How To Make Christmas Delicious

How To Make Christmas Delicious

Whether you’re a turkey novice or seasoned Christmas cook, it always helps to have some expert advice to hand ahead of the big day. With that in mind, we asked the head chefs at some of the UK’s best restaurants to shares their tips for tackling the turkey, sorting out the sides and – most importantly – creating the best roast potatoes…


“It has to be a deluxe prawn cocktail – don’t skimp on plenty of quality prawns! Make a homemade Marie Rose sauce, then add cucumber, tomato and lettuce, and top with a spoon of caviar. Serve with toasted buttered brioche and make ahead of time for ease."  – Ben Tish, Norma

"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 it up before and keep it in the fridge, until you’re ready to plate up. Or a buffalo mozzarella salad with clementine, almond brittle, pomegranate and fresh oregano." – Jemima Jones & Lucy Carr-Ellison, Wild by Tart

"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 classic ‘cocktail’ garnishes. Use the shells to infuse an oil and make your own Marie Rose sauce, and don’t be afraid to splash some extra brandy and spice into it. Finally, you need to have amazing bread and butter to serve alongside it." – Richard Foster, Chiltern Firehouse

"Smoked salmon on thinly sliced, thickly buttered brown bread. Top it with freshly grated horseradish stirred through crème fraiche and serve with plenty of wedges of lemon." – George Barsons, Kitty Fisher’s & Cora Pearl

"I love simple, wonderful ingredients. I have some fresh creel-caught Scottish langoustines on my table for Christmas. Cold with homemade mayonnaise – much better than lobster." – Charlie Carroll, Flatiron 

"Buttered bread, lemon wedges and a plate full of Skipness Smoke House smoked salmon." – Ollie Templeton, Carousel

"Gin-cured trout with toasted granary bread and lemon yogurt." – Alex Head, The Social Pantry

"Oysters with sherry vinaigrette, shallots and lemon." – Colin McSherry, Gridiron

"Something very light and simple – I like a salad of bitter leaves dressed with walnut oil and champagne vinegar." – Skye Gyngell, Spring


"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." – Bill Granger, Granger & Co

"Rub your turkey in plenty of butter and put loads of herbs in the cavity and roasting tray. Make sure it’s at room temperature before cooking. Most importantly, don’t overcook it! I think people get particularly paranoid about undercooking it as it’s so big and you only cook it once a year. Once it’s ready, rest it for at least an hour." – George Barsons

"Brining is essential if you’re going to try and cook the breasts and legs together and, as ever, success is all down to finding the best, most carefully reared meat you can afford. There are some amazing small producers out there now." – Charlie Carroll

"Spending that little extra on an organic or free-range turkey is certainly worth it. Not only is it ethically sourced, it will also have better nutritional benefits and deliver on flavour." – Steve Smith, Bohemia 

"You can make vegan turkey from tofu or seitan (Google is your friend), but make sure you season it properly with herbs that make you think of Christmas. For me, sage, rosemary and thyme are the key players, but everyone has their childhood flavour memories, so go with that." – Meriel Armitage, Club Mexicana

"Brine overnight then fill with pork with apple and chestnut stuffing, but make sure the stuffing is nice and wet. Slide lots of butter under the skin and cook very slowly. Once brown, cover in foil and leave to rest for an hour. Make your bread sauce with chicken stock and finish with bone marrow and loads of black pepper." – Margot Henderson, Rochelle Canteen 

"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!" – Marcis Dzelzainis, Fare Bar + Canteen

"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." – Colin McSherry

“I cook my turkey low and slow, starting super early in the morning. I start my bird breast-side facing down with plenty of seasoning, herbs and butter and roast for 3.5 hours at 90°C. I then remove from the oven and rest while I cook my roasties and Yorkshire puds. After that I pop the oven up to full heat with the bird breast-side up and roast until it’s evenly golden with an extra crispy skin all over.” – Jamie Robinson, Tesco

