Spuds, veg and the best bread sauce: get ahead with Christmas dinner
From roast potatoes of the gods, to all the tasty trimmings, FT food writer Tim Hayward offers his top tips and tricks for the big day
Filmed by Jonathan Howard and Daniel Garrahan. Edited by Daniel Garrahan. Directed by Juliet Riddell
Because it's Christmas, because it's Christmas time!
I wouldn't dream of telling you how to do Christmas dinner. It's way too complicated. So these are just a few tricks, tips, things that might speed things up a bit for you.
The most important thing about roast potatoes - they should be soft in the middle and extremely crisp around the outside. Cut in a little bit and then twist, and that will give you a lot more crisp edges.
So I'm now going to put them in some boiling water on the stove. You're not trying to cook them through. You're really just trying to distress the outsides a bit. And here is a jar of goose fat. You can use olive oil if you're feeling healthy. This is going in the oven.
There's plenty of moisture in a potato, so it's going to steam itself from the inside out. So what you're trying to do is get the outside to break up a little bit and get a bit sort of starchy. All the dynamics going on inside a spud, it's so exciting. It's like the tension between the leathery outer coat and the fluffy pumped interior. That's what really gets you going on Christmas morning.
I'm going to pull out the hot fat. And now here come our potatoes. Toss them over so you get a good coating. These are going back in now to the still very hot oven.
These still need a bit of a toss, but the smell, oh, the smell of these is starting to be absolutely gorgeous. Back in for a few minutes. Here they are. Hallelujah! So the really important thing with roast potatoes is lots and lots of salt.
One really good way of getting ahead of the game at Christmas is to get the vegetables organised. I'm going to do carrots and sprouts. Take the top off at the diagonal and then roll it. Then cut another diagonal across the beginning of the first. Roll it a quarter turn. These little weird shapes give you lots of lovely edges so that they crisp up nicely if you're going to fry them or finish them off in a pan of butter.
I'm doing the carrots first because the carrots take longer to cook. Here's the sprouts. Just take off the bottom of the sprout and then cut the sprout in half. There's no point messing about.
The carrots come out. Go over to the sink, which I've got water and ice cubes in, and it stops the cooking process. So those now will be preservable for days if necessary.
Sprouts can go into the hot water. Into the ice water with the sprouts. Pretty much any vegetable can be part-cooked this way and stabilised by this boiling and chilling shocking method, and they can all be finished in all the different ways, all the different creative ways you want to finish them.
Take the carrots. Put them in a frying pan with a bit of butter and a tiny bit of honey, and those will toss, and you'll have honeyed carrots.
Sprouts are great with bacon. So shred up some bacon, put it in a frying pan. Chuck those sprouts in on top of the bacon, toss them until they're hot, put them back out. But basically everything now takes a minute to finish however you want to do it. So these things on Christmas Day, they're your secret weapon.
I never got bread sauce for years. It wasn't something that we did in my family at all. It just seemed like a strange idea, sort of hot, wet bread.
It's not like wet bread at all. It's not pasty and porridgy. It has a lovely strange starchy gel texture to it, which is almost modernist cooking. A wonderful thing, really lovely thing to have, and dead simple to make.
Take an onion. Just put two cloves in, which makes a little smiley face, one bay leaf, and some milk. The trick is actually just to infuse it.
So I'm going to get the temperature right down. Nutmeg. Just the lightest, lightest hints of it.
We've had a couple of hours of quiet infusing, so it's ready to go. This onion is now... just squeeze it a bit. You can see there's all sorts of lovely juices coming out of it. I'm going to take out also the bay leaf. That goes back on a low light.
This is bread that I sliced, and then it goes stale for a couple of days. Put a couple of handfuls in. Start stirring until it breaks up. Add another handful. So you can keep it moving at all times.
Most things in life are improved by the addition of butter. You could use a little bit more milk if you wanted to, but that seems like a failure in some way of the opportunity to use cream.
A little bit more heat. Black pepper will be nice. Salt.
And that's it. Ready to glue together the most disparate Christmas meal. So on your turkey and your Christmas pud, I'm afraid you're on your own. But I've given you some bread sauce, hopefully some really cracking roast potatoes, and a much, much quicker way with veg. With luck, you're on your way. Merry Christmas.