Cooking the Christmas dinner this year? Whether it's your first time or you are on what feels like your 100th year of hosting, we could all do with some quick and easy tips to make the whole thing a load easier. So to help us out, we have asked Great British Bake Off star Candice Brown to share her tops tips and easy festive cooking hacks...
For loads more quick recipes and last-minute decorating ideas head over to our Christmas hub page too.
1. What are your top tips for cooking the perfect turkey?
Turkey is the hero of our Christmas dinner and needs to be done well. I usually put some root vegetables, onions, thyme and loads of garlic in the bottom of a big baking tray for flavour. Then I stuff the turkey with some more garlic and add about an inch of white wine. Next, I cover the skin in butter, salt and pepper and drape over some smoked streaky bacon! I cover it with foil and pop it in the oven for 120 minutes, then remove the foil, once it’s almost finished cooking, to crisp up the skin.
2. What's your best tip for making the veggies the star of the dinner? (How do we make sprouts taste good?)
I mean, how does anyone make sprouts taste good? My top tip is to parboil your sprouts and throw them in with your cauliflower cheese. For extra flavour you can also add some crispy pancetta and crumble over chopped chestnuts and Gorgonzola. It’s the most festive, decadent cauliflower, sprout gratin! I also roast my carrots and parsnips with loads of fresh herbs and a drizzle of honey!
3. Obviously we have to ask about festive baking – what are your tips for creating show-stopping desserts?
Do what you can the day before Christmas as chances are the oven will be full on the day itself. Be clever with your recipes. When it comes to desserts, choose something that can be served hot with ice-cream or cream and something that can be served cold with a cup of tea if unexpected guests drop by. Also never only offer one choice of pudding!
4. So timings, do you have an order of play to make it all run smoothly?
I try and write timings for every element of the meal down, but for me the turkey is the main thing that needs to be in the oven at the right time. I like to make sure it goes in the oven first so I can start prepping all the other trimmings once it’s come out to rest. I also try to get all my puddings made on Christmas Eve so I don’t need to think about them and can just reheat and serve them up, once my guests are ready.
5. Do you have any must-have kitchen gadgets that will make cooking the Christmas dinner easier?
Christmas dinner can be an overwhelming task, so anything that can offer a short cut is a must for me. While Christmas pudding is the go-to option, most people don’t like it, so I think it’s important to have other sweet options available, providing they are done well. This festive season I’ve been making a Clementine and Rosemary Polenta Cake, which is a great alternative to the traditional pud. To make the sponge extra fluffy, I use Breville’s HeatSoft™ hand mixer (see below), which uses clever softening technology during the creaming process to bring the butter to room temperature faster, which creates the most delicious, airy mixture. It also comes with a whisk and dough hook attachments and is great for melting chocolate, whipping cream, making homemade bread, or even sauces for your Christmas dinner. It also means you can rustle up something sweet for guests, without having to take your butter out the fridge in advance.
6. Any tips for pimping up store-bought trimmings?
I always buy store-bought mincemeat for my mince pies. The jarred mixture acts as a great base, but I also add bits of chopped apple, satsumas and a little splash of port for a fuller flavour. The same applies with stuffing. I tend to buy plain sausage meat, then throw in chopped dried cranberries, apricots, chestnuts and fresh herbs to pimp it up.
Store-bought pastry always works wonders. I make the most amazing festive breakfast using readymade puff pastry, topped with sliced tomato, mushroom and bacon topped with grated cheese. Or if you are looking for a mid-morning sugar fix, I make a sweet version with caramel sauce, sliced apples and hazelnuts.