How to Cook the Perfect Christmas Dinner

How to cook the perfect Christmas Dinner – a few tips

It’s one of the most important meals of the year – one you don’t want to get wrong. The pressure on your shoulders to deliver a brilliant meal is huge!

But never fear, you are not alone. Far from it.

If you’re freaking out about festive food, or want a stress-free schedule, here’s a few top tips from the range cooker provider Leisure Cooker.

A few days before…

Before the Christmas period it makes sense to go through your fridge and clear it out of all the food approaching its use by dates to free up a bit of space. Stock up on all the essentials you are going to need to see you through – from sauces and soft drinks, to wine, beer and nibbles.

Christmas Eve

Right, you’re 24 hours from the Big Day – and now’s the time to get prepared…

Wash and peel all your vegetables. Potatoes can be stored in a saucepan of salted water, while carrots and sprouts can be peeled and left wrapped up in the fridge overnight.

For bread sauce, cut all the crusts off as many slices as needed and leave them covered until Christmas morning.

You may need to defrost your turkey at this point – so go by the golden rule of 10-12 hours per kg if in a fridge, 3-4 hours per kg if at room temperature. You also need to plan the time you will be sticking it in the oven. According to the Food Standards Agency, a turkey weighing 4.5kg or under will take around 3 hours at 180 degrees.

Christmas Day

It’s the Big Day! Time for all that preparation to pay off!

Now you know what time you need to put the bird in the oven (say midday?, ready for 3pm) here’s a guide.

6 hours before (9am) – Take the turkey out of the fridge and let it reach room temperature

5 hours before (10am) – Time to make the stuffing

4.5 hours before (10:30) – Preheat your oven

4 hours to go (11am) – Season the turkey, stuff it and fasten it

3.5 hours to go (11:30) – Lay the table and get all the bits and bobs ready for serving up

3 hours to go (12pm) – Stick it in the oven and warm the water in saucepans ready for boiling

2.5 hours to go (12:30pm) – Take the potatoes and part boil for 10 minutes, shake them up to get them fluffy and put them on the roasting tin with your turkey

2 hours to go (1pm) – Open up red wine and let it breathe, put out the nibbles and things

1 hour to go (2pm) – Roast the bacon-wrapped-chipolatas on a separate tray. Check the turkey’s not overcooking and pierce the skin to crisp it up.

30 minutes to go (2:30pm) – Remove the turkey from the oven and check it’s cooked. It may need a bit more time depending on its weight. If satisfied, cover with foil and let it stand.

20 minutes to go – Get the veg on!

15 minutes to go – Make the gravy, and pour yourself a glass of wine – you deserve it.

Good luck, Happy Cooking and Happy Christmas!

A Gingerbread Gift

Gingerbread GiftI saw this in the Waitrose Weekend paper and thought I would a) make it for my child’s teacher and b) share it with you.  It is so difficult to find nice gifts that don’t cost an arm and a leg and this really appealed to me.  I would love to receive it and because it is, in effect, home-made I think it makes it a thoughtful present as well as a delicious one.

I bought this jar from Fenwicks – it is airtight with the ribbon and wooden heart attached, but you could easily decorate your own.  But at £4.50, I thought it was good value.  I tied on the Christmas cutter and filled the jar with the gingerbread mix (recipe below).  Then, on a festive tag, I wrote the instructions.  I think it looks really pretty.

So, what’s in the mix?  You will need 375g plain flour, 1 tsp bicarb of soda, 2 tsp ground ginger and 90g light, soft brown sugar.  Just combine until evenly mixed and pop it in the jar!

On the label you will need to write:


1 quantity of gingerbread mix

125g chopped, unsalted butter

230g golden syrup

80g sifted icing sugar

To make:

Preheat oven to 180ºC.

Pu gingerbread mix, butter and syrup into a food processor and pulse until it forms a smooth dough.  

Wrap in clingfilm and refrigerate for 30 mins.

Roll out the dough between two pieces of baking parchment until 0.5cm thick.  Cut into shapes and place on lined baking sheet.

