Stressed about Christmas dinner? The Resident quizzes some of London’s leading chefs, plus our neighbourhood restaurant favourites, on how to make the festive feast as fabulous – and fuss free – as possible
Words: Alexander Larman & Sudi Pigott
What are your memories of Christmas food from your childhood?
Straightforward and traditional Christmas food – all the usual fare, but completely trumped by the general excitement of the day.
What are your favourite seasonal dishes and why?
Christmas pudding is, in my opinion, one of the great dishes of the world. It is a heady mix of wonderful seasonal flavours, and whilst it is of course nostalgic, it never ceases to amaze me how such a huge collection of standard ingredients can come together to deliver such amazing impact.
How will you be spending Christmas this year?
Close family, as always. We are a very small family – 14 in total! What are your best tips for festive cooking, and how would you make a show stopping Christmas lunch? Keep it simple – and aim to ‘show stop’ in one course only. Buy The Square, The Cookbook – Volume 2, Sweet and make the Christmas pud!
What’s your Christmas wish this year?
To hang out with a happy and healthy family (and that it snows in time for the ski season to begin).
43 Elystan Street SW3 3NT; 020 7628 5005; elystanstreet.com
How will you be spending Christmas this year?
I will be with my family, so my two little girls Josephine and Violette and my partner Justine. We will probably go to France, and I will be doing all the cooking. I now get my little girls to help as much as they like in the kitchen; at this stage, they’re more interested in making the sweeter things.
What are your favourite seasonal dishes and why? I love baked ham with honey, cloves, mustard and a nice breadcrumb baked on the outside; this is then also great for leftovers, using cold ham in mac ‘n’ cheese, or toasted cheese sandwiches for the kids. Or there is a lovely goose that I would have with spiced red cabbage and parsnip puree; this is a little more extravagant, but then you get a lot of free duck fat after the end of it and this can then be used to roast the potatoes.
Always cook to your own skills; the last thing you need for Christmas Day is to be stressed. Just make it as easy as you wish as it need not be hard, difficult or stressful: remember it’s supposed to be fun for you and your family so enjoy.
27 Cale Street SW3 3QP; 020 7349 0202; tomskitchen.co.uk
What are your favourite seasonal dishes and why?
I love a pot-au-feu. It just reminds me of long and cold winter evenings, and that dish was such a comfort. Use the bouillon as a soup, the veg and meat as the main, add mustard, and boiled potatoes you crushed with chervil, and it’s amazing!
You need to know exactly what you want to cook; you need to have it all there without rushing for last minute shopping. Ideally, you have everything two days early so you can start to prep the day before so you can enjoy it; also involve the children, so less work for you! For me, the show stopping moment is how beautiful the meat looks coming out of the oven, with the amazing smell. Do it right and everyone will stop talking; the room is yours!
190 Queen’s Gate SW7 5EX; 020 7584 6601; gorehotel.com
For Lorraine Angliss, it is imperative that she transforms her restaurants into a home away from home and sums up the magic of the festive season. ‘We’ve been busy getting the Christmas menus sorted, given that we have to produce five – it’s quite a lot,’ she says.
Perhaps at the heart of her inspiration is that Christmas is a big celebration in her own family and something she loves. ‘I’m one of those sad people who make their Christmas pudding months in advance. I love shopping in Marks and Spencer too when they get all the new things in for Christmas,’ she smiles.
‘I think about everything that I like at a family Christmas, such as Quality Streets scattered on the tables, mince pies and the temperature to be warm and cosy with carols playing.’ She is keen to make sure that parents feel relaxed and there is plenty of entertainment for the children, including a present for them and a glass of champagne on arrival for the adults.
The main event is the turkey dinner. ‘It’s important that we do the best roast we can. The chefs come in early and we make it like a kitchen at home,’ she says.
Angliss makes sure she goes the extra mile when it comes to the festivities. ‘I go to all the restaurants myself on Christmas morning to check the table settings, ensure the roast potatoes are crispy and to personally thank all of my staff for working. It’s important to me to have that personal touch,’ she says.
