A step-by-step guide to Christmas dinner

Festive dinner for 10: Recipes and preparation

Here are the recipes for a festive or Christmas dinner as referred to in an old blog post Celebration is the gift.

If you would like a dinner which moves away from the usual turkey roast dinner have a look at this Christmas Menu from Lia’s Kitchen inspired by the tradition of roasting goose in Britain. This is one of my favourite Christmas menus because it also used my favourite Christmas meat, pork, which is what we traditionally eat in the North of Greece and my mom’s household. Pork and goose are heavy meats and I don’t often eat those outside the winter holidays.

This step-by-step guy gives you an outline of how to prepare your Christmas meal in a stress-free way.

The Christmas menu

  • Ham with fennel
  • Roast Goose with chestnut and dill stuffing
  • Orange and cumin root vegetable mash
  • Smoke paprika brussels sprouts
  • Roast potatoes
  • Home made gravy & ham fennel sauce
  • Melomakarona cookies

Planning

Very often I get people stressing about pYou will need approximately 6 hours to prepare and cook everything. Don’t let this scare you! When I say six hours I mean every single step from prep to the moment you take the bird outside the oven. Six hours also takes into account that this is your holiday period and you need to relax , have fun and enjoy the company of those helping you, or a a great radio programme  such as the BBC Food Programme or a podcast, such as the Delicious Magazine Podcast, Princes Street or the Good Foodies Podcase.

To make things a bit easier you could start by making the stuffing the night before the meal . You can also precook the ham the night before as it is delicious in room temperature. This means that early Christmas morning you can just slowly roast your goose after you stuff it. It’s up to you how you want to prepare your meal but it is overall a good idea to start with the dish that takes longer to cook and also can be eaten cold or reheated.

Much depends on your kitchen and cooking space, e.g. you might want to finish with the ham because you need all hobs or the pot it cooks in. So cooking the ham the night before would really make space for your vegetable prep whilst the goose is roasting. Whatever your way it helps to have at least one of the meats cooking whilst preparing vegetables or dessert

Recipes

You can start with preparing your stuffing or start on it once your ham is already simmering away.

Honey glazed, fennel ham

You can start cooking the ham once the goose is in the oven or start the preparation of the meal with it.

This is a much loved dish that I first cooked 10 years ago at Christmas. The original recipe comes from Nigella Lawson but I constantly adapt it  to the ingredients available and have many variations to choose from.

This recipe is a guaranteed success: I promise that even those who don’t like fennel will enjoy this as the slow cooking only subtly infuses the ham with the spices and herbs used. You can keep the ham for up to a week in the fridge and have with bread and piccalilli: a Dodds and Moutselou Christmas favourite!

Ingredients

  • 2-3kg of a gammon joint
  • 1 root of fennel
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 Tbsp. coriander seeds
  • 1 Tbsp. black pepper corns
  • 2-4 star anise (optional)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 250ml of red wine or more (I always use more)
  • Enough boiling water to cover the gammon in a large pot

For the Glaze

  • ½ tsp cinnamon powder
  • ½ tsp smoked paprika (sweet)
  • 2-3 Tbspns of honey
  • enough boiling water to dissolve the honey
  • a splash of red wine vinegar

Preparation (3hrs) 

  1. Place your gammon in a deep but snug pot which is approximate the width of the ham joint.
  2. Add the star anise, peppercorns, coriander and fennel seeds, the fennel root and onion sliced in half, wine and enough boiling water to cover the joint.
  3. Simmer slowly for a few hours. Again the rule of thumb is to simmer for an hour per kilo of your joint. When the joint is soft and cooked remove carefully from the pot as it is soft and could  fall apart.
  4. Whilst the pork is cooking prepare your glaze by dissolving the honey in hot water over the hob, add the vinegar, paprika and cinnamon.
  5. Add enough water for the glaze to be watery at the beginning and then allow it to simmer down and thicken after 5-10 minutes on the lowest flame setting of your smallest gas hob.
  6. Slice half of the skin and excess fat off from the pork; pierce it with cloves in diagonal patterns.
  7. Pour the glaze over the pork, making sure it is covered evenly. Place under a strong grill or glaze with a glazing gun. Allow the meat to sit for at least 30 minutes before carving.

Goose stuffing 

This is my mom and dad’s special stuffing. It is particularly good with game and lamb but they also use it to stuff turkey and chicken. I think it is ideal with goose. You should use the liver of bird or meat you stuff. Waste nothing of an animal that has been sacrificed to feed you.

Ingredients

  • 1 -2 bunches of spring onions
  • 2-3 handfuls of cooked peeled and roughly chopped chestnuts
  • 500gr of lean minced beef
  • 1 liver of goose
  • a large bunch of dill
  • a large bunch of parsley
  • 2-3 slices of stale bread, preferably whole meal
  • 1-2 handfuls or a small bag of pine nuts
  • large black raisins (optional)
  • 1-2 Tbspns rice
  • a knob of butter

Preparation (30-45mins)

  1. Fry the sliced onions in a knob of butter for a few minutes.
  2. Add the minced meat and diced liver, and sauté for 10-15 minutes before adding the rice and a bit of water. It is important to part cook the rice before stuffing the bird as it will not cook much during the roasting time.
  3. In the meantime and while the meat is cooking grill the stale bread on both sides and then crumble with your fingers.
  4. Add the pine nuts, raisins, finely chopped herbs and chestnuts to the mixture.
  5. If the stuffing looks dry now is the time to add a bit more butter or oil.
  6. Add the crumbled bread last and follow with seasoning with salt and pepper.
  7. Set your stuffing aside.

Roast goose

You can season your goose before preparing the stuffing to let the lime and salt flavour seep in. This way once your stuffing is ready you are better prepared to place the bird in the over.

