11 tips for a stress free Christmas dinner
PUBLISHED: 15:13 05 December 2016 | UPDATED: 15:13 05 December 2016
Fancy a stress free Christmas Day? Somerset Michelin star chef Josh Eggleton can help!
1. Plan Early
This is probably the most important bit of advice I can give. This is Christmas dinner we’re talking about. Mess this up and it’s going to put a downer on the whole day. It’s always best to plan what you’re cooking in advance and once you’ve got that sorted, take a look at the produce you’ll need. If there are things on the list you can get in earlier, do it, because you don’t want to be fighting over the last jar of goose fat in the shop.
2. Think differently
Don’t be afraid to mix things up a little bit, it’s more important that your Christmas dinner is delicious rather than traditional. If you’re bored of the standard offering and want something a little different, or maybe you’re cooking for a smaller group and a whole turkey seems a bit much, go to your local butcher and ask for some boned out turkey legs, these are amazing stuffed and roasted. Or perhaps you could go for a goose, in my opinion it’s a tastier meat with a better texture and I’d recommend it for a change on Christmas day.
Or if you want something completely different then the South West has some of the best seafood and it makes for a great change at Christmas time. Get in loads of mussels, oysters, lobster, crab and whatever takes your fancy.
3. Get Everyone Involved
Cooking should be a communal occasion, it shouldn’t be the case that just one person does all the work. If you’ve got a big group of family and friends coming round then share the load. If you’re making the main dinner, give someone else the task of making an amazing dessert. Get the kids to help peeling and making Yorkshire pudding batter and always make sure you’ve got someone on drinks duty.
4. Prep as much as you can the night before
Not only will this help make your Christmas dinner delicious, but it’ll keep the stress levels down during the day. It might sound a bit strange initially but if you prep and par boil your roast potatoes the night before, I promise they’ll be the best you’ve ever had. Peel and blanch them, then shake them up so their nice and fluffy. Cover them in goose fat or maybe rapeseed oil and stick them in the fridge overnight. When it comes to roasting them the next day they’ll be nice and cold, which is going to help make them even crispier.
5. Pre-drinks and snacks
There’s no need to do a starter with Christmas dinner because it’s just too time consuming to make and plate up. The best thing you can do is get some great snacks. Homemade sausage rolls are a great option. They’re a speciality of my girlfriend Meg and they always go down a treat. For drinks you want to make sure you’ve got a good mix so that there’s something for everyone and if you want to go non-alcoholic, then a Virgin Mary with loads of spice is the way to go... and you’ve got to have dry sherry for your nans and granddads.
6. Don’t worry if you’ve made too much
If you’re doing something like a whole ham on Christmas Day don’t worry if it doesn’t all get eaten, because Boxing Day just wouldn’t be the same without cold cuts and leftovers. Use that ham the day after for amazing snacks and lunches. Serve it up with wholegrain mustard and pickled shallots and maybe some homemade coleslaw and you can’t go wrong.
When I cook I like to use absolutely everything, whether that’s using bones to make stock or leftover vegetables to make bubble and squeak... you’ve got to have bubble and squeak on Boxing Day.
7. Roasted sprouts
This is another thing you can prep the night before. Blanch them but be careful not to overcook them and leave them to one side on Christmas Eve. When it’s time to get them ready, pop them in a roasting tin with plenty of chestnuts and smoked bacon and they’ll be delicious.
8. Sprout Tops
I’m sticking to the sprout theme. If you go to your greengrocer ask them for sprout tops, which are the clusters of leaves that grow at the crown of the sprout’s stalk. You can do loads with sprout tops, but I think the best way is to keep it really simple; just butter them up and steam them in a little bit of water and they’ll be amazing on the roast.
Some say you should have them with Christmas dinner, some say you shouldn’t. I say you absolutely have to have Yorkshire puddings at Christmas. Now whether that’s with the main meal or just having some little ones on the side as an evening snack later on with some onion gravy, is entirely up to you. But if you want the best dinner, Yorkshires have to be involved.
While Christmas pudding is great it can be a touch heavy after such a large meal. To lighten things up while keeping those Christmas flavours, you can’t go wrong with homemade Christmas pudding ice-cream. Mix up the pudding into your ice-cream mix and either put it into an ice cream maker or the freezer. If you are using the freezer you need to take it out and stir it frequently, or you’ll be left with a frozen block. It may be time consuming but it’s totally worth it.
11. Make sure
- you go to the butchers and get a great big bone for the dog!
Josh Eggleton is Chef Patron of The Pony & Trap in Chew Magna, running it with his sister Holly.
He was awarded his first Michelin star in 2011, which made him one of the youngest chefs to hold this accolade. As an advocate for South West food, Josh represented the South West in the finals of BBC 2’s Great British Menu.
In 2014 he and his family launched Salt & Malt, a cafe, tearoom and gluten free fish and chip takeaway overlooking Chew Valley Lake.
Most recently Josh and his family have joined forces with Guy Newell, former managing director of Butcombe Brewery, and his family, to take over popular Redland pub The Kensington Arms.