From the turkey to the sprouts, the mince pies to the party puddings, whatever festive feast you're throwing this Christmas - make sure it's the best one! Here at HELLO! Online, we asked our favourite celebrity chef Jamie Oliver how to make sure our readers can enjoy the food galore whilst being surrounded by friends and family in a stress-free manner. Who doesn't love this time of year?
Make sure you plan ahead, so you reduce the stress as much as possible – this will give you more time to chill out, relax, and spend time with your loved ones. I like to organise Christmas by working backwards in time - from the moment you're eating the Christmas meal, go back to how long you rest the turkey for, and that golden hour or two when you're doing the roasties and all the veggies. Even the day before when you're preparing, and even the week before. That way, you've got your mission control down. I always do it on a chalk board. It's a bit geeky but it works.
Being organised with your store-cupboard staples in advance, and gradually building up a stash when things are on offer, will save you money, plus several horrendously busy supermarket trips nearer the time. Ordering online is a great way to dodge carrying heaps of heavy bags, too.
The three fundamentals for roast dinner
If you can get these three sorted, then everything else is just icing.
1. Great meat - The best bit of advice I can give you is to buy a good meat thermometer to make sure your turkey is cooked through. Stick the thermometer into the thickest part of the breast and the deepest part of the thigh - when the temperature reaches at least 65ºC for a top-quality bird or 70ºC for a supermarket higher-welfare or standard bird, the turkey is ready to come out.
2. Gravy - If you follow the recipe that I've given for gravy, which is about the trivet, the pan juices, with a potato masher going through the onions and carrots, and a bit of jam, and a bit of booze and then a bit of flour and water, and a simmer. It's almost like a stew, or soup.
3. Best roast potatoes - I personally try and peel my potatoes, but I don't make them too small - keep them cricket-ball sized, fairly big. We put them in a big pan. We par-boil them in salted boiling water for 16-20 minutes. When they're getting soft, we drain them into a colander and leave them for two minutes. It's really important that the extra water evaporates away.
Give it a little tossing action. What happens to this, is the starch on the outside of the potatoes - you're creating starchy surface area which is going to equal more crispiness. Fluffiness on the inside from the par-boiling, crispiness on the outside from the tossing and roasting.
Then we go on to a tray and you have to choose your fat. My standard is olive oil and butter. You could use rendered fat from any joints of meat. Your turkey fat that's roasting is probably the most delicious thing you could use. Then get something flat - a potato masher or a fish slice. You only want one layer of potatoes and then just lightly squash them. Then back in the oven for 10-15 minutes - this will make the perfect roast potato that is so good you could put it on a plate in a Michelin star restaurant.
Check the basics
Make sure you’re stocked up on things like tin foil, clingfilm, bin bags, condiments, and so on. And, double check that your roasting tray is big enough for your turkey, but still fits in the oven (I know it sounds obvious, but you might be surprised!).
If you're going to the effort of making a beautiful meal, your table should follow suit - tie your napkins up with ribbons, fresh herbs and chilli to give them a festive vibe, light some candles, arrange a couple of jars of seasonal flowers, and add some homemade name tags (a great job to delegate to kids).
Put love and care into things
Make your own pastry, but you don’t have to do it the week before Christmas. You can do it a month before Christmas. Use your freezer, it's absolutely your best friend. With decoration for booze, you literally just put water around a bottle and stuff it with any foliage you can get your hands on. For example, orange, cranberries, star anise, cinnamon sticks... It's a bit cheesy, I admit, but Christmas is cheesy. Leave in the freezer and it's then the perfect bottle holder which will keep your drinks chilled…
For more information, grab a copy of Jamie Oliver's Christmas Cookbook