16 Top Chefs Share Their Christmas Cooking Tips: Part 2 | sheerluxe.com
Whether you’re a stuffing novice or seasoned Christmas cook, it’s always great to have some expert advice to hand. We asked the head chefs at some of the UK’s very best restaurants to don their Christmas hats and reveal their top tips for tackling the turkey, sorting out sides and – most importantly – creating the best-ever roast potatoes…
Favourites 5

Alex Head, Social Pantry and Soane’s Kitchen

What’s your go-to Christmas canapé?
Smoked mackerel pate on a rye crisp.

The ultimate starter?
Gin-cured trout with toasted granary bread and lemon yogurt.

What are your turkey tips?
Cook it upside down!

Any great sides suggestions?
You cannot beat sprouts, pancetta and toasted walnuts.

Best Christmas pudding alternative?
Clementine roulade with saffron.

How do you make the best gravy?
My secret tip is to add in a spoonful of Marmite!

What’s your one top tip for nailing Christmas dinner?
Don’t get too pissed before the turkey is cooked!

Karan Gokani, Hoppers

What’s your go-to Christmas canapé?
We do some delicious mini duck samosas with cranberry chutney at our Indian Christmas party at home. I often lose track of how many I’ve eaten, as they are so easy to snack on while getting the main meal prepped and ready. Alternatively, it’s got to be pancetta-wrapped mini pigs in blankets.
 
What’s your ultimate starter?
We usually skip starters, but sometimes a simple lightly-spiced roasted chestnut soup can really hit the spot.
 
Turkey tips?
Brine, brine, brine, for as long as you can!

How do you make the ultimate roast potatoes?
Always use Maris Pipers and skip all the funky fats recipes call for – stick to simple rapeseed or vegetable oil.

Do you have any sides suggestions?
Blanch your brussels for a minute, then plunge in cold water. Then flash fry in a pan with pancetta cubes, toasted hazelnuts and lots of butter. Brown in the oven on the highest heat. Add a pinch of ground coriander and chilli powder and serve them with a thick coconut curry spiced with turmeric, mustard and fenugreek seeds, shallots and curry leaves, for a Sri Lankan touch.
 
Best Christmas pudding alternatives?
A rich spiced plum cake soaked in Old Monk rum or Ceylon Arrack, with brandy butter.
 
How do you make the best gravy?
Reduce lots of marsala and good red wine with fried garlic and shallots before adding in all the pan juices and burnt bits from your roast turkey. Simmer ‘til thick and glossy.
 
What’s your one top tip for nailing the Christmas dinner?
Keep a physical checklist and keep crossing things off as you go along. It’s so easy to forget doing something when cooking a feast.
 

Dan Doherty, The Royal Oak

What’s your go-to Christmas canapé
Bacon-wrapped dates stuffed with chorizo, manchego cheese and chestnuts.

The ultimate starter?
Freshly boiled langoustines with home-made mayo.

Sides suggestions?
Deep-fried brussels sprouts with honey.

Best Christmas pudding alternative?
Old-school queen of puddings with blood-orange marmalade.

How do you make the best gravy?
From scratch. A good tip is to make it days before so the flavours can infuse. Adding a pig’s trotter can add a deliciously intense flavour.

What’s your one top tip for nailing Christmas dinner?
Fill your guests up with booze when they arrive!

James Cochran, 1251

What’s your go-to Christmas canapé?
Cheese doughnuts with truffle.

What are your turkey tips?
When you’re resting the turkey, turn it upside down and cover in foil. The juices from the carcass will run back through the breast which will keep it nice and moist.

How do you make the ultimate roast potatoes?
Par boil your tatties in salt, rosemary and garlic until the edges start to break, then drain and shake in a colander and put in the freezer to dry out. Deep fry them in turkey fat and finish off in the oven.

Any great sides suggestions?
Truffle cauliflower cheese; lardo and brussels sprouts; and charred savoy cabbage with bacon fat and pecans.

How do you make the best gravy?
Roast the turkey bones with the vegetable water and place in pan. Bring to the boil, skim and simmer for six hours. Reduce a glass of white wine and pour over the stock and reduce to gravy consistency. At the end, add cold butter to enrich and give a nice shine.

Best Christmas pudding alternative?
Cheese! You’ve put so much work into your two courses and food coma is on.

What’s your one top tip for nailing Christmas dinner?
Do all your veg prep the night before! Christmas Day is about spending time with your loved ones.

Luke Phillips, Chewton Glen, Wiltshire

 
What’s your go-to Christmas canapé?
I love making this really fancy canapé which is a chicken truffle cigar. This is essentially a delicious croquette made with roasted chicken, mushrooms and truffle oil. Decadent and surprisingly easy to make. 
 
The ultimate starter? 
A starter using locally sourced fish is always a winner. Dover sole is one of my favourites and is always best served simply cooked with lemon and salt.

What are your turkey tips? 
The best way to cook turkey is off the crown. Remove the breast meat then surround the turkey with bunches of fresh herbs and oven cook at 70°C until the inside reaches 70°C, then increase the heat of the oven to crisp the skin and keep basting with meat juice from the turkey.  
 
