Christmas dinner: A beginner's guide to the perfect feast

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In many homes this Christmas, Covid restrictions on households mixing will mean the family chef is separated from those who don't usually lift a finger in the kitchen.

If that means you've found yourself trying to figure out how to make a full-on festive roast for the first time, don't worry.

It's been a stressful year - let us simplify this bit for you with an amateur's guide to cooking Christmas dinner.

Preparation is key

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Pints with old school mates in the pub won't be happening in most places, so you can instead spend this Christmas Eve peeling carrots and rolling stuffing balls.

Benjamin Lebus is from Mob Kitchen and posts simple recipes online. He says the key is to not get stressed on the day, when frankly you should be focused on singing along to Mariah Carey in a paper hat.

"Peeling carrots and parsnips, and rolling up your pigs in blankets - those are all things you can get on with the night before."

And think about the size of your oven and how many trays you have. If it's small, you can cook your veggies and roast the potatoes before the turkey goes in and gobbles up all the space.

About that turkey

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image captionIf your roast turns out half decent, make sure to put it on your Instagram

If you're a Gavin and Stacey fan, you'll know the stress a Christmas turkey can cause. It's the showstopper - the main event. Mick's so obsessed with cooking his properly. In the words of Pam: "It's like he's got another woman, Gav!"

Benjamin recommends having a "step-by-step guide" to hand, to walk you through all the timings. But the real key to mastering your Christmas roast is to baste the turkey, he says.

Don't worry, it sounds more daunting than it is. It basically means spooning liquid over the turkey while it's cooking, every 25 to 30 minutes. You can use gravy or stock or juices from the turkey.

And as for those timings - 20 minutes in the oven at 200C per 500g is the magic formula, according to this simple Tom Kerridge recipe.

You're going to want the meat to be at 72C or above to make sure it's cooked. If you don't have a meat thermometer knocking around in the kitchen, stick a skewer or a fork into the thickest part of the thigh. If the juices are clear, you're safe to serve.

Once it's out of the oven, cover it in foil and wait 30 minutes before digging in.

...or not

If all that sounds a bit much and tending to a turkey for hours is not for you, it's OK to ditch it altogether.

The traditional bird might be "a bit of a palava" when Covid restrictions mean most people won't be cooking for many guests, Benjamin says. "In a small group, I'd stay away from it. You can replace it with chicken and the sides will really make the dish."

Even Nigella's turkey dodging this year.

And as the vegetarians and vegans around the table will tell you, Christmas is still Christmas without a turkey dinner. Arguably not without roast potatoes though. James Martin reckons his are the best - just be careful with that hot fat.

Wildcard option: Bin the whole idea

*Controversial statement warning*.

You don't have to eat a roast on Christmas Day.

Georgia Higgins has her Christmas dinner prepared already. That's because it's... ready to put in the microwave.

image copyrightGeorgia Higgins
image captionGeorgia won't need much prep time

"I've never been a fan of Christmas dinner. I just find it all too chewy, although that could just be my mum's cooking."

Usually on Christmas Day, the 21-year-old goes for a microwave spaghetti bolognese - "because they never fail to impress".

"I think I'm going to stick with the pasta again this year because I don't want to risk Christmas getting any worse."

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