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Oh praise be! Chef tips for Xmas cooking

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I am the original cocker-upper of Christmas lunch, so hopeless I habitually mess up the canapes, over-cook the turkey, get squeamish about stuffing,  and have to get my mum to bring gravy every year because frankly on top of timing brussel sprouts whilst half-cut, I *sob* can’t cope…

This year will be different. This year I have drafted in three brilliant chefs from awesome local landmarks – Mark Peregrine from Le Manoir, Chris Wheeler from Humphrey’s at Stoke Park and, first up, Carl Jackman, executive chef at The Quince Tree in Stonor, who’s provided some sanity-saving insider tips for cooking the perfect Christmas meal. Carl, you rock the planet.

Carl’s  tips for Christmas culinary brilliance

1. Plan, plan and plan. Much of your  Christmas day lunch can be sorted well in advance so you can enjoy some time with your family. For example, prepare vegetables and potatoes the day before. Your Christmas pud can be made weeks in advance (or bought!). Pates can be refrigerated days before the big day. Thirty minute’s planning can take hours of stress out of the day itself.

2. When roasting your bird (whatever it may be), cover the bottom of the roasting tin with some roughly cut vegetables. These can be off cuts from the lovely selection you have for your lunch. Add about 4 tablespoons of plain flour and then place the bird on top. Once the bird is cooked you can use the flour and vegetables to make great gravy and because the flour is already cooked you won’t get that cakey texture that can sometime spoil gravy.

Add some chicken stock to the roasting tin and gradually mix the vegetables and flour together over a low heat. The stock will start to thicken. Add more stock until you reach the right consistency for your gravy, before seasoning to taste. I promise you it makes a wicked full-flavoured gravy with all the lovely tasty flavours.

3. Don’t add any excess fat to a good quality Turkey – if you’ve invested in a quality bird, it should already have a  good layer of fat.

4. Think of your veggies in terms of contrasts and textures – not everything roasted or steamed which seems to be prevalent with the modern roast. For example, it’s always good to have something like a broccoli-and-sprout cheese bake that you can make prior to the day and can be slammed in the oven whilst the roasties are browning.


5. When par boiling your potatoes add some quartered onion to the pan. This adds a great flavour to the potatoes and then you can roast them in addition to the potatoes. Caramelised onions are always a winner.

6. Don’t get too hung up on the cooking – everyone will appreciate being cooked for whether it’s brilliant or not!

Happy Christmas!


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