Christmas cooking – it’s all about timing


Does the thought of preparing the Christmas meal fill you with fear and trepidation?  Does your mother and/or mother-in-law tell you how to do things their way?  All those people offering to help, and then disappearing with a drink when the moment to serve up comes!

As with most things, it’s all in the planning.  Work out what time you want people to sit down for the meal, and work back from that.  There are a number of things you can do to get things prepared in advance, what you can do to ‘cheat’, and how to get your head round the timings so that everything is ready and piping hot at the right time.

Christmas Eve  

The day before you can prepare all the vegetables. Peel and cut the spuds, parsnips and carrots.  You can keep them in cold water overnight.  Leave them in the garage, covered so your pets don’t get them.

If you’re making Yorkshire puddings, make the batter the day before and keep in the fridge.  The batter will mature as the gluten has time to develop.  Alternatively buy Aunty Bessy’s Yorkshires!

Bread sauce and the stuffing can be made in advance and kept cool.  It’s easier to cook the stuffing in a separate dish and serve from that rather than stuffing the turkey which will extend the cooking time.

The base for the gravy can be made in advance.  Using good chicken stock and half a bottle of wine or Masala bring to the boil and reduce to a syrupy consistency.

Brandy butter can be made the day before, if not before that and kept in the fridge, or a cool room.

Calculate how long you need to cook the turkey.  If you’ve worked it out in advance, you won’t fret all night about getting up early enough.  Weigh the turkey on the scales, if it is too big to put on the scales, try using the bathroom scales.   Calculate the cooking time, at 40 minutes a kilo up to 4kg, and 45 minutes for every kilo over that weight.   Therefore, a 5kg turkey will take 3½ – 4 hours to cook (without stuffing).  Factor in the resting time, must be a minimum of 35 minutes to allow the fibres to set and the juices to baste the meat.  You can keep a turkey resting for up to an hour covered with aluminium foil it will keep its heat.

Make sure you’ve got a roasting pan big enough for the bird and that it will fit into the oven!

On the day (timings based on a 5kg turkey)

8.30am switch on the oven to 180C

9am put the turkey in the oven

12.30pm par boil the potatoes and parsnips. Drain and allow to air-dry for a bit, shake the colander/sieve so that you roughen the edges of the potatoes to make them crisp up nicely.

1pm take the turkey out of the oven, check it’s cooked by putting a skewer into a really fleshy part and seeing if the juices run clear.  Alternatively use a food thermometer and check that the temperature is over 68C.  Then cover the bird in aluminium foil and allow it to rest.  Crank up the oven to 200C, put goose fat or oil in roasting tins for the potatoes and parsnips and place them in the oven to heat up.  Once hot, put the potatoes in to cook; the parsnips can go in 15 minutes later.

1.30pm cook the carrots; finish the gravy by adding the juices from the turkey roasting pan and bring to a simmer.  Taste and season, if it is too strong, add some water.

Ensure you’ve got warm serving plates ready

1.45pm cook the green vegetables; take out the potatoes and parsnips.

2pm Serve… sit down with a drink and allow someone else to carve!

Happy Christmas!


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