Orlando Murrin's Three Steps To A Stress Free Christmas

Orlando Murrin's Three Steps To A Stress Free Christmas

Orlando Murrin, chef, author, BBC Good Food editor (1998 to 2004) and hotelier shares with us his tips for a stress free Christmas – including everything from getting ahead, organising the big day and cooking the turkey.

3 ways to get ahead
Make canapés

Christmas Day is an exciting occasion, and it’s not surprising everyone gets hungry waiting for their turkey dinner. An enticing selection of snacks and canapés, sent out in waves rather than all at once, will stop people getting fractious. If making your own canapés, rule out anything that can’t be made the day before, as you don’t want to be faffing with smoked salmon pinwheels on Christmas morning!

Prepare fresh herbs

The traditional Christmas meal is apt to look a bit washed out on the plate – even with cranberry sauce and carrots to brighten it up. A day or two ahead chop plenty of fresh herbs and put in the fridge in a small bowl, covered in cling film, to sprinkle over turkey and veg. Note: in the rush of serving, make sure you don’t forget to use them.

Make your stock in advance

If you’re making turkey stock – and it’s a crime not to if your turkey comes with giblets – make it a day or two ahead. Once strained, skim off as much fat as you can, then simmer it until reduced by about a quarter, so that your gravy has a lovely concentrated flavour. Chill the stock and skim off any remaining fat (which will have formed a skin on top) before using

Work as a team

Christmas Day is the highlight of most cooks’ year, and it is understandable they want to put on a good show. That being said, it makes it much more fun to get everyone involved, so think seriously about delegating. Even small things like trimming sprouts lessen the cook’s workload, and having a helper to boss about is a great way to relieve tension.

Don’t cook and clean

If you are a tidy cook, the kitchen can turn into a bit of a bomb site when a large, complicated menu is under way. Try to relax about this – after all, it’s only one day, and no one ever won Masterchef for having a tidy kitchen. If on the other hand you are a less than tidy cook, get someone to wash and dry as you go along. You’ll find it makes all the difference.

Plan your serving dishes

Once the food is ready, it tends to be a bit of a scramble to get everyone served and eating while the food is still hot. Although it sounds a small thing, giving a bit of thought in advance to what serving dishes and plates you’ll be using – plus ensuring they’re warm but not blistering – plus whether they’ll fit in the oven – will make the table experience much smoother for everyone.

tips for the turkey
Know your timings

When you get the bird home, calculate the approximate cooking time, using a source you trust. This timing will serve as a rough guide – no more. Now write up somewhere in enormous lettering 74°C because this is the temperature you will be checking for with your Thermapen, and that’s how you’ll know the turkey is actually done. (If you don’t have a Thermapen, ask for one for Christmas and make quite sure it’s bought for you. Other makes/types of cooking thermometer will not do.)

Remember to rest

Turkeys are large things to roast, and the heat has a long way to penetrate. Remove the turkey from the fridge 1-1 ½ hours before roasting, so it loses its chill. Equally important, rest it for 30-45 minutes after roasting. (During this time, you will be making gravy, finishing off roasties, boiling sprouts and so on.)

Don’t just check once!

The important thing about testing the temperature of a roast is to do so in three or four places. You are checking to ensure that the whole bird is at least 74°C; if the centre of the thigh measures this, it is likely the whole bird is cooked (but check). Start checking half way as early as halfway through your calculated cooking time (turkeys have been known to spring surprises). If the breast is cooked before the thighs, cover loosely with a double layer of foil while the thighs catch up.

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