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We wish you a Mary Christmas; Already dreading the Christmas kitchen slog? Foodie fairy godmother Mary Berry shares her festive secrets with JEANANNE CRAIG.

SHE'S the firm but fair baking queen of The Great British Bake Off, but Mary Berry insists her loved ones won't be nervous when they present her with their own home-made offerings this Christmas.

"As a family, we all get together. Usually, I host it, and various members of the family bring a pudding, or they help me on Christmas morning or bring a batch of shortbread - even though I'm a cook, they love to bring their own things to share," she says.

But aren't they worried she'll shoot them that disappointed look if their cooking's not up to scratch? for to "Good friends who I've known for a long time, they're never nervous," insists the judge. "We often go around to friends' places for supper. They often say, 'This is my mother's recipe, you might want to share it with your readers', or whatever. Our friends are very generous."

Mary, who lives in Buckinghamshire with her husband Paul, is well-versed when it comes to avoiding festive hosting headaches.

to " "I think it's a good idea to get organised and know what you're up to," she says. "The first thing is to rally your family and find out where you are for Christmas, and how many there are. Then you can start to buy some of your heavier things like tinned goods, and order your turkey.

"A big sheet of paper of what you plan does help. And then you can do some dishes you can freeze - you may choose to make something you can have after Christmas."

When it comes to turkey, Mary recommends "the best you can afford", and she'll also rustle up different stuffings, mince pies and Christmas pudding - although, she notes: "I nearly always find people nowadays don't choose to have Christmas pudding; they choose the lovely fruit salad with lots of exotic fruits in it, because they're quite full by the end of the meal."

The 79-year-old has plenty of little helpers at Christmas, in the form of her five grandchildren: "They really do help, they're jolly good."

Here are three recipes from Mary Berry's Christmas Collection to help you cook the perfect festive dinner...

Mary Berry's Christmas |Collection, PS20, Headline Copyright (c) 2013 Mary Berry's Absolute |Christmas Favourites, BBC2, Friday, 8.30pm ROAST POTATOES (SERVES 8) IF YOU know you are going to be pushed on Christmas Day, then it is possible to half-roast the potatoes the day before (see Preparing Ahead, below). On Christmas Day the potatoes just need to be re-roasted in a hot oven for about 20 minutes.

oven for about 20 minutes.

INGREDIENTS 1.4kg old potatoes, such as desiree, King Edward or maris piper, peeled Salt 3-4tbsp goose fat METHOD PREHEAT the oven to 220degC/fan 200degC/gas 7. STAGE | 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 five minutes. Drain the potatoes well in a colander, then shake the colander to fluff up the edges of the potatoes. STAGE 2: Heat the goose fat in a large roasting tin in the preheated oven until piping hot. Add the potatoes to the fat, spooning the fat over to coat completely, and shake the tin to prevent sticking. STAGE 3: Continue to roast for about an hour, depending on size, turning the potatoes from time to time until golden and crisp. Sprinkle the roast potatoes with salt just before serving.

| TIP: Goose fat is available |at Christmas time from good supermarkets and makes all the difference to the flavour of roast potatoes. Don't use too much, though, as this will make the potatoes go soggy.

PREPARING AHEAD COMPLETE stage 1 then follow stage 2, but roast the potatoes for only 20-30 minutes or until they are a pale gold. Remove any excess fat from the tin and allow the potatoes to cool. Keep in a cool place overnight.

On Christmas Day re-roast at the same hot temperature for about 30 minutes or until the potatoes are crisp and golden brown. Alternatively you can just parboil and fluff the potatoes ahead.

APRICOT AND CHESTNUT STUFFING (SERVES 6) THIS stuffing is cooked in a separate dish rather than inside the bird, so it becomes very crisp. It is really good with turkey, goose or chicken.

INGREDIENTS 225g ready-to-eat dried apricots 1 large onion, coarsely chopped 225g fresh white breadcrumbs 75g butter plus extra for greasing 225g frozen chestnuts, thawed and roughly chopped A generous bunch of fresh parsley, chopped Salt and freshly ground black pepper METHOD PREHEAT the oven to 190degC/fan 170degC/gas 5. You will need a shallow ovenproof dish, about 20cm x 28cm x 5cm. STAGE | Chop the apricots into small pieces the size of raisins.

