A few weeks ago I hosted a Christmas food demonstration at my house. I included all the fail safe recipes I have discovered and created over the years to make what I think is the perfect Christmas Day menu.

We started off with Beetroot and Gin cured blinis (so easy yet look festive and impressive!) and Beef Fillet Croutes with Salsa Verde.

We then ploughed through maple glazed roast turkey with a sausage and apricot stuffing, Nigella Lawson’s Gingerbread Stuffing (as one stuffing is never enough!), Brussels with Pancetta and Chestnuts, 10 minute Cranberry Sauce, Bread Sauce, Jamie Oliver’s Makeahead Gravy, Honey Roasted Parsnips, Star Anise Carrots inspired by Tom Kerridge (still delicious with the butter and sugar quantities halved!), Spiced Red Cabbage and of course the ultimate roast potatoes.

All the recipes are below, plus a handy advance food preparation list, a turkey cooking time guide and a Christmas Day Timings Planner!

Happy Christmas! Anna xx

Gingerbread Stuffing

Serves 8-12

3 onions chopped
2 apples, peeled & cored & chopped
45g butter
750g streaky bacon whizzed in a food processor or chopped by hand
Zest or 2 clementine or 2 oranges
800g gingerbread loaves
2 eggs beaten
½ tsp black pepper

Melt the butter in a large pan then add the onions and apple and soften.

Add the bacon and colour for 5 minutes.

Add the clementine zest and allow the mixture to cool.

Stir in the gingerbread loaves eggs & pepper. Press into a buttered loaf tin. This can be done two days in advance and kept in the fridge.

Bake in a 180 degree oven (or Aga baking oven) for 50 minutes.

Sausage and Apricot Stuffing

Serves 8-12

2 garlic cloves crushed
1 onion finely chopped
45g breadcrumbs
10g (1-2tbsp) chopped sage
50g dried apricots chopped
300g sausage meat
Zest of 1 lemon

Soften the onion and garlic in a pan before adding the sage, lemon zest and apricots. Season well, let the mixture cool then stir in the sausage meat. Use to stuff the neck of your turkey and between the breast and skin if you like.

Roast Turkey

Brining the turkey isn’t necessary but left outside or somewhere cold in a bucket with a plank of wood over the top so foxes and pets don’t get to it means space is freed up in your fridge!

Serves: 8-12

5kg turkey
3 carrots roughly chopped
3 onions cut into disks
1 onion halved (for the cavity)
1 clementine halves for the cavity
60g butter
3 tbsp maple syrup

For the brine:-
6 litres water
3 tbsp salt
3 tbsp pepper corns
1 orange halved
1 cinnamon stick
4 star anise
2 tbsp all spice berries
10cm ginger
Bunch of parsley, thyme, any herb you have to hand!
4 tbsp honey
4 tbsp maple syrup
2 onions chopped
200g sugar

If brining, add all the ingredients to a bucket. Remove the giblets and add the turkey to the bucket. Cover with more water if the bird is not completely covered. Place a board and something heavy on top and store it somewhere cool. I use my greenhouse!
Remove the turkey from the brine 1-2 hours before it has to go into the oven. Pat dry with kitchen towel.
Place your carrots and onion disks in a large roasting tin.
Put the halved mandain and onions inside the cavity of the turkey.
Stuff the neck of the turkey with your stuffing. Remember to add the weight of the stuffing to the weight of the turkey when calculating the cooking time.
Melt the butter and maple syrup together slowly over a low heat. Paint the turkey with the glaze.
Put in a 220 degree oven for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven, baste again and cover with foil. Put in a 180 degree oven for 2 ½ hours. Pierce the turkey with the point of a sharp knife where the body meets the leg, and if the juices run clear, it’s cooked; if still pink, cook it for longer until they run clear, or use a meat thermometer.
Weight of Bird & Stuffing: Cooking Time
2.25kg/5lb : 1 ½ hours 3.5kg/8lb : 1 ¾ hours 4.5kg/10lb : 2 hours 5.5kg/12lb : 2 ½ hours 6.75kg/15lb : 2 ¾ hours 7.5kg/17lb : 3 hours 9kg/20lb : 3 ½ hours 11.5kg/25lb : 4 ½ hours. These are for a free-range turkey which tend to have more fat than a lean. The timings also assume that the turkey is at room temperature before cooking. You need to calculate the weight of the stuffed bird.

