Christmas lunch delivered chilled to your home on Christmas Eve or cooked and served by chef and waiting staff on Christmas Day

Wednesday, December 30, 2009
"Over here! You've got the wrong house!". Ho ho ho - the neighbours of the people we cook for on Christmas Day always have a sense of humour when we arrive, wherever it is!

View from kitchen door at the house we were cooking at on Christmas Day -
still very heavy frost at midday which never lifted!

It never seems like Christmas to me till the first lines of Once in Royal from Kings College. When I was young it would be on while I boxed up my homemade sweets for friends & family. This year I heard it on the way up the M5 back from delivering Christmas lunches in Bristol, on the way to more drops in Cheltenham and the Cotswolds before ending in Kidderminster to cook and serve a dinner party - quite the busiest ever Christmas Eve. The frost on the hills was so heavy it was almost like snow.

This year I had expanded the menu to make it a bit easier for people.
Game pie - more about this later - was served with celariac remoulade and homemade elderberry chutney from Delia at Dove Cottage who makes it from elderberries picked around the fields of Broadway. These are actually ones I made in November - the pace was so fast on Christmas eve there was little time for photos.

Smoked trout from Donnington trout farm. You can read more about those here.

Local pheasant (lots of pheasant shoots in the Cotswolds!).

Having run out of bacon I wrapped them in parma ham which I had while roasting - saves it from drying out - and stuffed them with 1/4 orange, 1/4 onion and some thyme. Once cooked I let them rest before de-boning and sat the parma ham underneath the pheasant breast & leg.


We were walking with dinosaurs (top left) on Christmas Day itself - we cooked for a variety of ages from the 1 year old (top right) to grandparents. Deliveries (above) were made before cooking for a dinner party on Christmas Eve.

For the turkey I de-boned it to make a ballottine as last year. This makes the presentation much better. It was roasted on top of a potato trivet as ever with lemon, thyme, and this year I added cinnamon and crushed cardamon seeds. All the flavour of these infuses the turkey as it cooked. Once it had a bit of colour on it I added white wine to the roasting tin too - even more flavour, and also moisture.

The party we were cooking on Christmas Day had asked for cauliflower cheese rather than our roasted brussell sprouts so that's what we did. I was about to boil the cauliflower when I changed my mind and roasted it instead, like I did for the cauliflower in Cotswold Way ale sauce. Then once cooked topped it with cheese sauce & cheese and placed it back in the oven. Cooked like this you keep in all the flavour of the cauliflower rather than boiling it into the water which invariably you throw away. And glazed chantenay carrots (hiding underneath the turkey in pic above) replaced the creamed leeks and onions which we served for the delivery meals with the honey roast parsnips silver served.

As I had some cranberries left from making the pumpkin and cranberry bread rolls I put some in the stuffing for the turkey leg.

Parsnip and leek crumble for an all vegetarian delivery (there is something else than nut roast!). Roast celery, artichokes & white wine sauce in there too.

Getting Christmas pudding lit and into the room is always a bit of a rush. Never get a good photo (evidence below)......

Egg free chocolate brownie for the children (as one allergic to eggs) with homemade egg free ice cream.

Later on, after our own Christmas lunch (did actually stop - thanks to Gill and her mother), it was back to work to clear up and get ready for another busy day the next day (Boxing Day) and then onwards ever onwards to January 3rd.

1001 Kitchen Tips #55, #Christmas cooking tips - Can I cook vegetables the day before?

Thursday, December 24, 2009
Yes yes yes! Useful tip for your Christmas day cooking - cook your vegetables today (Christmas eve)!

While everything I cook for my clients is cooked fresh on the day, when it comes to those rare times I cook at home I want it to be as easy as possible. Since my first Christmas in the hospitality industry, 1995, there have only been 2 Christmases I haven't worked - one of which I ended up cooking for family, the other cooking at a friend's house. And on both of these occasions they marvelled about how this simple tip - not just preparing veg the day before, but pre-cooking it too, made everything easier on the big day itself.

