Guide to a Traditional Christmas Dinner

Your stress-free guide to cooking a Traditional Christmas Dinner

Your Stress-free Guide to  Cooking the Christmas Dinner

The Menu

The Turkey

Honey, Mustard Glazed Ham

 The Best Roast Potatoes

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Toasted Hazelnuts

Roast Parsnip and Carrots with Local Honey and Thyme

Red Cabbage Braised in Cider

Thyme, Lemon and Pine Nut Stuffing


Homemade Cranberry and Spiced Orange Sauce

 Your Complete Timeline to Help You Organise Your Timing


The Turkey

Before you start, make sure you have a large tray, which is big enough for the turkey, and ensure the tray (and the turkey) fits in the oven. It is worth buying a temperature probe to test if the turkey is done.

Know the exact weight of the turkey (your butcher will help here).

Before cooking, make sure the turkey comes to room temperature, this means having it out of the fridge at least two hours before you want to cook it.

To stuff or not stuff the turkey

People always have different views on the stuffing, whether to stuff the bird or to make stuffing and leave it out. My advice would be to cook the stuffing separately to ensure that there are no uncooked juices of the turkey in the stuffing and I always find that when I keep the stuffing separate I can adjust the seasoning more easily.

 Cooking Times for the Turkey

I have had a look at several charts and cooking times but I think below is the most straightforward guide to follow, providing you with perfect results:

(for an unstuffed turkey)

Calculate 20 minutes per kg + 100 minutes.

For example, 5.5 kg turkey = 110 minutes + 100 minutes = 210 mins (3.5 hours)

Cooking the Turkey


1 turkey

2 onions, roughly chopped

2 carrots, roughly chopped

1 bulb of garlic, split in half

plenty of herbs such as thyme, sage & rosemary

olive oil

salt and pepper


Preheat the oven to 180ºC (fan)

Add the onions, carrots, garlic and herbs to a tray, drizzle a little oil over them.

Season the turkey with salt and pepper all over and make sure to season the inside too. Drizzle some olive over the turkey and use your hands to rub it all over.

Place the turkey on the vegetables. Place the tray inside the oven and cook to the times as listed above.

How to know if the turkey is done

To test if it’s done, make sure the juices run clear when you pierce the thigh where it meets the body and if you have a temperature probe use it to check if the temperature reaches 75ºC. If not, put it back in the oven for another 20 mins, then test again.

The next step is one of the most important steps to prevent your turkey from drying out.

Once you are happy that the turkey is done take it out. Wrap it in tin foil and leave it in a warm place for at least an hour or so (Magic hour). This will give you plenty of time to get everything else finished off.


Once the turkey is out, turn the oven to 210ºC to finish all of the rest of the food.

The Ham

You can cook the ham the day before and glaze it on Christmas day if you prefer.

To cook the ham


1 ham (smoked or unsmoked)


Place the ham in cold water and bring to the boil. Change the water and repeat, then turn down to a simmer.

Allow 50 minutes per kg or 20 minutes per lb. Once it is done, remove it from the water and allow it to cool a little.

If you are doing this the day before, make sure you cool down the ham as quickly as possible to get it in to the fridge.


Honey, Mustard Glaze

This can be made the day before if you prefer.


5 tbsp. dark brown sugar, plus extra to sprinkle
finely grated zest of ½ orange

20ml balsamic vinegar

20ml water

2 tbsp. English mustard

handful of cloves


Mix all of the ingredients except the mustard together to a thick paste. Bring this carefully to the boil to allow the sugar to dissolve. Lower the heat and simmer for a few minutes until you have a dark syrupy glaze. Keep stirring to make sure that the glaze doesn’t burn.


To Glaze the Ham

Place the ham on a tray, to make a criss-cross/diamond pattern on the ham, use a sharp knife to lightly score it, only cutting into the fat and not the meat underneath.

brush the ham with the mustard. Place a clove in each diamond and pour the glaze over the ham.

Put this in a hot oven, 210°C, and bake for about 30 minutes.

The Best Roast Potatoes


1.5kg-2kg large Maris piper or rooster potatoes, peeled and quartered (this can be done the day before, if so leave them in a bucket of cold water)

2 garlic cloves

Small bunch of rosemary and thyme

150g-200g goose fat or duck fat

salt and black pepper


Preheat the oven to 190°C.

Boil a large pot of salted water and add the potatoes, then cook for around 15 minutes. They should be half-cooked at this stage. Drain them and leave them in the colander for a few minutes to remove as much moisture as possible.

Put an empty roasting tray in the oven and leave it there for about 10 minutes, remove and add the goose or duck fat. Put this back in the oven for a few minutes (this will help the finished potatoes to crispy).

Carefully remove the tray from the oven and add the potatoes and garlic. Season with some sea salt and pepper. Return the tray to the oven.

Cook for about 25 minutes and then shake the tray and add the herbs. Cook for another 20 minutes or so.

Once ready to serve place them in a large bowl and season well with salt and pepper.

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Toasted Hazelnuts


1 large bag of Brussels sprouts

200g bacon(rashers) cut into small strips

1 tbsp. sherry vinegar

2 tbsp. hazelnuts, toasted and crushed

rapeseed oil

salt and pepper


Prepare the sprouts by taking off any loose or yellow leaves, then cut them in half and use a small knife to pierce the stem (this helps them cook evenly).

Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil, then add the sprouts (if you have a smaller pot you may have to do this in two stages). Cook in the boiling water for about 2-3 minutes. When you pierce them with a knife you should feel little resistance with the knife. Once cooked, strain them.

