'Leave the turkey on low': The chefs' compendium of Christmas tips, tricks and recipes

Just how long does it take to cook a turkey? Is it possible to make the humble sprout sing? And what's the best thing to do with all that leftover pudding? Our experts have the answers...

Helena Puolakka

A Scandinavian breakfast for Christmas Day

Finnish rice pudding and dried-fruit soup

Serves 4-6

For the dried-fruit soup

500g/1lb mix dried fruit (sultanas, figs, plums, apricot, apples)
500ml/17fl oz water
500ml/17fl oz apple juice
150g/5oz sugar
2 cinnamon sticks
1 vanilla pod
tsp salt
3 tbsp potato flour
lemon juice

For the rice pudding

200ml/7fl oz water
2200ml/7fl oz round pudding rice
1litre/1¾ pints milk
tsp salt

First make the soup. Gently heat the water, apple juice, fruits, sugar, cinnamon and vanilla for 20 minutes. Mix the potato flour into 50ml/2fl oz of cold water and add to the soup mix, slowly pouring and mixing all the time. When the soup comes to a boil, move off the heat, add the lemon juice and let it cool down.

Now make the rice pudding. Measure the water and rice into a pan. Cook until the rice has absorbed all the liquid. Now add the milk and cook gently, regularly mixing. Let it simmer for 40 minutes then add the salt. Serve by pouring the soup over the hot rice pudding. The contrast in temperatures is delicious.

Helena Puolakka is executive chef at Skylon Restaurant, Bar & Grill, London SE1 (skylon-restaurant.co.uk)

Tristan welch

The perfect turkey timings

For a 2 kg to 3kg/5 to 6 lb turkey

If you're going to stuff the turkey, it's important that the stuffing is really moist. If you're using breadcrumbs, make sure you have enough stock in it or an ingredient such as apple juice. If the stuffing is too dry, it will dry out the rest of the turkey.

Take the legs off the turkey and put them back on with bamboo skewers so there is a gap between the legs and the bird. One of the main issues with turkey is that the pocket between the breast and the leg never cooks properly, but this way, the hot air can flow freely around the turkey, so the whole thing cooks evenly. Then put loads of butter on the breasts and under the skin. And because the legs and breast will be cooking at the same rate using this method, you don't need to cover the breast with any tinfoil.

Put the turkey into a cold oven. This is so the whole thing can warm up together; often the reason turkeys end up dry is because they get put into a hot oven and the outside starts cooking but the inside doesn't. Then cook it low and slow – on a low temperature for a long time: switch it on to about 90C/160F and every 30 minutes, gently raise the temperature by 10C until you hit 120C/250F. Every time you change the temperature, take the turkey out and give it a good basting with all the juices. That way you'll have a beautifully roasted bird. A 3kg turkey will take about three-and-a-half hours.

Tristan Welch is head chef at Launceston Place, London W8 (launcestonplace-restaurant.co.uk)

Zdenek Kastanek

My favourite seasonal cocktail

Christmas Penicillin

Makes 1 drink

10ml/ fl oz ginger syrup
50ml/2fl oz blended Scotch whisky (such as Johnnie Walker Black or Monkey Shoulder)
25ml/1fl oz freshly squeezed lemon
15ml/ fl oz honey
1 or 2 cloves
10ml/¼fl oz peaty Scotch whisky (such as Laphroaig or Talisker)
A wedge of lemon or a piece of crystallised ginger

For the ginger syrup

Makes enough for 50-55 drinks
500g/1lb sugar
500ml/17fl oz water
50ml/2fl oz ginger juice

Start by creating the sugar syrup. Add the sugar to the water, stirring constantly. Once the sugar is dissolved completely, remove the pan from the heat. (Do not allow the syrup to boil for too long or it will be too thick.) Allow to cool completely and thicken, then bottle.

Now make the ginger juice. Either peel a piece of ginger and put it through a juicer or cut it into small cubes (about three or four should do) and crush it in a garlic press. Now add the ginger juice to the sugar syrup. (More juice can be added if you like – it really depends on how much you like ginger.)

