It’s the biggest family meal of the year and for many who put it on the table, a scary prospect. But Rosemary Shrager is a woman with a plan. Michael Hickling reports.
Click the thumbnails above to see Rosemary Shrager’s videos on preparing the turkey, trimmings, starters and desserts. And click here to see more top Yorkshire chefs prepare year-round signature dishes on video
Rosemary Shrager takes a knife in her kitchen and shows how she wants the brussels sprouts to be quartered. Her oven top and work surfaces are populated with raw items ready to chop, slice, dice or mix. Others are already done and in the saucepan.
None of them will be cooked until the following day to be photographed for this article.
Unlike most people getting geared-up for the big meal, she has an assistant in the peeling, scraping and preparation department who is called Jilly.
Even so, Rosemary says it’s been quite tiring following the meal through from start to finish, “because as chefs we usually do things in stages.” And this is the approach she urges to anyone who is taking charge of their family’s Christmas lunch or dinner, ambitious or not.
It’s a big undertaking but the key message is brief: organise your thoughts and prepare in advance.
Okay, some people have busy working lives and don’t have much time for this. They may say quite reasonably that it’s all very well pre-planning when you have a Jilly in the kitchen. But in those run-up days to Christmas they have also got to put the usual family food on the table as well as coordinate a multitude of other seasonal tasks.
For them, Rosemary’s menu might look over-long, even a bit unreal. Or it may seem to be aimed at armchair cooks who can’t stand the heat of Christmas expectation and intend to get out of the kitchen.
But Rosemary is convinced it is practical and do-able. Maybe not in its entirety. You can pick and choose which elements you might want. Perhaps that may be just a couple of her ideas to enliven what can be an over-familiar way of doing things.
Whatever you choose to do for the Christmas meal, there’s one certain consequence: follow Rosemary’s drill and you’ll find yourself marching in from the kitchen to the sound of grateful applause around the table.
“People panic, they think, ‘Oh My God’. They get ill thinking about it. But it’s only Sunday lunch with crackers,” says Rosemary.
“What I find when I’m teaching people is that they don’t realise how much can be done in advance. If professional chefs tried to do everything on the day, no-one would ever get fed in a restaurant.
“I wouldn’t do this meal on the day. I want to have fun on Christmas day. You want to have the time to enjoy things with your family, so that what you are doing in the kitchen on the day is only crisping things up. Everything is cooked in advance except the turkey and the stuffing.
“You can simplify by omitting canapés maybe. Or buy the gravadlax. Or instead of preparing and caramelising the onions, buy a jar of onion marmalade.
“But if you can do all the cooking yourself, you have more and it lasts longer – I love eating what’s left on Boxing Day. And of course the cost is so much more reasonable.
“Ovens aren’t as hot as normal on Christmas day – or at least that used to be the case – because everyone is using theirs at roughly the same time
“I’d also suggest that on Christmas Eve you start on the gravelax and have that as the meal of the day with a baked potato and some salad – it’s so easy.
“And you need to make this as easy for yourself as possible before the big day. It’s not scary. Give it a go.”
Interior styling by Jill Atkinson from The Olive Branch, Easingwold and Addingham, www.the-olive-branch.co.uk
How to: Get ready in advance for the big day...
Here is Rosemary’s pre-Christmas drill to prepare a meal for six to eight people.
Wednesday, December 21
Begin the canapes. Make the canape cases and when cooked put into airtight containers.
Make the gravadlax and put into fridge, turning each morning.
Make the duck rillettes as long sausage shape and put in fridge.
Thursday, December 22
For canapes, prepare the sweet onions for the tarts and put in the fridge.
Start main meal preparation by making the bonet (the chocolate dessert) and the raspberry sorbet.
Get red cabbage ready.
Make the brioche.
Friday, December 23
Prepare pigs in blankets (chipolata sausages and bacon).
Peel potatoes and keep in cold water.
Prepare spiced pears.
