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Mary Berry's Christmas; Fabulous recipes and tips for a hassle-free festive season.

Step by step to keep it simple

Being organised saves stress

Christmas to me is a time for celebration, for family, for laughter and good food. But even if you've cooked Christmas lunch many times, it is always a challenge. It really is one meal where it is well worth doing as much preparation and cooking as you can in advance so you have as little to do as possible at the last minute.

Follow my Countdown to Christmas for a stress-free lunch to remember.

It includes everything you need to make my traditional turkey dinner.

Happy cooking, a merry Christmas, and a happy New Year!

Countdown to Christmas

A WEEK BEFORE Shop for store cupboard ingredients and booze. It is always worth having extra eggs, olive and sunflower oil, lemons etc.

Make the brandy butter, spoon into a serving dish, cover and keep in the fridge.

ON DECEMBER 23

For a stress-free Christmas morning, the following can be prepared ahead.

The lemon and thyme stuffing.

Make the giblet stock, cool and strain.

Prepare the gravadlax and mustard dill sauce.

Prepare the sausages wrapped in bacon.

Braise the red cabbage.

Make the scarlet confit.

Prepare the apricot and chestnut stuffing today, cook on the 24th and reheat on Christmas Day.

Peel the potatoes and keep in water.

CHRISTMAS EVE

Take the gravadlax out of the curing juices.

Wrap and freeze half of it for another time and wrap the other half and keep in the fridge ready for slicing.

I always parboil and half roast the potatoes and parsnips the day before so that they simply need a quick blast in the oven to re-roast on Christmas Day.

Brussels sprouts can be trimmed of their outer discoloured leaves and kept in a polythene bag in the fridge.

Cook the apricot and chestnut stuffing, cool and keep in the fridge ready to reheat.

Take butter for the turkey out of the fridge to soften.

Stuff the turkey and calculate the cooking time.

Make the gravy with the giblet stock, making it slightly thicker than you want it as you will be adding skimmed roasting juices from the cooked turkey on Christmas Day.

Lay the table and sort out serving dishes and plates.

Chill white wine and Champagne (if you are spoiling everyone).

CHRISTMAS DAY (TO SERVE AT 2PM)

The timings I have given for Christmas lunch are based on a 6.3kg (14lb) turkey using an ordinary domestic double oven.

7.40am Take turkey out of fridge to bring it up to room temperature before cooking. Arrange your oven shelves so that the turkey will fit in.

8.10am Preheat the oven to 220degC/Fan 200oC/Gas 7 and cover the turkey in foil.

8.40am Put turkey into the oven for 40 minutes at the high temperature.

9.20am Reduce oven temperature to 160degC/Fan 140oC/Gas 3 and cook turkey for a further 31/2 hours, basting now and again.

10am Arrange smoked salmon or gravadlax on plates for the first course. Butter brown bread. Cover the plates with clingfilm and keep in the fridge.

12.30pm Re-steam Christmas pudding to reheat. Warm plates and serving dishes if you have a hot plate. If using a second oven, heat in a low oven later.

1pm Check to see if the turkey is nearly cooked - turn back foil and turn heat up to 220degC/Fan 200oC/Gas 7 for last 30 minutes to crisp skin. Put sausages wrapped in bacon into the second oven, at 190degC/Fan 170oC/Gas 5 for 45 minutes until cooked and crisp.

1.20pm Take turkey out of oven. Test to make sure it is cooked. Leave to relax, loosely covered in foil and a thick towel for about 30 minutes before carving. Re-roast potatoes (half roasted) in oven at 220degC/Fan 200oC/Gas 7. Reheat apricot stuffing in the second oven for 30 minutes. Reheat red cabbage on hob in a large pan, or microwave for a few minutes, spoon into a serving dish and keep warm. Arrange first courses on the table.

1.40pm Re-roast parsnips (half roasted) by putting into the same hot oven with the potatoes. Reheat gravy, adding skimmed roasting juices from the cooked turkey. Check seasoning. Gently reheat scarlet confit in a pan on the hob, spoon into a serving dish and keep warm. Heat serving dishes and plates (if you didn't do so before).

