Marcus Wareing's festive surprise: Britain's hottest chef serves up his simple recipe for a Michelin-starred feast

He's Britain's hottest chef and – for the next month – our special guest food writer. As a grand introduction to his new column, Marcus Wareing shows how to rustle up the exquisite Christmas meal he'll be cooking at his double-Michelin-starred restaurant. And it's a lot easier than it looks...
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Indy Lifestyle Online

On Christmas morning, I'll no doubt be woken while it's still dark by my two super-excited boys, Jake, seven, and Archie, four, who will gallop downstairs to see what's inside the parcels under the tree. Soon, they will be followed by their little sister, Jessie, who's only one, but after they've all opened their presents, I'll be heading out into the blissfully deserted streets of London on my way to The Berkeley, where I'll be cooking a tasting menu, including the dishes on these pages.

People get really intimidated by Christmas lunch. I remember my mum getting up and putting this absolutely huge turkey in the oven at 6am to cook for six hours – but it doesn't have to be like that. I like to keep things simple, prepare ahead and enjoy the day.

It's just a glorified roast dinner but people overspend and overbuy. Why, for example, when you get a chicken to serve six people do you have to buy a turkey 10 times bigger to serve just eight? Buy what's needed and it'll make life a lot easier.

Jane, my wife, always wants canapés, a starter, a main course and a pudding – but this menu (which is what I cook at home, too) is a doddle, and there are various things that simplify it. The first is dividing up the turkey so it's smaller and takes less time to cook – get your butcher to do the hard work for you, and get it ready in its roasting tin the night before. The same goes for the vegetables, though don't be tempted to put them in with the bird; almost a pint of liquid will come out, and you don't want poached vegetables.

But if you're still feeling overwhelmed – or too lazy – come to The Berkeley instead! You've already seen what's on the menu...

Marcus Wareing is head chef at Marcus Wareing at The Berkeley, Wilton Place, Knightsbridge, London SW1 (020 7235 1200)

Roasted turkey breasts with sage and pine nut-stuffed legs

By taking off the legs and breasts and cooking them on top of the bones, which will be used to make your gravy, you've almost got a one-pot meal. So simple. The pine nuts in the stuffing add a little bite; I don't like hazelnuts or walnuts in dishes such as this – they're too hard– but these add just the right amount of crunch and a lovely flavour.

Serves 8-10, depending on the size of the bird

1 turkey, breasts and legs removed, legs boned, bones reserved
1 onion, peeled and quartered
1/2 bunch thyme
1 bulb garlic, halved lengthways
1/2tsp table salt

For the stuffing

50g/2oz butter
1 onion, peeled and finely diced
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/2tsp table salt
200g/7oz stale bread, made into crumbs using a food processor
200g/7oz sausage meat
1 free-range medium egg
1 bunch sage, finely chopped
1/2tsp dried marjoram
1/2tsp coarsely ground black pepper
50g/2oz pine nuts, toasted

Preheat your oven to 190C/375F/Gas5. Make the stuffing first. Heat a medium-sized frying pan with the butter, and add the onion, garlic and salt, and cook until soft. Add to the breadcrumbs and mix in all of the other stuffing ingredients.

Now lay the boned legs out on your board; they should be slightly oblong in shape. Place a sausage shape of stuffing into the centre of each piece of rolled-out leg meat. Roll over, so the meat encases the stuffing, and wrap tightly in tinfoil.

For the breasts, season all sides with salt then place the onions, thyme and garlic into a roasting tray. Season the breasts then place on top of the onion mixture. Place the rolled legs alongside the breasts and roast in the oven for 25 minutes.

For the gravy, heat a large roasting dish with vegetable oil and, when hot, add the bones and brown well. When you remove the turkey breasts from the oven, cover the breasts with tinfoil to rest, place the stuffed legs back into the oven for 15 minutes and tip all of the onion mix and cooking juices into the pan with the bones, season well and allow to simmer gently. When the stuffed legs are ready, strain the gravy and adjust the seasoning if necessary.

Carve the turkey breasts and slice the leg-meat "sausage" into thick slices. Serve with roast vegetables, dauphinoise potatoes and Brussels sprouts with chestnuts and bacon. '

Cured salmon with crème fraîche pastry crisps

We're serving this at the restaurant with caviar for even more luxury – but you can omit it if you like. The salmon needs to be cured for 24 hours and it's really worth it – but the same garnish works well with smoked salmon or gravadlax from your fishmonger if you don't have the time.

Serves 8-10

400g/13oz piece of skinless fillet of salmon or sea trout, pin-boned (ask your fishmonger to do this for you)
100g/31/2oz puff pastry, rolled to 3mm thick

For the cure

1/2tsp coarse rock salt
The zest and juice of 1 lime
6 juniper berries, crushed
6tbsp gin
1 bay leaf, finely chopped
1/2tsp honey

For the crème fraîche mixture

100g/31/2oz crème fraîche ¼
1/4teaspoon salt
1/2teaspoon horseradish
1/2teaspoon lemon juice

Mix together all the ingredients for the cure and rub over the salmon. Wrap in clingfilm and refrigerate for 24 hours. Wash off the cure in cold water then pat dry. Cover with clingfilm and refrigerate until required.

To make the pastry crisps, preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas4. Place the pastry on baking paper, on to a baking tray and cook for five minutes. Remove and place the part-baked pastry on to a chopping board. Cut out eight rectangles (about 3cm x 6cm) and place back on the baking paper on the baking tray, and cook for six to 10 minutes, until a deep golden colour.

