Amateur chefs who get flustered while preparing their Christmas turkey can relax this year after a free helpline was launched offering last-minute cooking tips.
The Turkey Hotline has been set up by the British Turkey Federation (BTF) to help cooks negotiate any pitfalls they might encounter in roasting their festive bird.
A team of eight experts are on hand to offer advice on defrosting, cooking times and carving techniques until 5pm on Christmas Eve.
They expect to deal with several hundred callers a day on turkey-related issues in the lead up to Christmas. A spokesman for the BTF said many first time roasters do not know which end of the bird to stuff, or how long a turkey should be in the oven for.
Half of them deliberately leave the bird in for longer than they should to kill any bugs, he added. Confusion over cooking the perfect turkey has been exacerbated by conflicting methods proposed by celebrity chefs such as Nigella Lawson and Delia Smith.
Lawson has insisted that cooking a 6.5kg (14lb 5oz) turkey for only two hours and 45 minutes is perfectly adequate to deliver moist, succulent and tasty meat.
Meanwhile, Smith suggests that the correct cooking time for the bird, assuming it is stuffed, should be four hours and 50 minutes.
The Food Standards Agency, the government watchdog, offers yet another “safe” cooking time – four hours and 20 minutes.
The Turkey Hotline is on 0800 783 9994
Another Christmas favourite. In England the Christmas Cake is traditionally a fruit cake. However in Japan they prefer a sponge either way remember to soak with copious amounts of brandy! Try this fruity little number…
Serves: 6 (comfortably)
Preparation time: 45 minutes
Cooking Time: 3 ½ hours
Sultanas: 125 grams
Currants: 125 grams
Raisins: 125 grams
Mixed peel: 125 grams
Almonds: 125 grams (optional)
Grated carrot: 125 grams
Butter: 125 grams
Sugar: 200 grams
Water: 125 ml
Brandy: 50 ml (optional)
Salt: ¼ teaspoon
Biocarbinate of soda: 1 teaspoon
Flour: 225 grams
Cinnamon: ¼ teaspoon
Nutmeg: ¼ teaspoon
Ground ginger: ¼ teaspoon
Mixed Spice: ¼ teaspoon
1. Firstly start by placing the butter, sugar and water into a large thick based pan and boil until a caramel stage is reached.
2. Stir in the dried fruit and mix well until all the fruit is covered with the carameled sugar, at this stage add the brandy, salt and bicarbonate of soda
3. Mix all the spices together with a touch of water until it turns into a paste, then add this to the mixture
4. Stir in the sifted flour
5. Finally stir in the beaten eggs
6. Place the mixture into a 20cm x 5cm round cake tin greased and lined with greaseproof paper
7. Bake in a pre heated oven at 100°C for 3 ½ hours
8. Remove from oven, allow to cool for 10 minutes before removing from cake tin and cool on a wire rack
Royal icing is the traditional covering of wedding, and other celebration cakes. It dries very hard. With a little patience and artistic skills it can be fashioned to any form and with the addition of a little food colouring it can satisfy any creative calling. A traditional Christmas recipe for a full flavoured rich Christmas Cake.
Icing sugar: 400 grams
Egg whites: 3
Glycerine: 2 drops
1. Sieve the icing sugar twice
2. Mix in the egg whites and the glycerine
3. Beat the mixture with a wooden spoon until the mixture is stiff and can support itself.
Originating in England the traditional Christmas Pud can be dated right back to 1420! Serve on Christmas day with a healthy pouring of brandy. (Also know as Plum Pudding)!
Serves: 8 (easily)
Preparation time: 1 day
Cooking time: 8 hours 30 minutes
150g dried apricots, roughly chopped
30g mixed peel, finely chopped
150ml brown ale
2 tbsp dark rum
100g fresh white breadcrumbs 100g suet
50g self-raising flour
1 tsp mixed spice
pinch of ground cinnamon
pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
pinch of ground ginger
pinch of salt
225g dark brown sugar
2 eggs, beaten
zest and juice of half an orange
zest and juice of half a lemon
1 dessert apple, cored and grated or finely chopped (peel left on)
1. Start this recipe the day before by soaking the dried fruit in the rum and brown ale, cover and leave at least 12 hours or overnight. (The longer you leave the fruit soaking the stronger the taste!) Some traditional recipes leave the dried fruit soaking for weeks before!
2. Lightly grease your pudding bowl. Sift the flour and spices into a separate large basin then begin to add the suet, breadcrumbs and brown sugar. Add the eggs, zest and juice from the orange and lemon, the fruit with all its juices, the nuts, (if using) and the grated or chopped apple. Mix thoroughly then spoon into your lightly greased bowl.
3. All important! - How to steam your pudding: Cover the pudding by using two sheets of greaseproof paper cut slightly larger than the basin with your mix in. Lay them on top of each other and make a pleat down the middle by folding the layers over on themselves, about an inch wide. This allows for the pudding to rise while steaming. Do the same with a piece of foil and place on top of the greaseproof paper. Lay the paper and foil on top of the basin and tie a string tightly around the rim of the basin, thus securing the paper and foil. It is helpful to make a ‘handle’ with another piece of string to help you remove the basin from the pot. Trim some of the excess paper and foil.
4. If you have a steamer large enough to hold the pudding basin, fill the bottom with water and bring to the boil. If using a large saucepan, place the pudding inside and pour in enough boiling water to come halfway up the basin but not touching the string or paper. Cover the steamer or saucepan with a tight-fitting lid and simmer for eight hours. Keep the kettle full of boiled water, checking the pan from time to time and topping up with water. Whatever you do, don’t allow the pan or steamer to boil dry!
