Christmas dinner is the standout meal of the year, offering a mouth-watering selection of veggies, must-have sides and moist meat that falls apart in your mouth. You’re usually so full from the main course that dessert seems impossible to manage, and yet the sweet treat is too tempting to say no too.
If you enjoy a big spread on Christmas Day, we have put together some of our favourite recipes for tasty traditional dishes – as well as some not so traditional ones – to help you make Christmas dinner the highlight of the year.
THE MAIN ATTRACTION: Turkey crown with roast garlic and pancetta
2-2.5kg turkey crown
10 thin slices streaky bacon or pancetta
Small rosemary sprigs
1 large onion, cut into 8 wedges
For the stuffing
4 tbsp olive oil, plus extra to drizzle
2 medium onions, chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
50g pine nuts
85g grated parmesan
6-8 slices pancetta, chopped
1 small loaf ciabatta, to give 280g/10oz breadcrumbs
4 tbsp flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1 tbsp rosemary, finely chopped
1 lemon, zest, finely grated
2 eggs, beaten
For the garlic
3 whole bulbs garlic, halved horizontally
1 lemon, cut into 6 wedges
For the gravy
4 tsp plain flour
175ml medium-sweet marsala
850ml turkey or chicken stock
- Pre-heat oven to 190°C/170°C Fan/Gas Mark 5. Rinse the turkey then pat dry with kitchen paper. Weigh it to calculate the cooking time, allowing 20 mins per kg, plus 70 mins (or 90 mins when roasting a crown over 4kg). Sit the turkey on a board, very lightly rub all over with olive oil and season with pepper. Lay the pancetta or streaky bacon over the top of the turkey, slightly overlapping to cover it. Tuck the slices under the bird to secure at the bottom. Insert small rosemary sprigs haphazardly between the slices. Season with pepper. Tie the crown across in 2-3 places with butcher’s string, to hold the shape together. Put the onion wedges in the middle of a large roasting tin and sit the crown on top. Cover the turkey with a loose tent of foil, then roast following your calculated time.
- To make the stuffing, heat 3 tbsp of the oil in a large frying pan. Tip in the onions and garlic, and fry for 5-8 mins until softened and starting to turn golden. Push the onions to one side of the pan, then add the pine nuts and continue to fry for 1 min more, stirring the nuts until golden. Remove from the heat and cool slightly. Stir in the remaining oil, all but a small handful of the Parmesan and the remaining stuffing ingredients. Season with salt and pepper. Loosely spoon stuffing mixture (don’t pack it down) into an oiled ovenproof dish, drizzle with a little extra olive oil, sprinkle with remaining Parmesan, then lay a sheet of baking parchment on top. Set aside. Can be made 1 day ahead and chilled.
- Thirty mins before the end of the cooking time, remove the turkey and increase oven to 200°C/180°C Fan/Gas Mark 6. If you are roasting potatoes put them in now. Roast the garlic. Remove the foil, place the garlic halves and lemon wedges around the turkey, then baste them and the turkey with the cooking juices. Return the tin to the oven and continue to roast for the final 30 mins. To test if cooked, pierce the fattest part of the crown with a skewer – the juices should run clear, not pink. If they are pink, continue to roast, checking at 10 min intervals.
- Remove the turkey, garlic and lemon from the oven, transfer to a warm serving platter and rest, covered loosely with foil, for 30 mins before carving. Meanwhile, increase oven to 220°C/200°C Fan/Gas Mark 7. Put the stuffing in the oven and bake for 20 mins, then remove the paper and bake for a further 5 mins until the stuffing is golden.
- To make the gravy, pour off any excess fat from the roasting tin but leave the juices and onions. Stir all the sticky bits from the bottom of the tin into the juices. Set tin over a medium heat, add the flour and cook, stirring continuously, for 2 mins. Pour in the Marsala and simmer for 2 mins. Pour in the stock, bring to the boil, then simmer for 5-10 mins or until reduced to your liking. Season with pepper if needed. Strain the gravy into a pan, warm through, then pour into a jug. Serve the turkey garnished with rosemary sprigs, surrounded with the roasted garlic and lemon, and accompanied by the gravy and stuffing.
