must say at the outset, that I haven’t quite cracked this one yet. I have, over
time and through bitter experience, got considerably better. But I still don’t
know whether it is better to roll my roast potatoes in semolina (Nigella) or
just wang them in goose fat and be damned (Jamie).
I love my Christmas dinner. It is the very
best meal of the year. So why have I never quite got the hand of it? The first
Christmas dinner I ever cooked was not an unmitigated success and that has
somehow set the tone for my Christmas dinner career.
At the age of twenty-one and new bride, I
was very excited to cook my first turkey. What I hadn’t appreciated was how
much difference there was between said turkey and a chicken – which I had happily
roasted most Sundays. So I popped the monumental turkey in the oven for an hour
and a half and whacked on the rest of the vegetables at the same time too.
Result: an excellent meal of veg and roast potatoes for dinner at seven, followed
by turkey sandwiches at half past eleven at night when the damn thing was
finally ready. Who knew that a turkey would take hours and hours to cook!
Sprouts. They’re a mystery too, aren’t
they? My mother puts the sprouts on in July and let’s them percolate on a slow
simmer until Christmas day. I didn’t realise until I went to someone else’s
house for Christmas dinner that sprouts could be anything other than a noxious grey
puree. I have, however, followed in her
footsteps and eschew every recipe that advises me to stir fry them with lardons
and white wine. I boil them. To oblivion. And no one in the house likes them
anyway, so I don’t even know why I do that!
Our current Christmas morning ritual is to
go to our next door neighbour’s at ten o’clock and start the big day with a
sociable round or two of bucks fizz. I thoroughly enjoy it. Some years a bit
too much. Due to imbibing fizzy wine and orange juice, I have dropped two
Christmas dinners just as I was about to serve them. One year I pulled both
shelves out of the oven at once to inspect the roast potatoes and veg. Both
slid in slow motion to the floor before my drink-fuddled reactions could kick
in. The next year I did exactly the same but, for added effect, stumbled
backwards and knocked the resting turkey to the floor too.
On both occasions we had our soup and then
a very, very long wait. Now I buy an emergency, back-up Christmas dinner.
Bernard Matthews’ turkey roll, Aunt Bessie’s roast spuds and parsnips. If all
else fails, we can eat that.
One year , for a change, we had a three
bird roast which was a duck inside a chicken inside a turkey. Which was,
indeed, every bit as bizarre as it sounds. I’ve never had the nerve to tackle a
For the last few years, I’ve tried to put
aside the temptation of creating a gorgeous, groaning feast as peddled to us by
Gordon Ramsay and the like. I’ve bought in most of my dinner pre-prepared.
Marks and Spencers are the housewives’ friend. I buy all my veg peeled and cut
into appealing shapes. I buy my gravy ready made and my cranberry sauce. Heston
Bloomingheck does my Christmas pudding (thank you, Waitrose!) and Mr Kipling
will do my mince pies.
This year I am going to bake and ice my
own Christmas cake for the first time! I fear it may be a step too far.
Hope you enjoy making your own Christmas
dinner whatever you have. Anyway, must go, have to get the sprouts on!
Good luck with the Christmas Cake, Carole!
Carole's latest novel is With Love at Christmas