12 Suffolk chefs share their Christmas dinner secrets
PUBLISHED: 12:17 16 December 2015 | UPDATED: 17:10 16 December 2015
How do Suffolk’s kitchen professionals celebrate one of the busiest seasons of the year? Whether its how to cook the perfect turkey, the best parsnip recipe or an unusual festive supper, these chefs are full of inspiration about what to cook for Christmas dinner
1. Mark Bond
Head chef, The Auberge, Yaxley
On the big day we always have a full restaurant for lunch which is great fun. It’s a completely different atmosphere compared to the rest of the year, with the festive feeling fresh in the air. The evening is then our family time and we invite some friends round to the restaurant for a get together and an evening meal (so I carry on cooking!) I tend to shy away from the traditional turkey, although I know lots of people like it, but fillet of beef with foie gras and truffle will be the main feature of the day at the Auberge.
Mark’s top tip
My biggest tip for Christmas lunch would be to go out! Let somebody else do the hard work (and the washing up!) But failing that, prepare everything beforehand and get everybody to pitch in. Cooking together is a great experience in itself and really brings people together, and sharing that workload really take the stress out of it. Just remember to keep that wine glass full!
2. Justin Sharp
Head chef proprietor, Pea Porridge
Normally for Christmas I spend it in Lithuania with my wife’s family, usually about 16 of us! We eat 12 different seafood based dishes on the 24th and we drink a traditional drink made with cranberries then finish with a dessert made with poppy seeds. At the restaurant in the run up to Christmas, our menu will heavily feature game birds. Main dishes will include The Lebanese influenced “kibbeh” made with wood pigeon and roast partridge with Guanciale and cavolo nero as a homage to my love of Italy.
Perfect Christmas dinner?
Christmas is a time for sharing with friends and family and our pot roast pheasant for sharing with the traditional bread sauce, sprouts, bacon, chestnuts, gratin dauphinoise and sage is a surefire winner.
3. Aaron Skerritt
Head chef, Milsoms Kesgrave Hall
Christmas Day in the hotel and restaurant is always great fun and enjoyed by everyone who is on duty. Guests who are staying with us have a special breakfast with Champagne and then it’s all hands on deck to arrange the tables in the restaurant before everyone arrives for Christmas lunch.
Aaron’s top tip
Don’t overstretch yourself, use the tried and trusted recipes as too much pressure doesn’t add up to an enjoyable day… a couple of glasses of sherry or Champagne will always help!
4. Oliver Macmillan
Christmas Day is always the service of the year for us – a seven course menu with Champagne and canapés on arrival. It’s such a special day and the teams at each site get very excited about the delivery of the perfect Christmas Day to our wonderful customers. We are a family business. I run the business with my sister Lorna and brother Iain, my father Andrew is also involved. With this in mind, it is essential that we find time together as a family. I have a wonderful, understanding wife who puts up with not seeing me much throughout the year and my daughter Lucy, who is four. When I know we are all set in the restaurants, I will be eagerly dashing home to spend as much time with them as possible.
Perfect Christmas dinner?
After weeks of sourcing, preparing and cooking turkey I do opt for a different option on Christmas Day. For me it has to be a well-aged quality rib of beef with all the trimmings, plenty of horseradish and Yorkshire puddings!
5. Tyler Torrance
Head Chef at the Seafood & Grill, Brudenell Hotel, Aldeburgh
Being from Canada, there is something magical for me about being by the sea at Christmas. A bright winter sun lighting up long horizons, seagulls coasting by on sea breezes and the sound of shingle being turned over by the waves.
Tyler’s top tip
Buy your Christmas turkey from your local butcher; he should be able to tell you the farm it comes from, don’t be afraid to ask. It’s important to support local producers otherwise they won’t be here for the next generation. Different parts of a turkey need different cooking times, try roasting the crown and confit the legs.