Perfect Roasties

Serves 8-12

3kg King Edward or Maris Piper potatoes peeled
200g goose fat
1 bulb garlic
30 g fresh rosemary
1 tbsp Maldon salt

Half any larger potatoes. You want each potato to be approximately 6cmx4cm in size.
Bring a pan of water to boil and add ½ tsp salt. Add the potatoes and boil for 9 minutes.

Add the goose fat to a large roasting tin and heat in a 200 degree oven (or Aga roasting oven).

Drain the potatoes and allow them to steam in a colander for a couple of minutes.

Gently shake the colander so that the potatoes fluff but do not fall apart.

Tip them into the hot goose fat. Sprinkle over the salt. Using tongs turn each one over so that each one is covered. Throw in the garlic cloves and nestle the rosemary sprigs around and underneath the potatoes.

If cooking ahead roast for 40 minutes cool and at room temperature and put in the fridge. Otherwise roast for 50-60 minutes until golden and crisp.

If pre-cooked the day before, bring the potatoes to room temperature on Christmas morning and roast for 20 minutes.

Make Ahead Gravy (Jamie Oliver)

2 onions chopped
2 carrots chopped
2 sticks of celery chopped
2 rashers streaky bacon
2 fresh bay leaves
2 sprigs of fresh sage
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
2 star anise
10 free-range chicken wings
olive oil
60 ml sherry or port , optional
4 tablespoons plain flour
2 tablespoons cranberry sauce

Put all the vegetables bay leaves, rosemary and star anise into a roasting tray and add the bacon. Add the chicken wings, drizzle with olive oil, season and cook for 1 hour in a 200 degree oven (or Aga roasting oven)

Remove the tray from the oven and transfer to a low heat on the hob (or Aga simmering plate) Mash everything with a potato masher and add the port.

Stir in the flour, then add 2 litres of boiling water. Simmer for 30 minutes then pour through a colander or sieve into a large bowl or jug.

Cool and refrigerate or freeze for Christmas Day.

When reheating skim off the fat from the top, pour the gravy into a pan and add any juices from the turkey. Bring to the boil then stir in the cranberry sauce.

Honey Roasted Parsnips

Serves 8-10
500g parsnips
1 tbsp honey
2 oil
1 tbsp butter
½ tsp dried thyme or a few sprigs of fresh

Peel the parsnips. If peeling ahead put them in water with a squeeze of lemon to stop them browning.

Half them. Make sure they’re dry and toss in the honey and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.

Heat the butter and in a roasting tray and toss in the parsnips with the thyme.

Roast for 40 minutes.

“Kerridge” Carrots

Serves 8-12

12 carrots peeled or scrubbed, left whole
150g butter
100g brown sugar
2 tsp salt
4 star anise
400ml water

Combine all the in ingredients in a saucepan, simmer for 45 minutes. Alternatively for the Aga method, bring to a simmer and put in the simmering oven for 2 hours.

Cranberry Sauce

Serves 8-12

240g cranberries
100ml orange juice
1 tbsp port
100g light brown sugar

Add all the ingredients to a pan, simmer for 8-10 minutes.

Bread Sauce

Serves 8-12

1 onion
6 cloves
1 bay leaf
6 peppercorns
1 pint milk
40g butter
120g white bread, crusts removed
50ml cream (optional)

Stud the onion with the cloves and halve it. Add it to a pan with the peppercorns, milk and butter. Once the butter has melted simmer for 8 minutes.

