As I write this, I’m aware that when you read it, we’ll be in Orlando enjoying Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando Resort, and as much as I’m very excited, I’m also remembering that we’ll probably be spending our Christmas Day feeling a bit jetlagged and maybe on a bit of a holiday comedown (I know, it’s hard to feel sorry for me). We decided to do something completely different in the run up to Christmas this year, mainly because my Dad died this time last year, and although we’ll be thinking about him, we didn’t want to be sitting around feeling sad at Christmas. I love writing this final round-up post every year– I’m sure I say pretty much the same thing every year, which is don’t panic! It’s just a big roast dinner, but it’s worth reminding you that it’s your Christmas too, so enlist everyone to help, and do as much as you can before the big day. Click here to see my post on the best stuffing recipe and everything else you need to accompany your Christmas dinner, and read on for turkey tips and timings.
My one absolute, must-do for cooking a Christmas dinner is writing a plan. Once you’ve weighed your prepped turkey and worked out the cooking time (you might get times with your turkey, or I recommend Jamie Oliver’s guide here) grab a pen and a notebook. Start with the time you want to sit down to eat, then work backwards, adding in reminders and times for everything: putting the pudding on to steam, basting the turkey, roasting the potatoes, etc. I tend to scribble it out roughly, because I always forget something, then write it out properly in the order I’m going to do it.
Remember, when you’re writing out your timings, that the turkey will keep piping hot for at least an hour, and actually considerably longer (see below).
Note: for turkey crowns, work out the cooking time by multiplying the weight by 20 minutes per kg and then add 70 minutes. For turkey crowns over 4kg, add 90 minutes.
Do as much prep as you can the the night before:
I always buy a disposable foil turkey tray – I know it’s not the most environmentally friendly choice but you don’t want to spend your Christmas evening scrubbing tins. Just recycle it afterwards. Don’t bother washing your turkey – the heat of the oven kills any germs and you’ll just spread all sorts of yuck around your sink.
If you’re cooking a whole turkey, it’s nice to enhance the flavour with a few extras, so cut up a couple of lemons or clementines, squeeze them over the bird and then stick them into the body cavity along with a halved onion and whatever herbs you have: bay and rosemary is nice (I’m not a fan of actually putting stuffing in the turkey). Mush up half a pack of butter with some lemon or clementine zest, salt, pepper and a little chopped rosemary or parsley. Then just squish the butter all over the turkey. I add a couple of slices of clementine and maybe a sprig or two of rosemary on top too.
If, like me, you favour a turkey crown, then it’s even easier, you just do the butter squishing and decorating bit. You can wrap string around it if you’re worried it won’t stay put.
Once you’ve finished with your enhancements, cover the whole thing quite tightly with foil (don’t buy that ridiculously expensive turkey foil – just overlap the normal stuff), then pop it in the fridge, or if it won’t fit, leave it somewhere cool until you need it – a box in the garage as it’s nice and cold in there, but if we have a sudden warm snap you’ll need to pack a bit of ice around it (it needs to be less than 4 degrees).
Cooking the turkey
Bring the turkey up to room temperature before you start to cook it, or you’ll waste the first half hour or so of cooking time on doing exactly that. If it’s a smaller bird or just a crown, 30 minutes should do it. Then just whack it in the oven. Everyone does it differently – my Mum always used to cover it in foil for the first hour or so, then take it off for the rest of the cooking time. Some people like to keep basting, others just leave it alone. Do whatever you feel comfortable with.
If you’re cooking a whole turkey, check it’s done by grabbing a spoon, then stabbing it with a knife on the thickest part of the thigh (think of it as the fattest bit of the drumstick where it meets the body). If it’s crown, stab the thickest part of the breast. Collect some of the meat juices with the spoon then tip them onto a white plate. There should be no trace of blood. Or just use a meat thermometer – stab it in the same place – it should be at least 70 degrees C.
Then just get the turkey out of your way, snuggled up in some foil and covered with a couple of clean tea towels until you need it, freeing up the oven for roasties, stuffing, parsnips, etc.
My favourite Christmas recipes
If you’d rather cook lamb, or you’re entertaining over the festive period, why not try my slow roasted lamb shoulder with a sticky mint glaze, or maybe consider baking my festive pie – it’s a yummy way to use up leftover ham and turkey. My slow cooked beef and red wine stew will feed a crowd (double up as necessary),
Talking of ham, why not try my spiced and glazed ham in Coca Cola – I like to bake one of these in the few days leading up to Christmas (in fact, I often end up making a couple) – we stuff it into baguettes, eat it cold with cheese and pickles, and hot with cauliflower cheese or bubble and squeak.
If you fancy a bit of baking, why not try my iced Christmas cookies, Christmas crumble muffins, or my Christmas shortbread recipe? You could bake some spiced chocolate and pistachio biscotti or some chocolate Christmas tree cakes, or my clementine and cinnamon cakey mince pies (ooh, or these delicious frangipane ones).
Et voila! You’re prepped for Christmas.
Oh, and as always, just remember that if anything goes a bit wrong and something gets burned or forgotten, it’s not the end of the world. Enjoy the day, pour yourself a drink and remember: it’s just dinner.
If you get stuck, drop me an email or a tweet, but mostly, have a glass of fizz or two, open some pressies (say you love it even if you hate it), enjoy your loved ones (even the annoying ones), eat too much, watch some trashy telly, put a Santa hat on the dog and have a wonderful day.
Thank you, thank you, thank you for continuing to drop in and support me this year. It’s been a tough one and a wonderful one all mixed together. I love reading all your comments and chatting with you all on the blog, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. I wish you all a wonderful, warm, twinkly, happy Christmas with your family and friends, and a peaceful and healthy New Year. Mwah xx