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British Christmas Dinner and all the trimmings

Introduction & method

Making a British Christmas Dinner, roast turkey and all the trimmings, can be a challenge. It's something you might only do once a year, and likely for a lot more people than you normally cook for. To make it easier, plan ahead and do as much prep as you can the day before. And don't give yourself too much work to do - I think three vegetables and two type of potato is more than enough. Good luck and don't panic!

British Christmas Dinner and all the trimmings Recipe

Words of Wisdom Before we Start

A large part of making a massive meal like this is to do with planning. You can, and should, do as much prep as you can the day before: make giblet stock, make up the stuffing mix, assemble pigs in blankets, make cranberry sauce, peel potatoes and veg (keep them in bowls of cold water with a squirt of lemon juice). On the day, decide what time the meal is starting and work back from that. Include at least 30 minutes resting time for the turkey.

Make Turkey Giblet Stock

If your turkey comes with giblets, you can use them to make a good stock and if you have a small turkey you can cut the wings off and use them in the stock. You might have a bag of offal, usually the heart and liver - keep these for the stuffing. Because we don't actually have the turkey bones available yet, you can use chicken wings for flavour and gelatinousness. Roast the chicken and turkey wings in a hot oven for 25 minutes. Add them to your cooking vessel along with the coarsely chopped onion, carrot and celery. Add herbs and peppercorns, top up with boiling water and cook as follows: pressure cooker, 20 minutes under pressure; stovetop saucepan, 3 hours or more; slow cooker/crockpot, 8 hours or overnight. Drain the liquid into a saucepan and boil rapidly until it is reduced by half. Taste for seasoning and add salt if neccessary. Strain through a muslin cloth and set aside. When it is cool, place it in the fridge or freezer to chill - any fat will rise to the top and you can easily remove it.

Pork, Cranberry, Sage and Onion Stuffing

Peel and finely chop the onion. Heat some oil in a frying pan and gently sauté the onion until soft but not browned - about 5 minutes. When cool, mix it in a large bowl with all the other ingredients. You'll likely need to do this your hand to get everything properly mixed. Form into balls - 85 grams (3 ounces) is a good size. You'll have enough mixture to make 12 balls - obviously this is too much but the leftovers are very good sliced and added to sandwiches. They will take 30 minutes to cook so put them in the oven when the turkey comes out.

Make Cranberry Sauce

Mix the sugar and water together in a small saucepan and heat on the stove until the sugar is dissolved. Add the cranberries and cook for 5-10 minutes until they have all burst. Mash them to a smoothish paste. Add the orange zest and stir well. Allow to cool completely.

Pigs in Blankets

This sounds a bit exotic, but actually all it is is small sausages wrapped in bacon and roasted. They are usually about 5cm (2 inches long) and made with chipolatas - a small diameter sausage - rather than normal ones. You might need to cut your chipolatas in half, and the same with the bacon. There's no magic to this - just lay out half a rasher of bacon, place a sausage on it and roll the bacon up. They only take about 20 minutes to cook in the oven once the turkey is out. Have a look halfway through and if they've released a lot of water, drain it off.

Turkey Cooking Times

I'm not going to tell you anything like 'give it xx minutes per kilo at xx degrees' because it probably won't work. Really, all you need to know about the cooking time is how long it will take to reach an internal temperature of 74 C (165°F). If you got your turkey from a supermarket, it will likely have cooking guidelines on the packaging. Otherwise, there is plenty of info online. But do treat it as guidance only - get yourself a digital thermometer and start testing your turkey at least half an hour before you expect it to be done. In the video that goes with this, I had a 3.9kg (8½ pound) turkey, The packaging said it would take 2 hours and 14 minutes at 160°C (320°F) for a fan/convection oven, 180°C (356°F) conventional, gas 4. In reality, it was ready half an hour before that. This isn't really a problem - the turkey needs to rest for 30 minutes anyway, so as long as you have everything else ready to go you can pop it in the oven.

