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Ace your Christmas lunch

Fretting over your turkey? In a flap over your potatoes and parsnips? We have Christmas lunch covered with our top tips from Burleigh Court Hotel's head chef Shaun Jones.

Shaun Jones is the double AA rosette-winning Head Chef at boutique retreat Burleigh Court Hotel in Minchinhampton. Formerly head chef at The Bell at Sapperton and Senior Chef de Partie at Barnsley House, so we think he knows a thing or two about basting birds.

Here are his eight golden rules to cooking up a Christmas dinner show-stopper.

Shaun Jones at work in the kitchen

First up, it’s all about prior preparations, try and get as much done beforehand as you can.

1. For the best roast potatoes parboil them first in salted water (this will help release moisture when the potatoes cool). When you stick a knife in them they should slowly slide off, then they’re perfect to drain, drain them into a colander and shake them about to “fluff” them up. It’s best to do this the day before and put them in the fridge overnight, it’ll dry them out and help get a really crisp potato! Tip for roasting on the day: be generous with the oil, or duck fat if you prefer. Only really move them in the tray once, let them caramelise nicely before a final turn, plenty of fresh garlic and thyme in the tray! Don’t season the potatoes until the very end, seasoning at the start will release more moisture from the potato and will stop them crisping whilst roasting.

2. Get those pigs in blankets wrapped and in the fridge the night before, you’ll find it frees you up the next day, you can just whack them in the oven and go.

3. The turkey is the main event and prepping the night before will work wonders. Douse in lots of salt an pepper over the skin and butter underneath (if you’re feeling adventurous add some garlic and herbs of your choice to the butter) and really rub it in! Let that marinade over night in the fridge, turkey can become dry very easily so unlike the potatoes you want to retain as much moisture as possible, if you’re fortunate to have a double oven have the turkey on a roasting tray sat on some roughly chopped carrots, onions and celery, small splash of red wine at the bottom of the tray and cover with aluminium foil.

A good trick for moisture is steam, if you have a steam function on your oven press it every 30 minutes, but if not don’t worry, a couple of ice cubes at the bottom of the oven with create the same affect! The key for cooking is “low and slow” until the final half hour where you want to uncover the turkey and crisp up the skin, (always check the cooking time given on the turkey).

4. Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without sprouts, instead of boiling them I love to slice them raw really thinly, cut up some streaky bacon into lardons and roughly cut some vac packed (pre cooked) chestnuts. Gently fry of the bacon lardons and render down that fat, once the bacon is looking crispy add your thinly sliced raw sprouts and season with salt and pepper, turn up the heat a little, add the roughly chopped chestnuts and a splash of chicken stock, this will cook the sprouts once the stock has reduced you’re good to serve.

A little tip, the thinner you slice the sprouts the quicker they’ll cook, the whole process should take no more than 5-8 minutes for these if everything is prepared prior.

5. Parsnips also don’t get nearly the attention they deserve in Christmas dinner preparations but are a delicious, traditional side dish. I’d always roast them as this makes them slightly sweet and perfectly tender. I recommend to glaze and roast them with honey and season with salt, pepper and thyme.

6. Traditional bread sauce is one of the great, classic British sauces, but often tasteless and stodgy. A good sauce is beautifully creamy and full of flavour so preparation again is everything. Stud an onion with cloves, and add bay leaf and some peppercorns, in a pot with milk. Add salt and bring to boil then switch off the heat and leave the pot covered with a lid so that the milk can infuse for a couple of hours. It will be delicious.

7. This delicious cranberry sauce has the warm spices and flavours of the Christmas season and is definitely a favourite. Sauté some shallots, apples, cranberries and cider. Mix in brown sugar to taste. You can make it up to one week in advance and keep it in the fridge. Simple, rustic and so good.

8. To create an incredibly tasty gravy use all the juices from your sausages and turkey, plenty of red wine (if you’re feeling daring!) and a hearty sprinkle of thyme, simmer for a bit and you’ll have a delicious, flavourful topping to Christmas dinner.

Find more ideas here

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