Any great sides suggestions? 
I would thinly slice brussels sprouts, fry off some bacon lardons (so they are super crispy), then place the lardons to one side and keep the fat. Sweat the brussels sprout slices in the bacon fat and butter until they are cooked, then put pre-roasted chestnuts and the bacon lardons back in. The must-have is pigs in blankets, just source from a good local butcher. There is no special recipe, just do them the traditional way. 

Best Christmas pudding alternative?
For me it’s got to be a Christmas pudding soufflé. Blend a Christmas pudding with rice pudding and then fold in French meringue and then bake in a ramekin (it will rise like a soufflé), then serve with brandy sauce or cream. Cook for 12 minutes at 165C. 
 
What’s your one top tip for nailing Christmas dinner? 
Get a lot of your preparation done in advance, then warm everything through in the oven an hour before you wish to serve.
 

Marcis Dzelzainis, Fare Bar + Canteen

 
What’s your go-to Christmas canapé?
Prawn cocktail. I love the 80s kitsch feel and it reminds me of the dinner parties my parents threw when I was younger. 
 
The ultimate starter?
This has to be smoked salmon. Pair with fresh grated horseradish and sour cream to kick off your meal.
 
What are you turkey tips?
You should always brine your turkey to make it as juicy as possible. Get a big pot of water with loads of salt, dunk, and leave for around 10-15 minutes. This may sound bizarre but I use a hairdryer to really dry the skin of the turkey before putting it in the oven – it works a treat!

How do you make the ultimate roast potatoes?
It has to be goose fat. You also need the right type of potatoes, I’d suggest Maris Piper. Once they’re cooked and drained, put them in a big pot, shut the lit and shake. This will really fluff them up.
 
Any great sides suggestions?
My side suggestion – although controversial – is the much-maligned brussels sprout. Cross at the bottom and serve with chestnuts and bacon for the ultimate side dish.
 
Best Christmas pudding alternative?
A Christmas tradition I picked up in Spain involves getting a really good vanilla ice-cream and pouring PX sherry over the top, it works a treat!
 
What’s your one top tip for nailing Christmas dinner?
Don’t overcomplicate it. Focus on getting a really good turkey and choose around two or three sides so you don't get bogged down in too much preparation. Get a high-quality dessert from a good supplier. You can’t go wrong with a Coolea cheese, I’ll be getting mine from Neal’s Yard.

Bill Granger, Granger & Co.

What are your top turkey tips?
After years of having a fridge full of leftovers, and endless days of using up turkey, why not cook a turkey breast for Christmas instead? It’s easy to carve and there’s often no wastage. I like to serve it with a pistachio and dried cranberry stuffing. 

Nathan Eades, The Wild Rabbit, Kingham

 
What’s your go-to Christmas canapé?
It has to be buckwheat blinis with some Daylesford kefir (hung in muslin cloth to drain the whey and make it thicker) and some Oscietra caviar. If you can’t indulge at Christmas, when can you?
 
The ultimate starter?
At home we love prawn cocktail. Sometimes to enhance the dish we use Scottish langoustines, cooking them in a simple court bouillon.

What are your turkey tips?
The best way to cook any poultry is slow and low. Cook the turkey crown at 85°C in a fan-assisted oven. Using a digital temperature probe, place the probe into the thickest part of the bird and take it out when the core temperature reaches 63°C. Allow to rest and sear the skin in a pan to get it nice and crispy. Perfect every time.
 
What’s your one top tip for nailing Christmas dinner?
Get ahead of the game. Blanch your veg, blanch your potatoes, prep your meat, make your gravy bases and sort the pigs in blankets out on the 23rd and 24th December

Ollie Templeton, Carousel

What’s your go-to Christmas canapé?
Chipolatas with wholegrain mustard and tabasco.

The ultimate starter?
Buttered bread, lemon wedges and a plate full of Skipness Smoke House smoked salmon.

What are your turkey tips?
Brine in loads of herbs and spices, then bathe it in fats: butter, goose fat, pork fat. Cook low and slow.

How do you make the ultimate roast potatoes? 
Bake whole potatoes at 180°C until cooked, break up with your hands, re-roast in smoked brown butter, then deep fry in duck or goose fat.

Any great sides suggestions?
Blistered brussels sprout tops and XO cubes. 

Best Christmas pudding alternative?
Loads of cheese followed by something like Jaffa Cakes.

What’s your one top tip for nailing Christmas dinner?
Eat late-ish, like 5-6pm, so you aren't under loads of pressure. Oh, and delegate – your parents/grandparents/brothers absolutely love peeling spuds, onions, garlic etc. 

Colin McSherry, Gridiron

What’s your go-to Christmas canapé
Oysters with sherry vinaigrette, shallots and lemon.

The ultimate starter?
Chicken liver parfait.

What are your turkey tips? 
It’s really important to temper your bird (let it come to room temperature before putting in the oven). This will achieve consistent cooking throughout.

Best Christmas pudding alternative? 
Rice pudding with orange and dates, plus cinnamon to finish.