Due to the late hour - check the time - I'll update this at a later date, but there's step by step blanching tips here. Make sure once cooked it goes in the fridge overnight.

As @HubUK metioned on the Christmas cooking tips post it helps to plan your oven space the day before. There's 3 ways to re-heat veg on the meals that I deliver, you could use any depending on what space you have/ what's easiest:

Re-heating instructions for green veg (french beans in this case) copied from my label printing programme (needs to be quick):

Microwave - Transfer to a microwave proof container.
Microwave for 2 minutes. Stand for 2 minutes. Microwave for a
further 2 minutes.
To oven cook - Add 2 tablespoons of water to the
container and replace lid. Cook on 190 oC for 10 - 12
minutes till hot.
On stove - transfer to a large saucepan. Add a small ladle of water to
the pan and cover with a lid. Place on stove on medium heat for 6 -
10 minutes till warm turning occasionally. The steam created heats
the beans. N.B. If you turn too much they may disintegrate.

Related posts:

Can I cook roast potatoes the day before?

Blini stars

Monday, December 21, 2009
Keeping the Christmas theme, star shaped canape blinis......
A couple of days before I had made them with dill scones instead of blinis. The fourth year I had done that particular party. They do like them, but I thought something just slightly different might be good......

Asparagus soup (canape)

Last night at Meadowbank in Chipping Campden.

Bagel allstars

While Adam finished off the last tuile baskets before I rushed off to deliver one bistro meal and cook another one, I delved in the van for the camera and grabbed the quick photo above - couldn't miss these!

Well it did say 'insert card here'! It might not top up the credit on your mobile, but it does make these festive bagels which will be eaten in just a few hours.

In fact the credit card is a nifty cutting device to make the star shape. You make 3 cuts and turn them inside out.

I had been meaning to make these since I first saw them here on Chuck's always inspiring Knead For Bread blog in January..... but January's suddenly become December again.

His step by step photos are great for this - makes it look so easy - which it is really. I did cheat slightly. Never enough time, so I used my regular bread mix, and after proving and shaping let them prove again for about 15 minutes and boiled them up, rather than leaving it overnight. The first tester one I did ended up the size of a bread loaf, so I had to reform the rest smaller. You want to start off with a dough ball the same size you would use for a regular bread roll. The remainder of the bagel mix was turned into onion and thyme bakers knots which proved on the way to the venue and were baked once I got there, just in time for when they sat down - now that's fresh!

These were accompanied with (what else?) smoked salmon and cream cheese.

Related posts

Sesame bagels
Lots of other bread posts
Bread photos on our Facebook page

How to bone a turkey

Thursday, December 17, 2009
Much easier to serve at the table on Christmas Day - and you can use the bones to make a delicious gravy to go with it. See last year's post (& photo's) here:

The twelve days of Christmas cooking tips - Blog, Facebook & Twitter event: send yours in now!

Tuesday, December 01, 2009
Christmas. You’ve been round to all of your friends drinks parties, you’ve held yours, and then the family descend on you for the big day itself. Turn the heating up to nursing home level (it gets cold in the UK), move the entire contents of the supermarket shelves into your pantry, let the spirits flow like water, and snooze in front of the TV. But we love it.

Most of us enjoy a cooking good Christmas – but there’s lots of things that can make it easier. After over 3 years of food blogging I thought it would be a good time for a blog event:


Yes - share your Christmas cooking tips so everyone else can save time on their Christmas cooking too, and have a stress free Christmas lunch!

What do I do if I want to join in?

Post a blog post with your Christmas cooking tip, or re-post an old one from your archive and include a link to this post by Sunday 13 December - this gives you twelve days (just). We will post all tips received on Monday 14 December and link to your blog, facebook or twitter page so everyone has 10 days to read it before they start on their Christmas meal preparations.

You don’t even have to keep a food blog to enter you can:

1 – Tweet your tip to @Cotswoldfood (yes you can get it into 140 characters)

2 – Leave us a comment on our Face book page here.

