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How to ace your Christmas dinner

Worried about your turkey timings? Pondering over your potatoes? We spoke to some of Suffolk and Cambs' best chefs to get their top tips for making a memorable and stress-free Christmas lunch.

Christmas dinner tips

If you’ve somehow volunteered yourself to be chief chef this coming 25th December, then panic not. We’ve picked the brains of some of Suffolk and Cambs’ best chefs and confectioners so you can serve up a restaurant quality lunch with minimum fuss. So here you go, tidings of great joy for anyone who hankers after perfect roasties and can’t be bothered to wrestle for days with a turkey. Merry Christmas!

Top tips for succulent turkey

Christmas dinner turkey

“Brine your turkey the day before. As turkey is a lean meat, it can become very dry. I would recommend that you brine your bird for around 12 hours before roasting. To do this you will need a large pot filled with a 10% salt water mix, 100g sugar, a bulb of garlic crushed, a peeled and chopped onion, orange peel, cinnamon stick, bay leaves, and pink and black pepper corns.” Adrian Booth, Head Chef, The Ickworth Hotel, Suffolk

“Think of Turkey as a large chicken. There is simply no way it will need more than 3-4 hours cooking if it fits into a normal oven, so no need to get up at dawn to put the turkey in the oven.” Tine Roche, Managing Director at Cambridge Cookery

“Take the bird out of fridge 2 hours before you want to cook it. Bringing it to room temperature helps keep your bird evenly moist. Whatever meat you choose to roast it is really important to give it a good resting time. A 10/14lb turkey or whole leg of lamb will benefit from a good 1/2 hour in a warm place loosely covered with foil, adding any juices to the gravy.”” Nathan Jones, Catering Expert and Owner at The Hog Hotel, Pakefield

Top tips for perfect prep

“Give boiled vegetables a miss this year. Instead roast all your vegetables in one tray, including the sprouts. Just remember the order of cooking times. When all the veg are nicely roasted add some orange zest, chopped chervil and then season.” Adrian Booth, Head Chef, The Ickworth Hotel, Suffolk

“Nearly everything can be done the day before. Par boil the roast potatoes and let them dry overnight in the fridge before fluffing up and roasting Christmas morning. You can make the Yorkshire pudding mix the day before too. My fail-safe recipe is equal amounts of eggs, flour and milk – whisk the eggs and flour for five minutes before adding the milk and mix for one minute. Remember to season before cooking. Or for a completely stress-free meal, buy a delicious pre-made Christmas lunch from The Three Blackbirds, pick it up Christmas morning and just reheat!” Phil Skinner, Head Chef The Three Blackbirds, Woodditton  

“Blanch all hard vegetables such as carrots and sprouts for a couple of minutes up to 2-3 days before the big day, chill down and keep in the fridge. All you need to do before serving them is to place them in a saucepan with a little water and butter, season well and whack up the heat for a couple of minutes. Then you have perfect vibrant and crunchy vegetables. Tine Roche, Cambridge Cookery

“Something we live by in kitchens: Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance. Do the prep the day before. All the vegetables – potatoes, carrots, parsnips, brussels sprouts, cabbage etc can be prepared in advance so all you have to do on the day is blanch or roast. Potatoes and carrots can be stored overnight in water, leave them in the pan somewhere cool. Sauces and gravy bases can be done fully the day before ready to re-heat (although the gravy will want the lasting juices on the day!). All in all, make the day easy on yourself and enjoy the day with family as much as you can.” Jake Lawrence, Head Chef at Crown & Castle, Orford

“On Christmas Eve, pre-peel and par-boil your vegetables and pop on trays ready for the oven. This will not only save you time on the big day, but allowing your potatoes to cool and dry after blanching is always a winner for the crispiest, fluffiest roasties. Another great time saving tip is to make your gravy a week or so in advance and freeze it. And if all else fails, buy a Christmas Box from The Northgate for a hassle-free family feast!” Greig Young, Head Chef at The Northgate, Bury St Edmunds

Top tips for perfectly golden roasties

Christmas dinner roast potatoes

“You cant beat a good roast potato! Always prep in advance and bring your potatoes to the boil until they just go a bit fluffy, drain in a colander and toss a bit like you’re panning for gold. Rough up the edges, let them cool for a bit and then put into a tray of duck fat, rosemary, garlic and thyme ….moving from time to time.” Justin Newton, Head Chef at The Weeping Willow, winner of Best destination pub at this year’s Suffolk & Cambs Muddy Stilettos Awards 2021.

“When blanching your potatoes for roasties boil them until almost cooked through, drain and allow to steam dry. They will be fragile but you will get a lovely crust. I also add the hot fat to the potatoes once they are dry and give them a gentle shake in the saucepan, then transfer them to a roasting tin – it’s much safer than tipping them into hot fat.” Nathan Jones, Catering Expert and Owner at The Hog Hotel, Pakefield

Top tip for brilliant brussels

“Cut the brussels in half and lay on a baking tray. Drizzle maple syrup, a little orange peel and seasoning, then roast until crispy on top. Don’t put them anywhere near water!” Greig Young, Head Chef at The Northgate, Bury St Edmunds

Top tip for silky brandy butter

christmas pudding

To ensure your brandy butter for your mince pies or Christmas pudding doesn’t curdle it’s important to add brandy very slowly – one tsp at a time until well corporated. If it starts to split then stir in additional icing sugar until it starts to come together. Add brandy until you can’t taste the butter anymore. Freeze any leftover brandy butter in an ice cube tray and defrost as needed so that it doesn’t go to waste! Yasmin Wyatt, General Manager at Two Magpies Bakery

Now pour, toast, eat and enjoy your perfect Christmas dinner.

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