1.50pm Cook sprouts, drain and put in serving dish. Carve the turkey. Add a little milk and reheat the bread sauce gently in a small pan on the hob. Reheat tomato sauce to go with the aubergine five-nut roast (if catering for vegetarians) in a medium pan on the hob. Remove everything from the ovens and put into warm serving dishes.

2pm Serve lunch.

Gravadlax

Serves 16

Gravadlax is a classic Scandinavian recipe for pickled fresh salmon. It is not difficult to prepare and is a really special first course. Ask your fishmonger to bone a whole salmon for you, leaving you with two large fillets with the skin on.

INGREDIENTS

1 x 1.8kg (4lb) whole fresh salmon, filleted to give you two sides

Fresh sprigs of dill, lemon wedges and rye bread to serve

PICKLING INGREDIENTS

4 tablespoons dried dill Masses of freshly ground black pepper

4 tablespoons caster sugar

2 tablespoons coarse sea salt

MUSTARD DILL SAUCE

3 tablespoons Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons caster sugar

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

1 egg yolk

150ml (1/4 pint) sunflower oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill or 1 tablespoon dried

1 Lay the salmon fillets alongside each other, skin-side down, on a board. Sprinkle each fillet evenly with the dried dill, then masses of freshly ground black pepper, then the sugar and salt, pressing each ingredient in well using the palm of your hand.

2 Sandwich the fillets together, skin-side out, to re-form the fish, and wrap in a double layer of foil. Put this into a large polythene bag and seal. Check that the salmon fillets are still on top of one another then lay in a large dish, put another large dish on top and stack kitchen weights, or heavy cans, on top of that. Keep the dish in the fridge for 24 hours to allow the salmon to marinate, turning it after 12 hours (I usually start to marinate the salmon in the evening and then it is ready to be turned in the morning.)

3 To make the sauce, whisk together the mustard, sugar, vinegar and egg yolk, then gradually whisk in the oil. The sauce should have the consistency of mayonnaise. Add salt and pepper to taste and stir in the dill.

4 After 24 hours unwrap the gravadlax. A lot of salty, sticky liquid will have leaked out - this is quite normal. Remove the fish from the pickling liquid, which can now be discarded. Separate the fillets.

5 To serve, slice each fillet at an angle of about 45 degrees, cutting the flesh away from the skin. The slices should be slightly thicker than for smoked salmon, and each slice should be edged with dill.

Mary says

Cool and put and leftover turkey into the fridge as soon as possible

Christmas lunch shopping list

Here''s a handy list of everything you will need for my suggested roast turkey Christmas lunch.

STORECUPBOARD STAPLES

Flour (plain and self-raising)

Sugar (caster, granulated and light muscovado)

Salt (cooking and sea salt)

Pepper, black

Oil (olive and sunflower)

Mustard, Dijon Spices (allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves)

Herbs (dried dill, bay leaves)

Vinegar (white wine, cider)

Sun-dried tomato paste

Worcestershire sauce

Apricot jam/strawberry jam/redcurrant jelly

Almond extract Glycerine Dried dates

STORECUPBOARD INGREDIENTS TO BUY IN

2 x 500g cartons tomato passata

225g (8oz) dried apricots

1 x 400g (14oz) canned pears in natural juice 1 packet trifle sponges, containing 8 sponges

About 10 ratafia biscuits

350g (12oz) frozen chestnuts

25g (1oz) flaked almonds

175g (6oz) mixed nuts

50g (2oz) pistachio nuts

225g (8oz) ground almonds

Truffles or chocolates to serve with coffee

MEAT

6.3kg (14lb) fresh oven-ready turkey, plus giblets

675g (11/2lb) pork sausage meat

6 slices good streaky bacon

18 cocktail sausages

FISH

1.8kg (4lb) whole fresh salmon, for gravadlax, filleted to give two sides of salmon, or 500g (1lb 2oz) slices smoked salmon

