Tag Archives: prepare

Christmas and Thanksgiving Timetable

Christmas and Thanksgiving can be a very stressful time if you’re the chief cook and bottlewasher in the house.  Even if you regularly cook roast meals, there is extra pressure on these two occasions to produce a meal fit for the King of Siam and his entourage because Christmas and Thanksgiving almost invariably involve big family get togethers. 

Your exact meal is obviously entirely up to you but I thought it might just be helpful to map out a suggested main-course menu (because this is what we all worry about) plus suggested timing.  Make this schedule the basis of your Christmas menu planning and add or delete items that you want to include or remove.  Remember, the clever cook will always plan ahead so that they don’t totally lose their mind (and cool) on ‘The Big Day’. 

Suggested Main Menu – Serves 8

Cider roast turkey with glazed apples and pears with sticky shallots

‘Pigs in blankets’ (little sausages wrapped in bacon)

Chestnut & cranberry roll

Crisp-topped sprouts

Buttery caraway carrots

Roast potatoes

Bread sauce



PREPARING AHEAD – All dishes to be kept in fridge or freezer until needed

Up to 1 Month Ahead

Parboil and freeze the Roast Potatoes

Make the Chestnut and Cranberry Roll, if freezing

***Up to 3 Days Ahead***

***If you have bought a frozen turkey, think about how you plan to defrost it. Be aware that in a fridge a frozen bird of the size appropriate to feed 8 people could take anything from a day and a half to two and a half days to properly defrost.  Suggested sizes of bird are here and tips on defrosting here (this second link takes you to the British Food Standards Agency site).  

Up to 2 Days Ahead

Make the Chestnut and Cranberry Roll if making from fresh

Prepare and roast the Glazed Apples and Pears with Sticky Shallots

Christmas Eve

Roast the Chestnut and Cranberry stuffing roll – keep in the foil

Make the bread sauce and store, covered, in the fridge

Boil or steam the sprouts and prepare the topping for the Crispy-topped Sprouts

Steam the carrots for the Buttery Caraway Carrots

Prepare the Pigs in Blankets

Defrost anything frozen in the fridge.



Stuff the turkey, weigh and calculate cooking time.  Heat oven to 190C  /  375F  /  Gas mark 5  /  (Fan oven: 170C, approx 340F)


Put the turkey in to roast (timings based on a 4.5 kg / 10lb turkey)

11.00am and 12.00pm:

Check the roasting tin – add more cider if needed


Remove the foil from the turkey to let it brown

1.00 pm:

Leave the turkey to rest.  Put the potatoes in the oven to roast, if frozen.  (If not, put in at 1.10pm).  Make the gravy.


Turn the oven up to 220C  /  425F  /  Gas 7  /(Fan 200C  / 400F).  Turn the potatoes and add the stuffing roll to oven to reheat.  Put the ‘pigs in blankets’  in oven to cook.


Reheat the apples, pears and shallots in the oven if room, or in the microwave if not, adding a little extra glaze.  Finish the sprouts and the carrots and heat the bread sauce, adding a little milk if it seems too thick.  Take the foil off the stuffing.


Serve and enjoy!  If you have a hot pudding planned for dessert, place it in the oven and allow the residual heat to warm it through while you eat.


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The Humble Sprout + A Recipe

The humble sprout is much maligned but it’s a delicious vegetable  (if cooked properly) and as one of the ‘cruciferous’ group of vegetables (along with, cabbage, cauliflower, kale and broccoli)  may help to protect the body from cancer.  I can’t stress this enough: The key is to not overcook them.  If you’ve had bad experiences with them, the chances are that an inexperienced cook has ‘nuked’ them within an inch of their lives, rendering them limp and a slightly yellowy green colour.  In this state they take on a nasty bitterness and are very unpleasant to eat.  Cooked correctly however they should be soft but still retain some of their ‘oomph’ (my technical term, roughly translated to mean ‘some of their body and structure’) and will still appear green.  

To prepare them for cooking: Remove the tougher and loose outer leaves (usually only one or two in number) and rinse in cold water.  I know opinion is divided nowadays but I still like to cut a little cross in the base of them because I find it helps to cook them evenly and quickly.  I then cook mine in one of those foldaway steamer baskets, placed in the bottom of a pan with a little bubbling water underneath, lid on, for 8 – 10 minutes.  Timing depends on the size of the sprouts so do keep an eye on them and check for readiness by poking them with the tip of a sharp knife.  If you prefer, you can of course boil them for an equal amount of time.

