Cooking Christmas dinner for family and friends should be just as enjoyable for the chef as for everyone else, but it can often be hard when there are so many dishes to juggle. To keep things simple, Gordon says planning is key. Here’s his simple Christmas Countdown to help you prepare ahead for the big day itself.
THE CHRISTMAS DAY MENU
Roast turkey with lemon, parsley and garlic butter
Turkey gravy with cider and walnuts
Honey glazed parsnips and carrots
Sage and onion stuffing (or alternative vegan chestnut stuffing)
Pigs in blankets
Brussels sprouts with bacon and chestnuts
Braised red cabbage and apple
WELL IN ADVANCE
Order your fresh, free-range turkey 2-3 weeks ahead. If you opt for a frozen turkey instead, a 5-6kg one will need about 3 days to thaw in the fridge.
You can also now calculate how long to cook your turkey. Read my handy guide to working out your oven times by weight.
THE WEEK BEFORE
Cook your braised red cabbage fully and cool, it will keep, covered in a casserole dish in the fridge, for up to 3 days.
THE DAY BEFORE
Make your cranberry sauce, cool and keep in the fridge.
If following my roast turkey recipe, make the lemon, parsley and garlic butter now. Chill in a bowl or get ahead and stuff and cover the turkey with it, cover with foil then return the bird to the fridge.
Prepare your stuffing mixture (such as a classic sage and onion stuffing or vegan chestnut stuffing) and shape into balls or press into your chosen dish ready to go in the oven. Refrigerate.
Wrap your sausages in bacon for the pigs in blankets, refrigerate in a baking dish.
6-7 HOURS IN ADVANCE
Bring the turkey to room temperature (remove the giblets).
4.5 HOURS AHEAD
Blanch the Brussels sprouts and immerse in chilled water.
Peel the potatoes and immerse in water to prevent browning.
3.5 HOURS AHEAD
For my roast turkey recipe, preheat the oven. If not already done, stuff and prepare the turkey as instructed then put in the hot oven. Baste and lay the bacon rashers over the turkey breasts after the initial 15 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature then baste every 30 minutes during cooking.
Peel the parsnips and carrots 2-3 hours ahead and keep them immersed in chilled water until you’re ready to cook.
1.5 HOURS AHEAD
Take the cranberry sauce from the fridge and spoon into a saucepan.
Take the braised red cabbage out of the fridge.
Boil the milk and flavourings the bread sauce and leave to infuse.
Finish preparing your peeled potatoes ready for roasting. For classic roast potatoes, this means par-boiling, adding herbs and seasonings and getting the fat hot in the oven.
Put the potatoes into the oven, followed by your prepared stuffing, to roast.
Check the turkey is fully cooked through – insert a skewer into the thickest part of the leg and check that the juices are running clear, rather than pink. When ready, remove from the oven and leave in a warm place to rest.
Use the trimmings and roasting juices to make my turkey gravy recipe with cider and walnuts. Leave in the pan ready to reheat when ready to serve.
30 MINUTES AHEAD
Drain the parsnips and carrots and cook on the hob with their sticky honey glaze.
Cook the pigs in blankets for 15 minutes while preparing the sticky glaze. Pour over and return to the oven to finish cooking.
15 MINUTES AHEAD
Warm your plates and serving dishes.
Place the casserole of braised cabbage on the hob and reheat fully (add a splash of water if it seems a little dry).
Finish cooking the Brussels sprouts – try pan-frying the sprouts with bacon and chestnuts in my quick recipe.
Strain the milk mixture for the bread sauce and finish cooking ready to serve.
Reheat the gravy.
Warm the cranberry sauce a little then place in a serving bowl.
JUST BEFORE SERVING
Transfer the potatoes, veg and all the accompaniments to warm serving dishes.
Carve the turkey and serve.