6. Rory Whelan
All chefs are used to working on Christmas Day. It may seem a wrench to be away from your family for this day but in this trade, I have to say it is one of the most enjoyable days to work. Everyone is in good spirits and it is great to put smiles on people’s faces cooking up Christmas lunches they wouldn’t necessarily be able to achieve at home.
Rory’s top tips
Don’t be shy of cooking too much either as you can turn your leftovers into some real treats. As most of the ingredients will already be cooked, leftover recipes will not take long to prepare giving you a rest from the stove after Christmas Day. Check out Rory’s recipe for ‘turkey cake’, fried egg, sprouts, chestnuts with white wine and sage butter sauce.
7. Chris McNally
Head Chef, The Kings Head, East Bergholt
Here at The Kings Head, we tend to keep things quite traditional or modern British.
It’s the usual turkey and trimmings which most people tend to enjoy but we also mix it up a bit by offering a fish selection - usually seabass.
Chris’ top tip:
Be extra organised. Write down an itinerary of what you need to do in order of importance and the time needed for cooking and prep.
8. Kevin Pitcher
Head chef, The Red Lion, Chelmondiston
At the Red Lion, December is a busy time for us. We regularly cater for Christmas parties with our festive menu. I usually celebrate Christmas with family on Boxing Day but if work is particularly hectic, we wait until the New Year.
Kevin’s top tip
Individual rolled and stuffed turkey escallops are a good option for less waste and easier cooking time than using a whole bird.
9. Dan Jones
Head chef, The Riverside Restaurant, Woodbridge
We’re not open on Christmas Day itself so I’ll be enjoying it spending time with my children which I haven’t always been able to do due to work. I’ll be making a few nice things on the day including a vegetarian Wellington.
Dan’s top tip
Prepare all of the vegetables the day before and get the meat ready to go. Do all the jobs you can do early to help you get ahead!
10. James Finch
Head chef , The Westleton Crown, Westleton
My Christmas style is quite traditional although we try to add a few different things because I think people get sick of the sight of turkey sometimes. This year, I think we will have a goose. You cook it down slowly and you can then eat the leftovers cold the next day.
James’s top tip
Make sure to add plenty of honey to your roast parsnips. Prepare a homemade bread sauce. It’s quite something as it brings the whole meal together in my opinion.
11. Simon Woodrow
Head Chef, The Leaping Hare, Wyken
Menus at the Leaping Hare are not traditional in the sense that a turkey roast will not appear but the ethos of the estate and the restaurant will be there for all to see; great ingredients treated with a light touch, local where possible and seasonal.
Expect to see celeriac, chestnut, smoked Wyken pheasant, venison Loin from the estate, spiced cranberries, and many more ingredients that just sing of the festive season.
12. Chris Lee
Head chef, The Bildeston Crown
We live adjacent to The Bildeston Crown – so “home” is The Bildeston Crown. Christmas lunch is the biggest event of the year; so as every year, we are working. However, the hotel, in terms of rooms, is closed as we feel it is important that our local staff get to spend at least the evening with their friends and family. Maybe because we see The Bildeston Crown as our home, the style for our Christmas guests is very much “home from home”. We have one sitting only and so once you are at your table, it is yours for the afternoon. The log fires will be burning and Christmas music will be playing softly in the background to create a festive atmosphere to go with great food and wines.
Chris’s top tips
• Turkey – buy local and fresh and ask the butcher to prep for you.
• Gravy –between now and Christmas save and freeze your cooked chicken carcases as they are perfect for roasting to create a dark chicken stock in advance. Add the turkey’s giblets the day before for extra flavour.
• Vegetables – do the prep the night before and, never mind duck fat, roast the potatoes in the turkey fat for the full turkey flavour.
• Stuffing – don’t put in the bird as it slows down the cooking time. Cook separately.
• Warm plates – really important and easy to forget. Don’t spend hours creating a delicious meal for it to go cold in minutes because it is served on cold plates.