Last-minute Christmas Q&A
We’ve just run our last live Q&A of the year where we asked for, and answered, your Christmas questions. Hot topics included Christmas ham and gammon, cooking parsnips and how to get the crispest roast potatoes, plus ideas for starters and desserts. Below you’ll find the questions under topics, with tips as well as links to handy guides and recipes.
Gammon & ham
Q: Can I boil my gammon on Christmas Eve and finish it in the oven on Christmas Day?
A: Yes, but you’ll need to make sure it gets heated through when you recook it. Do bear in mind that you might not want to put another large thing in the oven on Christmas Day, so it might be better to fully cook it the day before and reheat slices as and when you need them. Our December issue, out now, has a lovely recipe for a spiced orange and pomegranate glazed ham.
Q: I know lots of people are slow-cooking their gammon joints, but I’d like to use my pressure cooker, would that work?
A: You can cook a ham or gammon in a pressure cooker, but do be careful not to overcook it unless you want a texture that can easily be shredded – especially if you have a smaller joint. Many joints bought in supermarkets are 1kg or smaller.
Q: Please can you share some ideas for glazes?
A: Something sweet and sticky like marmalade, pomegranate or boiled down red wine, sugar and spices works well, you can also reduce cola or ginger beer for a glaze. Try our top 10 gammon glazes for even more delicious ideas.
Turkey and other birds
Q: How should I season a turkey?
A: You can season turkey just like you would a roast chicken, for an extra special seasoning either salt turkey the night before to dry the skin out and make it extra crisp, or dry brine it. Dry brining is like salting but you can add other flavours as well and it helps tenderise the turkey, read our guide on how to brine a turkey for more tips.
Q: Can you use cider to cook a turkey in?
A: You certainly can, try our recipe for cider roast turkey.
Q: How do you make gravy from turkey juice?
A: Try our recipe for easy turkey gravy using the juices left in the roasting tin. If you don’t have turkey stock then you can use chicken stock instead.
Q: There are black quills in my bronze turkey, should I pluck them out?
A: You can pull any that are sticking out before you cook, then as the turkey cooks you’ll find that any particularly stubborn pieces will pop out on their own as the meat contracts. You can then pull them out before you carve.
Q: I have turkey, ham and potatoes to cook but I can only fit two in the oven… which one do I let cool?
A: We’d cook the ham the night before, or you can rest the turkey for an hour under foil and a towel, it will keep warm for ages. Make sure your gravy is piping hot and that will add a little more heat to the plate.
Q: Any tips on how to roast a goose?
A: Roast goose is a real treat and works particularly well for a smaller number of people. We have several recipes to choose from in our roast goose collection.
Q: What are your thoughts on game for Christmas?
A: Game birds and venison are both very festive, venison makes a good wellington or you can roast a bird using this truffle stuffed guinea fowl recipe.
Q: Anything but turkey… what else would you suggest as a centrepiece?
A: You can eat anything you like on Christmas day, here’s a handy collection stuffed with suggestions for Christmas centrepiece recipes that should suit everyone.
Q: Do you take out the core of parsnips for roasting?
A: No you don’t have to, large parsnips sometimes have woody cores so you may want to remove those, otherwise, halve or quarter large parsnips to allow them to cook through evenly. Leave smaller ones whole or the pieces can get too small.
Q: Parsnips – skin on or off?
A: It’s up to you, if you leave the skins on then scrub them well.
Q: How can you spruce up your sprouts for Christmas dinner?
A: There are loads of ways to cook sprouts, classic combinations include bacon and nuts like walnuts or almonds, you can add chilli, citrus or a dash of maple syrup or you can leave them raw and shred them. Just don’t overcook them. There’s a selection of dishes to please everyone’s palate in our Christmas sprout recipe collection.
Q: Roast potatoes – we’re going on a 2-hour walk first, should I cook them early, then heat them up or cook low while we’re out?
A: Roast potatoes are best when fresh, you could prep them and par cook them first, then finish them when you get back.
Q: How do you make the best roasties?
A: Pre-cook them on the hob (if you like lots of crisp bits then let them get to point of almost collapse), use a shallow tin or tray so they don’t steam, get the fat that you are going to cook them in very hot, add the potatoes and turn them over in the fat, spread them out well and roast. Here’s a recipe for our crispiest ever roast potatoes.
Q: How do you avoid gummy mash?
A: You need to use the right kind of potato. Look for roasting and baking potatoes or all-purpose, these all have a fluffier texture when cooked. Salad or waxy potatoes have a smoother texture that can become gummy. Once you’ve cooked your potatoes don’t overwork them, use a masher, ricer or electric hand whisk to break them down.
Q: I have to cook a Christmas dinner for my mum and transport it an hour away on Christmas morning. I’ll cook it all on Christmas Eve, what’s the best way to prep the meal so that it stays fresh-tasting the next day?
A: Ideally you’d heat the different components separately and then serve them on a plate, if this is possible, then put the veg in a container with a knob of butter, slice the meat and put it in another container and add a splash of water or gravy to keep it juicy. Put the gravy in a pot, as long as this is hot when added to the rest of the meal it will help keep everything hot. If everything has to go onto one plate, then plate it up just before you go and cover it tightly, even if what you’ve made doesn’t heat up perfectly it will still be enjoyed. Make sure any meat is reheated until steaming hot. There are some tips around keeping food safe at the Food Standards website.
Q: Yorkshire puddings on Christmas dinner, yes or no?
A: We have a whole podcast about that very question, look for our Have a Nice Christmas Podcast at your usual podcast platform.
Vegan main courses
Q: Do you have any good vegan ideas?
Q: I’m wanting to make gluten-free gingerbread to decorate the top of Christmas cakes. Do you know how gluten-free gingerbread keeps its shape? Is it xanthan gum?
A: Give our gluten-free gingerbread a go, it doesn’t contain any tricky ingredients.
Q: What’s the best red cabbage recipe that can be prepared on Christmas Eve?
A: All of our recipes for red cabbage can be made ahead of time to save you stress on the big day.
Q: Should you make it or buy it?
A: We all make it, though you can buy very good versions. Make it the day before and reheat it when you need it. You can make it as luxury as you like, such as adding clotted cream. Good seasoning is also essential, including an onion studded with cloves to flavour the milk along with some nutmeg or a bay leaf. Try our easy classic bread sauce recipe, or revamp it with our creamy brioche bread sauce.
Q: What’s the best cocktail recipe for Christmas Day?
A: Something fuss-free that won’t add stress to your day. We love something simple like a bottle of fizz topped up with a little spiced cordial or other festive flavour. For something stronger (Christmas Day evening perhaps?) we have a new festive negroni. Check out our Christmas drinks & cocktail recipes for everything from traditional mulled wine to fabulously innovative fizz. We’ve also got lots of cocktail videos including some helpful tips on our YouTube channel.
Q: Do you have any Christmas Day dessert suggestions?
Q: I’m allergic to egg, do you have any egg-free Christmas pudding ideas?
A: Jellies are a lovely light dessert, as are sorbets and egg-free ice creams. We’ve also got a collection of egg-free desserts and puddings.