Guest Brixton food blogger, Lucy Ferguson, hosted a Christmas dinner for twelve in South London a few weeks ago – she gives us her tips for a (sort of) successful Christmas Day meal
X Factor has finished and River Cottage Christmas Special is on Television. It’s that time that our thoughts turn to why on earth we offered to cook Christmas dinner and how on earth to tackle it.
If any of you have seen my blog TV Dinners, you’ll know I’m an unconfident and indeed sometimes talentless cook. But recently I hosted a traditional Christmas dinner for twelve with all the trimmings – everyone ate too much, no-one died and nothing went wrong (well except for the bread sauce, but who cares about bread sauce?) If I can do it, I absolutely promise you anyone can. So here’s my hints, tips, cheats and workarounds for the big day.
1) Seek Help
Firstly – don’t worry about asking for help! Get everyone to muck in and bring a starter, or some cheese, or a whole pudding – or if that’s not feasible, then get people peeling, chopping and dishing up the mulled wine.
Everyone who came for dinner brought a component of the meal.
So as I had absolutely nothing to do with the starter I can tell you it was utterly lovely, boozy and light. We had beetroot, wrapped in smoked salmon, with a vodka horseradish crème fraîche.
2) Get merry
As well as a bit of alcohol in every course, it’s good to distract everyone with a variety of drinks. Bubbly, port, whatever. I managed to find this awesome punch bowl from a Tooting charity shop for a tenner the day before (I was actually on a hunt for additional knives and forks, which I forgot to buy, but you can see why). I’m not sure the image really shows just how big and insane this glassware is, it’s basically an elaborate bucket with twelve mugs attached. I filled it with mulled wine and put someone in charge of keeping everyone topped up
3) Do it early
The day before Christmas dinner (which will of course be Christmas Eve, if you’re being traditional) I poured over my trusty, battered, second hand copy of Delia Smith’s Christmas and got to work on making the bread sauce and the cranberry sauce. Delia’s homemade cranberry sauce is wonderful, it’s tart and rich with port and orange juice, it makes the whole house smell of Christmas and takes no time at all. Don’t know what all the Christmas fuss is about – oh, hold on…
…I have to admit I ruined the bread pudding. I think I used too much nutmeg and soaked the milk with the onion for too long – either way it was way too bitter, with a horrible aftertaste. So perhaps don’t use Delia’s recipe for this.
4) Get lots of rest
Not you, the turkey…
I ordered a 14lb turkey from my local butcher and got him to advise me on the cooking. He advised putting it into a oven bag to keep it moist and cooking for two and a half hours and resting for as long as possible. This is great advice, the longer you can rest the better – for one if you’re anything like me a 14lb turkey will take up a sizeable amount of the oven. I would never have thought it, but get it cooked and out of the oven TWO HOURS before you want to serve it! Sounds made I know, but I wrapped it in foil and wrapped it in a load of towels and it stayed hot for when we went to carve.
Incidentally, I don’t think there are many times I have more looked more stupid than when I tried to put an extremely heavy, extremely slippery with butter, 14lb turkey into a tightly fitting plastic bag. I tried dropping the turkey in, pulling the bag over the top, inching it over, like when you put a sleeping bag in its bag. It took forever and this gigantic bird kept slipping all over the place.
Once in the bag (don’t forget to pierce the bag, I did at first, it looked worryingly like it was going to explode) I followed Jamie’s advice and whacked the oven on full to heat up. Once the bird goes in, turn it down to 180.
As the turkey is resting, you can parboil any vegetables, then get them all in the oven to roast with stuffing, sausages wrapped in bacon, and if you’re that way inclined Yorkshire puddings, and serve it up to your guests. Hurrah!
What you eat after turkey is served is entirely up to you, but here’s what our group ate – unless you’re particularly keen on Man V Food style challenges, you may not want to copy…
For pudding we had a superb (I can again call it this, I didn’t cook it) Bread and Butter Panettone Pudding with lots of rum. Then Quality Street. Then chocolate brownies. Then meringue nests with brandy cream and raspberries. Someone was then caught dipping gingerbread men into the brandy cream (which certainly wasn’t me…) and everyone around the table had to try this, just to realise how terribly wrong that was. Then cheese and biscuits. Disgraceful. Expect January’s post to be about healthy food. Merry Christmas!
What are you having for Christmas dinner this year? Are you cooking or getting away from it all? Do you have a better bread sauce recipe? Let us know!