Let’s Talk Turkey!
Feeling clammy about being in charge of this year's Christmas feast? Relax, we've collared an expert for some brill advice.
If you’re anything like me (i.e. more neanderthal than Nigella clattering about the kitchen), you pile a whole heap of pressure on yourself when it comes to delivering the MOST IMPORTANT MEAL OF THE YEAR (yes, I do say it with heightened importance and urgency). And yet somehow, the responsibility has landed square on my shoulders once again this year. Not one to be beaten by a turkey, I’m determined to sail through the big day this year, like one of those breezy models you see in the Boden catalogue (those who know me, stop sniggering).
To give me the best chance of accomplishing this, I’ve been making a nuisance of myself with the director of the brilliant Ashburton Cookery School, Darrin Hosgrove, and I’ve persuaded him to coach us all through the ordeal* (sorry, festivities). So, pour a glass of something nice, aprons on and crank up the music: it’s Chri-i-i-i-i-i-i-stmassss!
It’s all in the planning
Take time to plan your shopping list wisely and well in advance and only buy what’s on it. This way you will definitely avoid food wastage.
Make sure you buy a turkey of the correct size, so you’re not still trying to eat it for days afterwards. It might seem like a good idea to buy bigger for leftovers, but turkey will just get drier and drier left in the fridge.
Let’s talk turkey
Always buy fresh and, if possible hung for at least a week. This makes the bird feel drier to the touch when raw but helps lock in all of the moisture when cooked. The flavour is so much better, you can really tell the difference.
Bored of your bird?
Fresh partridge are bang in season this time of the year and a great alternative to Turkey if you fancy being more adventurous. Serve one bird per person with a lovely rich game gravy and bread sauce.
Never leave it all until the last minute. You can actually get going with nearly everything from the 23rd onwards and remember, food does last if your fridge is well managed and runs at the correct temperature.
Killer tip klaxon!
Pre-boil your potatoes until fully cooked then place them in the freezer. On the day, roast them in really hot duck fat straight from frozen. This saves another pan on your hob on Christmas day.
Divide & Conquer
Get the rest of the family involved in the preparation – give everybody a job. There is generally a lot more to do and doing it yourself takes lots of time. Why should you miss out on all the festive fun!
Crank up the cheesy choons!
On the day, don’t forget to enjoy the festivities, even if you are spending a large part of it in the kitchen. Remember it’s just another dinner and not worth getting stressed about!
Perfect your plating
The biggest problem students tell us they have with Christmas dinner is plating, as most people don’t normally plate food for large numbers of people. Make sure your plates are nice and hot, get somebody to help you, rather than trying to do it all yourself and use your microwave wisely to reheat vegetables, so that not everything is coming out of the oven or is on top of the hob. Make sure all the food is piping hot before plating, that way it gives you a couple more minutes to get it all finished before presenting to your guests.
Don’t make the wine an afterthought; spend a little bit extra on some good quality wine to go with your meal – it’s really worth it.
Don’t forget bread sauce! It’s the most underrated ingredient in a Christmas feast. A beautiful homemade bread sauce can’t be beaten and is perfect with any roasted bird. Use fresh breadcrumbs, full fat milk, sea salt, white pepper and freshly ground nutmeg for the perfect balance.
By the way…
If you fancy picking up some more tips and advice, Ashburton Cookery School have an amazing free app that you can download, which is full of recipes, demo’s and info. Or you can watch some super-handy videos here. And, and, and, there’s still time to enrol yourself on one of their Christmas special courses (which I highly recommend). Take your pick from this lovely lot here: ashburtoncookeryschool.co.uk or give ’em a call: 01364 652784