My Dad George Psarias, above, is an award winning chef, founder and owner of a group of restaurants, The Olive Tree in Leeds. A dab-hand at Christmas dinner, here he shares his tips to help make your Christmas feast utterly amazing!
Over to Dad, Papa G:
People, especially mums and dads panic when it comes to preparing and cooking for the Christmas Day dinner. Quite rightly you’ll want everything to be perfect on the day but my top tip is to prepare as much as possible in advance or even a couple of days before.
This will take the pressure off you so you will have more time to enjoy the company of your family and friends, and of course the food.
Here are my Top 10 Tips for a lovely Christmas feast:
1. Prepare the vegetables, cranberry sauce, bread sauce and desserts one or two days before the big day.
When warming up the potatoes and vegetables on the day, add a little butter to make them glisten and other small things such as chestnuts, garlic and herbs for enhancing the flavours and presentation.
2. For perfect roast potatoes, par-boil them (half cook them in boiling water), shake them in a colander to roughen them up and cook with goose fat for extra flavour.
3. Yorkshire puddings- forget measurements just remember the 3 important rules: whisk one part (cup or glass) of milk with one part of plain flour (preferably sieved) and one part of eggs with a pinch of salt. Heat your fat until smoking so its really hot before pouring the mixture in.
For better flavour, use beef dripping or meat fat instead of oil.
4. When it comes to boiling green vegetables such as fine beans and mange tout, start with boiling water and bring to a simmer. With potatoes and carrots cook in cold water, using as little water as possible so that all the vitamins and flavours are retained. Do not overcook, they should be al dente as the Italians say i.e. hard to the touch.
5. Drain vegetables in icy cold water to keep their green colour.
6. Sweets – prepare your biscuits, Christmas puddings, brandy sauce and desserts such as traditional trifles at least one or two days in advance. Then all you have to do is serve these with some cream or ice cream if suitable.
7. Cooking the Turkey – Cook the stuffing separately for two reasons.
You have the chance to add seasoning and other ingredients as it cooks and secondly, the most important reason is to cook it thoroughly to avoid food poisoning.
Rub butter all over the turkey and under the skin the day before, put herbs on either half and orange or lemon in the cavity.
If the turkey is frozen, defrost it in the fridge a few days before.
If the turkey is fresh, take it out of the fridge one or two hours before cooking.
Cover the thighs and neck with grease proof paper to avoid burning them during cooking.
Start by firstly cooking at 200°C (Gas mark 6), roasting the bird for 15 minutes then reduce to 180°C (Gas mark 4) until cooked. Allow 20 minutes cooking time per 1lb of the bird plus 20 minutes on the total.
It is best to test whether the turkey is cooked with a skewer by inserting it in the plumpest part near the thighs after cooking. If the juices run clear, it’s cooked.
8. Allow to rest before carving.
9. Set the table with your favourite dinner set and festive decorations and crackers. We like fresh flowers too.
10. Now carve your turkey and enjoy! Have a great meal and a Happy Christmas to all.