the Perfect Christmas Roast Turkey Dinner

The perfect Christmas roast turkey dinner. Most families in the United Kingdom traditionally sit-down on Christmas afternoon for their festive Christmas Dinner. Today you find the centerpiece is usually a roast Turkey served with stuffing, sausages wrapped in streaky bacon ( pigs in blankets ), crisp roast potatoes, parsnips, Brussel sprouts and lots of other vegetables, and cranberry sauce. This is followed by Christmas pudding and brandy sauce, maybe sherry trifle and mince pies. But how have we got here?

The perfect Christmas roast turkey

A bit of Christmas Dinner history

‘If he is to get on in life, he must get on umbly, Master Copperfield!’ In medieval England, if you were very rich you might have eaten venison for Christmas. Killed in your hunting grounds and the bits or umbles – the heart, lungs, liver, tongue, and kidneys would be chopped, mixed and baked in a pie to be given to the poor. The original [h]umble pie. Down the pecking order ( sorry ) you might find goose or woodcock covered in butter and saffron and roasted. For dessert, you would find frumerty a thick, spiced porridge. This was made with currents and enriched with egg yolks. Alternatively there might be a boiled plum pudding. The ancestor of today’s Christmas pudding made with suet and dried fruit. It would be flavoured with clove, ginger, and cinnamon. Plum is an old term for raisins.

A boar’s head would be the centerpiece of the Christmas feast for a Tudor nobleman. It is believed that the tradition is centuries-old. It came from pagan celebrations of the Norse god of the harvest. If you could not get hold of the highly prized head, you would have a ham which is now a staple of many Christmas meals. Sugar, spices, and nuts were considered highly exotic and very expensive. Highly decorated marzipan sweetmeats were a sign of your wealth and importance.

Gingerbread Men

Christmas Traditions

‘My name is Sherlock Holmes. It is my business to know what other people don’t know.’
During the 17th century, turkeys started to become part of the Christmas feast. Although goose would remain the most popular roast well into the Victorian era. It was common for goose “Clubs” to be set up, allowing working-class families to save up over the year towards buying a goose. Sherlock Holmes solves a tricky case involving the theft of a precious stone the blue carbuncle when it is found in a Christmas club goose.

Gingerbread has an incredibly long history, near to a thousand years. Originally it was often sold in monasteries, pharmacies, and markets. Gingerbread was prized for its supposed medicinal properties and was used to aid digestion. It became so popular its manufacture was highly regulated in Germany and supervised by a guild. The guild lifted the restrictions on who could bake gingerbread at Easter and Christmas. By Victorian times Gingerbread men were baked and hung on the Christmas tree.

A dickens of a christmas

In the 18th and 19th century, Twelfth Night, the fifth of January, was one of the most important dates in the festive calendar. Twelfth Night was the last feast of the Christmas celebrations ( Epiphany ). The centerpiece of the parties, which involved eating, drinking and playing games was a cake. A forerunner to today’s Christmas cake it evolved from an enriched fruit bread to a more familiar fruit cake decorated with almond and sugar pastes. A dried bean was included in the recipe. Whoever found it was crowned ‘Lord of Misrule’ or ‘King of the Bean’ and presided over the festivities.

The perfect Christmas roast turkey dinner

When Queen Victoria came to the throne in 1837, the turkey was still an expensive choice, only for the very rich, for Christmas dinner. A famous Christmas dinner scene appears in Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, where Scrooge sends Bob Cratchit a large turkey. In northern England, roast beef was commonly served on Christmas Day while in London and the south of England, a goose was still the favourite. Those too poor to afford beef or goose made do with rabbit. However, by the end of the 19th century, most people feasted on turkey for Christmas dinner.

Mince Pies

Mincemeat was from Tudor times, when chopped meat mixed with dried fruits, sugar, and spices. This recipe continued right up to the Victorian era when less and less meat was included in the recipe. The mince tart you eat today is filled entirely with dried fruits, sugar, spices, and suet to keep it moist. Most premade mincemeat mixtures now use vegetable fats rather than the traditional suet in keeping with mincemeats origins.

