A Private Chef Shares Her Festive Cooking Tips & Favourite Drinks
A Private Chef Shares Her Festive Cooking Tips & Favourite Drinks

A Private Chef Shares Her Festive Cooking Tips & Favourite Drinks

Christmas Day is only a week away but there’s still time to add a new dish to your menu or stock up on some special bottles. To help with inspiration, we asked private chef and food writer Rosanna Stevens to share her favourite Christmas recipes, cocktails and wines she enjoys with her family over the festive period…

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This year I’ll be spending Christmas at my family home in Surrey. Festivities start on 22nd December with carol singing and mulled wine with our neighbours. Christmas Day is celebrated at home with my parents, my sister and her family, and some of our extended family. Then, on Boxing Day, we host my father’s entire side of the family for lunch and numbers are usually around 45! It’s a tradition my grandmother started in the late 60s and my parents have now been hosting for nearly 50 years. We are a well-oiled machine when it comes to hosting large numbers – we set up a football pitch on the lawn for all the kids to play and a bar inside for the grown-ups before we all sit down. 

Christmas Eve dinner is always a highlight. We eat a French white sausage called boudin blanc and it’s my favourite meal of the whole year; I look forward to it more than Christmas dinner. My French aunt used to bring them over from Fauchon in Paris, but now we order them from Chanteroy, an excellent French deli in Wimbledon. They have this incredible mousse-like texture and are often flavoured with truffles. We eat them with apple sauce, stewed red cabbage, jacket potatoes and a lovely bottle of Bourgogne Aligoté. Afterwards, I’ll go to the pub with family friends before going to midnight mass, slightly tipsier than we should be…

My mother and I make German Stollen each year to eat for breakfast on Christmas Day. We use Delia Smith’s recipe, which never fails. It’s stuffed with dried fruits and marzipan and tastes amazing when sliced up, toasted and smothered in butter. We have coffee with an early breakfast and then crack open the bubbly around midday alongside some smoked eel and horseradish on rye. I love a vintage champagne with toasty notes, so for a very special occasion I’d splash out on a Bollinger La Grande Année or a Krug Grande Cuvée

My mum and I cook a very traditional Christmas Day lunch. We make roast turkey and a half leg of ham with all the trimmings, including stewed red cabbage, stuffing, roast potatoes, parsnips and carrots. Every year there’s an argument over how many pigs in blanket to prep, but I insist six per person is perfect. I like to make them from scratch and use the best possible sausages and bacon, threading them onto skewers to cook. Most of our vegetables are homegrown, even the sprouts, and we order everything else from Duke’s Hill, which has an excellent selection of meat and cheese. We’ll have cheese after the main course and end with Christmas pudding and another dessert, usually something chocolaty like a boozy and rich torte. 


With the main meal we will have a structured white wine, like a Meursault, that can stand up to everything. Then for the red, we’ll serve a top Rhône Valley like a Châteauneuf-du-Pape or Crozes-Hermitage. We’ll also drink a fortified sweet wine like a Beaumes de Venise with Christmas pudding and mince pies, and Kopke Tawny port with Stilton. After lunch, we’ll open presents and watch the King’s speech before setting up for the Boxing Day party and finishing off any open bottles of champagne. 

Of course, winter is the time for red wine. I love an affordable bottle of Chilean Carménère for every day, and Tabali is a great producer to buy from. Château Angludet is another favourite for more special occasions – 2016 is a good year to choose from. At Christmas, I also like to stock up on Tesco Finest Premier Cru Champagne which is a great fizz to buy in bulk for parties, as well as a full-bodied Portuguese red to make mulled wine, which we end up making several vats of for our carol singing party and the Boxing Day event. 

For a boozy pudding that impresses guests, try my hazelnut chocolate truffle bombs spiked with brandy. They always go down well as they’re incredibly rich, decadent and nutty. To make eight, roast 70g of hazelnuts on an oven tray at 190°C/Gas Mark 5 for 10 minutes or until fragrant. Allow to cool, then rub the hazelnuts between damp hands to get the skins off. Pulse a few times in a blender or roughly chop into small pieces. Then, melt 230g of 70% dark chocolate (I use Lindt), 2.5 tablespoons of brandy and 2.5 tablespoons of liquid glucose together in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Meanwhile, whip 285ml of double cream until it’s thick and gloopy, but not stiff. Stir the chopped hazelnuts into the melted chocolate mixture, and then fold in the cream, half at a time. Pour the mixture into silicon bomb moulds and chill in the fridge for 3 hours until set. Then spread a thin layer of melted chocolate over the surface and sandwich the moulds together. Chill for another 30 minutes before carefully removing from the moulds and serving each bomb with whipped cream, perhaps a few raspberries and a dusting of icing sugar. If you don’t have the moulds for making bombs, simply pour the mixture into ramekins instead.

