Serving up the ultimate roast on December 25 can be a bit of a slog.
Getting the turkey, potatoes, gravy, stuffing, Brussels sprouts and all the other essentials to the table on time often feels like a logistical nightmare. But don’t despair, it is possible to enjoy cooking on Christmas Day without turning to the sherry early - it just takes organisation.
Many of the recipes we’ve picked out for you can be prepared before the big day rolls around. So if the prospect of catering for the extended family is already setting your pulse racing, take a deep breath and have a read. You’ll soon see that a little preparation can guarantee a successful, stress-free Christmas dinner.
CRISPY BACON-BASTED TURKEY
5kg-6kg oven-ready turkey (neck and giblets removed)
2 thyme sprigs
1 onion, halved
1 lemon, halved
2 bay leaves
1 garlic bulb, halved
For the salt mix:
85g flaky sea salt
2tbsp fresh thyme leaves
1tsp crushed black pepper
For the crispy bacon butter:
6 rashers smoked streaky bacon or pancetta, chopped into small pieces
140g butter, softened
1tbsp maple syrup
If you have time the day before, salt the turkey.
Make the salt mix by grinding the salt with the thyme leaves and pepper in a spice grinder, or with a pestle and mortar.
Sit the turkey in a roasting tin and season all over, inside and out, using about two-thirds of the salt.
Leave the turkey in the tin, breast-side up, cover with cling film and put in the fridge for up to 24 hours.
If you don’t have time, or there is no room in the fridge, simply prepare the salt and season the turkey generously before roasting.
To make the bacon butter, gently cook the bacon in a dry frying pan for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the fat has seeped into the pan and is sizzling gently, and the bacon is crisp.
Take off the heat and leave to cool slightly.
Scrape the bacon and the fat into a food processor with the butter and maple syrup.
Blitz to combine, scraping down the sides of the processor from time to time.
Roll up the butter in cling film to form a log and place in the fridge. (Can be made a few days ahead or frozen for one month.)
Remove the turkey from the fridge an hour or so before you want to cook it.
Remove the bacon butter from the fridge to soften up.
Heat oven to 180C/160C fan/Gas mark 4. Calculate your cooking time based on 40 minutes per kg for the first four kg of the turkey, plus 45 minutes for every kg after that.
Gently push your fingers under the skin of the turkey, starting from the neck, until you can push your whole hand in and down the length of the breast.
Take care not to tear the skin. Use your hands to spread the bacon butter under the skin so that it covers the entire breast area, and there is butter in the crevice between the thigh and the main body.
Pop a sprig of thyme under the skin of each breast, then smooth the skin over with your buttery hands.
Place the onion, lemon, bay leaves and garlic in the cavity.
Cover the tin loosely with foil and roast for the calculated cooking time. 30 minutes before the end of cooking, increase the oven temperature to 200C/180C fan/Gas mark 6, remove the foil, baste the turkey and return to the oven.
When the turkey is beautifully brown and cooked through, remove from the oven and leave to rest on a warm platter covered in foil for up to one hour.
Pour the fat away from the roasting tin, leaving just the juices.
Serve the remaining salt mix as a seasoning alongside the rest of the meal.
BEST-EVER ROAST POTATOES
3kg Maris Piper potatoes
A day or two before roasting, prepare the potatoes. You need chunks or whole potatoes roughly the size of a clementine, so peel and leave whole, halve or quarter accordingly.
Place the potatoes in a large pan of cold, salted water - salting is important, so don’t skip it.
Bring the water to the boil and simmer gently for about 15 minutes, until the potatoes are cooked all the way through but not on the brink of collapse.
Gently drain the potatoes in a colander, but do not shake them or ruffle them up - just leave them to drain and cool.
Once there is no more steam coming off them, place on a tray in a single layer and put them in the fridge, uncovered, until ready to roast.
Heat oven to 200C/180C fan/Gas mark 6 (or put them in when you turn it up for the turkey).