Prepare stuffing, bread sauce and cranberry sauce.
Saturday, December 24
For the canapes, prepare the blinis for the gravadlax.
Prepare the prawns and the chicken and have them all ready to be warmed for the plate.
Prepare tuna mixture for tartlets.
Cut the gravadlax ready for the blinis. Toast the brioche.
Stuff your turkey.
Prepare the carrots and brussels sprouts and half cook each.
Cook potatoes in fresh water until just under-cooked. Half roast them – ready to go back in the oven when the turkey is resting.
Half cook the pigs in blankets.
Sunday, December 25
Put turkey in.
Fill the tartlets for the canapes and garnish with tuna, sweet onion, goat’s cheese.
Heat chicken kebabs when ready to serve
Place the kebabs on plates.
Put duck rilletes on top of the brioche.
While cooked turkey is resting for 45 minutes to one hour under tinfoil cover, make gravy as in recipe, using juices from the bird and put pigs in blankets into high oven, 220C.
Heat the red cabbage and the sprouts and finish carrots.
Turn out the bonet. Have the cream ready in a bowl.
Have fruit salad and sorbet ready in bowls.
Part 1: Canapes and starters
Duck Rillettes on Brioch with cranberry sauce
There will be a little left over so you can roll it in cling film and freeze for some other time.
3 duck legs
250g pork fat
150g shoulder of pork
2 bay leaves
1 whole nutmeg,
25g soft butter
salt and pepper
For the topping
150g clarified butter
Cut the pork and pork fat into 2cm. cubes. Put them and the duck legs into a heavy casserole with 150ml water and the rest of the ingredients. Bring it to the boil on top of the stove, cover, then put the casserole in the oven at 160C and cook for 3 hours approx or until falling of the bone, stirring from time to time and adding a little more water if it is drying out. It is important not to have too much liquid in.
Drain what liquid there is into a bowl then, in another bowl, shred the meat with your hands. Add all the fat squished into the meat and remove the bay leaves and cloves. Now mix in the butter well. Season to taste, go easy on the salt. Put into ramekins and seal with a layer of melted clarified butter. Or make into a sausage for canapés, look at the note below. Put into the fridge. This can be done a couple of days in advance.
Serve with French bread and gherkins.
Note: The other way is to make a long sausage in cling wrap and roll up tightly, then you can cut rounds, or however you want to serve it. You can also cover with egg and breadcrumbs twice and put in the deep fat fryer.
For the Brioche Loaf:
Extra butter for greasing
500g strong white flour
40g fresh yeast or 14g dried yeast
6 whole eggs
225g unsalted butter, very soft
Egg to glaze
1 large loaf tin.
Butter the 900g loaf tin. In a large mixing bowl put in the flour, then crumble in the fresh yeast, add the sugar and salt, mix well. Now add the eggs one by one, mixing all the time (this is good to do with a dough hook). Beat for at least 5 minutes, now add the very soft butter bit by bit, do not add too quickly otherwise it could become a cake batter. Make sure each time you add the butter it is well incorporated. This will take up to 10 minutes, patience in this case. Keep beating for a further 5, so it’s lovely and shiny and slides off the dough hook.
Remove the dough from the bowl, put onto a lightly floured surface and shape, then put into the loaf tin.
Put into the fridge overnight then remove in the morning. Brush the tops with egg and put the loaf in the oven for 45 minutes at 220C then for 20 to 25 minutes at 140C.
To make the canapés, cut out the rounds and dry out in the oven.
Gravadlax on Blinis
I always think its so useful to make a whole gravadlax so it can be adapted to so many things.
For the Gravadlax:
1 whole salmon, 2kg prepared weight, filleted as below
1 dessertspoon whole white peppercorns, crushed
150g coarse sea salt
200g granulated sugar
4 tablespoons dill, chopped
zest of 2 lemons
Ask your fishmonger to prepare the fish by de-scaling and filleting it, removing the head, tail and fins but leaving the skin on. You should be left with two matching fillets.