Today’s Recipe

Traditional Roast Turkey Dinner

So today’s recipe is for the Christmas centerpiece a roast turkey. I have memories of my mum getting up at 6am to put the oven to prepare a monster of a turkey for the family. As in popular legend, it did seem that we ate turkey leftovers for days after. You should never put stuffing into a turkey cavity as it will not cook properly and could be a health risk but I do like to stuff the breast end of the bird which helps keep the meat moist. I have included my favourite stuffing recipe.

So today’s recipe is for the Christmas centerpiece a roast turkey. I have memories of my mum getting up at 6 to put the oven to prepare a monster of a turkey for the family. As in popular legend, it did seem that we ate turkey leftovers for days after. You should never put stuffing into a turkey cavity as it will not cook properly and could be a health risk but I do like to stuff the breast end of the bird which helps keep the meat moist. I have included my favourite stuffing recipe.

My Delicious Homemade Buttery Mince Pies

Sweet pastry Mince pies

I love mince pies, I love mince pies so much. Lilly and I set a challenge this December to try all of the mince pies we could possibly get our hands on in Jersey. Shall I let you into a secret none of them match up to today’s recipe. We hope you like them just as much.

A bit of Mince Pie history

Mince pies are a peculiarly British individual pie now eaten across the English speaking world. They are traditionally served over the Christmas period. Although in America they are more likely to be made in large tart cases and eaten at Thanksgiving. It is thought the name is derived from mince meat and preserved fruit pies first bought back during the crusades. These would have been quite heavily spiced with cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. Today when we make mince pies we omit the meat but most recipes contain suet. You can use the tradition beef suet or a vegetarian option if you prefer.

My Last Minute Mincemeat Recipe

You can use a good quality mince meat but you might like to use my own quite luxurious recipe. As with a lot of my recipes you can always adopt to your own tastes. You can add Drambuie instead of brandy, some freshly grated orange zest,  and fresh cranberries for example.

Mincemeat is traditionally made in advance and stored in sterilised air-tight jars but I this recipe is just as good and read to use immeadiately.
Buttery sweet pastry mince pies ready for baking

The best Mince Pie Recipe

The basic recipe is for sweet buttery sable pastry and any left overs can be used to make Christmas biscuits. You can make the pastry ahead and freeze and defrost as you require. If you want to make a more traditional cover seal the edges with a little cold water, top with pastry and snip a small hole in the top.

Mincemeat is traditionally made in advance and stored in sterilised air-tight jars but I this recipe is just as good and read to use immeadiately.
Sable pastry Christmas cookies

Christmas Biscuits – Great for making with the kids

My Christmas biscuits or cookies are a definite family favourite. They are great if you want to make something with your children to decorate the Christmas tree. But don’t worry they are very tasty too. 

My Christmas biscuits or cookies

sable Pastry

The recipe is a variety of Sable pastry a rich egg and butter enriched recipe from France. You can use sable pastry for making tart cases, Linzer biscuits and wonderful festive mince pies. The classic central European Christmas recipe Linzer torte is made from a sable pastry. It is filled with jam and topped with a pastry lattice. The word “sable” is French for sand which you will see perfectly describes the grainy texture when you make the biscuits. The end result is a fine crumbly texture.

Sable dough

Decorating your biscuits

You may decorate your biscuits however your choose. It is great fun with my two girls as we have a rather over stocked baking cupboard and they run riot. You can purchase a wide range of decorations now in good supermarkets and speciality baking shops. Alongside old favourites such as hundreds and thousands you can buy edible glitter, gold and silver decorations and many more. You can use royal icing to decorate your finished biscuits if you have some from decorating your Christmas cake. If not you will find a recipe for a basic water icing which is perfectly suitable.

Decorated Christmas biscuits

You can find more recipes for festive biscuits and Christmas bakes here. Enjoy.

Rich buttery biscuits made from a Sable style pastry. If you want to hang your biscuits on your tree make a hole in the dough before baking. You can use a pen top or small sharp knife. Make sure you don’t make the hole to close to the edge.

Christmas Biscotti – My take on an Italian classic

Biscotti are tasty Italian biscuits and the next of my Christmas bakes. They are great as a seasonal gift and very easy to make. They are also very moreish and so you may find them hard to give away. The secret is you make a double batch. That way you will have enough for both your friends and yourself.