Richard Foster, Chiltern Firehouse

What’s your go-to Christmas canapé
Venison sausage rolls with spiced ketchup. These are satisfying to make and serve and are real crowd pleasers. I personally love devils on horseback, which are so easy to make and are real treats. You can use any dried fruit and wrap them in bacon, but for it to be delicious the two ingredients you use have to be top quality. 

The ultimate starter?
Christmas is all about luxury and lobster is right up there. I like to lightly poach native lobster to keep its fresh flavour and then add all those ‘cocktail’ classic garnishes. Use the shells to infuse an oil and make your own Marie Rose sauce, and don’t be afraid to splash extra brandy and spice into it. Finally, you need to have amazing bread and butter to serve alongside it. 

Any great side suggestions?
Everyone loves mashed potatoes, but at Christmas you have to take it up a notch in indulgence. Make super smooth mash like you normally would then slowly incorporate enough butter to turn it into a purée – when you think you’ve put too much in keep on adding it, the more the better. Next add a good-quality truffle paste to taste. Finally, grate over fresh black truffle to serve and do this at the table for maximum aromas.

Sandia Chang, Bubbledogs

What’s your go-to Christmas canapé? 
Baked blue-cheese stuffed dates wrapped with bacon.
 
What are your turkey tips?
I always debone the turkey. I then brine it and stuff it, then roll it like a Porchetta. This way, guests will get a nice slice of everything and it all cooks evenly.
 
Do you have any sides suggestions?
I like doing a brussels sprouts coleslaw as a refreshing side dish. Also, sweet potato mash with bacon and red-wine braised red cabbage.

How do you make the best gravy?
Keep all the inner organs like the hearts, gizzards liver etc., roast them with the bones and wing tips and neck along with onions, carrots and onions as the base before putting your stock on top to reduce. Splash in a bit of wine. Whatever you’re drinking – champagne, red, white or sherry – adds a great layer of flavour into it too.
 
Best Christmas pudding alternatives?
We find that there’s always a fire going at Christmas. Allowing guests to interact and toast their own marshmallows and make ‘smores keeps the party going.
 
What’s your one top tip for nailing the Christmas dinner?
Make as much as you can ahead of time so when it comes to the actual party, you’re not slaving away in the kitchen and you can actually enjoy your time with your guests. And… make sure there’s plenty of booze!

Skye Gyngell, Spring

What’s your go-to Christmas canapé?
Definitely caviar on little sourdough and potato pancakes served with creme fraiche.

The ultimate starter?
Something very light and simple – a salad of bitter leaves dressed with walnut oil and champagne vinegar.

What are your turkey tips?
I like to brine the turkey beforehand. It seasons it beautifully right through to the bone and helps the meat to remain tender.

How do you make the ultimate roast potatoes?
Don’t overcrowd the roasting tray and warm whatever fat you are cooking them in first.

Best Christmas pudding alternative?
I love Christmas pudding! But if you must have an alternative, make it panettone bread and butter pudding.

How do you make the best gravy?
I like a bright, light gravy so I just deglaze the pan with white wine and a little stock.

Jemima Jones & Lucy Carr-Ellison, Wild by Tart

 
The ultimate starter?
Something fresh, clean and beautiful – something that can be served cold to save time, like an Asian-style fish carpaccio that’s zesty, herby and a little spicy. You can easily slice up before and keep in the fridge, until ready to plate up. Or a buffalo mozzarella salad with clementine, almond brittle, pomegranate and fresh oregano.
 
What are your turkey tips?
Last Christmas we got the butcher to debone and butterfly our turkey and gave them our Middle Eastern stuffing to roll into the turkey. It was so easy to slice and cuts out a lot of cooking stress. It cooks perfectly and keeps moist and delicious.

Any great sides suggestions?
Cavolo nero tossed into crisped chilli and garlic; cumin and lemony roasted carrots with crumbled feta, nigella seeds and chopped coriander; a bubbly cheesy number from the oven – these all taste great. We love Ottolenghi’s sweet potato and sage gratin, or a citrusy crunchy salad of shaved fennel – something to slice through all the heaviness.

How do you make the best gravy?
We are not into adding flour as this feels so dated and reminiscent of school dinners! Something we have learnt from our mums is to pre-make a good batch of gravy prior to Christmas and freeze: use chicken wings, thighs, soy sauce, stock veggies and wine, then boil up and then strain (you can also spice it). This can then be added to your gravy on the day for an extra special gravy.
 
Best Christmas pudding alternative?
We’d go for a spiced apple strudel with a homemade cardamom ice-cream or an indulgent chocolate number that’s salted and served with crème fraiche. 
 
What’s your one top tip for nailing Christmas dinner?
Try and get enough prepared in advance. You want to come across as the perfect, effortless host!

Will Bowlby, Kricket

What are your turkey tips?
Don’t eat it – go for goose instead.

Any great sides suggestions?
Sprouts with chestnuts and bacon is the best.

Best Christmas pudding alternative?
A good cheese.

How do you make the best gravy?
A nice rich wine, long simmer and good stock.

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