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6 Essential Christmas Cooking Skills To Master This Year

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Cooking up a cracking Christmas Dinner takes great ingredients, foolproof recipes, and sometimes, a bit of practice. There’s plenty to think about: from family favourites to annual opinion dividers.

Our Taste of Xmas recipes (on the menu from 6th of November until the end of December) nudge you toward the flavours of Christmas, but can also help you develop helpful skills to prepare for cooking a  wonderful dinner come the 25th.

From perfectly crispy roast potatoes to an alternative (and people pleasing) way to serve sprouts, here’s the full list of tips and recipes. Dip in and out as you wish:

How To Make Bread Sauce Like A Pro

bread sauceBread sauce is steeped in food history. Dating back to medieval Britain, its origins can be traced back to when cooks found that adding stale bread to sauce could thicken it.

Our Taste of Xmas Crispy Chicken recipe uses Bread Sauce as a delicious accompaniment to the roasted veg that goes alongside.

In this recipe, you’ll learn a quick and simple method that uses star anise and bay leaf to bring a special kind of spice to a traditional winter dish.

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • 1 knob of butter (20g)
  • 2 star anise
  • 4 shallots
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 60g panko breadcrumbs

Method

  1. Peel and halve the shallots and peel the garlic.
  2. Heat a pot over a low heat with 600ml milk and a generous knob of butter
  3. Add the halved shallots, garlic, star anise, bay leaves and cook for 20 min or until fragrant. Tip: the milk only needs to simmer gently
  4. Once the milk has infused, remove and discard the star anise, garlic, shallot and bay leaves
  5. Add the clotted cream and panko breadcrumbs to the milk with a generous pinch of salt and pepper
  6. Give everything a good mix up and cook for 1-2 min or until the breadcrumbs have soaked up most of the liquid. Once this step is complete your sauce is done and you’re (b)ready to impress!

Try it in our recipe for Crispy Chicken With Bread Sauce & Roasted Root Veg

How To Make Brilliant Balsamic Roasted Sprouts

sproutsSome in favour, many against; there’s never been a culinary divider quite like sprouts. How did they end up causing such a stir on the dining table?

Bundling onto our plates from Belgium sometime in the late 18th century, these ‘mini cabbages’ are at constant risk of being over boiled.

But, with the right amount of TLC, a Brussel Sprout can be a thing of wonder. Practice getting yours just right before the big event with our simple balsamic roasted version.

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 400g brussell sprouts
  • 30g balsamic vinegar
  • Vegetable oil

Method

  1. Add the brussell sprouts to a baking tray with a drizzle of vegetable oil and a pinch of salt
  2. Put the tray in the oven and cook for 15-20 min or until the sprouts are tender and slightly crispy
  3. Once done, add the balsamic vinegar to the cooked sprouts and give everything a good mix up – now you’re ready to convert the sprout non-believers!

Try it in our recipe for Creamy Mushroom Pie, Balsamic Roasted Sprouts & Mash

How To Make Sensational Spiced Red Cabbage

spiced red cabbageBright and cheery red cabbage hasn’t long been on our Christmas dinner plates, with some arguing that it’s actually a veg best saved for Boxing Day.

It pairs wonderfully with goose or turkey, and its particularly festive appeal (outside of its colour) is how well it holds spice.

Loved by both sides of the Atlantic (Danes serve it with pork and it’s a staple on the American Thanksgiving table), our version uses star anise, balsamic and sultanas for the perfect Taste of Xmas side dish.

Ingredients

  • 500g red cabbage
  • 60g sultanas
  • 2 star anise
  • 60ml balsamic vinegar
  • 2tsp sugar
  • 1 pinch of salt

Method

  1. Cut your red cabbage in half and slice as finely as you can!
  2. Add the sliced cabbage, balsamic vinegar, sultanas, star anise, sugar and a pinch of salt to an oven-proof dish (or casserole dish with a lid) and give everything a good mix up
  3. Cover the dish tightly with tin foil (or a matching lid) and put the dish in the oven for 35-40 min or until the cabbage is cooked – serve alongside your favourite festive main.

Try it in our recipe for Pork Belly, Sprout Mash & Spiced Red Cabbage

How To Make The Ultimate Christmas Stuffing

chistmas stuffingTotal hearty comfort in all its forms, stuffing is an absolute roast dinner essential, whether it’s on a cosy Sunday in the pub, or on Christmas Day itself.