Prep the Turkey and Start Roasting It

Your turkey should be at room temperature when you start so take it out of the fridge an hour or so before you begin. Put the turkey on a wire rack over a roasting tin. Put butter underneath the skin on the breasts, and smooth it into the joint between legs and body and over the outside of the legs. Generously sprinkle with ground black pepper and sea salt. Place it in the preheated oven and baste it with the pan juices every 30 minutes. When it's cooked, remove to a warmed platter and loosely tent in foil. Let it rest for at least 30 minutes.

Roast and Mashed Potatoes

Peel the potatoes and cut them into angular chunks. Half of them will become roasties, the other half mash. We'll start cooking them all in the same pan of salted water, about 90 minutes before finish time. Bring the water to the boil and turn down to a simmer. After about 15 minutes, remove half of the potatoes. Shake them around in a colander to roughen up the outsides a little. Melt a couple of teaspoons of goose fat, duck fat or dripping in a roasting tray. Add the potatoes and give them a good shake to get them coated in fat. They'll need about 40 minutes in the oven, turn them now and again to get them golden all over.
Continue cooking the remaining potatoes and drain them when they are tender. Mash them with a knob of butter, half a teaspoon of salt and white pepper and a sploosh of milk. If serving time is in the distance, keep the mash warm in an ovenproof dish in the oven - cover it with foil unless you want a bit of crispiness on the top.

Honey Glazed Carrots

Baby carrots are ideal for this but Chantenay (short, stubby and triangular in profile) carrots will also work. Top and tail them and scrape off any bruised-looking exterior stuff. Put them in a small saucepan with a dessertspoon of honey and enough water to cover the carrots. Bring to the boil then simmer for about 10 minutes. When the carrots are tender, turn up the heat to evaporate the liquid. You need to watch this carefully because the aim is to get rid of the liquid, leaving honey-glazed carrots behind. Not toffee!


Top and tail the parsnips and cut into batons. If you have a steamer you can parboil them above the potatoes for about 5 minutes. Be careful with parsnips - they seem very hard when you're cutting them, but they cook a lot quicker than you expect. You can roast them with the roast potatoes, so put them on the same tray and stir to coat them in fat. Turn over now and again.

Make the Gravy

Melt 50 grams (2 ounces) of butter in a small saucepan. Sift in the same amount of flour, stir to mix well and cook for 2 minutes. Add a smallish amount of the stock we made ages ago and stir to a smooth paste. Then stir in more stock to make up about half a litre (2 cups) of gravy. If and when you have any drippings or cooking liquid from the turkey, stir those in.

Cook the Sprouts

I hate Brussels sprouts. But they are 'traditional' and this method is better than an extended boil. So, remove the grotty outer leaves, cut off the root and slice each sprout in half. You'll want some fatty bacon, about a quarter of the weight of sprouts. Put the bacon into a cold frying pan, turn on the heat and cook for about 5 minutes until the fat is more or less rendered. Introduce the sprouts and cook for 5-10 minutes until tender. 


Okay, that's it, the rest is up to you. Happy Christmas!


Ingredients & Info

  turkey giblets and wings
 1 kilo chicken wings
 1 large onion
 1 large carrot
 2 sticks celery
 2 bay leaves
 a small handful of fresh parsley
 1 tsp whole black peppercorns
 1 tsp dried thyme
 450 grams minced pork
 1 large onion
 200 grams breadcrumbs
 100 grams cranberries
  heart and liver of the turkey
 25 grams butter
 1 tsp dried sage
 6 pork chipolatas
 6 rashers unsmoked streaky bacon
 100 grams sugar
 100 ml water
 150 grams cranberries
  zest of half an orange


Quantities of veggies and potaties will depend on how many mouths you have to feed. Check the method for any other things that are needed.

US Customary/Imperial

Serves 4 
Prep time: 1 hour.
Cooking time: 3 hours.
Total time: 4 hours.