Our Head Chef’s top tips to a stress free Christmas
‘Tis the season to be jolly and enjoy lots of good food and drink with your loved ones. But we all know this time of year can be testing on those stuck in the kitchen providing all this delicious fare for one and all.
It’s tough to avoid being the cook at Christmas if you have a talent for it, but there are some easy ways to make sure this year you see that look of joy on the face of another when they open the gift you got them – rather than getting a face full of steam as you stir that gravy one last time.
Our Head Chef Norman Mackenzie is always being for tips on how to create a stress free Christmas, and he has a number of ways to avoid getting stuck in the kitchen whilst still impressing your guests right through from Christmas Eve to Boxing Day.
“One of the best things I can say is be prepared. A great way to avoid having loads to do at the last minute is to make a list and get the right kind of food in, for example fill your Christmas Eve buffet with cured meats, some nice cheese and some cured or smoked fish. Then supplement with some lovely homemade recipes to give it that special touch. Try some Chicken Liver Pate, Smoked Salmon and Sorel Quiche and Honey Roast Ham (recipes all listed below).
“For the big day itself make as much as you can in advance, like the Christmas Cake or Pudding, which can be made months in advance. Also, peel, chop and blanche your vegetables one or two days prior and make your own stuffing a few days before then re-heat (see our method below).
“And on Boxing Day use whatever leftovers you have. Merry Christmas all.
Chestnut and Cranberry Stuffing
200 g sausage meat
150 g breadcrumbs
50 g dried cranberries
50 g roasted chestnuts
50 g egg whites
100 g shallot (diced)
1 sprig of rosemary (chopped)
1 sprig of thyme (chopped)
Place all the ingredients into a mixing bowl and mix well. Roll into a tight log shape using greaseproof paper.
Then cover again with tin foil (as tight as possible so that it is water-tight). Place the wrapped stuffing into a deep tray, and then place into the oven for 45 minutes at 180c.
This method of cooking the stuffing works well when you want to make it in advance, as the water keeps it moist.
On Christmas Day, you can cut this into slices and place into the oven with the turkey for 10 minutes to reheat and serve.
Honey Roast Ham
1 gammon joint
2 carrots (roughly chopped)
1 onion (roughly chopped)
1 stick of celery (roughly chopped)
The white of 1 leek
1 star anise
6 white peppercorns
3 bay leaves
100 g honey
80 g English mustard
15 g demerara sugar
Fill a pan large enough to contain the gammon joint with enough water to cover the meat.
Add the carrot, onion, celery, leek, star anise, white peppercorns and bay leaves to the water (this will flavour the meat whilst it is cooking).
Place the gammon joint into the water and bring to the boil.
Simmer for 4-5 hours (your butcher should be able to advise the cooking time required for the size of the joint).
Once removed from the water, take off the top layer of fat, leaving a thin layer to absorb the honey glaze.
Score the fat with criss-crossed lines, and then press the cloves into the meat, evenly spaced.
Brush the meat with the English mustard.
Mix the honey and demerara sugar together.
Put the gammon joint into a baking tray (ideally on a rack to lift the ham from the bottom of the pan), and then pour the honey mixture over the ham.
Pre-heat the oven to 180c, and place the gammon joint into the oven. After 10-15 minutes, remove from the oven and spoon any liquid that is in the bottom of the tray over the top of the meat. Repeat this 5-6 times, until the ham is golden, sticky and crispy.
To save time, we recommend that you boil the gammon, and add the cloves and mustard 2 days before. Then leave and complete the last part of the process on the day that you are serving.
Smoked Salmon and Sorel Quiche
100 ml milk
200 ml double cream
200 g smoked salmon (chopped)
50 g sorel (chopped)
Pinch of salt
You can make your own shortcrust pastry or use shop-bought, you need to line your baking tray with the pastry and blind bake it before adding the filling.
Mix the eggs, milk, cream and salt together.
Place the chopped smoked salmon and sorrel into the bottom of the pastry case.
Pour the egg mix on top.
Bake at 170c for 15-18 minutes.
You can make this 2 days in advance and serve on the day in minutes.
Chicken Liver Pate
To make this dish you will need 8 ramekins.
450 g chicken liver
50 ml brandy
100 ml red wine
220 g butter
3 shallots (diced)
2 garlic cloves
1 bay leaf
1 sprig of thyme
Place the wine, bay leaf and thyme in a pan. Bring to the boil and simmer until reduced by half.
In a separate frying pan, heat half the butter before adding the shallots and garlic, then cook for roughly 2 minutes until soft.
Add the chicken livers to the pan with the butter, shallots and garlic and fry until cooked (roughly 4-6 minutes).
Add the brandy to the pan to deglaze, and then remove from heat.
Strain the wine through a muslin to retain the liquid only. Discard the other ingredients.
Add all the ingredients into the same pan, and then blend until smooth, taste and season as required.
Divide into ramekins whilst still warm, and then allow to set in the fridge.
Clarify the remaining butter, and pour a desert spoon full of the butter on top of the pate.
This will help keep the pate fresher for longer.
You can make this 2-3 days in advance and serve on the day in minutes.