The step-by-step, stress-free plan for cooking Christmas lunch, by Tom Aikens

Tom Aikens shares what he describes as the ultimate method for Christmas lunch, so you can cook it with total confidence.

This time of year is very special to us all: it’s normally about bringing family and friends together for an amazing occasion, and this year in particular it may well be the only time the family gets together for along time. Enjoy it and have fun. Cheers!

The time plan

  • Roast the turkey depending on the size (30 minutes per kg). For the first 30 minutes, cook on 200˚C, then turn the oven down to 180˚C.
  • After 2?2 ½ hours, put the potatoes into the oven for roasting.
  • During this time, make the bread sauce and cranberry sauce.
  • For the last 45 minutes, cook your parsnips and carrots.
  • For the last 30 minutes, cook the sprouts, chipolatas and bacon rolls.
  • While the turkey is resting, make the gravy.

The shortcuts

There are many ways to save time in the Christmas lunch, so you can enjoy the day and not get stressed:

  • Make the cranberry sauce and bread sauce the day before
  • Prepare and peel all the vegetables the day before
  • It’s very difficult to cook everything and get it all ready at the same time, but:
  • You can roast the carrots and parsnips in frying pans on the gas stove instead of in the oven
  • The chipolatas, bacon rolls and stuffing balls can all be pre-cooked beforehand and go on a single tray for reheating later
  • You can cook the potatoes beforehand as well, then reheat them, too.

Just make it as easy as you want, as it needn’t be hard, difficult or stressful. Eemember, it’s supposed to be fun for you and your family.

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How to roast Christmas Day turkey

1 x 8kg turkey —ideally organic — will feed 10-plus and have enough for turkey sandwiches on Boxing Day.

Allow 30 minutes’ cooking time per kilo; for the first 30 minutes, cook the turkey at 200˚C, then turn it down to 170˚-180˚C.

Take the turkey out of the fridge at least one hour before you’re going to cook it, so it’ll cook instantly instead of warming up for the first 30 minutes. This way, it’ll cook much more evenly as the whole bird will be the same temperature.

Remove the wish-bone and stuff the neck end with the stuffing, folding the flap of skin over the whole. Truss the turkey with string, making sure the flap of skin is well tied up. Use any extra stuffing to make into balls.

For the Christmas Day stuffing

  • 1kg sausage meat
  • 12g chopped fresh sage
  • 25g butter
  • 120g finely diced onions
  • 2 cloves garlic finely chopped
  • Large pinch of dried mixed herbs
  • 12g fresh thyme
  • 6g chopped parsley
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 25g breadcrumbs
  • 8g coarse sea salt

Place a pan onto a medium heat, and add the butter. Once it’s just melted, add the onions, garlic, thyme and 2g salt. Cook this on a low heat until it starts to soften (approximately 10 minutes). Add the sage, take it off the heat and leave it to cool. Make sure that while the onion’s cooking, it doesn’t colour?stir it every few minutes until soft.

To make Bread Sauce

  • 1 litre milk
  • 60g diced onion
  • 2g chopped garlic
  • 2g fresh thyme
  • 25g butter
  • 2g salt
  • 250g diced white bread
  • 0.5g cloves
  • 0.5g black pepper corns
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 150ml double cream

Melt the butter in a pan on a low heat, then add the diced onion, chopped garlic and cook for a couple of minutes until soft with no colour. Tie the spices in a muslin bag, then put this in the pan with the milk and thyme, and bring it to the boil.

Leave to infuse for 30 minutes, then add the bread and salt and bring up to a slow simmer, stirring regularly so it won’t catch on the pan and burn. Cook for 30-40 minutes, stirring every so often, then add the cream and more milk if necessary. Remove the spice bag at the end.

Cranberry Sauce

  • 40g orange zest
  • 400ml orange juice from six oranges (about 1.5kg)
  • 1kg cranberries
  • 0.5g ground ginger
  • 0.5g mixed spice
  • 0.5g cinnamon powder
  • 2g star anise
  • 2g cinnamon stick
  • 0.5g cloves
  • 0.5g black peppercorns
  • 1g all spice berries
  • 6g whole peeled ginger
  • 400g granulated sugar

Chop the zest into rough dice, then place it into a pan with cold water and bring it to the boil. Refresh it in cold water and repeat the process a total of three times, each time adding a teaspoon of caster sugar. Place all the ingredients into a pan — but not the berries — and add the orange juice, sugar and powdered spices.

Tie the rest of the whole spices in a muslin bag with the ginger and cinnamon stick, and give it a little bash to release the flavours. Bring mixture to the boil and turn the heat down to a simmer, reduce the mixture by half, then add the cranberries and reboil. Simmer for 10 minutes, then remove it from the heat.

Christmas Day roast potatoes

  • 3kg peeled Desirée potatoes, King Edwards or Maris Pipers
  • 300ml vegetable oil
  • 4g coarse sea salt
  • 1 large roasting tray

Place the tray into the oven before you cook the turkey at 200˚C, as you may not have the space to cook them at the same time?if you do, then cook them together. Cut the potatoes into large 2in pieces, place them into a pan of cold water and give them a good rinse. Put them into clean cold water with a spoonful of salt, bring them to a simmer, then drain them into a colander and shake them well to fluff up the edges.

Once the tray has been in the oven for 10 minutes, add the oil and leave for two minutes so it heats up. Add the potatoes, being very careful so the oil doesn’t splash onto your hands or arms. Cook for about 1½ hours until golden. For the first 20 minutes, don’t move them at all, so they crisp up and the cooking tray stays hot. After this, sprinkle in the coarse sea salt.

Christmas Day parsnips

  • 2kg parsnips peeled and trimmed, cut into 2-3in batons with the tough core removed
  • 250ml vegetable oil
  • 25g butter
  • 12g thyme sprigs
  • 40g honey
  • 2g coarse sea salt

Place a frying pan onto a medium heat, add the oil and, once hot, add the butter. When that’s melted, add the parsnips, thyme, and salt.

Roast these on a medium heat for 12-14 minutes, then add the honey. Continue to cook for another eight minutes until golden and soft.

Christmas Day gravy

  • 3 carrots
  • 2 onions
  • 2 sticks celery
  • 4 peeled cloves garlic
  • 12g thyme sprigs
  • All the turkey giblets and neck chopped roughly

Cut all the vegetables into 1in rough pieces. During the last two hours of cooking the turkey, roast the giblets and vegetables in with the bird, stirring every 30 minutes. Once the turkey’s cooked, remove it from the tray and add the chicken stock to the tray.

Place this onto a high heat or a gas flame and bring it to a simmer, then, with a wooden spoon, remove all the meat juices and sediment from the pan to improve the flavour.

Mix 5g soft butter and 5g flour together, whisk this into the sauce, then turn heat down to a simmer and cook for 2?3 minutes. Add a little salt and pepper to taste, then pass it through a fine sieve into a clean pan, pressing all the vegetables really well.

Michelin-starred chef Tom Aikens first wrote this guide for Country Life back in 2007, but it’s as useful now as ever. 

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