With a banquet of roast meats, seasonal vegetables, savoury gravies and rich desserts to perfect, preparing an exceptional Christmas feast is no simple endeavour. Executive chef at Summer Lodge Country House Hotel & Restaurant, Steven Titman shares his tips on how to achieve the crispest roast potato and what makes for a faultlessly succulent turkey, as well as his favourite way to serve Brussels sprouts. Here’s our expert’s advice on how to prepare the perfect Christmas dinner.
How far in advance do you begin prepping?
“It’s always best to start a couple of days before the 25th. Purchase, prepare and clean the vegetables, then store them in the fridge. I recommend that you cook and chill your vegetable dishes on Christmas Eve, ready to reheat. If serving a cold starter, such as smoked salmon or gravadlax and fennel salad, this can be prepared even further ahead. So can dishes such as warm stilton, pear and caramelised onion tartlets and other traditional hot first courses.”
What is your favourite meat to feast on at Christmas?
“For the perfect Christmas dinner, it has to be turkey. I particularly enjoy cooking the white and dark parts of the meat separately. This way, the white meat stays much moister – and tastes just as tender in turkey sandwiches the next day.”
What makes for the ultimate pigs in blankets?
“Quite simply: good quality sausages (Cumberland is my favourite).”
Which vegetables do you like to serve with a traditional Christmas meal?
“I love Brussels sprouts, a Christmas dinner essential, especially when perfectly cooked with brown butter, sea salt and almonds, until lightly golden. As well as red cabbage – slowly braised with red onion, brown sugar, cider vinegar, red wine, butter and a cinnamon stick – and goose fat potatoes.”
Which method do you use for roasting potatoes?
“I start by boiling the potatoes in salted water. Then, I drain and allow them to dry a little, before roasting in a generous helping of goose fat. For me, it’s all about the goose fat and making sure they have enough time to turn golden brown and crispy!”
Any tips for making a delicious gravy?
“The base for any good sauce is a good stock. Prepare a well-seasoned chicken or turkey stock ahead of time and freeze it until you need it. I recommend boiling turkey giblets in water and adding in chicken stock and vegetable cooking water. On the day, make sure you use every last drop of the roasting juices from the meats you are cooking, to really give your gravy some flavour.”
And the best way to remain calm while cooking?
“Be organised, clean and efficient. The more you can do beforehand, the smoother the day will run. And a large glass of wine never hurts.”
Join us for a festive banquet expertly prepared by executive chef Steve Titman at Red Carnation Hotels’ Summer Lodge Country House Hotel & Restaurant.
Image credits: Woman enjoying Christmas dinner iStock/jacoblund. All other images courtesy of Red Carnation Hotels.