I usually buy my Christmas booze from Majestic, which has very forward, ready-to-drink wines. Also, Yapp, Tanners, and Hennings are all great for finding real style and wines you can keep, while Waitrose has a great range - it often has special deals, which I set Google alerts for. In winter, I love a glass of an Austrian Grüner Veltliner as it stands up to heavier flavours but is still the cold, crisp glass of white that I often crave. Domane Wachau’s Gruner Veltliner Federspiel is a favourite. 

For a lovely Christmas gift, I would give someone a bottle of Bodega Pablo Fallabrino. I went to a wine tasting earlier this year and tried this Uruguayan sweet wine that tasted like boozy liquid chocolate. I’ve been obsessed with it ever since and have bought a few bottles to gift to friends and family that I know will appreciate it. It’s perfect with decadent chocolate desserts. 


I love making an easy turkey and ham pie with the leftover meat from Christmas Day lunch. It’s the perfect dinner for those hazy, lazy days in between Christmas and New Year. You can put any leftover veg into it too, and even mix leftover gravy into the sauce. For a pie that serves four to six, melt 40g of unsalted butter in a saucepan and then whisk in 40g of plain flour to make a roux. Slowly pour in 350ml of turkey stock and stir until the sauce thickens, before adding 100ml of double cream. Grate in ¼ teaspoon of nutmeg and season with salt and pepper. Place 250g of turkey meat and 250g of ham (cubed) into a pie dish and pour over the white sauce. Top with one roll of ready-made puff pastry and brush with egg wash to get a nice glossy finish. Bake the pie in a preheated oven at 195°C/Gas Mark 5 for 30-40 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown. Serve with a bottle of Malbec or Shiraz, both of which can stand up to the rich pastry and salty ham. 

One of my favourite cocktails is a dry vodka martini with blue cheese stuffed olives. I often joke that my perfect martini is just vodka poured into a jar of olives and shaken over ice. But the blue cheese and olives bring that festive edge and doubles up as a snack. Any more than one, though, and my productivity levels plummet, and no one will be getting dinner! To make it, stuff three green olives with the blue cheese (like Stilton, Roquefort or Gorgonzola) and thread onto a cocktail stick. Shake 60ml of vodka and 1 tablespoon of vermouth over ice in a cocktail shaker, adding a splash of the briny olive water if you like. Strain into a chilled martini glass and garnish with the stuffed olive to serve. 

Sauternes is a great pairing with cheese. I love a bottle of this as the notes of honey and dried apricot work so well with salty flavours. It’s also great with prosciutto if, like me, you add cured meats to your cheeseboard. I’ve been making medlar jelly with some of the fruit from our tree at home, which is the perfect addition, as are lots of crispy crackers. 

New Year’s Eve always calls for bubbly. I do like an English sparkling wine and Rathfinny’s Classic Cuvée is my current favourite. They have a stunning vineyard near the Sussex coast where you can book in for tastings and eat at their excellent restaurant. I also love Patron Tequila’s XO Café, which is the ultimate party drink. My friends and I are still in mourning from it being discontinued, but there are a few places you can still get it, like The Whisky Exchange. Thankfully, we all bought a fair amount of it a couple of years ago and are still working our way through the stock. I’ll normally drink it neat and ice cold or use it to make espresso martinis.   

I prefer ‘picky bits’ for dinner on NYE. I’ll make canapés like blinis with cream cheese and smoked salmon, and Brie and cranberry profiteroles. Plus, my spicy Parmesan biscuits are perfect with champagne. To make them (this recipe makes 20), soften 85g of unsalted butter and mix with 90g of grated parmesan. Mix 105g of plain flour, ¼ teaspoon of baking powder, ½ teaspoon of chili powder, and ½ teaspoon of garlic powder in a separate bowl. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and work it into a dough, adding small amounts of one beaten egg to help it come together. Stop adding egg before it gets too sticky (you will probably only need half an egg). Turn the dough out onto a piece of cling film and use that to form it into a long sausage (around 9 inches). Wrap it and roll it to form an even log. Chill in the freezer for 15 minutes whilst the oven preheats to 175°C/Gas Mark 3. Brush the dough with an egg wash and roll it into 3 tablespoons of sesame or nigella seeds to form a crust, then slice into thin rounds and place on a lined baking tray. Bake the biscuits in the oven for 10-15 minutes until they have risen slightly and turned golden brown. Allow them to harden for 10 minutes before serving. 

Follow @RosannaEtc and find more recipes, and food and wine pairing tips at RosannaEtc.com


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