Remove the peppercorns, bay leaf and onion.

Break up the bread and stir it through the sauce. If serving straight away stir through the cream. Otherwise refrigerate without the cream When ready to serve, reheat and stir in the cream.

Brussels with Pancetta and Chestnuts

Serves 8-12

1.5kg brussels, outer leaves removed, stalk trimmed
200g vacuum packed chestnuts
200g bacon lardons or pancetta
20g butter

Melt the butter and colour the pancetta for 10 minutes. Add the chestnuts. This can be done in advance and set aside.

Add the brussels to a large pan of boiling water. Simmer for 5 minutes. If making ahead, drain and plunge into iced water. Drain and set aside until you’re ready to serve them.

Reheat the pancetta and chestnuts and add the brussels. Cook for 5 minutes until everything is hot. Season with black pepper.

Spiced Red Cabbage

Serves 8-12

1 red cabbage shredded
1 red onion chopped
½ tsp salt
Juice and zest of 1 orange or 2 clementine
25g butter
Cinnamon stick
150ml port
1 tbsp balsamic
150ml water

Melt the butter and soften the onion for 10 minutes. Add the cabbage, cinnamon stick, salt and port and simmer for 10 minutes before adding the water. Simmer for 30 minutes then stir in the balsamic and serve. Can me made two days in advance.

Can be made ahead:-

Cranberry Sauce – Just reheat Christmas day
Bread sauce Reheat and add cream on Christmas Day
Potatoes Can be peeled and left in water with a lid on the day before or can be parboiled, shaken and half cooked. As long as your fridge is large enough to take your roasting tray!
Sausages in bacon Wrap on Christmas eve and refrigerate on a baking tray. They could also be cooked and reheated.
Brussels Pancetta and chestnuts can be prepped the day before. Brussels can be cooked and quickly cooled by adding them to iced water. Add to the pancetta and chestnuts and warm through for 5 minutes
Gravy Made up to three days in advance and refrigerated. Or made up to 3 weeks in advance and frozen
Stuffing Mix together the ingredients. Put the gingerbread stuffing in a buttered dish and have the sausage & apricot stuffing ready for the bird.

Christmas Day Timings Planner

Based on a 7kg turkey

8am Breakfast
9am Remove turkey from the brine or fridge. If in brine, dry the turkey off using kitchen towl. Place on a bed of onions in a roasting tray, stuff the neck and push butter under the skin.
10am Turkey in the oven
Lay table
Wrap the chipolatas in a rasher of streaky bacon and put them on baking parchment on a roasting tray
11am Colour pancetta. Set pan aside and add the chestnuts. When the brussels are cooked they can be added.
Peel the parsnips and cover them with water mixed with a squeeze of lemon to stop them browning
12pm Make smoked salmon, crayfish/quail & beef fillet croutes/blinis
12.30pm Cook the Gingerbread stuffing.
12.45pm If roasties have not been part cooked the day before, par boil them now for exactly 10 minutes. Steam for 5
Cook the Kerridge Carrots for 40 minutes and set aside in their juices somewhere warm
Drain and dry the parsnips. Season them, drizzle with the honey and olive oil and roast
1pm Remove the turkey from the oven and rest it under foil and a few tea towels. Yay – space in the oven.
1pm If roasties have not been part roasted put them in a hot oven now.
Put the chipolatas wrapped in bacon in the oven.
Put the parsnips in the oven.
Warm some serving dishes if you have space in an oven!
1.15pm Heat through the gravy adding any juices from the turkey
1.30pm If roasties have been part cooked put them in a hot oven now.
Warm through the bread sauce, cranberry sauce and red cabbage
Remove the Gingerbread Stuffing and keep warm.
1.45pm Ask someone to start carving
Cook the brussels in boiling water for 5 minutes, drain them then toss them in with the pancetta and chestnuts
Remove the chipolatas wrapped in bacon and keep warm in a serving dish
2pm ish Eat!