Now is the time to start planning the Christmas meal and try to avoid spending the whole day in the kitchen. The best way to avoid this is to prepare early. More often than not the ‘chef of the day’ is short on space in the kitchen and stressed about cooking for large numbers of people. With a little bit of advance planning this can be avoided. For example:
1. Cook your sprouts a day or two before and put them straight into cold water to stop them cooking and keep a nice green colour. Drain them off and keep them in the fridge. You can do this with any green veg. When you want to serve them, tip them into a pan of boiling water for a minute, drain them off a put on a knob of butter and a little salt and pepper
2. You can also cook your carrots a day or two before. I would recommend just covering them with water, a knob of butter, fresh bay leaf, a tablespoon of honey and some salt. Simmer them gently until just cooked. Turn them off and let them cool. Leave in the pan and put into the fridge ready to reheat in the same beautiful scented liquid.
3. Your roast potatoes can be blanched the day before, cover with cold water and bring to the boil. Drain in a colander and shake to rough up the outside. On Christmas day dust with a little plain flour and some chopped fresh rosemary and sprinkle with some sea salt flakes. Cook in hot oil. I always use Maris Piper for this as you get a lovely crisp and fluffy potato.
4. The biggest issue of the day is always the turkey. ‘Will it fit in my oven?’ is the most common question. If you think it may not you can always ask your butcher to take the legs off and bone them. This will give you a great cavity to put your stuffing in. It also gives you some bones to make turkey gravy with.
If you want to add a bit of extra flavour to your bird you can make a beautiful citrus butter to put between the breast skin and the meat:
- 8ozs Salted butter
- 1 Orange, zested
- 1 lemon, zested
- 2 Sage leaves finely chopped
- Ground black pepper
Soften the butter and add the citrus zest, sage leaf and black pepper. Work together until completely mixed and then spread between the skin and meat. Whilst the turkey is cooking the flavours will infuse into the meat and the breast meat will stay beautifully moist.
5. Instead of Christmas pudding you may want to try a winter berry trifle with a twist. This one is not for the feint hearted!
- 4 Slices Pannetone
- 1pt Raspberry jelly
- 6ozs Fresh cranberries and blackberries cooked slowly in sugar and cinnamon
- 1 Pot finest vanilla custard
- 8ozs Mascapone cheese
- 2ozs Caster sugar and cinnamon mixed 50/50
- 3 Shots Grand Marnier
- 1 Orange zested
Dice the pannetone and lay in the bottom of a glass, put the berry mix on top. Pour the jelly over and leave to set. Spoon the custard on top. Scoop out tablespoons of Mascapone and roll in the cinnamon sugar. Sprinkle with zested orange and put on top of the trifle
6. Instead of turkey you may want to try a little something different. In this case I would plump for goose. A beautiful moist meat but some worry that it is very fatty. To overcome this I always prick the breast skin and start to cook it upside down on a cooling rack. This way the fat drains out into the bottom of the pan and we can use it to cook our roast potatoes in…double whammy! Turn it breast side up after half an hour to brown off. You may want to make a honey and five spice rub for this with the addition of a little lemon juice to take the sweetness away.
To do this take a pot of ‘runny honey’ and mix in one tbsp of English mustard, 1 tsp of 5 spice powder and the juice and zest of 1 lemon. Mix together into a paste and use this to baste the goose with 15 minutes before you have finished cooking it.
Roasting times: Cook for 10 mins at 240C/fan 220C/gas 9, then reduce to 190C/fan 170C/gas 5 and cook for 20 mins per kg for medium-rare, 32 mins per kg for more well-done, plus 30 mins resting.
How to carve: Goose breasts are shallow, so take a sharp, long thin-bladed knife and angle it at about 90 degrees to the breastbone, carving from the neck end. Detach the legs, then slice off the thigh meat.
7. What to do with the leftovers?
Quick Turkey Curry
600g Cooked, diced turkey
6oz Plain yoghurt
4oz Tomato juice
4oz Coconut milk
3oz Ground almonds
1 x jar of curry paste of your choice
4oz Fresh spinach
Mix together the yoghurt, tomato juice, coconut milk, almonds and curry paste. Stir fry the turkey until hot and then add the curry sauce, cook for a further 5 minutes on a gentle simmer. This is a great sauce for those who like a curry but with rare beef. The beef can be fried and the sauce added, just heat and take off before it boils. As all the curry ingredients are cooked there is no need for long cooking time.
8. This is a good time of year to be using game as it is plentiful. Bear in mind that all game meat is very lean as it spends it’s time foraging rather than sitting on a perch bored out of it’s mind. When cooking game be careful and do not overcook it. Venison, partridge and pigeon are best off cooked pink. If roasting I always cover with streaky bacon to protect the meat and introduce some moisture.
For more great cooking tips like these join us on Saturday for our Christmas market. You can find out more about the event here.
About Our Expert Contributor
Simon Smith has had a varied worldwide culinary career. He has worked at the British embassies in both Paris and Vienna, a wedding in New York for 4,000 and worked as a private chef aboard super yachts for the 2012 Monaco Grand Prix. During the summer of 2013 he spent two months working in luxury villas and chateaux in St Tropez as private chef.
Catering now from his production kitchen in Lichfield, he provides dinner parties, wedding catering, cookery demonstrations and cookery skills days for between one and four people.
Visit Simon’s website: www.simonsmith-chef.com