Classic Biscotti

The origins of biscotti

Biscotti or cantucci ( most commonly used in Tuscany ) are delicious twice-baked Italian biscuits. They are usually made with almonds. Traditionally they are served with a sweet Italian dessert wine called Vin Santo. You might also find them on the side of a cappuccino or latte. To be honest I’m very happy dipping them in nothing more than a mug of tea. We always make several batches at home, in December, as they are a wonderful handmade small gift at Christmas time.

Traditional Biscotti
Traditional Almond Biscotti biscuits

“Biscotti” is derived from medieval Latin and literally means twice baked. It is also the origin of the English word biscuit, but these are just baked once. There is a long history of double baking. Roman soldiers ate twice-baked bread. Sailor’s rations used to contain the dreaded hardtack or ship’s biscuits. These were often riddled with beetles and weevils by the end of a long voyage.

What ingredients can I use?

Biscotti were traditionally made from flour, eggs, sugar, pine nuts, and whole almonds. Today you can find biscotti with a multitude of ingredients and flavourings. Including spices, nuts, dried fruits and can be dipped in dark chocolate. For this recipe, I’ve included nuts, fruit, orange zest, and some seasonal spices. You can experiment and add anything you fancy. Why not try chopped dried apricots, mixed peel, walnuts, hazelnuts, and chestnuts. You can even flavour your biscotti with liqueurs.

However you choose to make them I’m sure you will find them addictive. Enjoy.

For a more traditional Biscotti recipe omit the spices and dried fruit. 

Linzer Biscuits – Traditional Christmas Baking

Mixed Jam Linzer biscuits
Assorted Linzer Biscuits

What are Linzer Biscuits?

A Linzertorte is a tart made using a rich buttery sable pastry. Popular at Christmas the pastry is flavoured with almond, cinnamon and lemon zest. Traditionally the pastry case is then filled with blackcurrant jam and topped with a lattice pastry top. The first recipe for Linzertorte dates back to Austrian in 1653. Linzer biscuits are made with the same sable pastry which is cut into rounds and baked.

The top biscuit often has a small cut out which allows the jam or fruit preserve to be seen when two biscuits are sandwiched together with jam in between. The finished biscuits are dusted with icing sugar. While the traditional cut out is circular, all sorts of shapes, such as hearts and stars, are also popular. The biscuit is popular across America and Europe and is also named as Empire or Belgium biscuits in the United Kingdom.

Empire Biscuits

What is Sable Pastry?

Sable pastry is a rich butter type of sweet pastry similar to classic shortbread. The recipe for shortbread, however, does not contain eggs. Sable pastry or including the version in the recipe below is perfect for Christmas biscuits which can be decorated with Royal icing and hung on your Christmas tree.

Christmas Biscuits.jpg

Crab Bisque

My Shellfish Bisque

Crab Bisque
Jersey Crab Bisque with white crab meat

I’ve recently featured a lot of soup recipes. From a really tasty store cupboard classic to a spicy Thai inspired coconut fish soup. In the run-up to Christmas I’ve just time for one more, a rich Shellfish Bisque. Now as you would expect living on an island and working as a chef, I have recipes for lots of different shellfish bisque recipes. Traditionally a bisque is a French soup. You can make your shellfish bisque can be made from lobster, crab, prawns, and crayfish. The shells are used to make a stock and then you incorporate the meat into the finished soup.

What is the difference between soup and bisque?

Bisque is thought to have derived from either the word Biscay, as in Bay of Biscay. Biscay is famous for oysters and other shellfish. Alternatively, the name could have evolved from the shellfish being twice cooked, in French, “bis cuites”. Certainly, when I make crab or lobster bisques in commercial kitchens the shells are first roasted lightly, then simmered with vegetables and herbs before being strained. Traditionally a bisque is thickened by grinding up the shells and you need some pretty powerful industrial food processors to accomplish this. At home, you can thicken with flour or adding a handful of rice to the cooking stock. The name bisque is now often used for thick and creamy roasted vegetable soups.



An Island Chef Top Soup Recipies

Beer and Cheese Bisque

Seafood Tom yam Soup

Cauliflower Veloute with Curry Oil and Cauliflower Pakora

Gazpacho

Patatas Riojanas - Spanish Chorizo and Potato Soup

I have slightly altered the recipe to allow for the fact the most household food processors are not built to break up extremely tough crab shells. Using prawns gives a slightly sweeter if less intensely minerally flavoured soup but it is never the less a real show stopper. This would be an ideal start to your Christmas day dinner.