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Tips for a Stress Free Christmas from Mark Greenaway

Mark Greenaway

We spoke to acclaimed Edinburgh Chef, Mark Greenaway, about our common Christmas Day problems, how to keep your day stress-free and his tips for making your lunch as delicious as possible.

We chose a selection of your questions from Twitter, added in a few of our very own and headed off to Restaurant Mark Greenaway to find out more from the man himself…

Your Festive Food Questions Answered

If I cook my turkey on Christmas Eve, what’s the best way to heat and serve it on the big day?

Cooking your turkey the day before is not something that I would recommend – you lose a lot of the flavour in the turkey if you cook and reheat it, but the easiest way to reheat it is to finely slice it, cover it with gravy, tinfoil on top and pop it in the over 15-20 minutes before you need it. You can’t reheat a whole turkey – it will just be so dry.

How can you tell when your turkey is cooked?

Put a skewer into the thickest part of the bird, the juices should run clear. Make sure to allow your bird to rest for at least 45 minutes with tinfoil over the top. It’s such a big bird, and it has so much heat in the core of it so it will retain heat. Then, once sliced, it might need five minutes in the oven just to re-crisp the skin.

Butter, oil, goose fat, duck fat…what’s your secret for making the fluffiest roasties?

I recommend that you parboil them for 7/8 minutes, allow them to steam dry, given them a little rough up and half an hour before your turkey is going to be ready, pop them in the same dish as the turkey and allow them to soak up the flavor of the bird. There is no reason to buy duck fat, goose fat or anything else – you’ve got all your fat coming off the bird. You can parboil your potatoes the day before, pop them on a tray in the fridge covered in cling film – nice and easy!

Which ingredients are worth splashing out on for Christmas lunch?

If you’re looking for a free range turkey, you can also buy a frozen one. I have no objection to that whatsoever, for domestic use of course. There is nothing wrong with buying a free range frozen turkey. If you can only afford a turkey that’s not free range, then buy that. It’s about the cooking of the bird on the day – you’ve spent enough money already, it’s about how you treat the bird when it comes into the kitchen.

Both at home and in the restaurant I only ever buy free range, but that’s only because I’m in the lucky position that I can do that. I certainly wasn’t brought up on free range this and Scottish that, I just wasn’t. As long as people are respecting the produce once they have it in their hands, that’s really the main thing. You could buy the best free range, gold label turkey in the world but if you’re going to overcook it, it still won’t be good.

Cooking is all about confidence and learning from your mistakes. Treat it like a roast – on a Sunday, you don’t spend all day cooking a roast so why should you on Christmas Day. All the vegetables can be prepared the day before, herb butter can be done the day before. We always have turkey at Christmas, I love the tradition of it.

When you’re resting your turkey, rest it upside down. Take the skin off the turkey after it’s been roasted and leave it to one side and turn he turkey upside down. All the juices that have moved to the bottom of your turkey during cooking will go back into the breasts. Cover it in tin foil, and allow it to rest 45 minutes or so. Serve with stuffing and gravy and you’re good to go!

What is your favourite turkey leftover recipe? (Please, not turkey curry!)

Anything you can do with chicken, you can do with turkey. Pies are great, and allow the kids to get involved. You can make your own little pies. Everything can be diced up. Buy puff pastry, don’t make it – especially not on Boxing Day! My pie would have potatoes, parsnips, chipolatas and turkey.

And…what about Christmas sprouts? Is there any way to make them tasty?

This is my recipe for Brussels sprouts with pan-fried pancetta, chestnuts topped with a tarragon crumble. My only tip is not to overcook them, you don’t want that Sulphur flavour.

What about the all-important gravy…

Gravy is important, and the best tip is to deglaze your turkey pan with red or white wine, doesn’t matter which, whatever is open. Then deglaze with some water or chicken stock if you’ve got some, then reduce it slightly and to thicken. There’s no need for flour, the starch in the potato will do all the work for you.

What will you be having for your Christmas meal this year? Do you do the cooking or Christmas Day a chef’s day of rest?

My mother in law will be doing all the cooking – she’s a fantastic home cook. I always carve the turkey – break it down as it’s a chicken. Take the legs off whole, take the breasts off whole, and take the bones out the legs (they will just pull out). Don’t try and slice the breast while it’s on the bird or take a whole bird to the table – this way you can pour all the juices from the bird into the gravy.

All in all, Christmas should be as stress-free as possible. It’s about having a day with family, a glass of wine and a day with no phones, no emails…and no Twitter!

Thank You to Mark…

As always, thank you so much to Mark. Not only is his cooking superb, but his restaurant is fantastic and he is always happy to help those in need of culinary advice! Find out more about his restaurant via their website, Facebook or Twitter.

We hope that this advice helps you have a relaxed Christmas, complete with the best Christmas lunch yet!

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