IN THE FREEZER
It’s always a good feeling to have started Christmas preparations early. The following dishes can be frozen up to three weeks ahead for Christmas lunch: Apricot and chestnut stuffing Sausages wrapped in bacon
MORE THAN A WEEK BEFORE
Shop for storecupboard ingredients and booze. It’s always worth having extra eggs, olive and sunflower oil, lemons etc.
Reorganise the fridge so that you have room for all the perishable foods. Make more space by taking out anything that will be fine kept at a cool temperature, such as vegetables, and keep these in a cool place such as the garage.
Do last-minute perishable shopping.
To get ahead and to make sure that you feel fully in control on Christmas Day, the following dishes can be made, cooled where appropriate and kept in the fridge, if not already prepared and frozen: Prepare the lemon and thyme stuffing Prepare the sausages in bacon if not frozen ahead If not already frozen (see recipe), make the apricot and chestnut stuffing today, cook on Christmas Eve and reheat on Christmas Day Peel the potatoes and keep in water Take butter out of the fridge to soften for the turkey.
Take frozen foods out of the freezer and leave in a cool place overnight to thaw, or meat or fish dishes to thaw in the fridge.
Parboil and half roast potatoes and parsnips the day before so they simply need a quick re-roast on Christmas Day. Don’t use too much fat or the potatoes may become soggy. Drain any excess once half roasted.
Brussels sprouts can be trimmed of their outer discoloured leaves and kept in a polythene bag in the fridge – they shouldn’t be kept in water.
Cook the apricot and chestnut stuffing, cool and keep in the fridge ready to reheat.
Stuff the turkey and calculate the cooking time.
Make the gravy slightly thicker than you want it as you’ll be adding the skimmed roasting juices from the cooled turkey on Christmas Day. Prepare tableware and lay the table. Chill white wine and champagne
if you’re spoiling everyone!
To serve at 2pm The timings I’ve 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 allow it to come to room temperature before cooking. Arrange oven shelves to make sure that the turkey will fit. Stuff turkey if not already done.
8.10am Preheat the oven to 220˚C/fan 200˚C/gas 7 and cover the turkey in foil.
8.40 Put the turkey into oven for 40min at this high temperature.
9.20am Reduce oven temperature to 160˚C/fan 140˚C/gas 3 and cook turkey for a further 3½ hours, basting now and again.
12.50pm Check to see if the turkey is nearly cooked – turn back foil and turn heat up to 220˚C/fan 200˚C/gas 7 for the last 30min to crisp skin. Put sausages wrapped in bacon into the second oven at 190˚C/fan 170˚C/gas 5 for
45min until cooked and crisp.
1.20pm Take turkey out of oven. Test to make sure it’s cooked (see tips below). Leave to relax, loosely covered in foil and a thick towel for about 30min before carving. Re-roast the half-roasted potatoes in oven at 220˚C/fan 200˚C/ gas 7. Reheat the apricot stuffing for 30min in the second oven, preheated to 190˚C/fan 170˚C/gas 5.
1.40pm Finish the half-roasted parsnips by putting into hot oven. Reheat gravy, adding skimmed roasting juices from the cooked turkey. Check seasoning. Heat serving dishes and plates.
1.50pm Cook sprouts, drain and put in a serving dish. Carve the turkey. Remove everything from the ovens and put into warm serving dishes
2pm Serve lunch!