There is something about preparing Christmas lunch that can leave even the most accomplished cook feeling overwhelmed. Perhaps it’s the imminent arrival of so many guests, or the pressure of cooking for family members seldom seen. Maybe it’s simply the magnitude of the occasion itself. Whatever the cause of the anxiety, the most important thing is to stay in control and remain calm. Do this, and you’re well on your way to producing your best Christmas lunch ever!
So how do you keep your head and produce a delicious meal on the big day? The key is good organisation, careful planning and sourcing the right ingredients. A plump, fresh, free-range turkey will always taste better than a frozen broiler bred one and homemade stuffing is infinitely preferable to anything that comes out of a packet. Bear in mind also that you simply can’t make great roast spuds, with crispy shells and fluffy interiors, from waxy potatoes.
When the time comes for preparing the meal write a list of all the things you need to do. You will see the list consists of a handful of small tasks, all relatively straight forward. Try and approach each task separately, working through them methodically, and only treating them as “Christmas lunch” as you place them on the table. From a psychological perspective, it’s a lot less daunting.
A few tips to help you cook the perfect Christmas lunch.
- The Turkey
Cook the legs separately, as this reduces the cooking time and ensures the breast meat doesn’t dry out. Ask your butcher to bone and roll the legs and remove the wish bone (this makes carving much easier). Roast the breast crown for 20 minutes per 500g plus 20 minutes at 190°C, putting the legs in at the same time. Cover the meat with buttered foil to keep it moist. Remove the foil for the last 90 minutes to colour the skin. Check the meat is cooked by pushing a skewer into the thickest part. The juices should run clear. Cover with foil and rest for 40 minutes.
- The Gravy
Collect all the bones and giblets. Place in a large pot with some chopped onions, carrots, celery, bay leaf & thyme. Cover with water and simmer for a few hours and then pass through a fine sieve. Whisk a few tablespoons of flour into the roasting tray. Slowly whisk in the turkey stock until it reaches a nice sauce consistency. Pass through a sieve into a clean pot and simmer. Skim off any fat and pour into a gravy jug.
- The Stuffing
Dice a large onion and gently cook in a little butter, adding the liver if you like a rich stuffing. Process a small (not too fresh) loaf of bread to make breadcrumbs. Add the onions, some freshly chopped sage, mustard and seasoning. Beat in an egg and a splash of milk. Tuck the stuffing into the neck cavity and pull over the skin. Hold in place with a tooth pick.
- The Roast Potatoes
Use floury potatoes, such as King Edwards or Desiree. Boil until cooked. Drain in a colander. Gently shake to rough up the surfaces – this will give a nice crispy crust. Place, curved side down, into hot duck fat (or vegetable oil) and roast for about 45 minutes. Turn occasionally to allow each side to colour.
- The Chipolatas
Wrap in the chipolatas tightly in streaky bacon, holding it in place with a tooth pick. Drizzle will oil & cook in the oven for 20 minutes.