Annie’s Chiswick, 162 Thames Road W4 3QS; anniesrestaurant.co.uk
Perhaps unsurprisingly, then, it’s all about tradition with this one – but that’s not to say he isn’t pushing some modern boundaries with his dishes.
‘I like bringing people together and watching everyone enjoy Christmas, and making them smile by bringing the traditional flavours out in the food,’ says Cole. ‘I like to make the traditional food a little different though. It’s always been a traditional Christmas in my family with 25 of us sat around a tiny table and it taught me all the basics that I needed for cooking for the season.’
The Bingham is hoping to keep this tradition and heartiness at the centre, with dishes such as turkey stuffed with wild mushrooms, accompanied with chestnuts and cranberry sauce. In December, they will also be trying five birds in one for the first time, exemplifying the way they use conventional ideas with a modern twist. Cole believes this is important to maintain the sentiments of Christmas.
‘The chestnut fondant was a hit last year, as people didn’t expect chestnuts in the dessert and it was a perfect blend of old and new,’ says Cole. ‘So that will definitely be making a return this year with a caramelised apple ice cream to bring some festive spice to it. The key to a successful spread at Christmas is to get the spices just right and balanced.’ And what is Cole’s main point of advice for the festive season? ‘Use sprouts! I don’t know why people are so scared
61-63 Petersham Road, Richmond Upon Thames, Surrey TW10 6UT; thebingham.co.uk
Harj Ram & Cicely Brown
‘We like to bring some creativity and flair to the table, showing people that vegan food doesn’t have to be boring and unimaginative,’ says Ram. ‘You can have a banquet of vegetarian food – you won’t go hungry just because there is no turkey!’
They will have three dishes including a soup of the day, raw dish and a hot dish, and they are expanding on their cakes and energy balls too. This will be focused around festive flavours, like root vegetables and warming spices.
The main event will be a Christmas Supper Club. So what can people expect from the evening? ‘A nut roast is such a classic, but I think people have these visions of it being something awful from the 70s – but it’s far from it. We will be making it flavoursome and delicious, but it’s nice that there is still a traditional element,’ says Brown.
They are keen to show customers that you don’t have to be scared away from vegetarian food, and that it can be just as tasty as any other elaborate dish. ‘Plant-based foods are the most abundant of all the food groups, but a lot of people are used to simply steaming their vegetables,’ says Brown. ‘You can do so much with them, and the Christmas spices bring them to life.’
50 Hill Rise, Richmond TW10 6UB; bhuti.co
‘We always have oysters at Christmas in France,’ insists Duval. ‘A favourite easy canapé is smoked trout (less fatty than salmon) with creamy goat’s cheese and chives rolled and cut into mini roulades. Also puff pastry brushed with egg yolk and sprinkled with gruyere cheese and grated nutmeg and baked, which everyone finds irresistible.’
Duval’s stand-by party dish is confit duck, and he uses the fat to roast the vegetables. As an alternative vegetarian dish, he makes a brussels sprout and onion tarte tatin. For fish lovers, he recommends the spectacle of a whole grilled fish like turbot or brill. An absolute favourite Christmas dish in his family was roast rack of veal with carrot Chantenay, roast artichoke, baby onions and parsnips: ‘Everyone still talks about it,’ he smiles.
In the restaurant, his signature dish of white onion soup with brioche crumbs and Maderia jelly is a must, followed by guinea fowl stuffed with chestnuts.
67 High Street, Wimbledon SW19 5EE; thewhiteonion.co.uk
‘Anything cured’ is Oliver Gladwin’s answer to planning ahead for what he calls ‘a joyful feast of gluttony.’ He always makes juniper and dill gravlax for the restaurants and at home. ‘It’s colourful and goes beautifully as a canape on an oat cake with crème fraiche to serve with bubbles.’
For something impressive to make in advance, he suggests grouse bresaola. Start by making a red wine aromatic brine with a bottle of red, an equal bottle of water, salt until it tastes like the sea, zest of an orange, a bay leaf and a small handful each of thyme and juniper berries, he instructs.
