Culinary skills

08 December 2017


AH, CHRISTMAS. Great feast though it may be, it is also burdensome for cooks. Most people seem to be daunted by the Roast turkey. (A bird is always best, in my opinion, because of the flavour.) So, once you have worked out the cooking time for a fresh or thawed bird, roast it upside down. Seriously. That way, all the delicious juices run into the breast and keep it moist. Then, turn it breast-side up for the final 30-45 minutes, which will colour the skin. And don’t forget to rest it for at least half an hour, wrapped in foil, before serving.

For the best Roast potatoes, use floury potatoes such as King Edward, or Maris Piper. Peel them, and don’t be tempted to have them cut too small: about the size of the palm of your hand. Parboil them in salted water, test with a table knife, and, when it slides in easily enough but they still hold shape, take them off the heat and drain.

Now the fun part: gently shake the pan with the lid on to “fluff” the potato edges. Sprinkle flour over them, or roll them in flour on a plate. Then gently place into a roasting tin with a shallow depth of oil, pre-heated so they sizzle. Season everything, and place in the oven. Cook at medium to high for 90 minutes or so until browned, turning halfway through. I also like to throw in a handful of scrunched bay leaves at the start to perfume the oil.

A family custom for Gravy is to bring it to the boil, simmer, and pour in a glass of port wine, and a glass of single cream, with seasoning, adjusting to taste.

This is a good salad-type standby, and simple to put together. I call it Boxing Day coleslaw. The cranberries are optional, and it’s a recipe that invites tinkering.


1 white cabbage
1 red cabbage
2 fennel bulbs, trimmed
3 apples
300g (10 oz) cranberries
1 (250g) jar cranberry sauce
1 tablespoon fenugreek seeds
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
2 tablespoons sea salt


Using the shredding attachment on the food processor (or shred with a sharp knife), run each cabbage and the fennel down through the funnel and transfer the shreds to a large bowl. You may have to keep stopping to empty out. Core and grate the apples in, too, along with the cranberries and jar of sauce.

Grind together the fenugreek and coriander seeds, then stir in the salt. Tip this into the bowl, and give everything a thorough mix. If left for a while, it will start to emit water, which can be drained out.

This Chipotle mayonnaise is an easy condiment to whip up for cold cuts. Simply stir together the following, and scale up as required:


3 tablespoons soured cream
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 teaspoon tabasco sauce
1 teaspoon chilli flakes
1 teaspoon smoked paprika


Wherever and however you celebrate, I wish you a happy and holy feast.

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