Bake for 8-10 mins until golden.  Allow to cool.

Mix 80g icing sugar with 2tsp hot water and mix until smooth.  Decorate the biscuits as you wish.  Enjoy!



Hootycreek Cookies

hootycreek cookiesThese scrummy little cookies are SO moorish, you’ll have to be careful not to scoff them all in one sitting.  The cranberries give them a festive flavour and they are perfect to offer to family, friends and hungry carol singers.  Honestly, I can’t effervesce enough about how nice they are – what they lack in the looks department, they certainly make up for in taste.

I made these for the kids’ Christmas Fair and left out the pecans (no nuts!) but I think they are better with.  Still, very nice either way!

To make:

Preheat oven to 180º (160 fan)

In a bowl, mix 150g plain flour, ½ tsp baking powder, ½ tsp salt and 75g rolled oats (you can use porridge oats if you must but NOT the instant kind).  Put to one side.

Using a mixer or a lot of elbow grease, cream together 125g soft, unsalted butter, 100g caster sugar and 75g soft dark brown sugar.  Then beat in 1 large egg and 1 tsp vanilla extract.  Add the floury mixture and mix then carefully fold in 150g white chocolate chips, 80g dried cranberries and 50g roughly chopped pecans.

Now things get sticky!  Roll the mixture into ping pong ball size dollops, pop on a lined baking tray and flatten down the tops a little with a fork.  If the fork sticks, just dip it in water and keep going.

Bake for 12-15 mins until starting to turn golden around the edges.

If you are a regular reader you’ll guess what I do to festive them up a bit….edible glitter!  I’ll take any chance to sparkle things up a bit.

Magical Mince Pies

“It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…’

nigella mince pies

So that can only mean one thing.  Yes, it is time to rustle up a batch or ten of mince pies.  Whether it’s the school fair, party time, Grandma coming for tea or just to indulge in with a cup of tea and sit down, the humble mince-pie is (nearly) always a hit.  Except, of course, with my kids who, despite my protestations, remain unconvinced that it isn’t actually mince meat in inside and still turn their noses up at the dark, sticky filling oozing forth. Even my signature glitterfication couldn’t change their minds, BUT hopefully, for all you mince-pie fans out there, these will bring a little more sparkle to your festivities.

Who do I turn to for these little beauties?  Why, Lady Nigella of Lawson, of course!  I LOVE her Christmas recipe book and this is just one of her recipes I am sure to bring to the blogosphere in the near future.  I must tell you about her turkey preparation…

Anyway, back to the mince pies.  Now, it is up to you whether you cheat and use ready rolled pastry or home-made and again your choice whether to go for short pastry or puff, which makes one hell of a mess but looks like a little puffball of pleasure.  So many decisions…I am using Nigella’s recipe which requires you to make the pastry.  Not of the puffy kind, but nice and flaky.

To make a batch of 18 you will need:

240g plain flour

60g vegetable shortening (like Stork Perfect for Pastry – by the lard)

60g diced cold butter

Pinch of salt

Juice of 1 orange

350g mincemeat

nigella mince pies

Put the flour into a bowl and drop in the shortening in little dollops.  Add the butter and give it all a gentle stir so the fats are covered with flour.  Then pop it into the fridge for 20 mins which will give it extra flakiness.

Mix the orange juice and salt and pop this into the fridge too.

Have a quick sherry whilst singing along to the Michael Bublé Xmas album and imagining him popping out of a parcel under the Christmas tree (this is optional and depending on your persuasion feel free to swap the Bublé with Kylie or whoever takes your fancy)

Put the flour mixture into a food processor/kitchenaid and blitz until it looks like porridgy-breadcrumbs. Pour in the salty juice and pulse until it starts to come together as a dough.  Turn out onto a board and combine into a ball of dough.  Split into 3 flattened discs and wrap in clingfilm.

Pop into the fridge for 20 mins, preheat the oven to 220ºC (200 fan). Grease and flour a jam tart type tin. Have another sherry, if you’ve time.

