Cooking Christmas dinner at home? Top tips from UK's best chefs

Sat Bains
Lisa Goodwin-Allen
16/11/2018 - 06:00
Food and drink play a central role in most Christmas festivities. But preparing a home cooked dinner can, for many, be a stressful and time-consuming experience. With top tips from some of the country’s finest chefs, including CGOC member Sat Bains, it needn’t be.

Read on to find out their top tick and tricks for catering on Christmas Day, and best ways to use up leftovers (hint, they’re ingenious!)

Jason Atherton, The Social Company

“Cooking Christmas dinner for your loved ones can be daunting, but there are a few simple tricks that can make things easier without missing out on a delicious dinner full of flavour.

“Save yourself time with a starter that you can prepare ahead and serve cold, such as a salad of smoked salmon with fennel, apple, radish and crème fraiche.

“Accompaniments such as bread sauce can be bought pre-prepared but it’s simple to make from scratch and guaranteed to taste better than the supermarket version. Use sourdough bread and infuse the milk with spices including cloves, cinnamon, mace and bay to add a depth of flavour”.

Greg Marchand, Frenchie

“I love to make duck rather than turkey. I tend to use ‘Challand’ duck - a big one that can feed six to eight people. Buy your duck a week in advance then dry age it in the fridge so the skin becomes crispier. Roast with honey, fennel and coriander seeds.

 “I also love to make Brussel sprouts more exciting by pan frying them with sliced kumquats. Don’t be afraid to use spices for the Christmas day meal – roast your carrots with Vadouvan (a mixture of curry and spices from Pondicherry in India), and seasoned bergamot juice. It makes the side dishes that bit more interesting”.

Michael Caines, Lympstone Manor 

“Christmas for me is all about added extras – I like to roast my carrots in scented honey (lavender is my favourite) with a good helping of goose fat, and add slightly crispy rosemary, smoked pancetta and roasted chestnuts to my Brussel sprouts.

“Making your own stuffing from scratch is also so easy and so much more delicious than anything you can buy. I add a range of herbs and spices to onions, sausage meat, breadcrumbs and garlic and bind with egg yolk, before steaming for 25 minutes. It’s great the next day too”.

Paul Ainsworth, Number 6

“At Christmas, be sure that you don’t solely focus on the meat; vegetables and side dishes are equally as important in creating the perfect Christmas dinner.

“Making simple but delicious tweaks to your dishes will take everything to the next level. Adding truffle oil and parmesan to your cauliflower cheese, or bacon and chestnuts to your Brussel sprouts will enhance the flavours of the vegetables and have your guests going back for seconds”.

Michael Carr, Restaurant 92

“One of my favourite things is to make hassleback potatoes rather than traditional roasties. I use tiny new season potatoes that you baste with goose fat and add small pieces of bacon before roasting.

“Using tiny potatoes means that they crisp up nicely. To make the goose fat crispy, brown off a block of goose fat with some butter, garlic, thyme and spices. Let it cool and set in the fridge, then dice it up and put into the scored potato cracks. Goes extra well with sprouts”.

Ellis Barrie, The Marram Grass  

“For the tastiest Brussels, roast diced bacon and hazelnuts in the oven for 15-20 minutes. Blitz the mixture to a coarse crunch crumb and use to heavily season your sprouts along with grated cheese and local honey.

“Cook carrots in a litre of carrot juice with ½ a star anise, two crushed cloves of garlic, one cinnamon stick and one crushed cardamom. Once cooked, remove carrots from the pan and reduce the remaining carrot juice to 100ml liquid and pass through a sieve.

“Add the carrots into reduced liquid and reduce to a glaze. Remove from heat and fold in 50g of butter and season with salt, pepper, chopped parsley, toasted sesame seeds and chopped chestnuts”.

Boxing Day – how to use up the leftovers

Bryn Williams: Christmas bacon sarnie

“A little controversial, but I like to remove the icing and marzipan from any leftover Christmas cake and then pan fry the cake in a drizzle of oil. Finish it off by throwing in a knob of butter and fry until crispy on the outside and moist in the middle. Serve it with bacon and it’s just like a deliciously rich fruit chutney.”

Francesco Mazzei: Festive tortelli in brodo

“I hate wasting food any time of the year, but I think it’s particularly important to think about at Christmas, when there are always so many leftovers.

“One of my favourite things to make with the leftover turkey and vegetables is tortelli in brodo.

“Take all remaining meat off the turkey then make a beautiful broth from the bones. Chop the turkey and vegetables (everything except the potatoes), season and use this mixture to stuff the tortelli. Add a dash of marsala to the broth - for great flavour and because it’s Christmas! To serve, ladle the hot broth over the tortelli”.

Tom Aikens: Christmas cranberries and curry

“Cranberries are one of my favourite festive ingredients. I always prepare lots so that I have enough to go with cold roast turkey the next day. They’re also delicious with leftover cold cuts in a Boxing Day sandwich, or in a turkey pie.

“My favourite use of old, tired looking vegetables is a good old British vegetable curry, which you can funk up as much as you like. Cauliflower, broccoli, butternut, fennel, carrot, cabbage – anything goes. Made with meat or veg stock, coconut milk, natural yogurt – whatever takes your fancy.

“The spices you can use are also endless: cumin, caraway, turmeric, coriander, mace, fenugreek, mustard seeds, add some toasted seeds from nigella, sesame, pumpkin, sprouted grains. Add some red lentils or old fruit like banana apple or mango, it all works.”

Sat Bains: Christmas leftover tortilla

“Use your trimmings to create a beautiful festive tortilla. Simply crush your leftover vegetables and add to a non-stick pan with a few drops of olive oil and fry for five minutes.

“In a bowl, whisk six eggs and season with salt and pepper. Pour in egg mixture and leave to cook over a gentle heat for 8-10 minutes. Put pan under the grill for a few minutes until the top is set. You can add anything you like, including onions, garlic and bacon – it’s the perfect dish for a Boxing Day brunch”.

Lisa Goodwin-Allen: mince pie affogato

“I love using up leftover mince pies by making a mince pie ‘affogato’. I have a big scoop of vanilla ice cream with a warm mince pie crumbled on top, a good shot (or two) of Pedro Ximenez Sherry, and some grated orange zest. It’s delicious.

 “My favourite way to use leftovers from Christmas lunch is my leftover turkey, Brussel sprout and ham turnovers. They’re super simple and can be made from everything you have left in your fridge.

“Melt 20g of butter, add 100g of sprouts, a diced onion and sweat until soft. Add some crushed garlic, 60ml of cream, season and cook for four minutes before adding in a handful of diced turkey meat and ham.

“Roll out a sheet of puff pastry and cut into two squares, then spoon in some of the mixture and fold over – pinching the sides to ensure that you don’t have air pockets. Slash with a knife before baking at 230 degrees for five to seven minutes until golden.”

Mike Carr: duck pancakes

“One of the best ways to use duck leftovers is in pancakes for boxing day. I use duck because it’s an interesting meat, and this time of year you find that the duck farmers fatten up all bird - lovely plump fat ducks with great skin and breast. I make my own pancakes, and the skin is pancakes too.

“I also love making a Spanish omelette using Christmas bits like cranberry, chorizo, turkey and roast potatoes - any vegetables really. The Christmas leftovers omelette is the perfect mix, with fat from the eggs and acidity from cranberry”.

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