LONDON: Top Knightsbridge restaurateur Marcus Wareing gives his top tips on how to prepare the ultimate festive feast this Christmas
The main thing to do when contemplating cooking the big Christmas lunch is to think ahead and plan out your day and timings. The most important thing is not to stress – it’s just a glorified roast dinner.
For a starter I’d recommend soup; I love soups. When I go into restaurants, it’s a really good way of telling if the restaurant is good because they make good soups and they’re fresh. I think the celeriac and apple soup with crème fraiche (from my book New Classics) is a great starter – there’s not too much of it, just something to whet the appetite. There’s nothing like a nice hot soup on a cold day.
My choice of meat will always be turkey because it’s basically the only time of the year that we eat turkey. And I quite enjoy it – it’s a nice meat. But I think pork would be a great alternative.
If you have a local butcher, try and get your turkey from there. Waitrose is very good and reliable for meat but I also really like Bayley & Sage as well. They have great produce and a really lovely shop. They have a couple of stores across west London.
It’s a tough one for vegetarians on Christmas day. There are alternatives to the meat that you can buy but I would definitely recommend getting a really good vegetarian cookbook for the best alternatives.
The most common mistake people make when cooking Christmas dinner is not understanding the time it takes to cook a turkey and the process of getting everything ready for the same time. The turkey is the longest thing to cook and you have to fit everything around it. Also, try not to cram everything into the oven.
When I was growing up my parents used to buy the biggest turkey they could find. My mum used to get up at a strange hour, like four in the morning, to put the turkey in the oven, and when it came to eating it was so overcooked and dry. There weren’t many cookbooks then so they would just stick it in the oven and give it ten hours to cook. There was always loads leftover…
I always allow the turkey to rest, I think it’s good to rest any piece of meat for 15-20 minutes. Cover it in tinfoil and leave it to relax. It will release some of its juices and that’s the perfect ingredient to add to your gravy.
For dessert, I love Christmas pudding and custard. It’s a classic but I really do like it. We all make mince pies in my house; I love making mince pies because the kids get involved. We buy some mince meat, spice it up a little bit and add some more dried fruit. I’ll make some pastry and the kids help me put them together.
If all goes wrong, don’t panic; gather your thoughts. One of the biggest mistakes people make on Christmas is that they let the whole process get on top of them.
My advice would be to wash up and clean down as much as you possibly can. Try and get as much out of the way and most of all try and enjoy it.
I cook the Christmas dinner in my house, but it’s a team effort. I go to work on Christmas day, so generally, I will help with the prep and then go to work, come back and finish off bits and pieces. Over the years I’ve always cooked Christmas lunch when I’m not working.
We always try and create a very special experience for diners at Christmas at the restaurant. We won’t be cooking the traditional Christmas dinner but our top level cuisine instead because that’s what people come in for. It’s the spirit of Christmas with a two Michelin-star twist.