Christmas dinner should be 50% vegetables says nutritionist
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Cooking the Christmas dinner is a mammoth task; there are so many elements to consider and timing is extremely important. Not everyone is lucky enough to get everything onto the table while it’s still hot. But Jeff Baker, Executive Development Chef at Farmison & Co, has seven foolproof tips on how best to master the Christmas dinner – and he also highlights some of the big mistakes people make.
If anyone is planning on stuffing the bird, Jeff “recommends doing this on the day of roasting”.
“Try not to pack the stuffing into the neck cavity too tight, as this will prevent it from cooking evenly,” he said.
“Simply add the weight of the stuffing to the weight of the bird to make sure you calculate the correct cooking time.”
Jeff also explained a “simple and delicious” way to ensure the bird is moist and flavour is “enhanced”.
He said: “Gently push a generous amount of softened butter under the skin. The butter will add flavour to the meat and baste it at the same time.”
As for roasting the big bird, Jeff “recommendsusing a meat thermometer to make sure the bird is fully cooked”.
He added: “Ensure that you pierce the thickest part of the turkey meat and hold the thermometer for 10 seconds to acquire a true temperature reading – 68°C should be the core temperature.”
Roast potatoes are many people’s favourite element of a roast dinner, but choosing the right potato is key.
Jeff said: “I always recommend King Edwards or Maris Piper potatoes; they’re the best potatoes for the job and, when cooked properly, leave you with gorgeous crispy-edged spuds with fluffy middles.”
He went onto explain how cooking a crispy roast potato can be “really easy to mess up”.
“If you drown them in too much oil, they’ll burn on the outside and be undercooked on the inside. In order to avoid such a disaster, it’s important to fluff up your potatoes before roasting them – my preferred method is steaming.”
For anyone who is a little unsure on how long to cook the potatoes, Jeff suggests “at least 30 minutes at 200 degrees” and it’s advisable to check them every now and them.
To “increase crispiness” Jeff says to shake them.
The expert adds: “If you are still unsure after 40 minutes, take a potato out and give it a try. Not only can you check whether they are ready but you get first dibs on the crispiest roasties.”
Pigs in Blankets
An iocnic Christmas dinner element, the might pig in blanket.
Jeff revealed an important tip: “[Try] not to burn the bacon – no one wants a charred blanket.
“Start by gently heating a heavy-based, non-stick frying pan and begin the cooking process by rendering some base fat – giving a light caramelisation.
“Try not to overcrowd the base of your pan as the sausages need to sit fully flat, with enough room to be turned over.
“If you turn them regularly and cook them evenly over medium heat for around three to four minutes, your sausages should be a light golden colour. You can then pop them into roast for a further six to eight minutes.”
One way to make sure the sausages don’t overcook is to “gently press them with your thumb to check how they spring back – the more buoyancy you get back the more well-done your sausages will be”.
A piping hot gravy is a great way to ensure other elements on the plate remain warm.
But in Jeff’s opinion, “traditional giblet gravy is unbeatable”.
When removing giblets from the turkey, “be sure not the throw them away” as they can create a “delicious, thick gravy”.
Jeff added: “It also means that you aren’t wasting any of the bird either.
“Once you’ve added some stock to your browned giblets, the gravy can be thickened using a little cornflour mixed with some cold water.
“To make the gravy even meatier, you can simply deglaze the roasting tin you used to cook your turkey and scrape up any of the remaining sediment juices to achieve a rich, satisfying flavour.”
Jeff has a recipe for root vegetables with a Christmas twist: “like poaching with a butter emulsion scented with anise.
“Once the vegetables are just tender, remove from the liquid and boil this to a syrup.
“Add the vegetables back to the syrup then simply give the pan a gentle shake until they turn a golden caramel.
“Then, season with sea salt and black pepper. The sweet and salty flavours will work wonders,” he added.
You either love them or hate them but Jeff suggests “dropping sprouts into salted, boiling water for five to six minutes, then drain and slice them into even halves”.
“To make the nut crumb, put breadcrumbs, lemon zest and chopped walnuts into a blender and blitz them. Then, toast them gently until golden brown.
“Once you’ve sautéed your sprouts in salted butter and spooned them into a serving dish, scatter the nut crumb over the sprouts and finish with a few fresh pomegranate seeds.”
Jeff recommends: “You can really elevate your cranberry sauce and give it an edge by simply adding the odd ingredient – such as a splash of rich port, a little spiced ginger, hot chilli flakes, or even some candied orange zest.
“Though you can use frozen cranberries, I’d suggest using fresh ones so as to max out on flavour – these should take around 8-10 minutes to simmer until tender.
“Cranberry sauce thickens naturally as it cools, so be sure to leave your sauce in your fridge for around a week before serving.
“On Christmas day, take it out in the morning to bring to room temperature before serving.”
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