To serve: Again, I’m a fan of these little veggies so for me, serving them steaming hot with freshly cracked black pepper is all that I need, but non die-hard sprout fans might also like a knob of butter!

If I still haven’t quite convinced you, here is a very nice recipe for sprouts with a little extra crunch, nuttiness and interest – perfect for Christmas and Thanksgiving lunch and dinners.


Serves 8 people    Preparation time: 15 minutes    Cooking time:    15 minutes


1 kg / 2 lb 4 oz Brussels sprouts

50g / 2 oz white bread, preferably ciabatta

2 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for serving

25g / 1 oz flaked almonds

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

Zest of 1 lemon


Remove any tough leaves and trim sprouts, then steam for 10 minutes until tender. 

Tear the bread into crumbs.  Heat a large frying pan and pour in the olive oil.  Add the bread and fry until just crisp.

Tip in the flaked almonds, garlic and lemon zest, then cook gently until everything is golden (be careful not to burn the garlic).

Place the sprouts in a serving dish, season, then toss with the crumbs etc. You can, if you wish, add a little extra olive oil to finish.


These can be prepared ahead:  Cook the sprouts the day before to the ‘al dente’ stage (in other words, until almost but not quite cooked).  Remove from the heat and then cool quickly by draining and then plunging into a bowl of iced water.  Drain and set aside in the fridge.  You can also make the topping a day in advance and store it in an airtight container in the fridge.  To serve: Microwave the sprouts for 1-2 minutes or cook in boiling water to re-heat (being careful not to overdo it).  Warm the topping mix then toss with the topping as above.

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Special Jewelled Stuffing

CHESTNUT & CRANBERRY ROLL   ** (Can be prepared ahead)**


Makes 2 rolls, each cuts into 8 slices

Preparation Time: 30 minutes.     Cooks for 1 hour

Easy to prepare



1 tbsp olive oil

1 onion, finely chopped

2 Bramley (cooking) apples, approximately 140 g / 5 oz each, peeled

3 x 450 g (3 x 1 lb) packs good quality pork sausages

2 x 200g (2 x 7 to 8 oz)  packs vacuum-packed chestnuts, rougfhly chopped

Small bunch sage, leaves roughly chopped

Small bunch thyme, leaves stripped

1 egg

100g / 4oz white breadcrumbs

175g / 6oz fresh or frozen cranberries

24 rashers streaky bacon

butter for greasing


Heat the oil in a large frying pan, then gently fry the onion for 5 minutes until softened.  Finely chop the apples, either by hand or in a food processor.

Squeeze the sausagemeat from the sausages into a large bowl, then add all the other ingredients except the cranberries and straky bacon.  Season generously then get your hands in and mix well.  Weigh out 450g (1lb) of the stuffing and mix a handfull of cranberries into it.  Use to stuff the neck of the turkey.

To assemble the rest:  Butter and season a large sheet of foil.  Stretch out the bacon rashers slightly with the back of a kitchen knife, then overlap 12 rashers on the foil. 

Spoon half of the stuffing mix evenly over the bacon, leaving a border of about 3cm (a little over an inch).  Scatter with half the cranberries, then pat them in.  Tuck the long edges of the bacon over the stuffing, then, using the foil to help, roll the stuffing up into a log shape. 

Repeat to make a second roll.

Heat the oven to 190C / 375F / Gas mark 5 / Fan oven 170C

Put the foil-wrapped rolls onto a roasting tin and roast for 45 minutes.  Unwrap, draining off any juice, then finish roasting for 15 minutes, until the bacon is crisp.

**These rolls can be prepared up to 2 days ahead and kept, raw, in the fridge, or frozen for up to 1 month.  Roast up to 1 day ahead if you wish, then reheat, wrapped in foil, for 30 minutes while the turkey rests and your vegetables finish cooking.


Recipe and photos from a recipe that appeared in BBC Good Food Magazine, Christmas edition 2007


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Jersey Royals

jersey-royalsI bought my first batch of this year’s Jersey Royal Potatoes yesterday, from a little roadside stall that sells crops grown in their own south-facing cotils (a Jersey word for fields that slope on a hillside).   This shop was way out west in the wilds of St Ouens and trade was brisk, with bags of tatties being bought and taken away almost as soon as they were put out.