Start with the marinade. Mix the pepper, salt, sugar, dill and lemon zest together. Make sure that there are no pin bones remaining in the fish.
Put one fillet, skin side down, onto a large doubled sheet of tinfoil. Spread the mixture on top of it and cover it, like a sandwich, with the other fillet, flesh side down.
Wrap it up well and put it upside down on a large dish or tray in the fridge. Leave it for at least two days and nights, turning it every eight hours and pouring away the liquid.
Open the parcel, separate the fillets and scrape off and discard the marinade mixture (do not be tempted to wash it off).
Sprinkle the remaining dill all over the surface and pat it down. Replace the salmon in the fridge sandwiched in the same way and wrapped in clean foil.
To serve, slice it thinly on the slant, starting at the tail.
20g fresh yeast
215g strong flour
110g buckwheat flour
275ml warm milk
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon melted butter
For the garnish:
Dissolve the yeast in 150ml warm water and stir in the sugar and strong flour plus one tablespoon of the buckwheat flour. Cover and leave in a warm place to rise to double its size. Add the salt, egg-yolks, butter and buckwheat flour with the milk and beat till smooth. Cover and leave to rise for 30 minutes. Whisk the egg whites till stiff and fold them in. Wipe a large heavy pan with melted butter and make 2cm pancakes, 6-8 at a time. When ready to serve put a teaspoon of sour cream on each then top with cut gravadlax. Garnish with dill.
Indian chicken skewers
3 chicken breasts
red and green pepper
3 tablespoon toasted Sesame seeds
For the marinade
1 clove of garlic finely grated
2 tablespoons brown sugar
Juice of one lemon
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1½ tablespoon turmeric
1 tablespoon ground cumin
150ml sunflower oil
First cut the chicken breasts into 1½cm dice and put into a bowl. Add all the marinade mixture and mix well, and leave for as long as possible. In a large frying pan gently fry the chicken pieces off and put onto a plate. Cut the red and green peppers into 1cm dice, cook in boiling water for 2 min then refresh.
Now put onto the skewers, first green pepper, then chicken and finish with red pepper. Put onto a plate until ready to finish. When ready to serve, heat a pan and fry the chicken to heat up, sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds. Serve.
Prawn and Cherry Tomato Kebab
2 skewers each
12 small cherry tomatoes
1 green or red pepper
12 large peeled raw tiger prawns,
3 tablespoons Olive oil
1 long red chili, cut very finely
3 tablespoons dill finely chopped
Salt and pepper
Cut the green peppers in 1cm squares. Put into boiling water for 2 min then refresh under cold water and drain well. Season the king prawns and add 2 tablespoons olive oil. In a large frying pan, add a dash of oil and heat to medium hot, then cook the prawns on one side for one minute then turn over and cook for a further 2 min. Drain well and put into a bowl. Now add the dill, chili and check for seasoning. Now make the kebabs skewers, first the cherry tomato then the prawn. Finish with the green pepper. Serve.
Part 2: Main Course
Stuffing and Cooking the Turkey
Serves 6 to 8
1 turkey, 6 to 7 kilo
12 rashers bacon
Salt and pepper
You will need plenty of tinfoil. Remove the wishbone. Put the stuffing under the skin and make a ball bringing the excess skin over to hold the stuffing in place. This is where the wishbone was. Rub 400g butter all over the turkey and season well with salt and pepper, cover with the bacon. Place in a large roasting tin on a trivit, pour in 450ml of water into the roasting tin and cook at 180C, uncovered for the first one hour, then cover with tinfoil for the remainder of the cooking. The time of the cooking will be 20 minutes per 500g plus an extra 30 minutes. Baste every 30 minutes, this gives it lots of flavour.
When ready the juices will run clear, if they don’t put back for a further 15 minutes, then check again. When done remove onto a platter and allow to rest for at least 45 minutes.