3 – Email you entry to: with:

Your name

A link to your post

Blog Name

Name and URL of Your Christmas cooking tip post

Location: Optional

Photo: If you have a photo to accompany your cooking tip attach that to your email in Jpeg format, 100 KB or less please.

I am based in Tewkesbury on the edge of the Cotswolds – so it would be great to see as many local Christmas cooking tips as possible – if you’re in Gloucestershire or Worcestershire let me know on your entry! I will collect all the names of the entries with a GL or WR postcode and draw 3 at random on the 14th December to win a box of our frangipane and almond mince pies delivered to their door.

This is my entry on The Cotswold Food Year – a tip from my archives, but as it is one of the Christmas cooking tips that could save a life this Christmas I thought it good to pass on! What's your tip?

Ever brought too many clementines at Christmas time? Those two for one offers are so tempting aren't they? @CulinaryTravels suggests making clementine cordial. Can also be made with oranges or satsumas. There's a great recipe here on her blog Culinary travels of a kitchen goddess. I'll definitely be trying this one - your own cordial being much fresher is always a different world than one you can purchase. She suggests mixing the orange cordial with sparkling water or lemonade for a soda style drink or to use it as a mixer for alcoholic drinks such as vodka or whiskey or even to add the cordial to hot water for a winter warmer. Now I wonder which one I'll be trying?

@LynnCherylEde prominent local twitterer and fellow Tewkesbury resident gives us not one but two tips via the delights of twitter.
Firstly - "Um coals to Newcastle springs to mind but yes.Spread mincemeat on large short pastry square, roll up, slice, tray & bake. :) arty pies". That's a great tip for quick & easy homemade mince pies! Would also make a good alternative to Christmas pudding served with brandy sauce or anglaise/ custard.
Secondly - why not exchange the traditional turkey for roast pork. "Take cured pork, score top, slop gorgeous honey on top, pour Guinness over & around & roast. Mmmm" Mmmm indeed. Never thought of the Guinness before - what a combination. And who can resist the crackling? And that's how you get cooking tips into 140 characters.

@HubUK whose website is a hub for recipes, food, cookery, cooking holidays and more gives us a great tip "Get someone else to do it?" Now that explains why I am so busy over Christmas and New Year. But then he continued "I do my roast potatoes in chip pan because of lack of oven space." Good tip there! Planning your oven space before the day makes everything run smoothly, and it just shows you there's always more that one way of cooking something!

DK from the food blog Chef in You gives us the best snickerdoodle cookie recipe ever! The tips are given not only during the step by step instructions but are also at the end of the post (now that's helpful!)- see their post here. I love the idea of ground cardomon in there. They would make great presents, or maybe you could hang them on the Christmas tree too.

@Chefrenee gives us some Fresh Ideas... again via twitter: "What works 4 me is make ahead & freeze what can. Also,prep any spice or dry ingredient & bag 'um w/printed recipe attached.& Keep it simple!" Couldn't agree more! Make it, freeze it and it's ready to go on the day. Just make sure you defrost everything accordingly and it is re-heated to the correct temperature. There's excellent advice on freezing and defrosting food here.

I really like the idea of prepping all the dry ingredients for recipes in advance too - that would make it so easy on the day you make your chosen recipe - a ready mix that you've made yourself!

@simbaeats who has just started an interesting looking blog with a simple mission - let everyone know how great African food can be. I think that will be a very good project. He says via twitter "xmas tip - ditch the turkey - so much more exciting meats!" You're so right. What are you cooking at Christmas?

@FoodieatFifteen (now 75) [check out dinner party photos here btw] says in the comments below: "last year I made alton brown's ham. The only work is just crusting the ham and putting it in the oven. Allows time to be spent with the fam." You mean this one? Crushed ginger cookies on it - I can see why you like it! Cutting down on cooking time on Christmas Day is always a good idea.

And Aidan Brooks - read his comment below - I knew someone would say that!

Thanks everyone and enjoy your Christmas cooking!


Make your Christmas cooking easy by blanching your vegetables - see kitchen tip #55 here.


