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Professionals offer top tips for Christmas entertaining

Food and drink experts have divulged their top tips for Christmas drinking and dining to assist in the festive season running smoothly.

Conor Gadd, chef owner at Trullo said: “Prep, prep, prep!” Get as much done the day before and he noted “the minute anyone looks like they’re getting too comfy with a glass of Baileys, put them to work”. For an economical Christmas, Gadd recommended scaling back the sides and suggested picking one or two sides and doing them well. He explained that also his second tip would be to just use turkey legs, a much cheaper option than a full bird.

Neil Campbell, head chef at Rovi said that his top tip is to cook cabbage with duck fat a week in advance. He roasts it in the oven at a really low temperature, letting all the flavours combine and infuse together, which will give it a confit effect and means you don’t need to worry about taking up oven space last minute. For a twist, Campbell suggested adding a hefty glug of date molasses to the gravy.

Looking at tasty alternatives, Chris Shaw, head chef at Toklas said hosts should opt for porchetta if you don’t want turkey as the butcher can stuff it for you, while Ollie Templeton, head chef and co-owner of Carousel, suggested clearing as much space in the fridge as possible, making sure to write a good ‘to do’ list and not missing out the fiddly bits so you can delegate a few tasks easily.

Keeping things simple, Verena Lochmuller at Ottolenghi Test Kitchen, has hinted it is good to keep a couple of tubs of fresh shop-bought custard in the fridge and suggested that to make it more fancy hosts could add some double cream, extra vanilla or almond extract and a healthy splash of something alcoholic and explained “you can also add a little orange zest too if you want. Perfect over warm mince pies, leftover Xmas pudding and of course as a dip for toasted panettone, cut into soldiers”.

As for festive alternatives, Tim Siadatan, chef owner of Padella, has said that pork shoulder makes a great main dish for Christmas, and pointed out that a good sized shoulder will feed about 10-12 people. Plus, the host can start the cooking the night before which frees up oven space for all the trimmings on the day. Another alternative from Rick Toogood, chef owner of Prawn on the Lawn, involved including oysters which he said are always a good idea for those looking for a decadent starter.

Farokh Talati, head chef at St. John Bread and Wine, noted that visiting the butchers can be a wise move and revealed: “Over the years I’ve delighted the family with quails, pigeons, guinea fowls and partridge” and added “some butchers do a wonderful game pie mix, this is all the good bits of the birds that they put together for you to concoct into a delicious lidded delight”.

Similarly interested in mixing things up from the average turkey meal, For Luke Farrell, chef owner of Speedboat Bar, it’s all about roast goose. Farrell suggested people serve it roasted on a bed of crispy sauerkraut to cut through the richness with roast potatoes cooked in the fat. While Fadi Kattan, chef founder of Akub, serves lamb shoulder.

For boxing day, Rishi Anand, head of research and development at Dishoom, recommended making a stuffed leftover turkey paratha with leftovers. Also using alternatives, Ravinder Bhogal, chef owner of Jikoni, admitted she loves using up panettone in an unexpected savoury way.

Known for his zero-waste initiatives, Douglas McMaster, chef patron at Silo, said that using all the Brussels sprout scraps, including shredded bits you don’t need, or the outer layers of each sprout can assist in the ultimate veg scrap recipe.

While, on the drinks side, for cocktail tips, Ryan Chetiyawardana, aka Mr Lyan, noted the key is to look at the practicality whilst ensuring ingredients and flavours are reminiscent of Christmas. Drinks that can be topped off to order, or that can be batched and poured for a big group of friends or family. He added: “always prep in advance”.

When it comes to wine, Amber Gardner, wine buyer at BOBO Wines wanted to highlight to potential hosts that: “what we bring to the table to drink can have a surprising effect on the whole ambiance of the day” because “it can act as a conversation starter, a mood lifter and perhaps even as an olive branch”. With this in mind, Gardner advised: “Instead of thinking of your Christmas wine in the traditional sense of food pairing, consider the Christmas vibe and ambiance it may be able to muster.”

Similarly wanting to stay on top of things, Giacomo Recchia, head of wines at Bob Bob Ricard, recommended decanting wines at Christmas (approximately 20 minutes before serving), allowing it time to breathe and release its full potential. A move that would assist in getting the best for each wine but also saving time when it comes to pouring at festive events.

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