Pour oil into a deep roasting tin to give an even layer of about 0.5cm.
Place the tin in the oven for five minutes to heat the oil, then take out again.
One at a time and working methodically (starting at one corner of the roasting tin and lining them up as you go) place each potato in the oil and use a spoon to turn it so it’s completely coated.
Don’t worry about the oil cooling down too much. Once all the potatoes are in the tin in a single layer, not touching, place the tin in the oven and cook for 40 minutes, undisturbed.
Remove from the oven and - again, meticulously - turn each potato.
Return to the oven for 20 minutes, then repeat the potato-turning process again.
If, at this stage, your other side dishes allow you to, turn the oven up to 220C/200C fan/Gas mark 7 and give the potatoes a final 20 minutes.
By now, you should have potatoes that are everything a roast potato should be: deep, golden and crunchy on the outside, with an extra-fluffy middle - just sprinkle with a little sea salt to serve.
GINGER AND ORANGE-GLAZED BABY CARROTS
900g baby carrots, washed and scrubbed
25g piece ginger, peeled and finely grated
2tbsp clear honey
Zest 1 orange
Salt and pepper
Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and add the carrots. Simmer for five minutes until slightly tender, then drain.
In a wide pan, heat the butter until melting, then add the carrots, ginger, honey and orange zest. Cook over a medium heat for 25-30 minutes, turning them gently every now and then, until the carrots start to go golden and sticky.
Keep turning every now and again until all sides are browning.
Season well before serving.
FESTIVE RED CABBAGE
1tbsp vegetable oil
2 large onions, finely chopped
1 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
150ml red wine
1 red cabbage (about 900g) shredded
2tbsp dark brown soft sugar
2 Bramley apples, peeled and chopped
Salt and pepper
Heat the oil in a large, flameproof casserole dish, add the onions and cook on a medium heat for eight to 10 minutes, then add the star anise and cinnamon stick.
Pour in the wine and let it simmer until slightly reduced.
Add the cabbage, sugar and apples, and stir well.
Season well, cover and simmer on a low heat for three hours, stirring every now and again.
Once the cabbage is tender, check the seasoning.
Serve in a bowl with the star anise and cinnamon stick on top.
Can be made one to two days in advance, or frozen for up to four months - simply reheat on the hob before serving.
TRIPLE NUT AND APPLE STUFFING BALLS
1 red onion, halved
1tbsp olive oil, plus extra for greasing
200g mixed nuts of your choice (we used a combination of pecans, hazelnuts and pistachios)
400g can cooked green lentils in water, drained
Small bunch sage, chopped
1 small apple, grated
Salt and pepper
Put the linseeds in a small bowl and mix with two tablespoons water, then set aside for five to 10 minutes, until the water thickens to a gluey consistency.
Meanwhile, place the onion in a food processor and whizz until finely chopped.
Heat the oil in a frying pan, tip in the onion and cook for five minutes, until softened.
Tip the nuts into the food processor and whizz until coarsely chopped.
Sprinkle three tablespoons of the nuts over a plate and set aside.
Add the lentils, breadcrumbs, sage, apple, linseeds (and any liquid in the bowl), onion and plenty of seasoning to the processor.
Pulse to blend the mixture until just combined - don’t chop too finely or the stuffing will lose its nice nutty texture.
Line a baking tray with foil and grease with a little oil.
Remove the blade from the processor and oil your hands.
Scoop out walnut-sized chunks of stuffing, roll into balls, then roll on the plate of chopped nuts to coat.
Place on the prepared baking tray. Can be covered with cling film and chilled for up to two days, or frozen for two months.
Heat oven to 200C/180C fan/Gas mark 6.
Unwrap (if chilled) and bake for 25-30 minutes until the nuts are a little darker and the balls have firmed up slightly - they will be softer than traditional stuffing balls, but will firm up after a few minutes cooling.
If you’re cooking from frozen, bake for 35-40 minutes.