Kitchen Tips #32 - How do I know when my turkey is cooked?

"Is it cooked?"

Roasting times are all very well for your joint of beef or lamb, but there are so many variables - whether you have a fan oven, whether your oven heats up fast once you've popped the joint in, maybe the door seal is slightly worn so it doesn't keep it's heat as well as it should, maybe the wind is blowing down the flue of your aga trying to blow it out - that definitely doesn't help - and then there's the hole in the glass of your cooks perks.....

Yes, so many variables, but the one thing that's utmost in your mind is that you don't want to either 1 overcook your meat ("get the serated knives out") or 2 undercook it (especially in regards of chicken or turkey) and leave elderly or young members of the party (who are more susceptible) at risk of food poisoning.

The answer is simply to use a food temperature probe as I do for all my cooking.You can buy these at most kitchen shops. You just have to stick the probe into the middle of a joint or cut of meat, wait for a couple of seconds for the temperature to adjust. Don't probe next to a bone - they act as radiators for heat, so the temperature reading will be inaccurate.

For beef and lamb I work on:

52 oC rare

58 oC medium

68 oC+ well done

For Chicken or turkey it should be 74 oC
though such cases are now thankfully rare).

For pork 74 oC for 15 seconds. This may sound high, but cooking to this temperature ensures it is safe (there is a small possibility of undercooked pork leading to trichinosis

There is more information on cooking temperatures here:

This is my entry for my twelve days of Christmas cooking tips blog, twitter & facebook event.


Mussells, fennel & chorizo in an apple and fennel bread bowl

I was so hungry I even ate the bowl! Who can resist a blog event? When I saw Zen Chef's fennel/ pastrami gratin entry for Beet 'n Squash You (the monthly food- fight wherein the stupendous virtues of vegetables are extolled) , it immediately tickled the taste buds, and got me into thinking what could I do?

I'd been looking at mussells and chorizo in cider a couple of nights before, and thought it would go well with fennel seed bread...... which reminded me of Jules' bread bowls. I like combining recipes. You always need bread to go with mussells - so there seemed no better excuse to make a bread bowl.

As we live next to cider country (Herefordshire) I like using cider with mussells, although we also have some very good vinyards nearby too - you could use either white wine or cider.

Stage 1 - Fennel & fennel seed bread backets

I only need a few baskets (this made 5 ramekin size) so used:

250g bread flour
130ml cider & apple juice combined (was going to use all cider but ran out)
20ml olive oil
1/2 tsp of instant action yeast
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar (though with the cider didn't really need this)
1/2 bulb fennel diced small and roasted in olive oil till soft & cooled.
Fennel seeds

For method see here. When it had proved I knocked it back and mixed in the roasted dice fennel and a few fennel seeds. Then rolled them out to fit over the ramekins.

Stage 2 - Look at those mussells!

At the end of the Cotswold Way 3 1/2 years ago we ended up in Bath.... and it's Loch Fyne restaurant. If you happen to be nearby their rope grown mussells are really the best. Of course there are lots of other Loch Fyne restaurants too. At that time they also had a fish counter you could buy from - the same way other restaurants have delis attached. Not sure if they still do, but you can also shop online - so that's good to know. Rope grown means you don't have the grit you can find in dredged mussells - that's always good.
I always plunge them into cold water. The ones which float and any that don't close when you tap them (dead) are to be avoided. Then it's just a matter of cleaning and de-bearding them. There's a few more tips here.

Stage 3 -

I sweated the shredded fennel, onions, choizo & garlic in a little olive oil. Then added cider and allowed the onions & fennel to soften (don't really like crunchy onions & fennel with mussells) before adding the mussells. Put a lid on to let it steam and the mussells are cooked in 2 - 3 minutes.

I then removed the mussells and thickened the sauce a little with cornflour so it would sit in the bread bowl without making running through the bread basket. Oh and a few chives at the last minute.

Once the mussells had cooled a little I took most of them out of the shell and then dropped them back in the sauce before spooning it in the baskets.

