/ Food & Drink

Are you dreading your Christmas cooking marathon?

Illustration of turkey escaping from the dinner table

That time is approaching – it’s only one more sleep until you, or some saintly family member, is cooking Christmas dinner. Are you confident in the menu (turkey is it?) or are you dreading getting started?

I’m prepped and primed, and so is the piece of beef set to grace our festive table. Yes, I like to take up the challenge of being the resident Christmas chef. And despite most people taking years to perfect their perfect Christmas meal – apparently it takes until we’re 48 years old – I think I’ve just about got it down.

‘Beef!?’ Yes, the only ‘gobble gobble’ you’ll hear from my house is the sound of a turkey celebrating its freedom as it escapes our back garden.

What’s so novel about a turkey?

For most Brits it’s not Christmas without turkey, with an estimated £307m to be spent on the bird this year. Last year Which? Convo commenter Cheshire Resident told us that turkey was their festive meat of choice:

‘I always do turkey, plus a small loin of pork, stuffing balls, pigs in blankets, roast spuds, Yorkshire puds, carrots, sprouts and gravy made from the giblets stock. Can’t beat it! Today all I needed was a tray of oven chips and a jar of pickled onions to go with the meat.’

But I’m not the only one rejecting this feathered beast. Dave D wasn’t only surprised by Cheshire Resident’s accompaniments; he cooked outside the box:

‘Oven chips??????? With a turkey dinner????? Well, I’m astounded at that combination, but who am I to moan given that I did not have turkey but instead cooked rainbow trout with almonds.’

I’m with Dave D – let’s stray from tradition. And another tradition I’d like to see the back of is the obsession with scoffing mince pies.

After over 1,000 votes on our mince pies poll, we found that most of you like to eat them hot (62%) with cream (32%). Cold and straight from the box came in at third with 24%, but I’m with the 10% who don’t like mince pies at all. What is the festive obsession with dried fruit?

Stressful or stress-free cooking?

Tomorrow will probably be a stressful day, as you try to time everything to perfection to avoid an overcooked turkey and frazzled roast potatoes.

In fact, a survey by Food Network UK found that a third of women (men weren’t consulted – surely there are other blokes doing the cooking, like me?) have never managed to cook a perfect Christmas dinner.

The meal was either spoiled by common cooking mistakes, like watery gravy, or bigger disasters – 9% have forgotten to defrost the turkey, 10% have suffered power cuts and an unlucky 3% have given their family food poisoning.

Usually I’m as happy as Larry, with a glass of wine on the counter and a turkey up to my elbows. Anyway, here are some tips for the perfect Christmas roast that I’ve picked up from Jamie, Delia, Nigella and co:

  • Only stuff the neck of the turkey, not her behind – otherwise it will be difficult for the heat to get all the way into the meat.
  • Let all meats rest after cooking (well over an hour for a turkey is fine, or 20-30 minutes for my beef joint) to keep the juices in.
  • If you hate brussel sprouts, don’t score them on the bottom (this makes them easier to overcook), boil them for just five minutes (don’t wait until they’re dull and soggy) then fry them in butter with chopped up sweet chestnuts and crispy bacon.

So I bid you good luck for tomorrow’s roasting and be sure to make it a merry one!

Isobel says:
24 December 2011

In an effort to be traditional, I thought I’d cook sprouts with the bird, and in view of the fact I have NEVER managed to make them taste good, I’ve tried them out in various ways in the run-up to Christmas Day (short of the complex methods the TV chefs suggest) with ever shorter cooking times. So guess what we’re having tomorrow? Broccoli.

We’re having foie gras with champagne, leg of lamb, sweet chestnust and chips with Saint-Emilion, and fruit of the forest gateau with another champagne. Nuts to tradition!

Less stress means more joy. Merry Christmas, everyone!

does anyone remember if which has ever review warming trays (eg hostess trolleys), The kind I am looking for is to be used on the table but keeps food hot. Anybody input would be appreciated

I seem to remember that hostess trolleys were tested in the early 1960’s and even table-top versions have been commented on some years ago, I think, if not fully tested. That wouldn’t be much help today, however. Your best hope would be to look on a number of retailers’ websites. John Lewis have a few table-top food warmers or serving trays some with plenty of customer reviews.