Once this is done, put the ginger syrup, blended Scotch, lemon juice, honey and cloves in a cocktail shaker along with ice, and shake thoroughly. Pour it into a rocks glass/short tumbler over ice – preferably a big block. Then top it off with the peaty whisky and garnish with the lemon or crystallised ginger.

Zdenek Kastanek is bar manager at Quo Vadis, London W1 (quovadissoho.co.uk)

Jason Atherton

The best brunch

Apple compote parfait

Serves 4

750g/1 lb Granny Smith or Bramley apples
100g/3 oz unsalted butter
100g/3 oz caster sugar
1 vanilla pod, split
1 pot/450g/14 oz thick Greek yoghurt
3 tbsp butter
100g/3 oz breadcrumbs
1 tsp cinnamon

Peel, chop and core the apples, place in a saucepan with the butter, sugar and vanilla pod. Cook the apples on a moderate heat for about 20 minutes until they start to turn soft. Remove the vanilla pod. Place the compote in a blender; blend to a fine pulp before passing through a sieve then allow to cool. Now layer the compote in tall glasses, alternating between apple and yoghurt. Melt the butter in a saucepan and toss the breadcrumbs and cinnamon in the pan so they are well-coated, spread out over a baking tray and toast for just a few minutes until crisp, then sprinkle over the parfait glasses and serve.

Hot smoked salmon egg en cocotte

Serves 4

Hot smoked salmon
4tbsp double cream
2tbsp creamed horseradish
Juice of half a lemon
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 eggs

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas4. Place a roasting dish in the oven with about 2cm of water in it. Butter four ramekins and generously line each with hot smoked salmon. In a bowl, mix the double cream, creamed horseradish, lemon juice and plenty of salt and pepper. Break a large egg into each ramekin, top with a few more pieces of salmon and a generous tablespoon of the cream mixture, then finish with a small knob of butter and more seasoning. Cook in the bain-marie for 10 minutes then remove and serve with buttered toast.

Jason Atherton is chef-patron of Pollen Street Social, London W1 (pollenstreetsocial.com)

Anna Hansen

Spicy stuffing for turkey

Spiced quinoa, butternut squash, date, macadamia nut and coriander stuffing

1 small butternut squash, peeled and diced
2 tbsp light olive oil
1 banana shallot or two ordinary shallots, finely sliced
1 small leek, finely sliced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced very finely
2 tsp urfa chilli flakes
1 tsp Szechuan peppercorns, lightly toasted and ground
1 tsp black mustard seeds
1 cardamom pod crushed open using the back of your knife
2 tbsp fresh ginger, minced
2 tsp fresh turmeric, minced
185g/6 oz quinoa
125g/4oz macadamia nuts, toasted and roughly chopped
1 cup chopped coriander
cup chopped flat parsley
cup chopped fresh mint
Juice of a lemon
Salt and black pepper

Toss the squash together with a little oil, season and roast at 180C/350F/Gas4 for 15 to 20 minutes until the squash is tender. Heat the olive oil in a heavy bottomed pot. Add the shallots, leek, garlic, urfa, Szechuan, mustard seed, cardamom, ginger and turmeric and gently fry until the onions are soft. Add the quinoa, cook for an additional minute or two then add 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil, cover with a lid and reduce the heat to low. Cook for 10 minutes or so, stirring from time to time until the quinoa is al dente. Remove from the heat and leave to cool. Once cool, fluff up the grains and add the roast squash, macadamia nuts, fresh herbs and lemon juice and season to taste.

