I love Christmas. As I’m not religious, for me it’s a time for family — for being irritated by my Nan, for ringing up my aunties and uncles for our yearly chat, to giving my mum a secret hug in the kitchen to tell her how much I love her and to giggly at rubbish telly with my dad because I love him too.
More recently (as in, since I started dating someone with a family of their own. INCONVENIENT) it’s also a time for negotiating a whole new Christmas dynamic when I pop round to the sort-of-in-laws for a couple of hours on Christmas Day. Thankfully there’s always one topic of conversation I can fall back on — how bloody hard it is to cook Christmas dinner.
I love Christmas dinner — it’s stuffing myself with meat, vegetables and potatoes, why wouldn’t I? — but it is a bit of a faff. This is my handy guide to cooking Christmas Dinner, created with help from my wonderful mother who produces a delicious meal every. Single. Year. There are some ideas, some recipe recommendations and some useful tips.
They say you should cook your turkey for 40 minutes per kilogram for the first four kilograms, then another 45 minutes for each kilogram extra. So, for a six kilogram turkey you’d cook it for four hours and ten minutes.
My mum never does this, though. She always starts cooking it the night before. Just before she goes to bed she takes the turkey, which has been in the very cold garage, prepares it (untying it, removing icky bits, stuffing etc) and pops it in a roasting tin. She then covers the top with strips of bacon, leaves it to rest for 40 minutes and then covers it in foil before popping it on a roasting tray in the oven on a very low temperature. Then, she goes to bed.
When she wakes up to a house that smells of turkey she removes the foil, whacks the temperature up and lets the skin crisp for fifteen minutes. Then she takes it out to put the pork in. This way of doing turkey is magic — best turkey EVER.
If you can prepare it the night before, do so. Most Christmas food magazines will let you know how far in advance you can make something. Follow that advice. Anything that lets you spend more time on Christmas day sipping sherry, playing with your presents and eating chocolate is a good thing.
Here are my suggestions for sides:
Potatoes: Roasties and mash. Big Spud’s guide to perfect roast potatoes is absolutely excellent, and if you make sure you add a lot of butter to your mash you’ll be golden. You could also add an egg yolk before you mash to make it lovely and rich.
Veg: You can, of course, keep it simple with some greens and some carrots. If you like fancier sides, check out these — crisp honey mustard parsnips, caramelised sweet potato wedges, buttery glazed carrots, Christmas spiced red cabbage or just this roasted vegetable mega-mix.
Oh, and if you have to have sprouts, do them with bacon like I do. It turns sprouts from barely tolerable to absolutely delicious.
Gravy and sauce: Christmas is the one time of the year my mum makes proper gravy, and it’s worth it. Good Food did a great collection of gravy tips.
As for sauces, all your really need is cranberry — here’s my Pomegranate and Cranberry Sauce recipe from last year. Then again, this is a smashing recipe for bread sauce so you could always make that, too.
Extras: My favourite food in the world is little sausages wrapped in bacon, and they go very nicely on a Christmas dinner. Mind you, I also liked my Rosemary Sausage Pinwheels from last year.
We’re not big on Christmas desserts, mainly because we’re so stuffed from our lunch we can barely move. I usually make Christmas desserts that are designed to be eaten during the Christmas period rather than on Christmas Day — such as this gingerbread house (pictured), and these cupcakes, or mince pies. You could always make this roulade that I donated to Domestic Sluttery, actually.
If you wanted a traditional Christmas pud, Delia has a good recipe. This black forest trifle is probably delicious. If you’re adventurous, try a caramel panna cotta with homemade gingerbread. Or for something a bit out there, this brioche, vanilla and rum pudding looks LUSH, as does this dark chocolate soufflé with Christmas pudding ice-cream.
Basically, though (soppy bit coming up) as long as what you’ve got on the table is edible, it doesn’t really matter what it is. To borrow a somewhat clichéd phrase, it’s not what’s on the table but who’s around it.
But it’s also a little bit what’s on it, too. If you’re greedy.
Any thoughts? Are you having anything special for your Christmas dinner?
Love, Amy xx