Braised red cabbage with cider and apples
1 ½ kg red cabbage
2 onions, chopped
4 Granny Smiths apples, peeled and cored and chopped
1 orange or 2 clementines, zest
2 tsp ground mixed spice
100g light soft brown sugar
3 tbsp cider vinegar
300ml dry cider
- Peel off the outer leaves from the cabbage and discard. Quarter the cabbage, removing the tough stem, then thinly slice. Arrange a layer of the cabbage on the bottom of a large saucepan, followed by some of the onions, apples, zest, mixed spice, sugar and seasoning. Continue to create layers until you have used up the ingredients.
- Pour over the vinegar and cider and dot the butter on top. Bring to the boil then simmer with a lid on over low heat for 1½ hrs, until tender. The cabbage will keep for 2 days, covered, in the fridge or freeze for up to 1 month. Reheat in either a pan or in the microwave.
Roasted stuffed cauliflower
1 large or 2 small cauliflowers (about 850g)
5 tbsp olive oil
4 tbsp breadcrumbs
For the stuffing
250g kale, chopped
1 tbsp milled linseed
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
½ small pack sage, leaves chopped
½ small pack rosemary, leaves chopped
150g cooked chestnuts, finely chopped, plus 30g for the topping
2 lemons, zest
- Trim and discard the cauliflower leaves. Turn the cauliflower upside-down on a chopping board and use your knife to carefully cut out the stalk and core, leaving a cavity – the florets should still be holding together.
- Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Submerge the cauliflower and cook for 7 mins, then remove with two slotted spoons and set aside to steam dry. Add the kale to the pan and cook for a min or so until wilted. Drain, then run under cold water to cool. Squeeze out the excess liquid and roughly chop.
- To make a linseed ‘egg’ (this will bind the stuffing together), mix the ground linseed with 3 tbsp water and set aside for 5-10 mins until gluey. Meanwhile, heat 2 tbsp oil in a frying pan, add the onion and a pinch of salt, and cook until softened, then stir in the remaining stuffing ingredients, including the kale, and cook for a min or so more. Remove from the heat and season, then put in a blender with 150ml water and the linseed egg and blitz to a thick purée. Transfer to a piping bag.
- Pipe the stuffing mixture into every nook and cranny of the cauliflower, getting in as much of the purée as you can. See tip. Transfer to a baking tray lined with parchment. Can be made up to this point in the morning and kept in the fridge.
- Heat oven to 200°C/180°C fan/gas 6. Mix the remaining chestnuts with the breadcrumbs and some seasoning. Spoon the remaining oil all over the cauliflower, then pat on the breadcrumb chestnut mix. Roast for 45 mins until golden brown and tender (place under a hot grill for the last part of cooking time if it needs to crisp-up). Serve with any crisp bits that have fallen onto the baking tray.
Top tip: Pipe the purée in from the bottom first, filling as many holes as possible, then turn it over onto the lined baking tray. From the top, squeeze as much as possible between the florets.
Triple pigs in blankets
24 miniature chipolatas
8 rashers smoked bacon
1 tbsp sunflower oil
Heat oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6. Pile the sausages in groups of three and wrap a piece of bacon around each trio. Arrange on a baking tray and brush or drizzle with the oil. Roast in the oven for 30-35 mins until the chipolatas are golden and the bacon is crisp.
Ultimate roast potatoes
100g duck or goose fat (for a luxurious taste), or 100ml/3½fl oz olive oil
2 tsp flour
Maldon salt, to serve
- Put a roasting tin in the oven (one big enough to take the potatoes in a single layer) and heat oven to 200°C/180°C Fan/Gas Mark 6.