All spices can be bought from thespicery.co.uk. Anna Hansen is chef/patron of The Modern Pantry, London EC1 (themodernpantry.co.uk)

Laura Santtini

An alternative to roast potatoes

Jewelled Christmas rice

Serves 6

For the rice

1 litre/1¾ pints water
tbsp salt
4 tbsp vegetable oil or butter
3 cardamom pods
1 piece of lemon peel
3 cups basmati rice
¼ tsp ground saffron threads dissolved in 1 tbsp of hot water (optional)

For the topping

Olive oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 generous handful of raisins or barberries
1 handful of chopped dried apricots
1 generous handful of roughly chopped pistachio nuts
Salt and pepper
1 handful of chopped fresh mint
A sprinkling of edible gold and edible rose petals (optional)

Wash the rice in a sieve and drain. Bring the water, salt, oil or butter, cardamom and lemon peel to the boil. Once boiling, add the rice and stir with a fork. Cover and wrap a clean tea towel around the lid of the pot. Lower the heat and cook until all the water has evaporated. While the rice is cooking, heat some oil in a frying pan and cook the onion; when it begins to colour, add the raisins, apricots and pistachio nuts. Season with salt and pepper, taking care not to burn the raisins and apricots.

When the rice is nice and fluffy and all the water has been absorbed (and the bottom begins to crisp), pour the saffron water over the rice to colour in parts; keep covered and leave to cool for 10 minutes. Spread the rice on to a large serving dish and top with onion and raisin mixture. Sprinkle with the chopped mint and edible gold and petals (if using). Serve with the Christmas roast turkey or goose, or try as a delicious accompaniment to a Boxing Day honey-roast ham.

Laura Santtini is the author of 'Flash Cooking: Fit Fast Flavours for Busy People' (Quadrille, £20) and creator of Taste #5 Umami Paste (available in supermarkets)

Maria Elia

Brussels sprouts with a twist

Shaved Brussels sprout, walnut and bacon Salad

Serves 4

For the Brussels sprout purée

300g/10oz Brussels sprouts
150ml/¼ pint double cream
25g/1oz unsalted butter
Grating of nutmeg
2 tbsp frozen peas, defrosted
2 tbsp flat-leaf parsley, chopped

For the shaved Brussels sprouts

400g/13oz Brussels sprouts, rough outer leaves discarded and some green outer leaves kept to add whole. The rest, thinly shaved on a mandoline
4 thick slices of bacon, cut into lardons
50g/2oz toasted walnut halves, roughly chopped
30ml/1¼fl oz white-wine vinegar
80ml/3oz walnut oil
1 tsp Dijon mustard
Squeeze of lemon juice
40g/1 oz shaved Berkswell/Parmesan cheese

For the purée, boil or steam the sprouts until soft, then put in a blender. Heat the cream, pour over sprouts, add butter and blend. Add the remaining ingredients and blend until smooth. Season with sea salt and pepper, reserve and keep warm.

Now bring a small pan of salted water to the boil, add the reserved whole sprout leaves, cook for 1 minute then refresh in ice-cold water, drain and set aside.

Heat a good glug of olive oil in a large frying pan, add the shaved Brussels sprouts and cook for 1 minute till just wilted, then set aside.

Heat the remaining oil, add the bacon and cook over a high heat until crisp. Remove the bacon from the pan and add to the sprouts along with the walnuts.

Whisk together the vinegar, walnut oil, mustard and little lemon juice. Pour over the sprouts and season with black pepper. Serve warm, spooned over a slick of Brussels sprout purée, garnish with shaved Berkswell or Parmesan and the reserved sprout leaves.

Maria Elia is executive chef at Joe's Restaurant, London SW3 and author of 'Full of Flavour' (Kyle Books, £19.99)

Alexis Gauthier

My all-time favourite petit-fours

Home-made 'After Eight' mints

Makes about 60

500g/1lb dark chocolate (65 per cent cocoa minimum)
250g/8oz white chocolate
2 thick bunches mint, finely chopped

First melt half the dark chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pan of just simmering water – the chocolate must heat up very slowly and be removed from the heat as soon as it is at a melted, glossy consistency. Be very careful not to boil the chocolate. Spread it thinly on a baking parchment sheet and put in fridge for about 20 minutes until set.