STAGE 2: Measure 600ml water into a pan, add the onion and apricot pieces, and boil for five minutes. Drain. STAGE 3: Put breadcrumbs into a large bowl. Melt the measured butter in a nonstick frying pan, and pour half of it on to the breadcrumbs. STAGE 4: Add the chestnuts to the remaining melted butter in the frying pan and brown lightly. Mix together with the apricots, onion, parsley and breadcrumbs. Season well with salt and pepper.

STAGE 5: Turn into a buttered ovenproof dish and bake in the preheated oven for about 30 minutes until crisp.

TIP: Buy frozen chestnuts |as soon as you see them in the supermarkets, as they sell out very quickly. Vacuum-packed ones, which packed ones, which Vare widely available, are a suitable alternative.

PREPARING AHEAD REPARE to the end of stage 4. Cover and keep in the fridge for up to 24 hours before cooking. Cook as above but for a little longer. If preferred, cook the day before and reheat until piping hot on the day. You could also freeze it at the end of stage 4 for about one month.

PR stage 4. Cover and keep in the fridge for up to 24 hours before cooking. Cook as above but for a little longer. If preferred, cook the day before and reheat until piping hot on the day. You could also freeze it at the end of stage 4 for about one month.

TRADI (SERVES 12-15) TRADITIONAL ROAST TURKEY (SERVES 12-15) I USE cooking turkey - it helps to judge when the turkey is done. Cook it to 75 the 90 thermometer gauge. When working out when to put the turkey in the oven, allow at least 30 minutes' resting time.

I USE a meat thermometer when cooking turkey - it helps to judge when the turkey is done. Cook it to 75 deg-80degC rather than the 90degC suggested on the thermometer gauge. When working out when to put the turkey in the oven, allow at least 30 minutes' resting time.

I1 x 6.3kg (14lb) oven-ready turkey about 100g (4oz) butter, softened 1 lemon, thinly sliced (optional) 3 small sprigs of fresh thyme 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 METHOD PREHEAT the oven to 220degC/fan 200degC/gas 7. STEP | 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.

200 STEP 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.

STEP turkey up to the breast with the STEP 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.

STEP 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 75deg-80degC.) Fold the sheets of foil loosely over the turkey, leaving a large air gap between the turkey and the foil.

STEP 4: Cook the turkey in the preheated oven for 40 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 160degC/Fan 140degC/Gas 3, and roast for three and a half hours, basting from time to time.

STEP 5: Increase the oven heat to 220degC/Fan 200degC/Gas 7 again. Take the turkey out of the oven, the turkey out of the oven, 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. STEP 6: Take the turkey out of the turkey out of T 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, and leave to stand for 30 minutes before carving.

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

PREPARING A PARING A P HEAD: PREPARE PARE P up to the end of step three up to 12 hours before. Cover and chill until ready to cook. The stuffings can of course be made up to a month in advance and frozen.

TIP | : Do not put a meat stuffing into the cavity of a bird as this is not safe. Put in only flavouring vegetables and herbs.

turkey ROASTING TIMES IF COOKING a turkey weighing more or less than the master recipe, follow the times given here. The table below shows times for gas and electric ovens. O vens do vary considerably, so if you know that yours is on the hot side or the cool side, adjust the times accordingly.

3.5kg-5kg (8lb-11lb) Starting temp (foil on): 220degC/fan 200degC, gas 7: 30mins Roasting temp (foil on): 160degC/fan 140degC, gas 3: 21/2-3 hrs Browning temp (foil off): 220degC/fan 200degC, gas 7: about 30mins 5.4kg-6.3kg (12lb-14lb) Starting temp (foil on): 220degC/fan 200degC, gas 7: 40mins Roasting temp (foil on): 160degC/fan 140degC, gas 3: 3-31/2 hrs Browning temp (foil off): 220degC/fan 200degC, gas 7: about 30mins 6.75kg-9kg (15lb-20lb) Starting temp (foil on): 220degC/fan 200degC, gas 7: 45mins Roasting temp (foil on): 160degC/fan 140degC, gas 3: 31/2-41/2 hrs Browning temp (foil off): 220degC/fan 200degC, gas 7: about 30mins

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Mary |Berry with her turkey
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Birmingham Mail (England)
Article Type:Recipe
Date:Dec 13, 2014
Words:1944
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