Expert’s view

Top tips for creating the perfect Christmas dinner

Chefs serve up some expert advice for cooking during the festive season

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Christmas dinner turkey

Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Preparation is the key

Jonas Karlsson, head chef at Aquavit London: “It’s no secret that there are supply chain issues, and this could result in a shortage of turkeys. Whilst fresh is always of course best, to take some of the pressure off buy your turkey now and freeze it, and simply remove from the freezer two to three days before Christmas to slowly defrost in the fridge. You can also par-boil and half roast your potatoes on Christmas Eve. Not only will it be one less thing to worry about, but you’ll also have extra crisp, double-roasted potatoes to boast about.”

Callum Graham, head chef of Bohemia at The Club Hotel & Spa, Jersey: “Preparation is really key for Christmas and anything you can prepare ahead of time you should do. Alongside peeling and cutting your vegetables on Christmas Eve, you could also make your cauliflower cheese so that it’s ready to just pop into the oven the next day. My top tip would be to make your Yorkshire pudding batter 24 hours before it’s needed, as that gives it ample time to rest and helps ensure you’ll get a good rise.”

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Top tips for the turkey

Matthew Whitfield, executive chef at The Terrace at The Montagu Arms, Hampshire: “For the best flavour and texture, always buy free-range – we buy from Owton Butchers in Southampton. For the most-moist meat, we take off the breast and butterfly it, and then stuff it with chestnut stuffing and roll into a log. We then vac pack it and cook it at 70C for three hours. When it’s cooked, take it out and roast the skin so it’s crispy. The meat is really succulent and has the stuffing running through it.”

Henry Brosi, executive chef of Four Seasons Hotel London at Park Lane: “My top tip is to brine the whole turkey in a good chicken stock 24 hours prior to roasting, as this will keep the turkey extremely moist. I’d also recommend buying a turkey crown with the legs removed (boned and rolled) as this will save you two hours on the cooking time of the turkey – you can always ask your local butcher to do this.”

Sameer Taneja, executive chef at Michelin-starred Benares, London: “To nail a perfect juicy roast this Christmas, try adding a tablespoon full of pineapple juice while marinating the turkey as this not only imparts sweetness, but acts as a tenderiser and softens the meat as well as retaining good moisture in the turkey.”

Oliver Marlowe, owner chef director, The Hunter’s Moon, London: “To make sure you don’t end up with a dry turkey on the big day, I’d recommend brining your bird in a 10% salt to water liquid mix overnight prior to cooking. The salt dissolves some of the muscle proteins, meaning the meat contracts less while in the oven so therefore it loses less moisture. It gives a game-changing depth of flavour, making it very difficult to overcook so there’s one less thing to worry about on the big day.”

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Roast potatoes

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How to make sensational side dishes

Daniel Mertl, head chef at Ganymede, London: “For the best roast potatoes use a floury potato like Maris Piper. Peel and cut into large chunks, and boil in salty water until the edges start to look fluffy, then drain and let them steam for a few minutes. Now, using either goose or duck fat, cook the potatoes on a high temperature (around 190C), turning them every 20 minutes or so. For extra flavour, add half a bulb of garlic and a few sprigs of thyme halfway through, cook until golden brown and crispy.”

Yasuda Akinori, head chef of SUMI, London: “Take your gravy to the next level this Christmas by adding a couple of splashes of soy sauce in as you’re simmering it. Soy sauce has a brilliant rich, umami taste, and it adds a real depth of flavour. It’s also quite meaty in taste so it’s perfect for those looking to enhance a vegetarian gravy.”

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An alternative Christmas...

Vivek Singh, executive chef and CEO of The Cinnamon Collection, London: “At Cinnamon, we take our naan breads and fold in mincemeat to create a Mince Pie Naan. Another way we put an Indian twist on a British classic is with our famous garam masala Christmas pudding which you can enjoy across The Collection through December, or order online for at home.”

Michael Carr, head chef of Fenchurch Restaurant, London’s Sky Garden: “A great vegan alternative on Christmas Day is a cauliflower steak – it’s an absolute winner when done right! You cut the thick middle part of the cauliflower out, and then you add all the different herbs and spices (you can’t go wrong here as the cauliflower is so versatile). I personally like getting a masala curry powder and rubbing that all over, before cooking the cauliflower like a steak in really hot oil and serving with creme fraiche and herby-basil tomatoes.”  

Ken Tyrrell, head of kitchen operations and food at Burger & Lobster: “Elevate your retro prawn cocktail starter by replacing the prawns with fresh wild lobster tossed in a creamy lemon mayo. This will be one tough act to follow and guaranteed to be a crowd-pleaser. No excuses when it comes to getting your hands on the crustaceans either, we’ve made it easy with our nationwide ‘at-home’ service, so you can enjoy pre-prepared whole lobsters (650-680g live weight) delivered direct to your door!” 

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Make a delicious curry from the turkey leftovers

Make a delicious curry from the turkey leftovers

The Cinnamon Collection

What to do with Christmas leftovers

Ioannis Grammenos, executive chef at Heliot Steak House, London: “The leftovers from the Christmas day can be used up to two days after the event and there’s so many options. You can make pies, sandwiches, curries, casseroles, and vegetable purée side dishes. One of my favourites is to use the roasties to make epic potato croquettes, delicious dipped in yoghurt with olive oil and garlic.”  

Vivek Singh, executive chef and CEO of The Cinnamon Collection, London: “One of my favourite ways to use up leftover turkey is to make a big batch of butter chicken sauce, with either fresh or tinned tomatoes, and fold through leftover pieces of turkey to make a delicious and hearty curry.”

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