Chef Jonnie's Guide to Christmas Dinner

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Professional tips for a festive feast

Jonnie Pratt, head chef at Tribulum Restaurant has done his fair share of stuffing, roasting and whipping. Known for his creative cuisine and the great hospitality that is an integral part of Tribulum’s DNA, here he shares some stress-busting professional secrets on how to conjure up an amazing Christmas feast.

In this article, his attention is focused on a traditional Irish and UK Christmas menu – turkey and stuffing, honey-glazed gammon, mince pies galore, and a sumptuous Christmas pudding. Read Jonnie’s take on a traditional Portuguese Christmas 
If you’re feeling particularly enthusiastic, you can do both. The main event for Christmas in Portugal is on the night of the 24th when families come together and share a table laden with goodies, while for others, the 25th is the big day.
Read on for Jonnie’s tips and helpful hints.
Find out more about Tribulum Restaurant

This season at Tribulum we will cure our own gammons and spiced beef, be up to our eyes in mince pies, Christmas cookies, yule logs, iced Christmas fruit cake (fed with rum every week), plum puddings and cranberry compote. Closer to the big day we will have emptied a small turkey farm, made more chestnut, sausage & apricot stuffing than you would want to think about, and will be preparing gravy from all the trimmings along the way.
I love this season because we get to give our best. It is tiring, but I find it amazing that our team here at Tribulum (united nations of cooks) can pull the turkey out of the hat every year and come up with an amazing traditional Christmas dinner.
To remove the stresses from the seasonal preparations I have put together a list of essential Christmas ingredients, how to organise yourself beforehand and on the day, so that you can create festive food magic with less stress.
Festive Essentials
Turkey  - Gammon  - Sausage meat  - Brussel sprouts - Swede  - Parsnips  - English mustard  - Stilton - Cranberry sauce - Christmas pudding - Brandy butter - Yule Log - Iced Christmas fruit cake - Mince pies
We have a whole range of freshly made sweet treats at Tribulum, including Christmas pudding and cake, cookies, mince pies and Yule Logs, so you don’t have to make them yourself if you don’t want to. Pre-orders are essential.
Find out more about Christmas Treats at Tribulum.
A typical Christmas Menu
Starter - Smoked salmon on Irish soda bread with all the trimmings
Soup - Cream of chestnut, thyme & onion - Cream of cauliflower  - Cream of mushroom, take your pick, they are all pretty seasonal
Roast turkey  - Honey baked ham (gammon) - Apricot, chestnut & sausage meat stuffing - Giblet gravy - Bread sauce - Cranberry sauce - Roast parsnips - Buttered swede - Brussel sprouts with lardons & chestnut - Glazed carrots - Roast potatoes - Creamed potatoes
Christmas plum pudding with whipped cinnamon cream, brandy butter & homemade custard
Cheese - Stilton with port & water biscuits
Coffee & Mince pies
A traditional Christmas cake with royal icing & marzipan squeezed in here somewhere.

The Plan
A cold starter followed by a hot soup means that the first 2 courses are pretty straightforward and you have your guests seated as the main event is prepared.
The 4 most important things;
  • The turkey is not dry
  • The roast potatoes are crispy
  • The offering is all hot
  • There is enough of everything (the best bit of Christmas is the leftovers the next few days)
Friday 15th December
Pre-order everything you can from the shops to be collected on the following Friday.
Buy a couple of polystyrene cool boxes to keep everything in as this will probably be more than your fridge is used to. They can be reused again next year.
Friday 22nd December
Get extra ice and store in the freezer, it’s a great way to keep the drinks cool on the day when the fridge is full of food.
Simmer the gammon until cooked and leave in its own cooking liquor until cooled, this allows the juices to go back into the meat. The cooking liquor can be used in the gravy (be careful of the salt content) or you could make a killer pea & ham soup.
Saturday 23rd December
Make the stuffing and bake it. Cool and keep in the fridge ready to be reheated on Christmas day. It tastes better that way and is less hassle for you.
Make the cranberry sauce and bread sauce and store in the fridge.
Christmas Eve
Stud the gammon with cloves and baste with English mustard, sprinkle with brown sugar, and drizzle with honey. Leave this ready to roast on the day.
Brine the whole bird in a 10% salt cure for 2 hours. The cure is 10ltr water to 1kg of rock salt and 500g sugar. Leave it immersed and then remove and pat dry.
Peel the potatoes and leave covered in water for the roast and creamed potatoes. Peel and prep all the vegetables ready for the next day. Zip-lock bags are a great way to store these.
Make the fresh custard, cinnamon whipped cream and brandy butter.
Take the stilton out of the fridge so it is soft and pungent the next day.
Christmas Day
Get up early to put the turkey in the oven with root vegetables underneath, seasoned inside and out with black pepper. Bay leaves and herb butter under the skin on the breasts.
When the turkey is ready, remove it from the oven.
Put the gammon in the oven to glaze at a high temperature to start and then lower it to warm through. You want to caramelize the sugar and honey, but you do not want to burn it. It's a fine line and you will never forget when you cross it.
Change the turkey to a clean container which you then put into one of the empty cool boxes with the lid slightly open so the bird stays warm, but does not overcook.
Deglaze the pan the turkey was in with some chicken stock, the giblets, red wine and some great jus (that you bought from me), simmer this until it reduces & tastes great, blend and strain. Thicken with a little cornflour (maizena) if required.
When the gammon is out of the oven start roasting the potatoes, parsnips and glazed carrots.
Simmer all the other vegetables just before serving.

As soon as everyone has finished the soup course, serve up the main event with the turkey carved at the head of the table. This is one meal where there should always be second helpings.

Put the Christmas pudding in the oven in a water bath at a low temperature to heat through while everyone is eating the next 2 courses.
If you have gotten this far you should be fine on your own. If this is too much hassle for you, we could just deliver everything, ready for you to reheat with instructions!
Get in touch with Tribuum to find out more.