For the crème fraîche, whisk all of the ingredients together until stiff. Place into a bowl and refrigerate.

To assemble, slice the salmon as thinly as possible, divide by your number of guests and arrange on each plate. Place a quenelle of the crème fraîche on to each plate then three pastry rectangles into the quenelle. Sprinkle with black pepper and garnish with salad cress. Serve immediately.

Spice-dusted halibut with fennel, cauliflower and a caper and raisin purée

Halibut is not traditional at Christmas, but I wanted to include an alternative flavour and break the mould a little. You don't just want the same old thing year in, year out.

Serves 8

For the spice mix

1/4tsp cumin seeds
1/4tsp coriander seeds
1/4tsp fennel seeds
1/4tsp star anise
1/4tsp turmeric
1/4tsp table salt

For the purée

50g/2oz capers
50g/2oz golden raisins

For the fish

Vegetable oil for frying
8 x 80g-100g/3oz-31/2oz skinless pieces of halibut
1 large knob of unsalted butter

For the cauliflower

4 large florets of cauliflower, broken into small florets, blanched in salted water and refreshed in iced water
1/2tsp sesame oil

For the fennel

1/4 bulb fennel
1/2tsp chopped fennel fronds
1tsp Chardonnay or white-wine vinegar
2tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

Dry-fry the spices until fragrant then blend using a mortar and pestle. Pass through a fine sieve and mix with the salt.

Now place the capers and raisins into a small saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a gentle simmer until the raisins have plumped up. Drain off the liquid, reserve, and blend in a blender, adding the reserved liquid if needed. Pass through a fine sieve, cover and set aside.

Heat a tablespoon of vegetable oil in a non-stick frying pan. When hot, dust each side of the halibut with the spice mix then place carefully into the hot oil. Fry until golden then gently turn over and add a large knob of unsalted butter to the pan. Allow the halibut to cook through for two to three minutes then remove on to a plate and keep warm. Heat a clean saucepan with a teaspoon of vegetable oil; season the cauliflower, then, when the oil is smoking, quickly toss the florets. Brown, then add the sesame oil and remove from the pan.

For the fennel: slice the bulb crossways very finely and chop the fronds. Mix the vinegar and olive oil together and add to the sliced fennel bulb and fronds.

To assemble, place a spoonful of the caper-raisin purée on each plate and drag your spoon through. Place a piece of fish at the narrower end of the purée then dot the cauliflower around. Top each piece of fish with a portion of fennel salad and serve.

Blackberry and lemon trifles

You can make one large trifle with this recipe or, as we shall in the restaurant, individual ones, served in shot glasses as a pre-dessert before Christmas pudding. Simple but elegant, they will impress family and guests. Also, in the shot glasses, they're just a small mouthful that will leave people wanting more. Prepare at least three hours before serving.

Serves 8-10

A 200g-250g/7oz-8oz punnet of blackberries
175g/6oz sponge fingers

For the jelly

4 leaves gelatine
A 400g/13oz can of blackberries
100g/31/2oz caster or granulated sugar
100ml/31/2fl oz crème de mûre (blackberry liqueur) or crème de cassis (blackcurrant liqueur)

For the custard

4 leaves gelatine
4 medium free-range egg yolks
75g/3oz caster or granulated sugar
350ml/111/2fl oz semi-skimmed or whole milk
150ml/5fl oz single or double cream
1 vanilla pod, split lengthways, seeds scraped

To serve

80g/3oz crème fraîche
80ml/3fl oz double cream
50g/2oz lemon curd

First chop the blackberries and sponge fingers into even-sized pieces and mix together. Place into the bowl or shot glasses you are using. Now make the jelly. Soak the gelatine in cold water, and blitz the can of blackberries in a blender then pass through a fine sieve into a saucepan with the sugar (if you don't have a blender, just pass them through the sieve). Bring to the boil then whisk in the soaked gelatine leaves and the liqueur, then pass again through a fine sieve on to the sponge and blackberry mix. Refrigerate.

For the custard, soak four more leaves of gelatine in cold water. In another bowl, whisk the yolks and sugar together until smooth. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan bring the milk, cream and vanilla to the boil, then whisk in approximately half a cup of the hot cream mixture into the yolks/sugar mixture. Pour the whole lot back into the saucepan and continue to stir over a low heat until the mix thickens. Whisk in the soaked gelatine leaves then pour through a fine sieve into a shallow container. Cover the custard with clingfilm directly on to the surface of the custard, instead of over the container, which prevents a skin forming on the custard. Refrigerate until cool, then whisk until smooth, pour over the set jelly and refrigerate.

To serve, whisk the crème fraîche and double cream together until stiff, then fold in the lemon curd. Spread over the chilled custard. Refrigerate for at least one hour before serving.

Decorate with a difference: New ways to set the scene

Hannah Martin, from McQueens, which supplies flowers to Marcus Wareing's restaurant and styled this shoot, shares her tips for fabulous festive decorations

Forage On a country walk gather pine cones, branches and holly. Spray branches gold or red and display on a mantlepiece.

Flowers Think outside the box: we hang amarylis plants upside down, which is quite novel. Or, instead of traditional green and red, go crisp and clean with white tulips.

Scent For a spicy, Christmassy smell, fill bowls with cinnamon sticks, star anise, eucalyptus and dried citrus slices. Decorate place settings with pine.

Light Twinkly lighting creates a magical atmosphere and candles really do make a difference; they'll also highlight key areas on a table. Mix and mismatch tea-lights with candeleabras and church candles.

McQueens offers various flower-arranging courses. www.mcqueens.co.uk

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