What To Do If You’re Not In Charge Of Christmas Lunch

What To Do If You’re Not In Charge Of Christmas Lunch


Even if you’re not responsible for the turkey and all its trimmings, there are plenty of things you can get involved with when it comes to Christmas Lunch. From carving the meat to serving the right wines, here are some top tips to help make your contribution a good one.

Gravy Tips

“Good stock is essential as well as a whole bottle of white wine and the pan juices from the turkey. Take your time on the gravy; it shouldn’t be rushed. Making full use of the time it takes the turkey to rest should produce a delicious sauce.” – Will Bowlby, Kricket

“Combine bought, fresh brown chicken stock, red wine, some roasted chicken wings, vegetables and flour or butter to thicken. It’s best to make this in advance, freeze it, defrost on the day and then bring to the boil and whisk in any turkey juices from the resting bird.” – Ben Tish, Norma

“For best results, trim some of the raw leg meat and caramelise with butter in a pan to seal it and give it colour. Add chopped mushrooms and shallots, and cook for a few minutes until soft. At this point add a heaped spoon of plain flour rather than waiting for the final stages. You want the flour to make the mixture paste-like. Add the stock – either roasting juices or, if you need a shortcut, Waitrose do a very good chicken stock. Simmer for 45 minutes. If it’s still a little thin, add some more flour but make it cornflour at this stage – it’s easier to cook through. Most importantly, make a lot of gravy.  Everyone loves it and leftover gravy can go into soup or elevate bubble and squeak.” – Martyn Nail, Claridge’s

“Add a little cranberry sauce to the turkey gravy for extra punch. Always make sure the bones are well roasted and caramelised to get the most flavour out of your gravy. Make the stock the day before; roast your extra turkey bones the day before too. It’s one less thing to make on Christmas day.” – Tom Aikens, Tom’s Kitchen & Muse

Carving Tips

“Whip off the legs first, then take each breast off as a whole, before slicing it diagonally down the breast. This way each piece will get a nice even cook on it. Use a good carving knife, like one from Global – or something Japanese and handmade. A fish filleting knife will also do.” Will Bowlby

Blenheim Forge does some great carving knives. Just make sure your meat has been rested nicely, then it will be easy to carve.”  Mike Reid, M Restaurants 

A good carving knife should slice through the meat delicately and effortlessly to give shining slices. The better the knife, the better the slice. I will be asking Santa for a hand-forged carving knife from Joel Black or Prendergast – beautiful blades from great craftsmen.” – Henry Harris, Harcourt Inns

“If you are confident at carving and looking to impress, carve straight on the table starting from head to tail. The best way to use the whole animal is to debone a piece and only then slice it on the board.” Eran Tibi, Bala Baya

“If you feel comfortable removing the entire breast and carving it off the bone, then do – it’s easier. If not, stick to thin slices, starting at the wing and progressing forward. Go for a thin blade. Serrated or flat bladed doesn’t matter – it just needs to be sharp. Victorinox does the best.” Martyn Nail

“Always make sure the wishbone is removed before you carve. Your turkey should also be rested for at least 30 minutes. Remove the legs first and cut through the drumstick and thigh, then you can slice through the dark meat around the top of the drumstick. Remove the middle bone in the thigh bone, then this can be sliced through. Carve down the outside of the breast; cut around the breast of the turkey next to the wing bone; then, when you slice down, the slice will fall away.” – Tom Aikens

Wine Tips

“Champagne in the morning; a white burgundy or a nice dry Riesling for the first part of lunch, or a light red like a Pinot Noir; then a heavy red for the second; and then a nap.” – Will Bowlby

A Sicilian wine like a Sassicia (2014/15) with roast turkey is excellent followed by Marsala with the cheese and then possibly a whisky or two in the evening. Go for a blend on ice; Lidl does an amazing blend bottle – really excellent.” – Ben Tish

“Always Nebbiolo with  turkey or a Tuscan Sangiovese.” – Henry Harris

“At this time of year Port just feels right. Make a version of mulled wine with it too. Cook half a bottle of port with all the spices and fruits you like, until you are happy with the flavours. Remove it from the heat and add the other half of the port. That way you keep all the alcohol.  Espresso martinis with coffee-flavoured tequila and cardamom-infused coffee are a glamorous way to end.” – Eran Tibi

“The red pudding wine Merlino 2002 is absolutely delicious, full of flavour and pairs beautifully with anything with a little spice, so it’s the perfect partner for Christmas pudding.” – Martyn Nail

Cheese Tips

“This is key: make sure your cheese is room temperature when serving. Take it out of the fridge at the beginning of your meal, so it has all the time it needs to temper. Add spices to your quince to make it extra Christmassy.” – Gregory Marchand , Frenchie Covent Garden  

“The best accompaniments? Godminster Truffle, quince and some decent seeded crackers or even digestive biscuits. Oh, and some Sauternes to wash it down with.” – Will Bowlby

“A big slice of Comté, some Cancoillotte and Vacherin du Mont d’Or. With a yellow wine from Jura and some walnuts too.” – Gregory Marchand

“One soft, one wash rind and one blue. You can’t go wrong with a good goats’ cheese like ragstone. Westcombe Cheddar is another favourite; then for blue an unpasteurised cheese called Stichelton.” – Mike Reid

“A baked Vacherin du Mont d’Or with fresh black truffles shaved over it is truly indulgent. Then Époisses, Stichelton and some mountain Gorgonzola. Some Mostarda di Cremona can be a welcome pairing. It’s crucial to have a great baguette and Peter’s Yard crackers. To drink, a white Châteauneuf-du-Pape to go with the cheeses that aren’t blue and an aged Pineau des Charentes to go with the blue ones.” – Henry Harris

Leftover Tips

“A great way to use up a ham hock is to shred the ham from the bone, then fry in a little oil until crispy. Serve crumbled over blanched hispi cabbage for the best Boxing Day dish.” – Tom Booton, The Grill at The Dorchester

“Bubble and squeak with the leftover vegetables and protein is a winner. Fry off some onions and smoked bacon until starting to colour, then add any leftover potatoes, vegetables and chopped meat. Transfer these to a tray and bake until golden and crispy on top. Serve with a fried duck egg, with a runny yolk for a self-saucing feast.” –Scott Paton, Boringdon Hall

“Make croquettes with all the leftover ham, turkey and countless cheeses. Make a thick béchamel; fold through meats and cheeses; chill; pané and fry.” – Will Bowlby

“Make some Christmas breakfast tacos by chopping up your pigs in blankets, some stuffing and turkey, then throw in a soft tortilla with some cranberry sauce, avocado and lime – amazing!” – Mike Reid

“A toastie is the perfect way to ensure food doesn’t go to waste: simply get all your tasty leftovers together – that’s turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce – add some cheese and get toasting.” – Charlie Phillips, Morty & Bob’s

“A stir-fry of leftover sprouts with chilli, ginger and Sichuan pepper with fried rice and rashers of heavily smoked bacon will enliven a jaded palate on Boxing Day.” – Henry Harris

“It’s true that you cannot beat a cold turkey sandwich with cold cranberry sauce – and always with Branston pickle. Chuck in a few lettuce leaves and even a little mayo. ” – Tom Aikens

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