BAKERY

2 large white tin loaves for breadcrumbs

Brown bread to serve with smoked salmon or gravadlax

DAIRY

10 large eggs

750g (1lb 10oz) butter

100g (4oz) unsalted butter

Jar of goose fat

1 x 200ml (7 fl oz) carton

Full-fat creme fraiche

450ml (3/4 pint) milk

450ml (3/4 pint) double cream

600ml (1 pint) good-quality fresh vanilla custard

100g (4oz) mature cheddar cheese

FRUIT AND VEGETABLES

A bunch of fresh dill

Fresh thyme sprigs

2 generous bunches of fresh parsley

6 lemons

7 onions

3 celery sticks

1 large carrot

1 bulb garlic

900g (2lb) parsnips

900g (2lb) Brussels sprouts

1 large red cabbage, about 1kg (21/4lb)

1.4kg (3lb) potatoes, such as Desiree, King Edward or

Maris Piper

450g (1lb) cooking apples

1.8kg (4lb) celeriac

450g (1lb) fresh or frozen cranberries

1 orange

ALCOHOL

Red and white wines

Brandy or Cognac

Medium dry sherry

Champagne

Non-alchoholic drinks

Buttered Brussels sprouts

Serves 8

INGREDIENTS

900g (2lb) Brussels sprouts

About 25g (1oz) butter

Salt and freshly ground black pepper the sprouts, removing the outer leaves.

1 Prepare Trim the base and cut a cross in the base of each sprout if you wish.

2 Cook in boiling salted water for 5-6 minutes, depending on size, until just cooked - don't overcook them!

3 Drain, toss in the butter, season and serve immediately.

VARIATIONS

Once boiled, stir-fry the sprouts with lardons of bacon until the bacon is crisp.

Toss the sprouts in butter with chopped herbs such as chives and parsley.

Serve boiled sprouts with grated orange zest.

INGREDIENTS

1 large red cabbage, about 1kg (21/4lb), finely shredded

450g (1lb) cooking apples, peeled and roughly chopped

40g (11/2oz) caster sugar

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

50g (2oz) butter

2 tablespoons redcurrant jelly

Preheat the oven to 150oC/Fan 130oC/Gas 2.

1 Layer the cabbage and apples in a large pan or casserole and add the sugar, seasoning, vinegar and dots of butter. Gently stir to mix.

2 Cook in the preheated oven for 2-21/2 hours or until the cabbage is tender.

3 Stir in the redcurrant jelly and adjust the seasoning to taste.

Traditional roast turkey

Serves 12 - 15

INGREDIENTS

1 x 6.3kg (14lb) oven-ready turkey about 100g (4oz) butter, softened

1 lemon, thinly sliced (optional)

3 small sprigs of fresh thyme (optional)

1 onion, cut into wedges

Preheat the oven to 220oC/Fan 200oC/Gas 7

1 Loosen the skin over the breast of the turkey by slipping your fingers between the flesh and skin at the neck end, leaving the skin attached at the cavity end. Spread softened butter over the top of the breast under the skin, holding the skin up. Slip the lemon slices and thyme sprigs in under the skin. The latter is a nice addition, but if time is short forget this variation.

2 Stuff the neck end of the turkey up to the breast with the stuffing. Secure the loose skin with fine skewers, or just tuck the skin underneath. Fill the body cavity with any lemon trimmings, herbs and large pieces of onion. Tie the legs with string to give a neat shape. Lightly butter the skin of the bird.

3 Calculate the cooking time. Arrange two sheets of foil across a large roasting tin. They must be large enough to go generously up and over the turkey breast. Place the turkey on top and, if using a meat thermometer, insert it into the thickest part of the thigh (when cooked it will register 75oC-80oC). Fold the sheets of foil loosely over the turkey, leaving a large air gap between the turkey and the foil.

4 Cook the turkey in the preheated oven for 40 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 160oC/Fan 140oC/Gas 3, and continue to roast for 31/2 hours, basting from time to time.

