Christmas Dinner Tips from Top Chefs in London & the UK

From top turkeys to resplendent roasties, The Resident quizzes some of London’s and the UK’s leading chefs on how to cook the perfect Christmas dinner

On turkey

Paul Ainsworth
(Paul Ainsworth at No.6, The Mariners & Rojanos in the Square in Cornwall)

Keep in mind that the turkey legs and breast are two totally different muscles, so to be at their absolute best they require two different cooking techniques. Ask your butcher to remove the crown, wishbone and the thigh bones from each leg, this will make carving easier after a few festive drinks!

Stuff the de-boned turkey legs with your favourite kind of sausage meat or sage and onion stuffing, add cranberries, apricots and classic Christmas spices. Roll this up, season with salt and pepper, brush with a little oil, wrap in baking parchment and foil and its ready for the oven. This really packs in the flavour and is much quicker than cooking the whole bird on the bone.

For the turkey crown, brining it ahead of time and basting throughout the cooking process results in the most beautifully moist and tender breast with golden skin.

For the turkey naysayers

Ben Tish
(Norma & The Game Bird at The Stafford)
For a turkey alternative, but staying traditional, try a slow roast pork belly. This is what I’ll be serving for my family this year with roasted spiced quince and seasonal cabbage steamed and finished with orange, chilli and marjoram and potatoes roast with thyme and garlic.

Salt your pork overnight along with thyme and garlic and roast in a very hot oven (220ºC) to get the skin very crispy. After 25 mins turn the heat down to 160ºC and finish cooking for a couple of hours until tender.

Then, 30 mins before taking it out, throw a quarter quince studded with cloves into the roasting tray to soften and soak up the pork juices.

For vegetarians

Paul Leonard
(Forest Side, the Lake District)

We have lots of vegetarians on my wife’s side of the family and I always find a vegetarian Wellington goes down a treat.

Tips from the top: Throwback to 2016

Using different types of vegetables in different preparations makes it an interesting eat – I make a mushroom duxelle, confit some carrots and beets, then slice parsnip thinly. You can ultimately put anything in.

Build it like a traditional Wellington with pancakes and a good puff pastry. It’s a showstopper when it comes out of the oven and can be made in advance and cooked on the day.

On ham

Monica Galetti

For Christmas I like to make food reminiscent of childhood and family gatherings – we always had a pineapple-glazed ham, for example.

My Christmas tip would be to glaze your ham using tinned pineapple, which I blitz it to puree, then add it to a simple caramel (heat caster sugar in a saucepan until golden).

This makes a nice thick glaze ready to brush over your ham, which doesn’t run off the sides.

On roasties

Michael Caines
(Lympstone Manor in Exmouth)

If you only have one oven, cook your roast potatoes the day before, then re-heat while the turkey is resting.

Always blanch potatoes for 3-4 minutes before roasting to ensure your roasties are crispy outside and soft and creamy inside.

On Yorkshire puddings

Paul Ainsworth
(Paul Ainsworth at No.6, The Mariners & Rojanos in the Square in Cornwall)

Make your Yorkshire pudding mix on Christmas eve. Allow the mix to rest in the fridge overnight and, on the day, pull it out about an hour before you’re ready to cook. Don’t forget to get your tins and oil nice and hot for the best results!

On carrots and parsnips

Tom Booton
(The Grill at The Dorchester)
To make your carrots doubly tasty, boil them in carrot juice instead of water for extra flavour!

Tom Aikens
(Muse & Tom’s Kitchen) 

Part of the problem with a big Christmas lunch is the space issue – it is very difficult to cook everything and get it all already at the same time. To battle this, you can roast your carrots and parsnips in frying pans on the stove instead of in the oven.

Try adding little extras to your vegetables to give them a zing: chestnuts and bacon lardons to Brussel sprouts; lemon, thyme and tarragon to roast carrots; honey and thyme sprigs to roast parsnips.

Christmas dinner cooking tips from professional chefs: Tom Aikens on perfect carrots and parsnips

Tom Aikens shares his tips for perfect carrots and parsnips

On sprouts

Gregory Marchand
(Frenchie Covent Garden) 

Pan-fry Brussel sprouts with sliced kumquat. Use spices, such as roast carrots with Vadouvan (a mix of curry and spice from the Pondicherry region in India, which used to be a French colony) and seasoned Bergamot juice.


Scott Paton
(Boringdon Hall in Plymouth)
Try dressing your sprouts in the cooking juices from your pigs in blankets (rendered sausage fat and trim from the pancetta) – you’ll change people’s lives forever!

On gravy

Paul Ainsworth
(Paul Ainsworth at No.6, The Mariners & Rojanos in the Square in Cornwall)
Make your gravy a week before and freeze it, then bring it out the night before to defrost.

On bread sauce

Jason Atherton
(The Social Company)
Bread sauce can be bought pre-prepared, but it is so simple to make from scratch and is guaranteed to taste better than the supermarket version.

Use sourdough bread and infuse the milk with spices including cloves, cinnamon, mace and bay to add a depth of flavour.

On mince pies

Oli Martin
(Hipping Hall in the Yorkshire Dales)
My secret Christmas tip is one for unbeatable mince pies that I came across whilst working in Australia.


Simply put an over ripe banana into your mince mix, and it makes them extra gooey and super sticky!

On the cheese course

Gregory Marchand
(Frenchie Covent Garden) 

Serving temperature is key! Make sure your cheese is room temperature when serving. Take it out of the fridge at the beginning of your meal so it has plenty of time to temper. When quince season is here, keep it Christmassy and add spices.

On leftovers

Tom Booton
(The Grill at The Dorchester) 

A great way to use up a ham hock is to shred the ham from the bone and then fry in a little oil until crispy.

Serve crumbled over blanched hispi cabbage for the best Boxing Day dish.

Scott Paton
(Boringdon Hall in Plymouth)
My favourite thing to make with Christmas leftovers is bubble and squeak with the leftover vegetables and protein. Fry off some onions and smoked bacon until starting to colour, and then add leftover potatoes, vegetables and chopped meat. Transfer these to a tray and bake until golden and crispy on top. Serve with a runny yolk fried duck egg for a self-saucing feast.