- Peel 1kg potatoes and cut each into 4 even-sized pieces if they are medium size, 2-3 if smaller (5cm pieces).
- Drop the potatoes into a large pan and pour in enough water to barely cover them.
- Add salt, then wait for the water to boil. As soon as the water reaches a full rolling boil, lower the heat, put your timer on and simmer the potatoes uncovered, reasonably vigorously, for 2 mins.
- Meanwhile, put 100g duck or goose fat or 100ml olive oil into the hot roasting tin and heat it in the oven for a few mins, so it’s really hot.
- Drain the potatoes in a colander then shake the colander back and forth a few times to fluff up the outsides.
- Sprinkle with 2 tsp flour and give another shake or two so they are evenly and thinly coated.
- Carefully put the potatoes into the hot fat – they will sizzle as they go in – then turn and roll them around so they are coated all over.
- Spread them in a single layer making sure they have plenty of room.
- Roast the potatoes for 15 mins, then take them out of the oven and turn them over.
- Roast for another 15 mins and turn them over again. Put them back in the oven for another 10-20 mins, or however long it takes to get them really golden and crisp. The colouring will be uneven, which is what you want.
- Scatter with Maldon salt and serve straight away.
Simple cranberry sauce
100g light muscovado sugar
100ml orange juice, fresh or from a carton
250g pack fresh or frozen cranberries
- Tip 100g light muscovado sugar and 100ml orange juice into a pan, then bring to the boil.
- Stir in 250g fresh or frozen cranberries, then simmer until tender but still holding their shape – this will take about 5 mins if using frozen cranberries or 8-10 mins if using fresh.
- The sauce will thicken as it cools. Will keep in the fridge for 1 week. On the day, bring to room temperature before serving.
THE TEMPTING DESSERT: White forest meringue roulade
Butter, for the tin
100g white chocolate, 50g grated, 50g melted and cooled a little
For the meringue
4 large egg whites
1 tsp lemon juice
200g white caster sugar
icing sugar, for dusting
For the cherry filling
300g frozen black cherries, saving a few whole ones to decorate
50ml orange juice
100g white caster sugar
pinch of ground cloves
½ tsp cornflour
For the cream filling
400ml double cream
50g icing sugar
½ tsp vanilla bean paste or extract
- Pre-heat oven to 180°C/160°C Fan/Gas Mark 4. Butter, then line a 23 x 32cm baking tray. Using an electric hand whisk, beat the egg whites, lemon juice and a pinch of salt until stiff.
- Add 1 tbsp of the caster sugar, then whisk until the mixture makes stiff peaks. Repeat with the rest of the sugar, spoon by spoon, until the mix is thick and shiny. Spread into the tin, then bake for 15 mins or until crisp to the touch and lightly golden in places. Leave to cool.
- Simmer the cherries, orange juice, sugar and cloves for 10 mins, or until the cherries are soft but still holding their shape. Mix the cornflour with 2-3 tsp cold water to make a paste, stir into the cherries and cook for a couple mins more until the juices thicken. Leave to cool.
- To assemble, sift icing sugar over a large piece of parchment, then carefully flip the meringue onto it. Remove the tin and parchment. With a short end facing you, score a line 2cm into the meringue.
- Whip the cream, icing sugar and vanilla until thick but not stiff, then spread over the meringue. Spoon over about half of the cherry sauce and scatter with the grated chocolate. Roll up the roulade, starting with the scored short end and using the paper underneath to help.
- To serve, drizzle with the melted white chocolate. Top with a few of the whole cherries and serve the remaining sauce on the side.
Top tip: Freeze the roulade for up to a month then defrost overnight. Freeze by setting on a parchment-lined tray then, once firm, wrap the parchment around it and cover with cling film. Freeze the remaining cherry sauce for up to a month.
We hope we’ve inspired you this Christmas to make a few dishes you might not normally have tried for the big day!