Roll out the dough quite thinly and cut into 18 circles.  The cutter needs to be slightly bigger than the holes in your tin so the discs cup up the sides.  Cut the rest of the dough with a star cutter.  Again, the star needs to be just big enough to sit its pointy tips on the rim of the pie.

Pop the circles into the tin and add a teaspoon of mincemeat into each – not too much else it will ooze out when cooking and glue your pie to the tin, as well as looking a mess.

Top each pie with a star and bake for about 10 mins.  Do keep an eye on them…

When cooked, pop them out straight away onto a cooling rack and dust with icing sugar (snow) and (this is my addition) edible glitter.  When cool, pile them on a plate and pop a sprig of holly on the top.  Ta-da!  A sparkling mound of yuletide deliciousness!

Pssst!  You can freeze them too, for up to 3 months.  Just warm them in the oven to spruce them up and, what the hell, a bit more glitter!

nigella mince pies


Christmas Pudding

nigella christmas pudding“Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people!”  That was once the reading from the Book of Common Prayer in church on this day and it has incited people to also stir up their suet and fruit!  Today is Stir-up Sunday, the last Sunday before advent when traditionally the Christmas puddings & mincemeat and now, cakes get made for Christmas.  It is a great opportunity to uphold one of the dwindling non-commercial Christmas traditions and all take a turn in stirring the mixture and make a wish.

As ever, I am sticking with Nigella’s Ultimate Christmas Pudding.  A few years ago, I splashed out and bought some sterling silver traditional charms to go into my pudding.  Health and Safety dictates that you wrap them in greaseproof paper so nobody inadvertently chokes on one.  I’ll leave that decision up to you, but I wholeheartedly ignored it. Eat at your peril!

Christmas Pudding


You will need:

150 grams currants

150 grams sultanas

150 grams prunes (cut into pieces)

175 ml  sweet sherry 

100 grams plain flour

125 grams white breadcrumbs

150 grams suet

150 grams dark muscovado sugar

1 teaspoons cinnamon sticks

¼ ground cloves

1 teaspoons baking powder

1 lemon (zest and juice)

3 medium eggs

1 medium cooking apple (peeled and grated)

2 tablespoons honey

This is for a 3 pint basin.

How to make:

  • The currants, sultanas and prunes should ideally be soaked in the sherry for a week previously, or at the least overnight.  I use the recommended Pedro Ximenes, which is a dark, treacley sherry, but any sweet sherry is ok. Put the ingredients in a bowl and cover with cling film, or I just pop it all in a Tupperware-type tub which seals tightly and can be knocked without worry.
  • Mix all the other ingredients together in a large basin and stir, stir, stir!  Stir-up a storm!  Don’t forget to make your wishes…
  • Add the soaked fruit and every drop of the sherry and combine thoroughly.  Then carefully fold in your charms if you use them.  (You can always pop them in as you serve if you prefer.  Then you know who’s got what and can keep an eye out for untimely choking).
  • Scrape all the mixture into your buttered basin(s) and press down firmly.  If you use a plastic basin, put on the lid then foil or if a normal pudding basin, take a pleated layer of greaseproof paper and foil and secure tightly to the top with string.    Put into a pan on a trivet or suchlike and add boiling water so it comes half way up the basin.  Cover and steam for 5 hours, checking fairly often to make sure the water hasn’t boiled dry.
  • When it’s done, carefully remove the pudding from the pan and pop it somewhere cool until Christmas.  At times like this I wish I had a lovely walk in larder…
  • On Christmas Day, re-wrap the pudding and steam again for 3 hours.  This year I am going to attempt the warming of some brandy, setting it alight and then pouring it over in the pudding in a flame of glory.  Yes, just writing that I raise my own eyebrows at myself. While I still have them and they haven’t gone up in a blaze of glory.

Don’t forget to stick a sprig of holly on the top too.  Merry Christmas!

