Top chef tips for making Christmas lunch extra special

Want to make a Christmas Day lunch like a chef? Well here s the inside knowledge from two top chefs. Alberto Franceschetti, chef at The Cock at Hemingford Grey. IF you are cooking turkey, it s better to use fresh, but if buying frozen remember that it

Want to make a Christmas Day lunch like a chef? Well here's the inside knowledge from two top chefs.

Alberto Franceschetti, chef at The Cock at Hemingford Grey.

"IF you are cooking turkey, it's better to use fresh, but if buying frozen remember that it takes four to five days to defrost. To make a frozen turkey taste as good as a fresh one, you need to hang it.

A turkey weighing 14lb will be enough for six to eight people.


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Also, I would suggest that you brine the turkey. Heat 10 cups of water with one-and-a-half cups of coarse salt, three cups caster sugar, two chopped white onions, a peeled and chopped carrot, chopped celery, two dried bay leaves, half a bunch of fresh thyme, half a bunch of fresh parsley and a good pinch of black peppercorn.

Let the water come to the boil and once all the salt and sugar has dissolved, chill the brine until completely cold, then add the turkey, breast first, placing a plate to keep it submerged for 24 hours. Remove, pat dry and cook to your recipe.

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Create a shopping list and buy all non-perishable goods well in advance. Buy fresh bread and vegetables as close to Christmas day as possible. Do all your vegetable preparation the day before. That is: peel, cut and blanch in hot water and shock in cold water to maintain a nice colour, add vegetable oil and place in refrigerator ready to be roasted.

Most stuffing recipes call for stale bread, so it's a good idea to dice your bread a day or so ahead and lay it out in a single layer to allow it to dry out.

I would make the cranberry sauce a few days in advance and leave to rest in the refrigerator to develop its flavours."

Daniel Walker, head chef at The Three Horseshoes Abbots Ripton

"INSTEAD of using turkey breasts or whole turkeys, get your butcher to bone out the turkey legs so they can be stuffed. This is a cheaper alternative and mostly you find that the dark meat has more flavour anyway. Stuff the legs with sausage meat, oregano and apricot. It makes things more interesting and may even get the kids eating dark meat.

To avoid being too bloated at Christmas and sick of meat by the time your main course comes. Make the starter is a salad of some fashion, for example, crayfish, chicory and orange. Salads cleanse the palate and will leave you looking forward to your main course.

To avoid dry turkey, baste it regularly or every hour. The timing for a bird is generally 15 minutes per pound plus 15 mins. The turkey is cooked when the juices from it run clear, you can check this by sticking a knife in it, but you must make sure you stick it in the fleshiest part, right down to the bone."

Sausage oregano and apricot stuffing (serves 10)

Ingredients:

one pound sausage meat

one large onion diced

two cloves garlic pureed

100g diced apricot (can be dried)

Finely chopped oregano

Finely Chopped Sage

Seasoning

one egg yolk

50g breadcrumbs

Method:

This recipe is extremely easy. It's all about preparation of ingredients really. Once you have them prepared, mix them all together in a bowl and bind the mixture with the egg and breadcrumbs. If the mixture is too wet, add more breadcrumbs, if too dry, add more egg. It couldn't be simpler.

When the mixture is done, form the stuffing into balls or stuff inside an orifice of any Christmas poultry you have selected.

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