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How to ace Christmas dinner

Fed up with dry turkey and soggy sprouts? Muddy to the rescue! The team at Honingham Buck, Norwich gives us their top tips to master the big feast plus a show-stopper pud.

Tremendous turkey

Place a knob of butter flavoured with thyme and garlic and rub it under the turkey skin. This will give it a lovely flavour and aroma.

In order to keep the turkey moist, the cooking temperature inside the bird is key. If it’s 75 degrees or above when it comes out of the oven then it’s more than likely to be dry and crumbly. If you have a supermarket turkey you’ll want the internal temperature to be at around 70 degrees; if you have a more premium dry-aged, good quality turkey, you can cook it to 65 degrees as it should be safer to eat.

Remove it from the oven and then allow it to rest. The residual heat will still carry on cooking the meat to 75 degrees, killing any bacteria and thoroughly cooking the turkey. Basting the meat helps, but that only covers the outside of the meat imparting flavour around the turkey – the key is the internal temperature.

Scrumptious spuds

Use Maris piper or King Edwards potatoes. Simply peel and chop to your desired size and boil in Maldon sea salt water until the potatoes are nearly cooked. Drain, bash slightly and coat in flour before roasting in the oven in hot rapeseed oil, thyme and garlic. The oil should be around half a centimeter deep as this is what crisps the potato. I usually roast them at 190 degrees, turning occasionally. Once they are golden brown, take them out of the oven, sprinkle with Maldon salt and add some freshly chopped thyme for a nice colour and flavor.

Victorious veg

Love them or hate them, sprouts will be gracing many families’ tables at Christmas. A good way to make them a tad tastier and more appealing is not just to cut them in half and boil them until they are a soggy mush, but shred them!

Once they are shredded, place some butter in a pan, allow it to melt, add some sliced smoked back bacon and then the shredded sprouts, cooking until they are soft. Test for seasoning, adding some chopped chives and chopped chestnuts. This will give the sprouts a lovely flavour and it will look great too.

If you prefer sprouts cut in half, roast them with some carrots and parsnips. These should be parboiled, adding honey, bacon and chestnuts near the end of the roasting time. Sprinkle some chopped chives before serving for colour and a slight onion note.

Gorgeous gravy

The best way to make gravy for your roast is to start by sautéing an onion, garlic, thyme with a star anise in a pan. Once the onion is nice and caramelised I add around 50-100g of plain flour, stirring continually. When the flour has a nice golden tinge to it, add half a bottle of good red wine and reduce it by half. Once it is reduced, add any turkey juice from roasting in the oven and keep reducing the gravy until you have your desired consistency.

Pass through a sieve and add a spoonful of cranberry sauce at the end for depth and sweetness and any meat trimmings too to add a bit more substance & flavour.

Show-stopper pud

Recipe – a self-flambe Christmas pudding creme brulee:

  • 15 egg yolks
  • 600ml double cream
  • 300ml whole milk
  • 140g caster sugar
  • Pinch of cinnamon
  • 3 small Christmas puddings


Place the eggs, cinnamon and sugar in a bowl and whisk slightly. Add the milk and cream together in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Once boiling pour over the egg and sugar mix. Crumble the Christmas puddings and place them in the bottom of a large heatproof dish ensuring they are pressed firmly down. Then pass the custard mix through a fine sieve and pour on top of the Christmas puddings.

Make a bain marie and place the creme brulee dish in it, baking in the oven at 160 degrees until the custard has a slight wobble to it – this usually takes around 20 to 30 minutes depending on your oven. The custard mix should not have any colour on it. Allow the custard to cool in the fridge.

When you are ready to serve, place it on the table, cover the custard in a fine layer of caster sugar, place some brandy in a spray bottle and spray the brandy lightly all over the sugar. Light with a lighter and watch the sugar caramelise. Finally, allow the sugar to cool for two minutes then enjoy.

The Honingham Buck, 29 The Street, Honingham Norwich, Norfolk NR9 5BL tel 01603 880 393.

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