“For turkey that will blow your guests’ minds, try marinating it with coriander seeds, fennel seeds, black peppercorn, juniper berries, onion seeds and garlic powder. To get as much out of these spices and bring out their true flavour, its better if you toast them before marinating the turkey, then mix them with olive oil and rub over the turkey as well as inside, then leave it overnight. Keep any spare marinade to one side. Take the turkey out from the fridge 30 minutes before you want to cook it and then massage the turkey with the leftover marinade from the day before. Place a whole onion and orange inside the turkey to help keep it moist, then cook in an oven at 160ºC for 4.5-5 hours. Ten minutes before the end, whack the oven to 200°C to get a nice and crispy skin. Let it rest for 10-15 minutes and then slice and enjoy.” – Carlo Scotto, Xier


"Blanch the potatoes, then cool completely and chill or even freeze. Get some duck fat really hot in a big oven tray and add the chilled potatoes along with garlic, rosemary and thyme. Roast on high temperature for about 40 minutes, remove from the oven, pour off any excess oil, and season with salt. Leave them to cool again. Before you’re ready to serve, pop them back in the oven on a slightly lower temperature and cook until piping hot, golden and crispy. The chilling and recooking processes keep them perfectly moist on the inside and crunchy on the outside. It also means you can do all bar the last step well ahead of time, so you can stay organised on the big day." – Francesco Mazzei, Fiume

"Par-boil the potatoes in salted water until you are slightly fearful they are ruined. Drain and then spread out on a tray to dry out and cool. Then roast in plenty of duck fat until golden and crisp. Avoid the temptation to cook too many, it will only hold things up during the hectic final hour before eating." – Pascal Wiedemann, Pompette 

"Don’t overcrowd the roasting tray; and warm whatever fat you are cooking them in first." – Skye Gyngell

“For the best roast potatoes, and I mean truly the best, not just ‘veggie best’, use Marmite. With just a salty slick of Marmite rubbed over your boiled potatoes before roasting, you will end up with craggy, crunchy savoury roasties – and nobody will believe that not an ounce of goose fat has been involved. Use a good amount of vegetable oil pre-heated until extremely hot, give the potatoes a good grind of rock salt before putting them in the oven, and remember to turn them every now and again. The result will be crunchy, umami-laden roasties.” – Gemma Simmonite, Gastrono-me


"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." – Jemima Jones & Lucy Carr-Ellison

"I love braised red cabbage with apple, vinegar and spices; and roasted celeriac with hazelnuts and brown butter." – George Barsons

"Don’t go crazy with sides: do around five, but do them well. The tops of brussels sprouts are my favourite green at Christmas, dressed with a really good sherry vinegar and salt once either steamed or boiled." – Kian Samyani, Berenjak

"Stuffing is a big thing for me; my favourite is lemon and rosemary. I love roasted brussels sprouts. Cut them in half and make extra effort to get some of the outer leaves to fall off so they go really crispy. Cranberry sauce is a great side too, and naturally vegan. Try spicing it up with a pinch of chilli." – Meriel Armitage

"You cannot beat sprouts, pancetta and toasted walnuts." – Alex Head

"Blanch your brussels for a minute, then plunge in cold water. Next, 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. Serve them with a thick coconut curry spiced with turmeric, mustard and fenugreek seeds, shallots and curry leaves for a Sri Lankan touch." – Karan Gokani, Hoppers

"Truffled cauliflower cheese; lardo and brussels sprouts; and charred savoy cabbage with bacon fat and pecans." – James Cochran, 12:51

"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." – Luke Phillips, Chewton Glen

"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 – do this at the table for maximum aromas." – Richard Foster

“I like to add a little bit of my home country to Christmas dinner. Japanese flavours work really well for sides. I usually serve a Japanese potato salad alongside the turkey with all the trimmings. Boil your potatoes for around 15-20 minutes. Next, add some thinly sliced firkin cucumbers, onions and carrots. For the sauce, I mix Kewpie mayo and a bit of mustard. Add all the ingredients to a bowl and mix well, then top with crispy pancetta.” – Kaori Simpson, Harajuku Kitchen