Meanwhile, heat up the white chocolate; when melted, add the mint and fold together. Spread over the dark chocolate layer and put back in the fridge for 20 minutes. Once it's cold and hardened, spread over a final layer of dark chocolate (the remaining 250g) and keep in the fridge for 1 hour.

Once set, cut the chocolate in 4cm square and individually wrap them in baking parchment (just like the ones you buy). Tie them with a red ribbon and serve at the end of the meal. After eight o'clock, obviously.

Alexis Gauthier is chef patron of Gauthier Soho, London W1 (gauthiersoho.co.uk)

Stephen Terry

What to do with the leftover pudding

Christmas-Pudding Spring Rolls

Start by crumbling up the pudding. Then lay out a sheet of filo pastry and brush with melted butter. Take a portion of the crumbled pud (a portion being according to your taste and how mini or mega you want your spring rolls to be) and place on to the pastry sheet about 4cm from the left-hand edge and roughly in the middle.

Fold the left edge over the pudding filling then roll up just like a savoury spring roll. Trim down the pastry at the ends but leave enough that can be folded underneath the roll and sealed with a bit more butter.

Deep-fry the rolls until golden then serve with crème fraîche and a burnt-orange dipping sauce made from caramelising brown sugar in a pan, adding orange juice and then boiling until thickened.

Stephen Terry is chef/patron of The Hardwick, Abergavenny (thehardwick.co.uk)

Mark Sargeant

A fish alternative to turkey

Whole turbot with fino sherry and mussel broth

Serves 4

2 kg/5 lb turbot, bone in
50ml/2fl oz fino sherry
500ml/17fl oz fish stock
200g/7oz mussels, cleaned and beards removed

For the sauce

2tbsp rapeseed oil
1 banana shallot, finely chopped
1 sprig thyme
2 pinches saffron strands
1 carrot, diced
leek, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
300ml/ pint double cream
Squeeze lemon juice, to taste
1 tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley

Place the turbot in a baking tray with the sherry and 200ml/7fl oz of the fish stock. Cook for 30 minutes at 180C/350F/Gas4. Strain the liquor and use for the mussel broth. Cover the turbot to keep warm.

After cleaning the mussels, firmly tap them on a hard surface – discard any that do not close. Place a large pan over a high heat, then pour in the liquor that was saved from the turbot. Add the mussels and the remaining (300ml) of fish stock and cover with a lid. Cook for about one minute, or until all of the mussels have opened (discarding any that remain shut). Strain with a sieve, reserving the cooking liquid. Pick the mussels from the shells and set aside.

For the sauce, heat half the oil in a large pan over a medium heat, add the shallot and thyme and fry for 2-3 minutes, or until softened. Add the saffron and cook for a further minute. Pour in the fish stock and the reserved cooking liquid from the mussels. Bring to the boil and simmer until the liquid has reduced in volume by half and has a syrupy consistency. Meanwhile, heat the remaining oil in a separate pan and gently fry the carrot, leek and celery for 4-5 minutes, or until softened. Add the cream and a squeeze of lemon juice to the sauce and cook for a further 2-3 minutes, then strain the sauce over the cooked vegetables. Stir in the chopped parsley.

To serve, add the mussels to the sauce to warm through. Place the turbot on a serving dish and pour over the mussel broth and serve with fondant potatoes and savoy cabbage with smoked bacon.

Mark Sargeant is chef/patron of Rocksalt, Rocksalt Rooms and The Smokehouse in Folkestone (rocksaltfolkestone.co.uk)

April Bloomfield

The duck alternative to turkey

Balsamic-glazed slow-roasted duck

Serves 4

2 x 2kg/4 lb) Long Island or Pekin ducks, giblets and wings removed and reserved
Coarse sea salt and freshly ground pepper
6 tbsp olive oil
2 heads garlic
4 bulbs fennel, trimmed, outer layers only, chopped (remaining inner layers reserved for roasted vegetables)
6 cups store-bought low-sodium chicken stock
1 lemon, halved crosswise
1 bunch thyme
1 cup balsamic vinegar
Juice of 1 lemon
Roasted vegetables, for serving