Jersey Royals are sold worldwide now and if you’ve tried them you’ll know that they are simply the best new potatoes you can buy.  Sadly however, unless you live in the UK you won’t have tasted what I’d call the ‘genuine’ article, i.e. those that are actually grown here in the island, because I do believe these are the finest tasting.  This is probably because of a combination of the Jersey soil which is traditionally fertilised by the addition of vraic (a Jersey word for seaweed) and the simple fact that like most veggies they are at their best when freshly dug.  Incidentally, here in the island harvesting is also often done by hand because those steep cotils are too difficult for modern machinery to cope with.

They are easy to prepare and cook:  Simply rub off the thin, flaky skin. Rinse and place in a pan of water that is already boiling (this seals in the flavour).  Boil gently for 12-15 minutes.  The length of time needed depends on the size of the potatoes.  Adding salt and even a sprig of fresh mint to the water is up to personal taste and preference.

These potatoes are tasty enough to enjoy just with a knob of butter melting over the top but if you’d like more recipe ideas, and for the history of this crop plus nutritional facts etc. please visit the official site here

You can also read more about my island home of Jersey by visiting my other site here.


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Baking ‘blind’

baking-beansBlind baking is done to pre-bake a pastry case before adding a sweet or savoury filling.  The pastry case can be made a day in advance and kept covered until you need it.

To blind bake: Chill the pastry, roll out between two sheets of cling film then use to line your pastry tin.  Then line the pastry itself with a layer of foil, greaseproof or parchment paper, leaving enough to come up the sides of the tin.  Fill with baking beans or dried pulses.

Bake ‘blind’ in an oven at 180C / 350F / Gas mark 4 for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the pastry feels dry.

Remove the paper and beans, brush with a little leftover beaten egg and return to the oven for 2 minutes.  If there are any little holes or cracks in the pastry, just patch it up with any leftover raw pastry before you return it to the oven.

Remove from the oven and set aside in the tin while you make the filling.

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Cooking terms – Mise en Place

Help!Mise en place (pron: meez on plass, translated as ‘put in place’)

Occasionally cook books will refer to having everything ‘mise en place’.  As the translation above infers, this just means to have everything in place before you begin – so prepare any fruit or vegetables, weigh out ingredients and preferably have any utensils that you might need to hand.  If you can get into the habit of doing this all the time you’ll find your cooking becomes more 0rganised, less messy and ultimately less time consuming.

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Sausages with salami and lentils

Le CreusetThis is a hearty, comforting and full-of-flavour rustic meal – perfect for cold winter nights.  Easy to make, and the ingredients won’t burn a hole in your pocket.  What more could you ask?

Sausages with salami and lentils

Serves 4  / Prep: 20 mins  / Cooking time: 45 mins


2 onions – peel, cut in half then cut each half into four or five pieces, cutting from root to tip

2 tbsp olive oil

2 garlic cloves

200g salami (or chorizo), in one piece

8 fat sausages (about 1 kg)

500g chopped / crushed tomatoes or tomato passata

150g green or brown lentils

500ml water

3 sprigs of fresh rosemary (= about a tablespoon of fresh leaves or a teaspoon of dried)***

Crushed black pepper

***Rosemary is a herb that I love and goes very well with pork so I tend to put in a little more than this.  The amount I’ve noted above is a suggestion that won’t be overpowering – add more next time if, like me, you feel you’d prefer it.



Put the oil in a heavy-based casserole and brown the sausages.  You want them to colour on the outside; they will do most of their cooking once they are in the sauce.  Remove and set aside.

Add the onion slices to the pan and let them cook over a moderate heat until tender.

Meanwhile, peel the garlic, slice it thinly and add it to the onions.  You’ll need to stir them regularly so that the garlic doesn’t burn.

Peel the thin skin from the salami and cut the inside into fat matchsticks.  Add this to the softening onions and leave for a couple of minutes, during which time the salami will darken slightly.

Tip the crushed tomatoes (or passata) into the onions, add the washed lentils and stir in 500ml water.  Bring to the boil.  Tuck the sausages into the casserole, together with the sprigs of rosemary.

Cover the pot with a lid and leave to simmer gently for about half an hour, until the lentils are tender.  Stir the lentils and seaso0n with black pepper.  You may find it needs little or no salt.

(This is one of those very forgiving dishes where timing is not crucial.  You can leave this very gently bubbling on the stove for a little longer – just keep the pot covered and keep an eye on it to be sure that it isn’t drying out).


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