“Conventionally, the turkey cavity is stuffed with herbs, citrus fruits, and an onion to add flavour. However, this stifles the space for heat to circulate and cook the bird evenly, so my tip is to cook the stuffing separately. To make the stuffing seasonal, add sausage meat to some festive favourites such as cranberries, chestnuts, sage, clementine zest and breadcrumbs. Bind together with some egg, ball them up and cook them in the tray with the turkey so they soak up plenty of the cooking juices.” – Dave Wall, The Unruly Pig


"Old-school puddings, like trifle or even queen of puddings, works well for the big day. If you haven’t had it, it’s a bit like bread-and-butter pudding topped with jam and then meringue." – Charlie Carroll

"For us Italians, it has to be panettone. One of my favourites is to slice and lightly toast it in the oven, then serve with vanilla ice-cream and your choice of sauce – perhaps chocolate and Grand Marnier, an English brandy sauce, or a creme anglaise with marsala." – Francesco Mazzei

"Affogato with a shot of Pedro Ximenez sherry as a chaser." – Ben Tish

"There is no alternative! Buy the St John steamed pudding; it’s fantastic and serve with masses of cold brandy butter. Otherwise, apple and calvados trifle is always a winner, or panettone bread-and-butter pudding." – Margot Henderson

"For me, it’s got to be a Christmas pudding soufflé. Blend a Christmas pudding with rice pudding. Fold in French meringue and bake in a ramekin (it will rise like a soufflé) then serve with brandy sauce or cream. Cook for 12 minutes at 165°C." – Luke Phillips

"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!" – Marcis Dzelzainis

"Rice pudding with orange and dates, plus cinnamon to finish." – Colin McSherry

"I love Christmas pudding! But if you must have an alternative, make it panettone bread-and-butter pudding." – Skye Gyngell

"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 creme fraiche." – Jemima Jones & Lucy Carr-Ellison


"Don’t try and do too many sides. Just keep it simple with some great potatoes and a couple of veggies. And bread sauce. Bread sauce is essential!"  – George Barsons

"How do you make the best gravy? It all starts with the best stock. I make a chicken stock from a tray of roasted chicken wings, then add that instead of potato or cabbage water. You also need to make sure it’s seasoned right."  – Charlie Carroll

"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." – Ollie Templeton

"Don’t dispose of the caramelised juices left behind by the turkey as they make the perfect base for the gravy. Adding madeira, a tablespoon of plain flour and quality stock to it will make your gravy rich and delicious." – Steve Smith

"Vegan gravy is harder than regular gravy as you have to create your own flavour. Make a roux with vegan margarine and flour (the more of this you make will determine the thickness), then add any of the following: soy sauce, bouillon, tomato purée, red wine (lots), balsamic vinegar and mustard (dijon or wholegrain). You can always add something like miso or Marmite to give it that umami flavour." – Meriel Armitage

"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." – Karan Gokani

"When it comes to gravy, roast the turkey bones with the vegetable water and place in a 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." – James Cochran

“The secret to easy carving is very simple – have the sharpest of knives! It is critical to leave the turkey to rest for at least 20 minutes before carving. Too many of my relatives want to dive in once the turkey is out of the oven. Resting allows the muscles of the meat to relax making for a much more tender and delicious meat, which also makes carving easier. Let the knife do the work and don’t press hard. A sharp knife should glide through.” – Dave Wall

“I’m a firm believer in trying different things – it’s always exciting when you accidently discover something that tastes amazing. This year, why not try sprinkling spice onto your roast potatoes? It will add a whole new dimension. You can also marinade meats in spice mixes overnight to bring new layers of flavour.” – Vivek Singh, The Cinnamon Collection

Fashion. Beauty. Culture. Life. Home
Delivered to your inbox, daily