Turkey-Fresh versus Frozen

Of course we'd all love to afford a fresh organic Norfolk Bronze Turkey or Black Turkey but the reality for a lot of people is to cut their Christmas spending this year. If your budget can only afford a frozen turkey then make sure you allow 48 hours in the fridge to properly thaw it out. Most people buy way too much for fear of running out remember a 4-5kg (9lb-11lb) should feed 10-12 people. Of course I am talking fresh weight, if you're buying a frozen turkey then allow an extra1.5 kilos.   
Here's a table to help work out the size turkey you need.

Here is another useful link from the  I Love British Turkey site, this page has two very handy calculators: one for working your cooking time and the other one for working out defrosting times if your turkey is a frozen one.

To stuff or not to stuff?
Like Delia Smith I'm a big fan of stuffing the turkey, though that will increase your cooking times. Make sure any cooking times
calculator takes into account whether the turkey is stuffed or not.  Make your stuffing the day before so you can stuff the bird when the stuffing is cold.  Stuffing any kind of poultry with hot stuffing is both difficult and very unwise because it will cause bacteria
to grow. The turkey should be stuffed just before you put it in the oven.   I like to use some of the *stock I have made to give the stuffing a depth of flavour, particularly if you are using a stuffing mix straight out of the pack.

Making a list and checking twice
A key to a successful Christmas meal are checklists (ingredients, preparation, equipment and time table).
To some this may sound a little obvious but to others less experienced cooks... planning will go along way to help you
achieve a successful Christmas Day meal.  Start by writing down your menu and then study it and ask yourself if you have
the oven space, burner space, pots and pans and refrigator space.  I like to run down my fridge supplies several weeks
before Christmas to make sure I have enough space for all those Christmas ingredients.  Of course if you have a very cold
room in the house (an entrance hall or utility room) you may find it idea for storing your cheeses, eggs, and some vegetables.

Don't put yourself under unnecessary pressure by creating a menu that causes you to do too much juggling. Better to have three interesting and properly cooked vegetables than 6 choices you have no space to cook or keep hot. Some vegetables can cooked early in the morning, chilled down in cold water drained and then reheated just before you serve in a microwave.

Do any of your relatives have equipment that you can borrow? such as warming cupboards, plug in extra burners, just remember to be sensible in how and where you use them.

If you make the stock the day before making good gravy will be a breeze on Christmas day.
Brown the giblets, 1 onion, 1-2 carrot (and a stick of celery if you have on hand) in a frying pan with a little oil. Once golden brown transfer the giblets and vegetables to a 4 litre saucepan and cover with cold water and add one garlic clove unpeeled, a bay leaf and a good quality chicken bouillon cube and a large tomato (chopped). Simmer your stock until the giblets are very tender and then strain your *stock and save.

Whilst the turkey is resting on a clean large plate/or roasting pan pour 100ml of the fat (and juices) into a study thick bottomed saucepan and add enough plain flour to make a thick paste, stir frequently until smooth on a medium heat. Gradually add enough stock to make the gravy but be prepared to add a little more stock because the gravy will thicken as it cooks.

These days if you gather more than 8-9 people together for Christmas, the chances are you'll
have at least one vegetarian guest. Please try to be a bit more creative than offering them
a plate full of steamed vegetables. First off…check to see if any of your guests are Vegetarians, and if they are they also Vegans (those who do not eat any dairy).
Vegetarian Options
A vegetarian quiche is usually a safe bet not to mention the rest of it can be offered at other meals times or on a buffet.
Here a simple but tasty quiche idea Celeriac Tart with Roasted Baby Plum Tomatoes, just click on the picture to go to the recipe.
BP2980666@SB271107Ashton-04Potato, Red Onion and rocket soup
My best advice for your first course is don't choose a dish that requires a lot of work on Christmas Day, so I suggest a soup (that can be made the day before) a fruit alternative and a pate or terrine.
I will be making this duck and wild mushroom terrine because it is so easy to serve, just click on the photo for the recipe.

Duck and Wild Mushroom terrine © Kevin Ashton 2006images
These days you can buy some pretty decent pates or terrines but I would suggest if you choose to do that you sample it beforehand to make sure you are happy with it, and I would definitely avoid pate that has fruit such as orange in it. Fruit chutneys go well with pates but not in them yuck….!     When choosing a simple fruit alternative for your first course melon
is often the choice but it is important to choose one that is ripe or buy it before to allow enough time for it to ripen up.
If you click on the melon photo it will take you to a post that will help you choose.

Dessert ideas
These days, many people are too full by the time Christmas pudding is served, so here are a couple of alternative ideas
Why not make or buy a stollen (which a very versatile fruit bread with marzipan running through it).  You can offer a it as
a dessert or served later in place of fruit cake.  If like offering a fruit salad type choice then why not try my Warm Fruit Salad.
Just click on the photos to go to the recipes.

Stollen2Warm Fruit Salad

Free cooking advice from ME on the 24th December!
For one day only on the 24th December (10.30am-7pm GMT) I will be offering free advice on this mobile number 07767823984. Please remember to keep you questions reasonably short so I can help as many callers as possible.
I want to wish you all a very Joyous Christmas filled with happiness and love.   Peace and goodwill start with one act of kindness towards a stranger.