Gravy for the Turkey
1 tbsp plain flour
150ml dry white wine
Turkey giblets (neck, heart and liver), rinsed
2 celery sticks, roughly chopped
1 carrot, roughly chopped
1 onion, roughly chopped
3 fresh bay leaves
Melt the butter in a large pan over a medium heat. Add the giblets and vegetables and fry for 8 minutes, until golden. Add the bay leaves, peppercorns and 1.5 litres of good stock. Bring to the boil and simmer for 1 hour. Strain the stock into a jug – you should have about 600ml. Set aside to cool slightly, then discard the fat from the surface.
Remove turkey from the pan, and reserve the liquid from the roasting pan and reserve. Deglaze the pan with white wine, reduce and add the flour. Now add the stock from the giblets and simmer. Season well.
Sausage meat and Cranberry Stuffing
150g onion finely chopped
100g minced bacon
500g sausage meat
Zest of 1 lemon
200g vac pac chestnuts
1 teaspoon dried sage
100g curly parsley, finely chopped
Good pinch of cloves
1 egg yolk
Salt and black pepper
First soften the onion in 30g butter on a low heat and allow to cool. Put into a large bowl. Add the bacon, sausage meat, breadcrumbs, sage, parsley, chestnuts, cloves, egg yolk and mix well. Season very well, now add the cranberries, mix gently again, now add 50g soft butter, mix very well. Take one third of the stuffing to put under the skin at the neck end of the turkey. The rest will cook separately in an oven proof dish.
6 large Maris Piper or King Edward potatoes peeled and cut in 4
100ml goose fat or vegetable oil
Sea salt to serve
Put the potatoes in a saucepan of cold salted water. Cover and bring to the boil on a high heat, turn the heat down and simmer for 15 minutes till they are nearly cooked but still firm and drain well. Put the oven on to 200C. Put the oil in a roasting tin and heat it in the oven until hot, remove and carefully place the potatoes into the very hot oil, season with salt and mix so the potatoes are covered in oil. Put the roasting tin back in the oven and roast for 45 min to one hour, turning after 30 min and sprinkle with salt half way through. Remove and serve.
Red Cabbage With Figs
Serves 8 to 10
1 medium red cabbage
12 dried figs, cut in small dice
400g onions, finely sliced
500ml red wine
500ml chicken stock
150ml red wine vinegar
3 slices ginger cut finely
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons sugar
100ml olive oil
2 level tablespoons Maldon coarse sea salt
Freshly milled black pepper
50g butter to finish
Cut the cabbage in four and remove the stem. Finely slice each quarter, and put in a bowl with the salt, vinegar, honey and sugar. Heat the oil in a casserole and cook the onions till golden. Add the cabbage mixture, the cut figs, ginger, wine, chicken stock. Cover and cook on a low heat for 2 hours, stir occasionally, remove the lid in the last half hour of cooking. Strain well, then put back into the pan add the butter and plenty of pepper. Check for salt then serve, or put to one side and heat later.
Brussel Sprouts with Orange peel and almonds
1½ kilo brussel sprouts trimmed
450g vacuum pack chestnuts
2 oranges peeled, julienned with white pith cut off
Salt and black pepper
Slivered almond toasted
Cook off the sprouts in boiling salted water for 2 min until tender and drain and refresh. Cut into quarters and set to one side. Boil the julienned orange peel in boiling water for 20 seconds take out refresh and repeat two more times. Heat some butter in a pan and add brussel sprouts and orange peel and half the almonds toss until hot.
Heat through and season with salt and black pepper. Garnish with toasted slivered almonds.
600g carrots, long
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 dessertspoon sugar
Put the butter and oil in a large frying pan on a low heat and cook the carrots for 20-25 minutes approximately. Turn them over as they caramelise. Once they have cooked add the sugar, salt and pepper and continue cooking for a further 10 minutes until golden then serve.
