How to cook the ultimate Christmas dinner

Whether it's your first time hosting the Christmas family feast or you're an experienced cook, these top tips from professional chefs will help you prepare for the big day.

These handy hints will help even the most experienced of Christmas dinner cooks (Photo: Shutterstock)
These handy hints will help even the most experienced of Christmas dinner cooks (Photo: Shutterstock)

Get a head start

“Do all your prep the day before,” says Adam Reid, head chef at Adam Reid at The French, based at The Midland Hotel, Manchester.

“Pre-boil your potatoes in well salted water and steam dry. Do the same for your root vegetables, but boil in chicken or vegetable stock.

“When roasting, put the potatoes and veg together, spaced well with plenty of dripping or goose fat and roast moderately on high.

“Always serve your sprouts flavoured. Try mixing them with bacon and cream, or almonds and raisins, with a little fresh nutmeg.”

How to tackle turkey

“For me the breast and the legs cook at different times, so when you cook a whole bird you tend to overcook the breast to get the legs right, or vice versa,” explains James Durrant, whose new restaurant The Game Bird will open early 2017 at five star hotel The Stafford in St James’s.

“Instead, ask your butcher to take the legs off the crown and bone them out. You can then season the leg meat with chopped chestnuts, sage, salt and pepper.

“Roll them and tie them and then you can roast the crown and the legs separately, meaning both can be cooked to perfection and the leg is super easy to carve with no wastage.”

Brine your bird, and try new sides

“Get your turkey brined or dry cured the day before,” reveals Daniel Doherty, executive chef at 24 hour restaurant Duck and Waffle in London.

“It gets that extra flavour in whilst ensuring the meat doesn’t dry out. Try Iberico pork fat on your roasties rather than goose fat, the rich porky flavour is incredible.

“Also, don’t be afraid of trying new sides too. Think sesame and honey roasted parsnips, or fried brussels sprouts with soy and miso.”

Keep the meat moist

“The secret to the perfect roast turkey is preparation,” says Dominic Jack, chef patron at Castle Terrace in Edinburgh.

“I always recommend ordering your bird from the butcher as soon as you can. For the ultimate tasty turkey, you have to keep the bird moist which can be difficult if you’re cooking for a lot of people. Be sure to soak the bird in brine and baste with a herb butter for a succulent and juicy finish.”

Go for goose

“If you are cooking goose, start roasting the bird at a fairly low temperature, say 165 degrees,” says Jeff Galvin, co-founder of the award-winning Galvin Restaurants in London.

“Lots of fat will render from the bird. Keep this in small quantities in the freezer for roasting potatoes in the coming months.”

Try a rib of beef

“When it comes to the food at Christmas, sometimes the classics are the best, and all they need is a little modern or personal twist to make them really outstanding,” explains Tom Kitchin, chef proprietor of Michelin starred restaurant The Kitchin in Edinburgh.

“This year I’m going to serve a tasty rib of beef with a punchy horseradish cream. Rib of beef might be a less common option than turkey but it can be a great celebratory roast and still goes with all the traditional trimmings.”

The secret to stuffing

Francesco Mazzei is chef patron of Sartoria, an Italian restaurant on Savile Row, which serves authentic dishes from Francesco’s home region of Calabria.

Here is his recipe for stuffing.

“Mix 500 grams of ground meat, sage, shallots, milk-soaked bread, nutmeg, egg, salt and pepper, as well as mashed chestnuts,” he says.

“Make a roll with the mix. Place on baking paper and cover with aluminium foil. Bake in the oven for 25 minutes at 180 degrees.

“This should be served alongside roasted capon (not inside) and can also be the basis of some delicious canapes or cold snacks, once it’s cooled down.”

The perfect roast potatoes

“I pre-boil potatoes for a few minutes and then drain,” reveals Frederick Forster, head chef at Le Pont de la Tour in London.

“Season with a touch of cinnamon and roast with duck fat, garlic and thyme and finish with beef dripping butter.”

Sautée your sprouts

“I don’t boil mine,” says Ben Tish and Simon Mullins. “I cut them into three slices and sauté in butter and olive oil with mustard seeds and some diced cured ham. The sprouts are still slightly crunchy but caramelised.”

Ben and Simon (Salt Yard Group) have just opened Veneta, a restaurant inspired by the food and glamour of Venice, in the new St James’s Market development.

Roast root vegetables

“For root vegetables like carrots, turnips, fennel and celeriac, prepare them carefully and then toss them in a bowl with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil,” says Theo Randall.

“Place on an oven tray and cover with tin foil and bake in an oven. Take off the tin foil once the vegetables are cooked through and lightly brown them for 10 more minutes in the oven.”

This Christmas, Theo at the InterContinental will be serving up an assortment of Italian-inspired winter cocktails.

Make your own bread sauce

“Making your own bread sauce is simple and it will always taste better than ready made,” states Jason Atherton.

“You can decide which spices to infuse the milk with (cloves, cinnamon, mace and bay are the most popular) but one thing that will really improve the end result is good quality bread, preferably sourdough. It has a tanginess that adds depth of flavour.”

Temple and Sons is the latest restaurant and bar from Jason Atherton and restaurant associates, which was launched in November 2016.

Try a fusion feast

“I like to have a real rolling feast that lasts the whole day,” says Miles Kirby, head chef and co-founder of Caravan Restaurants.

“I’m from New Zealand so I like to merge the two cultures. For example, last year I served caviar, buckwheat blini, crème fraiche, tempura oysters, wasabi mayonnaise, langoustine, citrus mayonnaise and fresh spaghetti with lots of white truffle as small plates before the main event of roast lamb.”

Make the most of Christmas leftovers

“Cranberries are one of my favourite festive ingredients, so I always prepare lots of them to make sure I have enough to go with cold roast turkey the next day,” says Tom Aikens, whose restaurant Tom’s Kitchen will open its first UK site outside of London in Birmingham soon.

“They are also delicious with leftover turkey as a Boxing Day sandwich filler or as an addition to a turkey pie.”