As part of our 25th birthday celebrations in 2014, we worked closely with top chef Tom Kerridge. Alongside a series of exclusive recipes created just for BBC Good Food, he has been sharing his chef know-how. But as the year draws to a close, we called on him to assist with Christmas. As well as his luxury menu – a brunch of lobster muffins with caviar & hollandaise, a partridge main course and whisky cream dessert – he talked to us about how to pull off the ultimate, traditional family Christmas…
Tom Kerridge’s tips for the perfect, traditional Christmas…
What’s your bird of choice?
“My bird of choice is always turkey. I absolutely love it. To be fair, I love every meat roasted, but turkey for me is fantastic. It’s special because you have it at Christmas and it reminds me of childhood. But also, it’s most definitely the best meat to have cold. I’m a massive Boxing Day fan – cold meat, bubble and squeak and pickles. So yes, turkey is most definitely the one for me.”
How do you spruce it up to give it real wow-factor?
“Like most things I do in cooking, it’s actually about taking it back and keeping it simple; buying a really good turkey first and foremost, then cooking it really slowly on a low temperature, making sure you don’t turn it into cotton wool – that’s the main thing.”
How about side dishes?
“I’m a big fan of sprouts and sprout tops – they’re like really robust, hearty cabbage leaves. They’re just beautiful, and served with bacon and chestnuts – lovely! If you’re feeling extravagant, grate in a little bit of white truffle. It’s the ultimate in ying and yang cooking as sprout tops used to be fed to pigs and truffles are the ultimate extragavance. Mixing the two together is beautiful.”
Any other accompaniments that people may not have thought of?
“I think one thing that people do is to take on way too much, so you end up with broccoli that’s overcooked, frozen peas and small carrots that are soft. I would say do very simple things like cook the parsnips and carrots whole, so they retain as much flavour as possible and it’s actually much easier to cook if you’re not worried about getting lots of small amounts of veg ready – just concentrate on getting three or four perfect.”
What are your tips for keeping a cool head when making Christmas dinner?
“It’s all about the prep work. In a professional kitchen, we try to ensure everything is prepped rather than cooking to order, so the same principle applies on Christmas Day. Organise and structure yourself – for instance you can have your carrots peeled, chopped and blanched the night before, then all you’re doing on the day itself is heating them up very very quickly, it takes a lot of the stress out. Also, it’s a really nice thing to do on Christmas Eve, sat around with the family, chopping carrots, peeling sprouts, all chatting away. It’s actually a nice way of spending time together at Christmas.”
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Any tips for freezing food in advance?
“If you really want to get ahead, you can make your turkey gravy well in advance, or at least get a really good poultry stock made with a few chicken carcasses, then get that frozen. Most desserts freeze well as they’re high in sugar content.”
How do you present Christmas dinner?
“Christmas is all about putting everything out on the table and letting people help themselves. For one, because it always looks more festive having that family style of serving, but also it means the food will stay hotter for longer.”
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How about presentation flourishes?
“Anything goes, sprigs of holly, whatever. Christmas is an amazing time, there’s nothing wrong with being a bit flamboyant. It’s all good fun.”
What’s your choice of dessert?
“Christmas pudding every time! Really rich, spicy, full of fruit Christmas pudding, brandy butter, it’s lovely and really indulgent. I know a lot of people can give or take Christmas pudding, but for me it’s the ultimate. I have it on the day and a few days afterwards – it’s actually really nice fried on a Full English breakfast as a hangover cure on Boxing Day.”
What do you have for your Christmas Day brunch?
“It’s normally something like a smoked haddock omelette that you can put in the middle of the table, so it’s easy to do as a kind of late breakfast/early lunch. We’ve been known in our family to crack open the Bucks Fizz first thing in the morning too.”
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