Preheat oven to 180C/350F/Gas4. Fit a large roasting pan with a rack. Place the ducks on the rack and prick the skin all over with a fork, taking care not to pierce the flesh. Season the ducks all over with sea salt then let stand for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, chop off the duck wings and neck and set aside. Heat the oil in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan over a medium-high heat. Add the duck wings and necks and cook, stirring, until browned. Separate and peel the garlic cloves from 1 head of garlic; reduce the heat to low and add the fennel and garlic cloves. Cook, stirring, until the vegetables are softened. Add the stock and cook until reduced by half – this will take about 40 minutes. Strain into a small saucepan then skim the fat from the surface. Set the sauce aside.

Halve the remaining head of garlic and crush slightly. Divide the lemon, thyme, and garlic evenly between the duck cavities. Transfer the duck to the oven and roast, turning every 25 minutes, until the duck starts to brown.

Meanwhile, mix together the vinegar and lemon juice. Once the duck starts to brown, begin basting with the vinegar mixture and cook until the duck skin is dark brown and the meat begins to come away from the breastbone – this will take 2 to 3 hours total.

Remove from the heat and let the duck stand for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, reheat the sauce over a medium heat until warmed through and reduced to desired consistency. Carve the duck and serve with the sauce and your choice of roasted vegetables.

April Bloomfield is the co-owner and head chef of New York's The Spotted Pig (thespottedpig.com)

Massimo Bottura

The Italian alternative to turkey

Tortellini with cream sauce

Serves 6-8

For the pasta

400g/13oz '00' flour
4 eggs
Pinch of fine salt

For the filling

170g/6oz ground pork
170g/6oz ground veal
170g/6oz aged prosciutto
40g/1 oz mortadella
250g/8oz Parmigiano Reggiano, grated

For the sauce (optional)

500g/1lb Parmigiano Reggiano, grated
250ml/8fl oz water or chicken broth
Pinch of salt

Start by making the pasta. Place the flour on the table in a mound. Form a well in the middle. Add the eggs and a pinch of salt. Mix with your hands until it is even in consistency. Then knead thoroughly for 15 minutes (muscles help!). This is very important. Cover with plastic wrap, then put in the refrigerator for at least a few hours. The mixture can be left for up to two days.

For the filling, mince the pork and the veal, sauté in a casserole dish with olive oil for 10 minutes. Let it cool then add the prosciutto and mortadella cut into small pieces. Mix well with the Parmigiano Reggiano. Pass through a food processor until smooth. Add salt to taste.

Now comes the folding. This activity requires space: use the dining table or any clean surface, and dust with flour so that the pasta does not stick. Roll out the dough with a machine or by hand into thin sheets of pasta. Cut with a knife into approximately 3cm x 3cm squares. Place a small amount of filling in the middle of the square. Fold two opposite corners to create a triangle. Pull the remaining two corners together around your pinky finger and pinch to seal them with thumb. The form should look like a handkerchief or a tortellino – the smaller the better. Usually the youngest children and the oldest grandmothers make the best tortellini.

The tortellini can be served in a cream of Parmigiano Reggiano sauce or in chicken broth. For the cream sauce, start by warming the water or chicken broth over a medium heat. Add the Parmigiano slowly, mixing at top power with a blender. The temperature should be around 85C to form a creamy consistency. To make perfectly smooth, pass through a wide sieve. If things aren't working out as well as they should, add a little warm, heavy cream and work into a creamy texture.

Regardless of whether you choose to make the cheese sauce, it is always best to cook tortellini in chicken broth. Make sure the broth is boiling, add the tortellini and then lower the temperature. When they come to the surface, they are ready to be served either in the broth or put directly in the bowl with the sauce at the bottom.

Massimo Bottura is chef-patron of Osteria Francescana, Modena (osteriafrancescana.it)


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