5 Increase the oven heat to 220oC/Fan 200oC/Gas 7 again. Take the turkey out of the oven, turn back the foil and drain off any surplus juices from the tin into a jug or bowl. Leave the fat to rise to the top in a cold place. When the liquid is cold, take off the fat with a spoon and save the juices for the gravy. Baste the bird, and return it to the hot oven for about 30 minutes for the skin to brown and become crisp.

6 Take the turkey out of the oven and check if cooked. If not using a thermometer, pierce the thickest part of the thigh with a small sharp knife. If the juices are clear, then the turkey is done. If they are still tinged with pink, then roast for a little longer. If the juices are clear cover the bird again with the foil, leave to stand for 30 minutes then carve.

7 Serve with sausages wrapped in bacon, giblet gravy, bread sauce, scarlet confit and apricot and chestnut stuffing.

Christmas turkey gravy

Serves 8

INGREDIENTS

25g (1oz) plain flour

600ml (1 pint) giblet stock

150ml (1/2 pint) port

2 tablespoons redcurrant jelly

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 Pour off the turkey juices into a bowl or jug. Spoon off 2 tablespoons of the turkey fat (which will be floating at the top) into the same unwashed roasting tin. Spoon off the remaining fat from the juices and discard.

2 Put the tin over a medium heat and add the flour. Cook for about 1 minute, stirring well to scrape any sediment from the tin. Gradually pour in the stock and port, and whisk well. Add the redcurrant jelly, bring to the boil, then simmer for 2-3 minutes.

3 Add the skimmed juices from the roast turkey and adjust the seasoning. Strain into a warmed gravy boat to serve.

My version of cranberry sauce - perfect with roast turkey

INGREDIENTS

450g (1lb) fresh or frozen cranberries

225g (8oz) granulated sugar

Finely grated zest and juice of 1 orange

50ml (2 fl oz) port

50ml (2 fl oz) cider vinegar

Large pinch of ground allspice

Large pinch of ground cinnamon

1 Measure all the ingredients into a shallow saucepan. Bring to the boil and simmer gently for 10-15 minutes, stirring from time to time. Don't worry if it looks a bit runny as it thickens when it cools. Serve warm with the turkey or cold the next day with the leftovers.

Apricot & chestnut stuffing

This stuffing is cooked in a separate dish rather than inside the bird, so it becomes very crisp.

INGREDIENTS

225g (8oz) dried apricots

1 large onion, coarsely chopped

225g (8oz) fresh white breadcrumbs

75g (3oz) butter, plus a bit extra

225g (8oz) frozen chestnuts, thawed and roughly chopped

Large bunch of chopped parsley

Salt and ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 190oC/Fan 170oC/Gas 5. You will need a shallow ovenproof dish, about 20 x 28 x 5cm (8 x 11 x 2 in).

1 Chop the apricots into small pieces the size of raisins. Measure 600ml (1 pint) of water into a pan, add the onion and apricot pieces and boil for 5 minutes. Drain well.

2 Put the breadcrumbs into a large bowl. Melt the butter and pour half of it over rye crumbs and mix in.

3 Add the chestnuts to the remaining melted butter in a frying pan and brown lightly. Mix together with the apricots, onion, parsley and breadcrumbs. Season.

4 Turn into a buttered ovenproof dish and bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes until crisp My traditional Turkey Christmas lunch Serves 8 Roast potatoes

My traditional Turkey Christmas lunch

Roast potatoes

Serves 8

INGREDIENTS

1.4kg (3lb) of potatoes such as Desiree, King Edward, Maris Piper

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

3-4 tablespoons goose fat

Preheat the oven to 220oC/Fan 200oC/Gas 7

1 Peel then cut the potatoes into even-sized pieces and put into a large pan. Cover with cold water, add a little salt and bring to the boil. Parboil for about 5 minutes. Drain the potatoes well using a colander, then shake the colander to fluff up the edges of the potatoes.