5. After eight hours, remove the pudding using the string handle and allow to cool completely. Remove the string, greaseproof paper and foil and re-tie with fresh.
6. Store in a cool, dark, dry place for up to a year (again this recipe is all about time the longer you can leave your pudding the stronger and more flavorsome the end result) If you want to feed the pudding with more rum, unwrap and poke long holes with a cocktail stick or skewer. Drizzle a tablespoonful over the top and rewrap, remembering to make another string handle.
7. When ready to serve on Christmas Day, steam for another two hours. Carefully unwrap the hot pudding and invert onto a serving plate. To fire the pudding, fill a large soup ladle with rum or brandy and carefully light with a match. Gently ladle the flaming liquid over the pudding and garnish with a sprig of holly. Serve with brandy butter, rum sauce or cream . Delicious, the traditional English Christmas Day desert
A traditional recipe that originates from America, this is the perfect way to get you in the mood for Halloween.
Preparation time: 1hr 30 minutes
Cooking time: 45 minutes
2 cups plain flour
1 teaspoon salt
125g butter or margarine
1/3 cup cold water
1. Mix in a large bowl the flour, salt and butter until the mixture starts to form into breadcrumbs. At this stage ad the water and mix (with your hands) until the ingredients are firm enough to form a ball
2. Place the ball of pastry into the fridge to chill for about 10 minutes.
3. Once chilled and firm roll out a sheet 1/2cm thick and enough to line your pie dish.
1 medium sized Pumpkin
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
225g brown sugar
1/2 pint of milk
2 eggs, beaten
100g / 125ml cream
1. Peel, remove the seeds and stew your pumpkin until it is soft enough to mash finely.
2. Once the pumpkin has been mashed and sieved to ensure a smooth fine texture ad the salt nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon and ginger and mix together.
3. Add the remaining ingredients: eggs, sugar, then milk and cream and beat very hard until the ingredients achieve an even consistency.
4. Pour your mixture into the uncooked pastry shell and cover with pastry as well.
5. Bake in a moderately heated oven (190 degress celcius) until it is set (you should be able to tell this by gently poking with a knife)
6. A traditional American dish enjoyed across the states especially at Christmas! Bon Apetitt.
For those that have a craving for the sweet stuff try this choco-tastic treat this Christmas. The yule Log or “Bûche de Noël” originated in France in the early 19th century as a large yellow cake spread with frosting. We prefer this version…
Preparation time: 1 day
Cooking time: 30 minutes
18 Chocolate Cookies Small pot of double cream – 250 ml / 225g
1 teaspoon cocoa powder
1 teaspoon icing sugar
1. Mix the cream, sugar and cocoa in a basin. Whisk together for about 5 minutes or until the cream is stiff enough to stand in peaks.
2. Using half the cream spread consistently over the biscuits, when all the cookies are coated evenly sandwich them together to form a long chocolate log roll.
3. Wrap the roll of cookies in foil and then place into a fridge and leave overnight to harden.
4. The following day remove the cookie log from the fridge, unwrap and cover with the remaining double cream.
5. Gently drag a fork over the cream to make a a texture similar to ‘bark’ on the ‘log’ and finally decorate with icing sugar (as snow) and holly.
6. Enjoy as a great Christmas day desert!
To have a proper Victorian Christmas feast, you must have roast goose with the classic sage and onion dressing. The onions are parboiled first, so the stuffing will be pleasantly mild, and with the addition of apples, it is milder still.
9 pound goose 2 teaspoons coarse salt
For The Stuffing:
3 medium onions, peeled
4 large apples, peeled, cored & chopped (use tart apples, Granny Smith are best)
2 tablespoons loosely packed dried sage leaves, crumbled
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon butter, cut into tiny bits
Garnishes: sliced apples, parsley or watercress
For The Brown Gravy:
Gizzard, neck, heart, liver and wing tips of the goose, chopped
1 carrot, sliced
1-2 tablespoons rendered goose fat or cooking oil
3 cups stock or beef bouillon
½ bay leaf
3 sprigs parsley
Salt & pepper to taste
For The Port Wine Sauce
½ cup port
1 teaspoon mustard
Pinch cayenne pepper
Salt to taste
Rub inside of goose with salt and set aside.
Parboil onion in boiling water for 5 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and, when cool enough to handle, chop them finely.
In large bowl, combine onions, chopped apples, sage, pepper and butter. Stuff cavity of goose and Sew or skewer the openings and truss in the usual way.
Roast goose at 450 for 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 degrees and turn the goose onto its side. After 1 hour, turn goose onto its other side. For the final 15 minutes, roast goose on its back. Baste every 20 minutes during entire roasting time. (Allow approximately 15 minutes per pound for the total weight of the stuffed goose, or 2 ½ hours for a 9 pound stuffed goose. The internal temperature should register 180 degrees when done, the legs should move up and down freely, and the juices should run a pale yellow.)
Prepare the gravy while goose is roasting. In a large saucepan, brown the goose parts, onion and carrot in the fat. When they are nicely browned, add the stock and seasonings. Simmer, partially covered, for about 1 hour, skimming occasionally. Strain, degrease and pour into a warmed sauce-boat for serving.
For the optional port wine sauce, combine the ingredients in a small saucepan. Just before serving the goose, slit open the breast and pour the sauce on top.