NB If you are preparing this the day before add the cooked sprouts to a bucket of cold water for about 5-10 minutes. Once cool place them in a container with a lid in the fridge until needed.

If you are doing these on Christmas Day carry on to the next step.

Heat a large pan over medium heat, once hot add a little oil and then the bacon, allow this to brown for about 2 minutes now add the sprouts. Fry them for over a high heat for 2-3 minutes.

Season with salt and pepper, to serve add the roast hazelnuts.

Roast Parsnip and Carrots with Local Honey and Thyme


600g carrots, peeled and halved

600g small parsnips, peeled and halved

3 tbsp. olive oil

bunch of thyme, leaves picked

2 tbsp. local honey

2 tsp. lemon juice

parsley, chopped


Add the carrots to a large pot of boiling salted water and cook them for about 8 minutes.

Repeat this process with the parsnips.


You can do this the day before or in the morning, if so once the 8 minutes is up, add them to a bucket of cold water, leave them here for about 10 minutes. Strain them and keep in a container with a lid in the fridge.

When ready to continue

To roast them preheat the oven to 210°C.

Place the carrots and parsnips in a large roasting tin with the thyme and salt and pepper, and drizzle with oil.

Roast them in the oven for 25 minutes, tossing occasionally in the oil during cooking, until tender and golden. Add the honey and lemon juice to the tray and return it to the oven. You might want to shake it after 2 minutes or so to allow the honey to coat the vegetables evenly. Cook for another 5 minutes or so.

To serve season and add parsley.

Red Cabbage Braised in Cider

You can do this up to four days before Christmas Day and then it just needs to be reheated on the day.


1 head of red cabbage, sliced very finely

2 apples, core and sliced

1 red onion, sliced

2 tbsp.  cider vinegar

1 tbsp. rich dark brown sugar

handful sultanas

400-500ml cider (dry cider works best)

salt and pepper


Add all of the ingredients to a large pot.

Pour in the cider until it comes about ¾ way on the red cabbage, cover the cabbage with some parchment paper and cook very slowly for 2 hours. Make sure to stir it every now and then to ensure it is not sticking to the bottom of the pot, add a little water if it is too dry. Season with salt and pepper.


Thyme, Lemon and Pine Nut Stuffing

This can be made the day before and reheated on the day


100g butter

one large onion, diced

a few sprigs of fresh thyme leaves picked

400g breadcrumbs

100g pine nuts, toasted

1 lemon, zested and juiced

salt and pepper


In large pan add some of the butter and cook the onions slowly without colour for 4‑5 minutes. Add the herbs, the remaining butter and the breadcrumbs. Ideally you want to keep the mixture moist. Add in the pine nuts and the lemon zest and juice. Season with salt and pepper.

If you have made this the day before, place it in tin foil and place in the oven for about 10-15 minutes (do this while the potatoes are cooking).




1 onion, finely diced

1 carrot, finely diced

1 clove of garlic

bunch of chopped herbs

pinch of flour – use gluten-free if you can’t have gluten

100ml red wine

500ml stock – use the juice from the turkey tray

salt and pepper


Once the turkey has been cooked and you have removed it from the tray, skim off the excess fat from the roasting tray. Put the tray on the hob over a low heat and add the diced onion, garlic, herbs and the diced carrot to the existing vegetables that were there while the turkey was cooking. Add the red wine and cook it until it has reduced by half. Make sure to scrape the tray to help remove all the bits. Stir in a pinch of flour and add about 500ml of stock. Cook it for about 10-15 minutes, I usually strain it into a pot so it can be warmed and seasoned with salt and pepper when needed. Once you are ready to serve the meal heat the gravy and pour it in to a warm gravy boat.

Homemade Cranberry and Spiced Orange Sauce

This can be made anytime in week before Christmas and kept in the fridge


100ml ruby port

100g fresh cranberries

75g brown sugar

finely grated zest and juice of 1 orange

½ cinnamon stick

1-star anise


Place all the ingredients in a pot and cook over medium heat for about ten minutes. Make sure that there is some liquid still in the pot so that the sauce does not burn, if it is drying out add a little water or a little orange juice.

Taste and adjust the seasoning if required. Remove the cinnamon and star anise and place the sauce in a blender and blend until it is the consistency required. Place this in a jar and keep in the fridge for up to one week.



Your Complete Timeline to Help You Organise Your Timing:

Christmas Eve:

  • Make the red cabbage – you can even have this done up to four days before Christmas Day if you want.
  • Cook the ham and remove it from the water and score it
  • Have the ingredients ready for the glaze
  • Peel the potatoes and keep them in water
  • Peel the carrots and parsnips and keep them in water
  • Make the stuffing
  • Make the cranberry sauce


On Christmas Day:

  • Bring the turkey to room temperature
  • Cook the turkey
  • Prepare the sprouts
  • When the turkey is done allow it to rest for one hour or more
  • Once the turkey is out of the oven, turn the heat up and return the ham to the oven to glaze
  • This ‘turkey resting time’ will allow you to cook the vegetables, including the potatoes.
  • Now would be a good time to get the gravy sorted and use this time to finish the sprouts and heat the stuffing.

At this stage everything should be ready to serve.

Be proud and enjoy.

Bain taitneamh as!!!


Happy Christmas and Happy New Year

Nollaig Shona agus Ath Bhliain Faoi Mhaise

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