking.

1. Set the oven to 180C. Rub your bird inside and out with butter or goose fat and season well. If yours came with giblets don’t waste them. Take them out of their plastic wrap and pop them back inside the bird to cook- they’ll come in handy for your gravy later.

2. Put the turkey in the oven at 9am and it will be ready at 11.30am. Remove it from the oven. Turn the oven up to 200C and place in your trays of pigs in blankets and stuffing balls.

3. Allow your turkey to sit in its tray for 20 minutes, then carefully lift it with meat forks and pour the juices and giblets from inside into the roasting dish (you may need help with this). Set the turkey on your serving plate and cover with a few clean teatowels. Pour the fat from your turkey tray into a bowl – we roll this into fat balls for the birds later in the week, or you can stick it in the fridge to use for cooking. Put a pan on the hob and add your prepared gravy mix. Pour in the turkey juices and giblets from the tray (optional) plus a dash of brandy. Bring to the boil then turn off the heat.

4. At 11.55am your stuffing balls will be done. Take them out and pop them on the plate with the turkey.

5. Your pigs in blankets will be done at 12.05pm. Take them out and place them on the plate with your turkey. Turn up the oven to 210C.

6. At 12.30pm put your potatoes and parsnips and carrots in the oven. Strain the giblets out of your gravy.

7. At 12.45pm put your red cabbage on the hob and bring to a gentle simmer with a lid on. Give the potatoes a little turn.

8. At 12.50pm pour your bread sauce into a small pan, add a little milk and simmer gently. Also add the marmalade and thyme to your parsnips and carrots and bring the pan of sprouts to the boil. Turn the gravy pan onto a low heat.

9. At 12.55pm simmer the sprouts and strain after five minutes.

10. At 1pm, take your potatoes and parsnips and carrots out of the oven. Everything is ready to serve. Get someone else to dish it all up while you put your feet up! Enjoy and Merry Christmas.

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