Cure skinless grouse breasts (or duck) in the brine in the fridge for three to four days until they are firm to touch. Wash off the cure and roll the breasts in a spice mix of equal parts dried coriander seeds and black pepper with a good pinch of red chilli. Hang in the larder for one week. Once cured, wrap in parchment and cling film and store in the fridge, ready for Christmas. Serve sliced thinly with homemade root vegetable crisps.
For Boxing Day, a house favourite is a salad of shaved brussel sprouts, honey, walnuts, apple matchsticks and cheddar cheese. ‘It’s a winning dish every year,’ explains Gladwin.
29 Ransomes Dock, 35-37 Parkgate Road, Battersea SW11 4NP; nutbourne-restaurant.com
Hollihead is a great believer in advance preparation when it comes to the festive season. He recommends making homemade cranberry sauce, flavoured with Campari and orange, well ahead in November, alongside plenty of chutneys and piccalilli and a winter fruit compote. As he is usually cooking at The Corinthia on Christmas Day, their tradition at home is to have a mustard and honey glazed gammon for Boxing Day.
What has made his last minute preparations so much easier both at home and at The Corinthia is converting to brussels sprout tops (purple and green leaves that cluster by the crown of the plant), which are incredibly quick to cook and have masses of vitamins K and C as well as being good for detoxifying.
Hollihead recommends cooking sprout tops for a few seconds in boiling salted water, draining, refreshing in iced water. Heat again in melted butter for a few minutes, then finish with Maldon sea salt, black pepper and shallots, chestnuts, chilli and orange zest.
For canapés, Sanzone rolls bresaola in ricotta with a few chopped chestnuts, a sprinkling of chopped chives and a splash of lemon. ‘I know it’s Christmas in Italy when pizzarelle start to appear,’ he says. ‘They are the simplest thing we eat over the festive season – just strips of deep-fried dough – but I love them.’
For View 94’s first Christmas menu, Sanzone is serving pulses cooked up in exciting ways, including roasted cod loin on lentils with saffron sabayon and crispy kale. Vegetarians are offered polenta parmesan soufflé with chilli broccoli, typical of Puglia. Most unusual of all is his show-stopping take on mince pies. The fruit is a tangy mix of fig and raspberry served with pear and cinnamon sorbet. Jamaican rum scent is spritzed over the pies from what looks like a perfume bottle.
They’re never fewer than 20 around the table for Christmas Day lunch at Sanzone’s home. Between games of cards and poetry readings from the children, he and his family graze on grilled meats and fish. He especially likes roasted suckling pig stuffed with sausage meat with fennel, garlic and rosemary.
Prospect Quay, 94 Point Pleasant, Wandsworth SW18 1PP; view94.com
‘Contrary to belief, I am not a humbug and love Christmas,’ laughs Poole.
‘It’s all about indulgence. I always get a pata negra ham on the bone and a whole case (24 tins!) of superb Ortiz ventresca tuna from Brindisa. Both are eye-wateringly expensive and a real treat.
‘I scoff an awful lot of William Curley’s chocolates, reassuring myself that I don’t usually eat much – which is untrue, of course.’
2 Bellevue Road, Wandsworth Common SW17 7EG; chezbruce.co.uk
Gaitanos invariably makes smoked mackerel and horseradish pâté with date bread for Christmas Day morning, washed down with Buck’s Fizz.
His fail-safe Christmas recipe is for an unforgettable, well-spiced mulled wine prepared a good hour in advance to fill the house with seasonal aromas. Simply heat five litres of good red wine, juice and zest of 4 oranges, 1l cranberry juice, 200g brown sugar, two nutmeg, four cinnamon sticks, six bay leafs, two sprigs of rosemary, ten cloves, one small ginger root to boiling point and add four shots of brandy.
For a fun new take on mince pies, Brother Marcus have also created mincemeat dodger biscuits made with sweet almond pastry and a wonderful mincemeat recipe from Gaitanos’ grandmother: rich with fruit, cinnamon, nutmeg, orange zest and brandy, they’re sure to be a crowd-pleaser.
9 Chestnut Grove, Balham SW12 8JA; brothermarcus.co.uk