Christmas Gingerbread Tree

gingerbread christmas tree

The lovely people at Bakestore sent me some cookie cutters to try out. Or so I thought….what they actually sent was a full on tree kit. How to make a tree out of gingerbread stars. Momentarily I thought they had seriously over-estimated my baking skills. Then I saw the rice krispie treetree for sale in M&S for £18!! And theirs is barely decorated, so I thought ‘Hang on just a minute. It’s lots of biscuits piled up in a stack. Surely I can do that? My decorating skills are ok, I can bake biscuits, my icing isn’t too bad..’.  So I gave it a go!

I used the Biscuiteer recipe for treacle spice biscuits (or treacley gingerbread to you and me).  I trust Biscuiteer wholeheartedly as will any of you who have ever had the pleasure of diving in to a tin of their biscuits.  See below for recipe.

The Christmas Tree kit did include some other recipes as well as tips for icing, decorating etc.  Not all the recipes were gingerbread.  One idea (see pic) was for a rice krispie cake tree.  I might try that one as well.  Also in the kit were all the cookie cutters and good quality icing bags and nozzles.  The kit is made by Wilton, so I would expect good quality anyway.

In total I made four batches of gingerbread.  At first I thought you would need one of each size biscuit, but a bit of basic maths told me that some sizes would need to be doubled or tripled even to get a decent height in the tree.  Although it is a bit of a faff making these type of shaped biscuits (a lot of putting it back in the fridge to harden up) the recipe is pretty easy and they do turn out well.  I made 18 biscuits in total and stacked them by placing a blob of royal icing in the centre of the board and then each biscuit to ‘glue’ them in place.  Do keep peeping at the overhead view too, else you’ll end up with the leaning tower of Christmas!

gingerbread christmas tree

Once stacked and (sort of) straight, I hummed and hawed about how to decorate it.  I went for the easier option of dusting it with icing sugar so it ‘snowed’ over the tree and then adding a blob of white royal icing to each corner as snowdrifts.  Then I popped a silver ball on each and decorated the top with the smallest star, iced.  To finish it off I sprinkled it with edible glitter so it was like a little bit of winter wonderland in my kitchen.  For the photos I resisted the urge to add a robin and plastic deer for a bit of kitsch but I’m sure they’ll be adorning it very soon.

I think it looks pretty impressive and as you now I am not a highly skilled cook, so this is very do-able for anyone, including the kids.  A lovely Christmassy activity with the kiddiwinkles on those cold, festive afternoons and one to wow the relatives with.  Aunty Marge will see you in a whole new light!

To get a Christmas Tree kit click here to visit the Bakestore website.  They have such gorgeous stuff that I bet you’ll see a few more must-haves while you’re there!  And they are based just up the road from me, so I wholeheartedly support my local business AND if you enter the code ‘Nigella’ you get 10% off your order!  Yes, dear reader, that’s me with my very own discount code.  Check. me. out.

Happy cooking (and eating!)


Treacle Spice Biscuits Recipe


200g plain flour

½tsp baking powdergingerbread christmas tree

½tsp ground ginger

½tsp cinnamon

½tsp mixed spice

50g muscovado dark brown sugar

100g salted butter, diced

50g black treacle

Sift and mix the flour, baking powder, spices and sugar in a bowl. Add the butter.  Either rub in with your fingertips or use the paddle on a mixer to combine until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.  Add the treacle and bring it all together until it is of an even colour with not too many streaks of treacle.

Line a table top with baking parchment and place the dough on, squashing it into a flat disc.  Place another piece of parchment on top and roll out to 5mm thick.  Put in fridge to chill for ½ hour and pre-heat oven to 170ºC (150ºC fan).

When chilled, cut out biscuits and place on lined baking tray.  You can keep the cuttings to be re-rolled.  Bake for 14-18 minutes – the biscuits will turn a darker colour (even these already dark treacley ones) but be careful not to burn them!

Transfer to wire rack to cool but do this VERY carefully as they are fragile and will break easily.  Totally cool before storing in airtight tin (for up to a week) or assembling tree.