Traditionally, the idea of stuffing a bird with bread, herbs and spices was to help maintain moisture, as well as infuse flavour. Nowadays stuffing is so popular that we serve it on its own.

Learning your own recipe from scratch will make you your nan’s favourite grandchild, and the stuffing balls that accompany our Pan-Fried Chicken recipe are a perfect starting point.

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 2 tsp dried sage
  • 2 shallots
  • 6 garlic cloves
  • 120g panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 chicken stock cube
  • 1 tbsp butter

Method

  1. Peel and finely chop the garlic and shallots
  2. Heat a large, wide-based pan and heat butter over a medium heat
  3. Once melted, add the chopped shallot and garlic and cook for 2-3 min or until the shallot has softened, then add the dried sage and cook for a further 30 sec – this is your sage & onion butter
  4. Dissolve the chicken stock cube in 300ml boiled water
  5. Combine the chicken stock, panko breadcrumbs and the sage & onion butter in a bowl and set aside to cool and absorb the liquid
  6. Meanwhile, divide the sage & onion stuffing into 4 and shape into stuffing balls
  7. Add the stuffing balls to a baking tray and put them in the oven for 10-12 min or until they’re browned – once cooled they’re ready for stuffing into your mouth (no judgement it is Christmas after all).

Try it in our recipe for Pan-Fried Chicken, Roast Veg, Stuffing & Gravy

How To Make The Perfect Roast Potatoes

perfect roast potatoesEvery country where potatoes grow has its own traditions, but around the British dining table, where the potato is king, the steaming roastie is royalty.

Piercing its crispy outer and sitting back while heat escapes – knowing what awaits – can be the best part of a roast dinner. But getting that fluffy crunch just right needs practice.

Our Swedish Pork Chop With Roast Potatoes & Beans is a meat and two veg dish with a twist. Using flourishes like clotted cream and soy sauce, you’ll get your potatoes roasted to perfection with a technique you can use time and time again.

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 400g potatoes
  • Vegetable oil

Method

    1. Set the oven to 220°C/ 200°C (fan)/ 425°F/ Gas 7 and boil a kettle
    2. Peel the potatoes (chop any large potatoes in half)
    3. Add the potatoes to a pot of boiled water with a large pinch of salt, bring to the boil over a high heat and cook for 10-15 min or until fork-tender
    4. Once the potatoes are done, drain and leave them to steam dry
    5. Add the cooked potatoes to a baking tray with a generous drizzle of vegetable oil and season generously with salt.

Tip: when you’re roasting in the oven always use oils with a high smoke point  – such as vegetable oil – these will burn less easily and give your food a better flavour and final result. Olive oil has a lower smoke point than vegetable oil, so it’s not the best option for roasting.

  1. Put the tray in the oven for 10-15 minutes and then turn the potatoes in the oil.
  2. Return to the oven for a further 10-15 min, or until they’ve reached your desired level of golden crispy goodness. Allow to cool slightly, but serve while still hot from the oven.

Try it in our recipe for Swedish Pork Chop With Roast Potatoes & Beans

How To Make A Quick Cranberry Sauce

cranberry sauceDo you prefer your cranberry sauce sweet or sour? If it’s the tart tang of berry that tickles your fancy, perhaps you’ve spent winters in Europe.

If it’s something sweeter, then you’ll have probably come across the pre-mixed version, popularised in the States.

Our simple version uses dried cranberries and honey to create a wonderful homemade sauce that’ll work brilliantly with all your favourite Christmas classics.

Once mastered, you can take sweetness up and down to your liking.

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 120 g dried cranberries
  • 50g honey
  • 900ml water

Method

  1. Add the cranberries, honey and 900ml cold water to a pot over a medium heat
  2. Cook for 25-30 min or until the cranberries have broken down and the sauce has thickened to a jam-like consistency Tip: occasionally crush the cranberries with a back of a wooden spoon to help the sauce thicken
  3. Once done, set aside to cool and enjoy as you see fit – we suggest

Try it in our recipe for Mustard Glazed Ham, Cranberry Sauce & Leek Mash

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With Christmas fast approaching, what culinary tips have you got up your sleeve? Share them with us below!

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