500g pack fresh or frozen cranberries
125g caster sugar
Zest and juice of an orange
2 tablespoon sherry
Simmer the cranberries in the orange juice for one minute, stir in sugar, orange zest and sherry then simmer gently for 6 to 7 minutes until tender and mushy. The sauce will thicken as it cools.
This makes quite a lot, you can use it in turkey sandwiches, or serve with ham or any cold meats.
Half an onion, chopped in half
1 teaspoon of white pepper
4 whole cloves
1 garlic clove
1 bay leaf
2 thyme sprigs
115g fresh white breadcrumbs
pinch nutmeg, freshly grated
Simmer the milk on a low heat with the butter, onion, clove, peppercorns, garlic and herbs in a pan for 20 minutes. Strain and return the liquid to the pan. Add the breadcrumbs and simmer for 3-4 minutes. Add nutmeg, season and serve. You can serve this hot or cold.
Part 3: Desserts
Bonet and Spiced Pears
Ingredients for the bonet:
3 tablespoons caster sugar
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
450 ml. milk
1 tablespoon Amaretto
220 g. Amaretti biscuits, crushed roughly
For the caramel:
200 g. caster sugar
4 tablespoons water
To make the caramel melt the sugar gently in the water, then bring to the boil, brushing the inside of the pan with cold water to prevent crystals forming. Continue boiling the mixture until it is properly golden.
Pour into a long terrine dish or bread tin swirling to coat the sides and base. Allow to cool.
Whisk the eggs with the sugar and cocoa powder, then fold in the milk, amaretto followed by the amaretti crumbs, mix it all well and pour into the terrine dish. Cover with foil and bake in a bain-marie for 30 – 40 minutes until firm to the touch, oven 190°C.
When the terrine is cooked take out of the oven and allow to cool thoroughly before turning out. Much of the hardened caramel will remain behind having done its two jobs; distilling glossy sweetness upon the pudding and facilitating their removal from the dish.
Serve with cinnamon mascarponi and spiced pears.
For the Spiced Pears:
6 whole pears
1 vanilla pod
3 star aniseed
4 whole cloves
1 stick cinnamon
1 orange, peel only
400g caster sugar
1 litre red wine or water and blackcurrant juice
First in a saucepan large enough to hold 6 pears, put in the vanilla, star aniseed, cloves, cinnamon and the peel of the orange, sugar and wine or water and bring to the boil to make a spiced syrup, simmer gently for 5 minutes. Peel the pears leaving the stalks on and remove the core from the base, put into the spiced syrup and cook gently for 20 to 25 minutes until soft. Remove the pears, now reduce the syrup down to half, and now pour over the pears and allow to cool in the syrup. Drain well when serving. Either have them standing up or cut in half length wise.
Cinnamon and Marscarpone
2 tablespoonspoons icing sugar
2 rounded teaspoons cinnamon
Mix the ingredients together.
Raspberry Sorbet with Orange and Grapefruit Salad
Ingredients for the Raspberry Sorbet:
500g fresh raspberries
juice of 1 lemon
½ quantity syrup
Pass the raspberries through a fine sieve then stir in the lemon juice and add the syrup, this is a matter of taste: if you think it is sweet enough before you have finished adding it all, just stop. Either put it into an ice cream machine or freeze it. If freezing it, remove the sorbet from the freezer every now and again as it freezes, and give it a stir to break down the crystals.
For the Syrup:
250 ml water
Bring the ingredients to the boil, stirring throughout. Simmer it for 2 minutes and then allow it to cool. Keep it in the fridge until required.
Orange and Grapefruit Salad
1 pink grapefruit
Fresh mint to garnish
Remove the outer peel and pith by cutting down to the flesh with a sharp knife and then go in between the sections and cut out the segments, making sure there is no pith or skin on when finished.
Put the prepared fruit into a bowl and squeeze the remaining juice from the core and skin over it, and repeat with all the oranges and grapefruit until they are finished. Put into a bowl and serve with some fresh mint.