2 Heat the goose fat in a large roasting tin in the preheated oven for about 5 minutes until piping hot. Add the potatoes to the fat, spooning the fat over the potatoes to coat completely, and shake the tin to prevent sticking. Continue to roast for about an hour, depending on size, turning the potatoes from time to time, until golden and crisp.

3 Sprinkle the roast potatoes with salt just before serving.

Roast parsnips

Serves 8

INGREDIENTS

900g (2lb) parsnips, peeled

Salt and freshly-ground black pepper

About 2 tablespoons of goose fat

Preheat the oven to 220oC/ Fan200oC/Gas7

1 Cut the parsnips into chunky lengths. Add to a pan of boiling salted water and cook for about 3 minutes. Drain well.

2Heat the goose fat in a large roasting tin in the preheated oven. When sizzling hot, add the parsnips, spoon over the fat to evenly coat and roast until golden - 20-25 minutes, depending on size. Turn the parsnips over in the fat and roast for a further 15-20 minutes until a deep gold.

3 Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper to serve.

Mary says

If oven space is short, half-roast the parsnips and potatoes the day before

Mary says

Don't thaw the turkey in the fridge or in water. Thaw it in a garage or cool place

lunch

INGREDIENTS

6 long slices of dry-cured streaky bacon 18 cocktail sausages

Preheat the oven to 190oC/Fan 170oC/Gas 5

1 Stretch each bacon rasher with the back of a knife and cut each rasher into three.

2 Wrap a piece of bacon tightly round each sausage and put on to a baking tray ready for cooking.

3 Cook in the preheated oven for about 45 minutes or until cooked and crisp. Serve hot with the roast turkey.

Mary says

Lumpy gravy? Simply sieve or you could use a hand-held blender to destroy the lumps. If your gravy is too thin, add a teaspoon of cornflour mixed with a little cold water or stock, then bring back to the boil to thicken.

If your gravy is too thin, add a teaspoon of cornflour mixed with a little cold water or stock, then bring back to the boil to thicken.

An easy Yule log, with a delicious filling and icing. The apricot jam helps the icing stick to the cake and is yummy too.

CHOCOLATE SPONGE

4 large eggs

100g (4oz) caster sugar

65g (21/2oz) self-raising flour

40g (11/2oz) cocoa powder

CHOCOLATE ICING AND TOPPING

2 x 200g (7oz) bars Bournville chocolate, in small pieces

600ml (1 pint) double cream

4 tablespoons apricot jam Icing sugar for dusting

Preheat the oven to 200oC/Fan 180oC/Gas 6. Lightly grease a 33 x 23cm (13 x 9in) Swiss roll tin, and line with non-stick paper or baking parchment, pushing it into the corners.

1 For the sponge, whisk the eggs and sugar using an electric hand whisk in a large bowl until the mixture is pale in colour, light and frothy. Sift the flour and cocoa powder into the bowl and carefully cut and fold together, using a metal spoon, until all the cocoa and flour is incorporated into the egg mixture - be careful not to beat any of the air out of the mixture.

2 Pour into the lined tin and spread evenly out into the corners. Bake in the middle of the preheated oven for 8-10 minutes until pale golden and the sides are shrinking away from the edge.

3 Place a piece of baking parchment bigger than the Swiss roll on the work surface. Invert the cake on to the paper and remove the bottom lining piece of paper.

4 Trim the edges of the cake with a sharp knife and make a score mark 2.5cm (1in) along the longer edge. Roll up (from the longer edge) using the paper, rolling with the paper inside. Set aside to cool.

5 While the cake is cooling, make the icing. Melt the chocolate and 450ml (16 fl oz) of the cream in a bowl over a pan of simmering water until completely melted (be careful not to overheat - the bowl must not touch the water). Put into the fridge to cool and firm up (this icing needs to be very thick for piping). Whip the remaining cream.

6 Uncurl the cold Swiss roll and remove the paper. Spread a third of the icing over the surface, spread the whipped cream on top and re-roll tightly. Cut a quarter of the cake off from one end on the diagonal. Transfer the large piece of cake to a serving plate and angle the cut end to the side of the large cake to make a branch. Cover the surface of the cake with the melted apricot jam.