Ingredients

  • 5kg goose with extra fat and giblets removed
  • Zest of 1-2 limes
  • coarse salt

Preparation (5.5hrs)

  1. For my festive goose, I rubbed the cavity and skin of the bird with a mixture of lime rind and coarse salt.
  2. I then stuffed the bird, placed on a rack in a backing tray and cooked for a full five hours.
  3. The first 30 minutes I cooked the bird in 240 degrees Celsius and then reduced the heat to 190 degrees Celsius. I had to borrow the large oven of my dear friend Dr Dodds.
  4. This is one thing to remember when cooking goose. You need a large oven, and someone must always oversee the cooking to remove the excess fat in from the baking tray and to regularly baste the bird with the goose fat.
  5. You also need to factor in at least 30 minutes for the bird to sit before carving.
  6. The overall cooking time (including the preparation of stuffing and sitting before carving) can be up to 6 hours so start early.
  7. A 5 kg bird was enough for 10 people but our a meal also included a generous amount of vegetable and a taste of the special fennel ham the recipe for which follows below. And we had leftovers.

Tips: 

  • I have cooked goose a few times now and each time cooking has required 1 hr per kilo of the bird, no more no less, initially in a very hot oven (250 degrees Celsius) and then at 190 and 175 degrees. This contradicts many cooking instructions from the experts who suggest that 15 min for 450gr plus 20 minutes at the end.
  • I think goose roasting takes me a lot longer because I stuff the bird tightly and there is no hot air circulating though its cavity. Even though I cook the meat a lot longer than suggested it remains moist.
  • Goose is fatty and flavoursome and does not need much dressing before it cooks. Goose used to be the traditional Christmas dinner in Britain for the poor, whilst the rich enjoyed beef.  As usual, it seems the poor had better taste.
  • Nowadays goose is very expensive but it is worth making enquires with your local butchers or at the local farmers market to compare costs. I often pre-order mine from Madgetts farm and picked the bird up at Roath farmers market on the morning of the dinner. The bird was cleaned beautifully and the excess fat that hides in the bird was removed for rendering in the future. This careful preparation made the cooking process a lot easier and reduced the amount of fat that we had to remove from the tray.

The best roast potatoes 

This is the next dish you should start on as it takes approximately 3 hours to peel, par boil and roast potatoes. Place the potatoes in the top oven a couple of hours after the goose has started roasting. 

Ingredients

  • 2.5-3 kg Sante, Maris Piper or other roasting potatoes
  • Rosemary, salt and pepper
  • Goose fat or olive oil

Preparation (1.5hrs)

  1. Parboiled the peeled and chopped potatoes  for 10min. Drain and return to the pot.
  2. Add the herbs, salt and pepper and shake’ the parboiled potatoes in the pot. This will help fluff them up before roasting helping make them crunchier.
  3. Roast in a high temperature oven for 1 to 1 ½ hours.

Orange and cumin vegetable root mash

Once the goose and roasties are in the oven you have time to prepare your vegetable and complete your ham recipe. Even if you chose to cook your goose for less than 5 hours , or just get a smaller goose.

This root mash goes very well with goose and duck. If you add boiled puy lentil to it you have a brilliant vegetarian meal in itself. This is a clever use of leftovers or a vegetarian alternative.

Ingredients

  • 1 celeriac
  • 2-4 parsnips
  • 4-5 carrots
  • 1 Tbsp. or more cumin
  • Zest of orange
  • 2-3 Tbsp. of maple syrup
  • A couple of bay leaves
  • salt and pepper
  • Butter and olive oil

Preparation (30-40min)

  1. Peel and roughly cube all your vegetable in a deep pot, add the bay leaves and boil for 20 minutes or until soft.
  2. Drain vegetable well and return to the pot.
  3. Add plenty of butter and olive oil, the cumin and some orange zest, and the maple syrup.
  4. Mash roughly for a lumpy finish and season well with salt and pepper.

Smoked paprika Brussels sprouts

This is a beautifully tasty sprouts recipe that might even convert those sprout haters. 

Ingredients

  • A knob of butter or more
  • 2 tspns or more of sweet smoked paprika
  • salt
  • 1kg of boiled Brussels sprouts

Preparation

  1. Prepare the Brussel sprouts by slicing off their base and carving an X at the bottom.
  2. Boil or steam for about 10 minutes.
  3. Melt the butter in a pot or pan, throw the sweet smoked paprika in and toss in the cooked sprouts.
  4. Add more butter if needed and season.

The Sauces

But make your gravy and sauce just before you serve the meal and whilst the goose is cooling down or is being carved.

Ham sauce

Ingredients

  • The cooked fennel root and juices the ham cooked in
  • A celery stick
  • some bay leaves
  • Salt and pepper
  • Cornflour (as much quantity as you need)

Preparation

  1. Do not throw away any of your fennel pork roast juices.
  2. Mash the fennel in a food processor, return to the strained pork juices, add a bit of diluted corn flower mix with a whist and simmer down.
  3. This make make a fantastic sauce to accompany the pork. You can store your pork stock in the freezer and use for future pork roasts or soups.

Gravy 

Ingredients

  • Goose giblets much boiling water
  • Salt and pepper
  • Cornflour (as much quantity as you need)

Preparation

  1. Start simmering the giblets in enough boiling water (about a litre) after you place your roast potatoes in the oven.
  2. Add a celery and a bay leaf and simmer for 1 -1.5 hours. 
  3. Then strain the liquid and return to pot. 
  4. Dissolve a couple of teaspoons of corn flour in a little of the gravy liquid for a creamy mixture and add gradually add to your simmering gravy juice whilst stirring with a whilst. This method guarantees the perfect gravy with no lumps. 

Happy Christmas from Lia’s kitchen!

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