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100kg of sprouts and 1,000 pigs in blankets - This is Christmas lunch for 500

PUBLISHED: 15:44 23 December 2019 | UPDATED: 15:55 23 December 2019

Tommy Maile, 33 from Sprowston with head chef John Williams with some of the 100kg of carrots that volunteers prepared for the Open Christmas dinner at St. Andrew's Hall in Norwich.

Tommy Maile, 33 from Sprowston with head chef John Williams with some of the 100kg of carrots that volunteers prepared for the Open Christmas dinner at St. Andrew's Hall in Norwich.

Archant

Every year, hundreds of people who would otherwise be spending Christmas Day alone gather in Norwich for a free 
hot meal.

Feeding the five hundred - volunteers peel 100kg of sprouts in preparation for the Open Christmas dinner at St. Andrew's Hall in Norwich. Picture: Neil DidsburyFeeding the five hundred - volunteers peel 100kg of sprouts in preparation for the Open Christmas dinner at St. Andrew's Hall in Norwich. Picture: Neil Didsbury

Open Christmas is organised by volunteers who give up their time ahead of and on the big day to spread the festive spirit and make sure those living on the streets or who would go without a hot meal have company.

But serving around 500 Christmas dinners is no mean feat, and takes preparation, planning and a lot of chopping - which is where its dozens of volunteers come in.

Starting at 8am at City College Norwich on December 23, volunteers peel, chop and prepare around 400kg of potatoes, parsnips, carrots and Brussels sprouts ready for the big day.

The operation is overseen by John Williams, Open Christmas' head chef, who will be leading his fifth event this year.

Feeding the five hundred - volunteers peel 100kg of sprouts in preparation for the Open Christmas dinner at St. Andrew's Hall in Norwich. Picture: Neil DidsburyFeeding the five hundred - volunteers peel 100kg of sprouts in preparation for the Open Christmas dinner at St. Andrew's Hall in Norwich. Picture: Neil Didsbury

He said: "We will be here today for roughly four hours preparing the vegetables, on Christmas Day we will start at 7.30am and the meal is served at 12.30pm."

Aside from 400kg of vegetables, on December 25 Mr Williams and his team expect to serve around 100kg of turkey, 1,000 pigs in blankets, 1,000 stuffing balls and 20 litres of gravy, as well as Christmas puddings with ice cream or cream and mince pies.

Mr Williams said while the quantity was large, quality remained key.

He said: "All the vegetables are prepared from fresh, the carrots, parsnips, potatoes and the sprouts.

A busy morning peeling and chopping carrots for Tommy Maile, 33, from Sprowston. Just one of many volunteers who helped to prepare for the Open Christmas dinner at St. Andrew's Hall in Norwich. Picture: Neil DidsburyA busy morning peeling and chopping carrots for Tommy Maile, 33, from Sprowston. Just one of many volunteers who helped to prepare for the Open Christmas dinner at St. Andrew's Hall in Norwich. Picture: Neil Didsbury

"I know it's a free meal but just because it is a free meal doesn't mean it shouldn't be good, you still get the quality.

"The quality here is as good as any hotel meal you'd get, it's no different to any hotel or restaurant and that's what 
we try to do."

Kerrie Fox, the event organiser for Open Christmas, said preparations for December 25 were almost non-stop throughout the year, beginning with a debrief from the previous event in January.

She said: "We have 27 people doing food preparation, then there's about 50 people on [Christmas Eve] getting everything ready for Christmas Day and on the 25 we have 
about 250 people doing three different shifts."

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