7 Put the remaining chocolate icing into a piping bag fitted with a star nozzle. Pipe long thick lines along the cake, covering it completely so it looks like the bark of a tree. Cover each end with icing or, if you wish to see the cream, leave un-iced.

8 Dust with icing sugar and garnish with fresh holly to serve.

Irresistible Christmas Desserts

Desserts are an essential part of festive eating, so go for it and indulge yourself. Christmas comes but once a year! And, of course, you just have to finish off with some delicious mince pies

Mince pies

These are traditional mince pies with a pastry top and bottom, but I have used a star cutter for the top - so much more festive and slightly less pastry too! If you are feeling very creative, you could also cut out holly or Christmas tree shapes and use these to top the mince pies.

INGREDIENTS

About 350g (12oz) mincemeat

1 egg, beaten, to glaze Icing or caster sugar for dusting

PASTRY

175g (6oz) plain flour

75g (3oz) butter, cut into cubes

25g (1oz) icing sugar

Finely grated rind of 1 orange

1 egg, beaten

1 To make the pastry, measure the flour, butter, icing sugar and grated orange rind into a food processor and process until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Pour in the beaten egg and pulse the blade until the dough starts to form a ball. Knead lightly by hand on a floured board.

Preheat the oven to 200oC/Fan 180oC/Gas 6.

2 Roll the pastry out thinly on a lightly floured surface and cut out 18 rounds using a 7.5cm (3in) fluted cutter. Use these to line 18 holes of two 12-hole bun tins. Spoon a generously heaped teaspoon of mincemeat into each pastry case.

3 Re-roll the pastry trimmings and cut out 18 stars using a 4.5 -5cm (1.5-2in) star cutter. Put a star on top of the mincemeat, and brush the pastry with a little beaten egg.

4 Bake in the preheated oven for 12-15 minutes or until golden and crisp. Allow to cool slightly and dust with icing sugar or caster sugar before serving.

Glazed apple gammon Serves 20 at least

Ham is always a top Boxing Day favourite, whether served hot or cold. When you cook a ham at Christmas time, use the skin placed over the turkey breast as an excellent way to keep the breast moist while roasting. Gammon is a raw cured bacon leg cut, and it is called ham when it is cooked. For a change we have cooked this one in apple juice which complements the meat perfectly (use the sort you buy in cartons).

INGREDIENTS

4kg (9lb) half gammon, unsmoked

2 litres (31/2 pints) apple juice

2 generous tablespoons redcurrant jelly

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 Place the gammon in a large pan just big enough to hold it, and cover with the apple juice. Bring to the boil over a high heat. Turn the heat down to simmer, cover and cook very gently for about 4 hours (55 minutes per kg, 25 minutes per lb) until tender. I advise using a meat thermometer (the thermometer should read 75degC when done), but put it in at the end as it must not be submerged in liquid. To test for doneness without a thermometer, pierce the gammon with a skewer - it should feel tender as the skewer goes into the meat.

2 Allow the meat to cool in the liquid. Remove from the pan and place on a piece of foil in a small roasting tin. Gently remove the skin, leaving the fat on top. Melt the redcurrant jelly, stir in the mustard and spread evenly over the fat of the ham. Score the glaze diagonally with a sharp knife, cutting through the fat. Wrap the lean meat in foil.

3 Glaze and brown under the grill or glaze in a preheated oven at 220degC/Fan 200degC/Gas 7 until golden brown and crisp - about 15 minutes.

4 If serving cold, chill in the fridge for 12 hours or so before carving.

PREPARING AHEAD

The gammon can be made up to 6 days ahead and kept in the fridge.

Mary says

Check with your butcher when you buy your gammon whether or not it needs to be soaked before cooking to remove the saltiness.

Supermarket gammon usually does not need soaking as the cure is milder.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Dec 13, 2015
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