A handy guide to cooking Christmas dinner

Rachel Walker

Christmas Dinner might seem like an intimidating meal, but Rachel Walker’s basic plan will set you up for success. All these recipes are for six people, but can easily be scaled-up

What to make the day before

Cranberry Sauce

Heat the juice of a clementine with 75g light brown sugar to create a syrup, then add 300g cranberries and cook uncovered until they’re soft, but still holding their shape. Refrigerate until needed and garnish with clementine zest.

 

Brussels Sprouts

Wash 500g of Brussels sprouts, remove the outer leaves and cut them in half lengthways. Bring salted water to a rapid boil and blanche for 4 minutes. Drain, plunge the sprouts into cold water until cool the whole way through, drain again and then refrigerate. To finish, bring the sprouts to room temperature, fry them in 25g of foaming butter until cooked-through and season generously with salt and pepper.

 

Pork, Sage & Onion Stuffing

Cook 2 diced onions in 25g of butter, and set aside to cool. Meanwhile, squeeze 800g of sausages from their skin into a mixing bowl (or use quality sausage meat). Add 120g breadcrumbs, 25g finely-sliced sage leaves, 1 egg and finally the cooled onions. Mix together with your hands and chill, to be cooked on Christmas Day.

 

Braised Red Cabbage

Shred 1 red cabbage into the biggest mixing bowl you have. Add 2 diced onions and 2 cooking apples (peeled, cored and roughly chopped), 3tbsp light brown sugar, 3tbsp red wine vinegar and 1tsp of cracked black pepper. Toss thoroughly, pack into a casserole dish, dot 25g of butter on top and cook at 150°C for 2 hours, stirring from time to time.

 

What to make on December 25

Turkey

Leave yourself a note for when you make your morning coffee to pre-heat the oven to 180°C and take the turkey out of the fridge to bring it up to room temperature, if you’re planning for a prompt lunch. Account for 500g of turkey per person, so a 4kg-turkey for six people (including enough for a leftover turkey sandwich). This will take 2.5 hours to cook, plus half an hour to rest, so count back three hours from when you plan to have your Christmas Dinner. Prepare the turkey by rubbing 100g of butter into its skin and then seasoning generously with salt and pepper. Lay 200g of streaky bacon over the breast and then use extra-wide turkey foil to loosely wrap the bird. Remove the foil for the final 45 minutes of cooking, so the turkey takes on colour and baste it two or three times during the final bit of cooking.

 

Potatoes

Peel 1.5kg of potatoes (250g per person), and keep them in a bowl of cool water to stop them from discolouring. 1 hour before you plan to sit down, put the potatoes in a pan of boiling water. Simmer for 10 minutes, drain and then give the potatoes a firm shake. Spoon 2tbsp of goose fat in a roasting tray and put it in the oven until it has melted. Add the potatoes and cook alongside the turkey at 180°C for 20 minutes—when you take out the turkey to rest, toss the potatoes and up the temperature to 220°C for the final 25 minutes until golden and crisp.

 

Turkey Gravy

Remove all but 2tbsp of the fat from the turkey roasting tray, and then put the roasting tray over a gentle heat so everything starts to sizzle. Use a wooden spoon to stir in 4tbsp plain flour and allow the paste to cook for 1 minute until it starts to darken. Add 750ml turkey (or chicken) stock bit by bit, stirring the whole time and scraping up any bits stuck to the bottom. Bring the gravy to a rolling simmer for 3-5 minutes so it thickens, and then tip it into a warm gravy boat.

 

Bread Sauce

After your morning coffee, halve an onion and stud with 8 cloves. Put it in a saucepan along with a bay leaf and cover with 568ml (1pint) of milk. Simmer for 10 minutes and then set aside until the turkey is resting. Then, remove the onion and return the infused milk to the heat, stirring in 120g white breadcrumbs. Loosen with 4tbsp double cream, 25g butter and then season with a generous pinch of ground nutmeg.

 

Christmas cocktail

A twist on a classic: Kings & Tonic

• One part The King’s Ginger

• Three parts premium tonic

• Serve as a long drink, with cubes of ice, a dash of Angostura bitters and orange garnish.