Christmas crackers

Christmas crackers

Our 12 chefs of Christmas offer their advice for the festive season

Bev Stephenson
North Chocolates

Cheat’s retro rum & raisin ice cream
In the 1970s, Christmas wasn’t Christmas without a bottle of Old Jamaica rum on the G-Plan sideboard. This quick ice cream salutes this long-lost favourite.

1 litre vanilla ice cream
50ml dark rum
150g raisins
handful chopped glace cherries
pinch cinnamon
pinch fresh nutmeg

Soak raisins in rum for an hour or longer. Mix spices and ice cream in a food processor and stir in the raisins and cherries then freeze. This is even better with gently melted rum and raisin chocolate drizzled on top.

Nicolas Kleist
Bouchon Bistrot, Hexham

Mulled wine poached pear pain d’épices

1 bottle red wine
150g caster sugar
2 whole star anise
1 cinnamon stick
4 conference pears
1 loaf pain d’épices (gingerbread)
knob butter
peel of 1 orange
peel of 1 lemon
crème fraîche to serve

Place wine, sugar, spices and peels in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Peel and core the pears and place in the pan. Gently poach pears until they are tender. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Slice the pain d’épices into 1cm thick slices and pan fry in a hot pan with a knob of butter. Remove pears from the wine and reduce the wine gently down by half. Place the sliced pain d’épices on a plate, add the poached pear on top, and add another layer of the pain d’épices. Spoon over the cooking liquor and top with a spoonful of crème fraîche. Et voila!

Bob Arora
Sachins, Newcastle

Tandoori-Style Chops

2kg rack of lamb, cut into chops
1 lemon, juice
pinch ground ginger
2 cloves garlic
½ tbsp cumin powder
½ tbsp coriander seeds
5 cloves
4 green cardamoms
15-20 whole black peppercorns
1 cinnamon stick
1 tbsp paprika
¼ tbsp chilli powder
¼ tbsp cultured yoghurt

Score each chop with a knife, rub in salt and lemon juice, set aside for 10 mins. In a processor, blend ginger and garlic into a paste. Rub into chops and refrigerate for 30 mins. Grind all the dried spices and mix into the yoghurt with the garlic ginger paste. Take the marinade and apply generously all over the lamb chops. Leave the lamb in the fridge to marinate for at least 30 mins (preferably overnight). Preheat oven at 220C/Gas 5. Place lamb on a metal grill tray for 20-25 mins, turning once and brushing with oil. Grill to finish.

Craig Harvey
Close House, Northumberland

Mulled cider

1 tsp whole black peppercorns
10 cardamom pods
3 fresh bay leaves
1 cinnamon stick, broken up
4 star anise
2 litres good cider
150g soft dark brown sugar
1 vanilla pod, split and scraped
1 orange, zest
150ml dark rum

In a muslin bag, tie up the peppercorns, cardamom, bay leaves, cinnamon and the star anise. Place the bag in a pan with the cider, sugar and vanilla and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and leave to steep for 20 mins. Add the orange zest and rum. Remove from the heat and serve.

Dave Coulson
Peace & Loaf, Jesmond

Quick tips for Christmas dinner

There are all sorts of things you can do on your Christmas dinner to lift it that little bit. I like to serve turkey, because it’s traditional, alongside belly pork, because it’s more succulent and it happens to be my favourite. For delicious sprouts, add chestnuts, bacon, butter and chopped parsley.
Then the most important thing to remember is the phrase mise en place, which means putting in place or preparation. The more you can prepare beforehand,
the better!

Lizzy Hodcroft
The Sweet Beet

Get some prep done well in advance

There’s quite a few things you can get out the way a couple of days in advance, which will reduce your stress levels massively on Christmas Day and leave more time to enjoy yourself. Gravy gets better with a couple of days to rest and bring all the flavours together, while stuffing freezes really well, which is one less thing to have to think about while everything else is coming together right at the end of cooking.