If you're not a meat fan you could go with smoked paprika instead of the chorizo.

It was definitely an interesting way of serving them!

Oh and there's 9 days left to enter my blog/ twitter/ facebook event by the way!

Braised lamb shank in red wine with creamed potato

Elvis isn't dead! I saw him near Stratford on Avon on 31 October.

Well two of him actually, along with Diana Ross (a 1969 version), Scooby Doo, Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz and a whole host of other characters. We were cooking for a fancy dress birthday party at The Boathouse on 31 October. A week later we were back at the same venue, this time cooking for an anniversary. The couple had invited all their closest friends who had been at the wedding, and requested a re-creation of their wedding breakfast menu (as cooked by another chef). As most of the events we cook for are special occasions we always like to cook whatever guests would like.


Fish cakes with cucumber salsa

Main: (as discussed)

Lamb shank on bed of mashed potato – 1 salmon en croute


French beans with red onion

Glazed chantenay carrots


Apple Pie with vanilla ice cream and pouring cream

Lamb shanks were the pork belly of the late 90's - the thing that every restaurant had on their menu. They need slow moist cooking - around 3 - 4 hours minimum - till the meat is tender and almost falling from the bone, and the sauce is rich and seriously tasty. When we used to cook them at Charingworth Manor back in '97/ '98 they were £1.00 each - so the accountant was very happy too. These days however, since they became so popular they are more like £3.00 each. It had been rather too many years since I had last cooked lamb shanks, but just as I was getting ready to cook them @britishfood posted a recipe here which refreshed the memory. I did a much similar thing, though used a whole bottle of wine used carrots and celery as well, and lamb stock rather than beef. Also thickened the sauce after the shanks were cooked with a little cornflour (I use cornflour instead of beurre manie just in case of gluten/ wheat free guests).

It was another busy Saturday with 2 other events going on elsewhere, so in the rush to pack everything up I didn't pack the camera, hence the only photo I got was the apple pie just fresh from the oven after cooking (above), and the lamb shank (right) taken at 2:30am on the Sunday morning, after I had returned to base and cleared up. I always like to do one spare in case the number suddenly goes up at the last minute, a guest having something else changes their mind, or one gets dropped/ damaged. The version we had served 6 hours previously looked more spruced up of course.

If you want the perfect apple pie recipe there's a link here - the pastry is the best ever!

Cooking for a shooting party - shepherds pie with colcannon mash

Around 3 years ago I cooked and served a brunch menu at Upper Court for the english rugby team and guest Zara Phillips before they went out on a shoot. Three times recently (I'm now writing this in January 2010) I have been cooking just down the road in the next village at the Overbury Estate for their shoot lunches. Although Mr and Mrs. Bossom of the estate have a personal chef, he is given every other Christmas off, which is how, 2 years after the last time, I again was cooking there again on these 3 occasions.

The last one on 2nd January was slightly delayed due to freezing fog which had delayed their start in the morning (it had hardly improved), another due to vehicles getting stuck in boggy ground. Save it to say - if you're going shooting you have to be hardy. And dressed for the weather. So I always make the lunches rather hearty - something to warm everyone up before they go out again.

At Overbury they prefer the self-service option which is fine. As there is often a quick turn around between them coming in and going back out, the heat is on.

Ros, the PA I was leasing with suggested something like shepherds pie for the first one. I had been wanting to try this version for a while. Instead of minced lamb I used diced lamb from a little further round Bredon hill - Home Farm at Bredons Norton. And instead of plain creamed potato I made it into colcannon - adding kale, leeks and a little grain mustard as well as the usual cream and butter.

Cooked the same way as the lamb and apricot (apart from the apricots of course) and then topped with the colcannon.

On this occasion it was accompanied with our home made toffee apple pie and cheese - Oxford Blue and Oxford Isis (a new favourite - as close a British version to Calvados Camembert as I have found).

