5 top tips to spice up your festive feast
It may be the most wonderful time of the year, but it’s also the time when it’s easy to get stressed in the kitchen. When it comes to hosting, our chefs are the experts, so we asked Dine Executive Chef Mark Dawson and the team for all their top tips. But first things first, every Christmas Dinner has to start with:
The ultimate festive drink
Make your Christmas drinks extra special with a champagne cocktail. Rather than adding the usual orange juice for a Bucks Fizz, try adding some sloe gin, or for a wonderful Yorkshire touch try some Brontë Liqueur. Simply add to the bottom of your champagne flute and top up with the chilled fizz of your choice. This could be prosecco, cava, champagne or even a non-alcoholic fizz; we like Nozeco – great for non-drinkers and the kids can join in too! Or perhaps a classic champagne cocktail:
Classic Champagne Cocktail Recipe
- 1 sugar cube
- ¼ tsp Angostura bitters
- 10ml cognac
- 75ml cold champagne
- strip of orange peel
Put the sugar cube into the glass and drizzle with bitters. Add the cognac and then slowly top up with the champagne. Give the orange peel a twist over the glass to extract the oils and set aside. Cheers!
Whether you choose a traditional turkey, a retro goose or something entirely different – venison or nut roast anyone? – aim to choose the best quality you can afford. If you know which farm your meat came from and how it was raised, even better. We have no shortage of amazing food producers in Yorkshire, so there’s no excuse!
If you’re going for turkey, here’s some top tips to keep it moist and flavoursome:
Top tips for Christmas Turkey
Work out your cooking time: it’s best to follow the instructions on your bird if there are any, but as a general rule allow 35 minutes per kilo (don’t forget to include stuffing!), plus resting time of at least 30 minutes. An hour is better (and frees up the oven for the roast potatoes!)
Remove the turkey from the fridge an hour or so before cooking, so it can come to room temperature. Heat your oven to 180C/160C fan.
Remove giblets, if there are any, and then use your hands to spread butter under the skin of the turkey, making sure you get into the crevice between the body and the thigh. Put any stuffing into the neck end and secure with a couple of cocktail sticks.
Cover the tin and turkey loosely with some kitchen foil and roast. Around 30 mins before the end of cooking, increase the oven temperature to 200C/180C fan, remove the foil, baste the turkey and return to the oven.
When the turkey is cooked (juices run clear, or the temperature is 70°C if using a meat thermometer) take it out of the oven and place it on a warm platter, covered with foil to rest whilst you make the gravy- see below!
Christmas Dinner Vegetables
Christmas goes hand in hand with British seasonal vegetables – roast potatoes, brussels sprouts, parsnips and carrots are all a traditional part of the meal. The good news is that they can be prepared well in advance and refreshed when you need them by adding fresh herbs, butter and seasoning. Why not get the whole family involved on Christmas Eve and peel and chop over a glass of something festive?
Love them or hate them, Brussels sprouts are a long-established part of the meal but there’s nothing worse than a soggy sprout! So make you sure you only steam them until they are still slightly firm and full of colour. To finish, we like them quickly sautéed with butter, some chopped walnuts and pancetta.
Avoid flavourless root veg by par boiling and oven roasting them with a touch of balsamic vinegar, butter and seasoning. Or – if you’re running out of room in the oven – try them honey glazed by simmering gently with a knob of butter, a tablespoon of honey and a tiny amount of water. When tender, add balsamic vinegar and thyme.
For crispy on the outside, yet fluffy roast potatoes, always par-boil them (for around 12 minutes – dependent on size). Strain water and bash slightly until the edges are fluffy. Heat the oven to 200°c and roast in hot goose fat for the best flavour. A few sprigs of fresh rosemary are always a nice decorative addition.
Parsnips – hope for some hard frosts before Christmas. The cold turns some of the root’s starches into sugar for a tastier flavour. Always par-boil parsnips before putting in the oven with a little orange zest and fresh (not powdered) ginger for festive flavour.
Festive finishing touches
Some say that it wouldn’t be Christmas without lashings of gorgeous gravy – and the opportunity for seconds!
Save time and hassle on the day by making your gravy in advance. Simply roast the bones at 200°c for one hour before putting them in a slow cooker with root vegetables, celery, leeks and an onion and leaving this to cook slowly overnight. The following morning, strain the juices and add a spoonful of flour to thicken.
A top tip is to stir in redcurrant or cranberry jelly to the gravy. It really pulls the finished gravy together and makes it extra festive. The stuffing and any sauces can also be made well in advance and reheated at the last minute.
Perfect Christmas pudding
You may want to keep it traditional and go for the Christmas pudding option – here’s Mark’s recipe for an incredible Christmas Pudding:
Dine’s Perfect Christmas Pudding
Preparation time 40 mins
Cooking time 8-10 hours (steaming)
- 85g self-raising flour
- ¾ tsp ground mix spice
- 140g shredded suet
- 85g fresh white breadcrumb
- 140g dark muscovado sugar
- 70g raisin
- 70g sultana
- 70g currant
- 70g mixed candied peel, chopped
- Finely grated zest and juice of 1 small orange
- Finely grated zest and juice of 1 small lemon
- 70g figs
- 70g dates
- 25g glace cherries, chopped
- 1 small carrot, grated
- 3 tbsp. sweet stout
- 2 tsp black treacle
- brandy (feed each pudding with a couple of table spoons)
Chop all of the fruit, so that they are all roughly the same size as a raisin.
Pour boiling water over the dried fruit until well covered and leave to rest, while the fruit soaks up the water – leave for at least two hours before draining the water away.
Stir the flour, spice, suet, breadcrumbs, and sugar in a large bowl. Add the fruit (which should be nice and plump after soaking up the boiling water). Add the peel, cherries, and carrot, then stir the mix until well combined. Add remaining ingredients and stir until thoroughly mixed.
Line the 1.2 litre pudding bowl with butter, pop a disc of grease proof paper at the bottom of the bowl (to avoid the pudding from sticking) and spoon in the mixture. Don’t forget to leave a little space at the top to allow the puddling to rise. Add a circle of buttered grease proof paper to cover the pudding and wrap the entire bowl in either a muslin cloth or foil – tie with string.
Stand the bowl in a pan – fill with boiling water (about half way). Pop the lid on the saucepan and steam for around 8 hours. You may need to check every now and then to make sure that the water is topped up.
You may want to tuck in straight away, but most people like to store their puddings for a week or so, occasionally feeding with a couple of tablespoons of brandy – we prefer Courvoisier brandy.
Before serving, you should steam for 2-3 hours, until warm and fragrant.
We serve our pudding with fresh fruits: blackberries and pomegranate (this really added another layer of flavour and freshness that cut through the richness of the pudding). Finishing with a warm brandy cream.
Alternatively you could opt for a dessert that will cut through the richness of the meal; we love a zingy Lemon Posset, served with shortbread or a brandy snap.
- 600ml double cream
- 5oz caster sugar
- 2 large lemons
Place the sugar and cream into a pan over a low heat and bring to the boil slowly. Boil for around three minutes before removing to cool.
Add the lemon juice and zest of the two large lemons.
Whisk for a few minutes , then add the mixture to serving pots or glasses.
Put in the fridge overnight (or until set).
To finish, add some candied lemon zest and we will often serve with a shortbread biscuit or a brandy snap.
A really quick and simple pudding, that’s bound to be a crowd-pleaser.
If you are planning a special event at home and require outside catering services, or you’re currently looking for a venue to host, please do get in touch with our events team by calling: 0345 450 4545 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from all the team at Dine!