George Payne
George Payne Butchers, Newcastle

Perfect Christmas turkey

First, choose your bird – one that will actually fit in your oven and feed all your guests – allowing approx 500g per person. To cook it, preheat your oven to 180C/Gas 4. When your bird is stuffed and ready to be roasted, weigh it and calculate the cooking time. You should be looking at about 20 mins per 500g. To keep the bird moist and achieve maximum flavour, lay some strips of streaky bacon over the top of the bird.

Place the turkey in a large roasting tin or on a roasting tray, rub it with olive oil and season. Roughly chop some carrots, celery, leeks and onion and scatter around the bird – this will add flavour to your gravy later. Cover with foil and place in a preheated oven. Remove the foil for the last 45 mins or so to get a nice golden brown colour. To check the turkey is cooked properly, pierce the thigh with a skewer and check the juices run clear.

Allow the turkey to rest after removing it from the oven – at least 20 mins before carving.

Vicky Moffitt
Vallum Farm, Northumberland

Perfect roasties

These start with good potatoes – Maris Piper or another waxy one is best. Peel and cut your potatoes, and remember the flat edges and corners are the key to crispness!

Bring to the boil in salted water and simmer until the edges are starting to give when you stroke them with the back of a table knife. Drain, put back in a pan or a large bowl and toss just enough to rough up edges. Let the steam evaporate off and let them dry off a bit.

While they are still hot, pour melted goose or duck fat over and roll around to coat. Place on a roasting tray(s) with a little space between each potato so they have room to roast. Heavier roasting trays are good as they hold the heat.

Once cool, place in the fridge. On Christmas Day set your oven to around 180C/Gas 4 and pop the roasties in when it’s totally hot. Roast for around 20 mins then take out and turn them so you get different sides on the bottom of the tray. Pop back in for about 10 mins and then turn again (depending on how big they are/how brown they are). As soon as they come out of the oven, sprinkle with salt and roll around.

In an Aga, I find that putting them in the bottom of the hottest oven gives best results – they steam at the top.

Aidan Jackson
Aidan’s Kitchen, Jesmond

Post-dinner must-haves

Though I love my Christmas dinner, two post-lunch treats are the keys to my perfect Christmas Day. First, I have quite a sweet tooth, so I long for our Christmas Day pavlova with passion fruit, desiccated coconut, white chocolate and whipped cream. It’s a perfect light, fruity dessert after a big festive lunch. The other must-have is honey roast ham and freshly made pease pudding stotties for Christmas tea – a must in our proper northern family!

Jack Catherall
Longsands, Tynemouth

A perfect addition to the table

Grab a small sourdough cob, score it with a knife and scrape out a hole the middle. Place a whole Camembert in the middle of the loaf and stud the crust with rosemary and little bit of garlic. Drizzle with truffle oil and bake for 10 mins at 180C/ Gas 4. Serve in the middle of the table with a good onion marmalade.

Paula Watson
PureKnead, Whitley Bay

Caramel & Whisky Sauce

Perfect for ice cream, brownies, chocolate cake and much more, this makes 3 x 330ml jars.

200g butter
140g soft brown sugar
397g can condensed milk
397g can Carnation caramel
1tsp ground ginger
150ml whisky

Put the butter, sugar, condensed milk, caramel and ginger into a pan. Heat gently until butter melts, do not boil the sauce. Stir in the whisky until smooth and pour into sterilized jars. Serve as needed.

Steven Murray
Walwick Hall, Northumberland

Two tips for Christmas day

For the best turkey, leave it to rest for as long as you have cooked it for. As soon as it has cooled enough to handle, turn it over onto the breasts to allow the juices to run back into the meat and you will enjoy the most succulent, flavour-packed turkey ever.

Another great tip is to put your Christmas pudding in a slow cooker half filled with water at about 8am and allow it to heat through for 6-8 hours. You end up with the moistest pudding and it fills the house with the wonderful aroma of Christmas at the same time.

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