A few days before Christmas (I really like to pack in as much as possible) I cooked for another shoot lunch at Overbury - the same group so a different menu and went for coq au vin (another hearty warming lunch (that was when the vehicles had got stuck in the mud) and an old favourite - lemon curd bread and butter pudding which really went down well, with the guns as much as the Overbury office staff. I also brought out the Blue Heaven cheese - how good does it get?

Movember cupcakes

Monday, November 30, 2009
Banana and peanut butter cupcakes from Vivid to raise funds for Movember 10 days ago. You can see more on their blog here, and there's a couple of cupcake recipes you can *must* try here

The Movember Foundation charity runs Movember events to raise awareness and funds for men's health issues accross the world.

As Vivid are an all female company they couldn't grow moustaches for the month of Movember (well not yet anyway) so they made these cupcakes instead and sported fake 'taches (see on link above). All good fun for a good cause!

2 quick (to prepare, but slow cooked) pork casserole recipes

Tuesday, November 17, 2009
While I spend all day shopping, preparing, cooking, travelling etc. for my clients, when it comes to my own meals they have to be fast.
I had two packs of diced pork in the freezer from Home Farm to do something with. The first one made the cajun pork risotto a few weeks ago which I gulped in 5 minutes before I hit the road delivering one dinner party and cooking for another, while another was going on somewhere else. The second pork dish I left in the oven for Hannah & Adam last Friday while I went to cook for a dinner party with Gill, and eventually ate my portion at 01:30 after I had finished, and was pleasantly suprised - when you chuck it all in a pan and hope for the best the results are always suprising.

1 - Cajun pork oven risotto

Diced pork (150 - 200g per person)
Chicken stock
Cajun spice
Dijon mustard
Homemade tomato sauce
Left over fresh herbs
Risotto rice (rinsed with cold water in a sieve - removes excess starch)

Brown pork & onion. Add everything else but the rice. Bring to boil, cover & transfer to the oven. Cook for 3 - 4 hours till pork is tender. Stir in rice and place back in oven for 20 mins till rice is cooked.


A few weeks after this I made another version with pork hock (£1.30 on reduced to clear - which made 8 portions). Cooked in the same way, but left the hock in the oven for 5 hours. Along with the cajun spice I added thai fish sauce, chilli, soy & lime juice after the 2nd pork recipe had turned out so well - all that umami does you good on a busy Saturday. After the pork is cooked take it out & mix in the rice and let that cook for 20 mins. As there were some celery leaves left I chopped those up and mixed those in with the rice too. So much flavour in the leaves - it's a shame they are so often neglected.
Once the rice is cooked you can pull the pork into strips on top of the rice - fast food can be good food! If it needs a little more acidity you can add more lime or a bit of (white wine) vinegar.

2 - Thai style pork

Diced pork
Fresh ginger
Homemade tomato sauce (could use tinned tomato/ passata)
Anchovy puree
Thai fish sauce
Soy sauce
Thai chilli sauce
Ground cumin
Ground coriander
Chicken stock

Cooked in the same way as the first but without the rice. I added less liquid with this one, so as it cooked so long it thickened naturally. Served with creamed potato - comfort food.

1001 Kitchen Tips #54 - Why does the top fall off my cottage bread? Why does my cottage loaf fall apart?

Sunday, November 08, 2009
2009 has been the year of baking. I have just collected some bread photos with links to the relavant blog post/ recipe on the facebook page - there was much more than I remembered.

I made these thyme cottage bread rolls late at night a couple of weeks ago. I first made cottage loaves when I was 12 - a school open evening, it looked good to prospective parents as they looked round. When I made them last year though the tops rolled off as they baked and I ended up having to make something else.

I had forgotten the number 1 tip with cottage loaves - you need to make a hole in the top to make sure the two pieces of dough stick together.

This time I made the hole in the middle of the larger piece at the bottom then popped the smaller piece of dough on top and pressed the two together gently. This stops the top falling off.
You can also put the two together, and push your fingers or a wooden spoon through the top to weld the two together as shown on


The 1001 Kitchen tips got a mention in The Hindu 8 days ago - thanks for the article. Hope the tips are useful! At the current rate they should be finished by 2047.....