Driving Home For Christmas With A Thousand Memories

I actually got the train home for Christmas, but this Chris Rea classic is one of my favourite Christmas songs so there you go. Yes, I've arrived home in my native Yorkshire, bags laden with Christmas Puds and slightly squashed mince-pies.

The Christmas season doesn't start for me until I have seen the pantomime at York Theatre Royal. I've attended this panto for the past twenty-three years and it's the same cast each time (mercifully no ex-soap stars or other d-list celebrities allowed). The show culminates in the flinging of wagon wheels into the audience. Unfortunately I narrowly missed catching one this year because of my sister's superior reach.

Here at home I am without my own kitchen and I can't really upload any photos, but I'm not going to go without a Christmas post (well the Queen doesn't miss a message does she?). For many, the Christmas lunch is probably one of the most stressful meals of the year. With the constant tips and menu planners in magazines and on TV it's all too easy to get overwhelmed. I think it's important to remember that it's just a roast. Yes, there are many variations on the theme, but if you're feeling harassed remember that it's as simple as you want to make it.

Rather than giving you a recipe, I thought I would include a few roast dinner tips that have helped me in the past. Whatever you're doing tomorrow I hope you have a fantastic day and that if you're the one cooking, your efforts are truly appreciated. Merry Christmas!

Roast Potatoes
For perfect roast potatoes make sure that they have been fully drained once parboiled. Put the lid back on the pan and give the potatoes a vigorous shake; really bash them around. These rough edges will give lots of tasty crispy bits once they are cooked. Make sure that the oil is piping hot before you put the potatoes in; they should sizzle on contact. This will give you a lovely crisp shell and a fluffy centre.

If you are worried about the turkey drying out, but you don't want to cook it breast down, layer the top with streaky bacon. Towards the end of the cooking time remove the bacon so that the skin can brown. The bacon can then be crumbled into the gravy.

Be sure to allow the turkey plenty of time to rest before serving. If you cover the bird with a tent of foil it will stay hot and the juices will have chance to settle. You can use this time to turn the oven temperature right up to finish your roast potatoes.

Don't waste the juices from your turkey. Once you have skimmed off any fat, scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to loosen the sticky flavoursome patches. You can add a splash of wine at this stage to help. In a small bowl or mug mix a tablespoon of flour with a little water to make a roux, then add this to the juices. Over a low heat stir the flour mixture and then gradually add the water from your cooked vegetables. Once the gravy has thickened you can add more water or wine to get the desired consistency.

If you are serving your gravy in a boat, fill it with boiling water to heat up before you put your gravy into it. This will help it stay warm for longer.

Washing Up
No way. You've just cooked a delicious meal so go and sit down on the sofa with your drink of choice and make sure you have a portion of the day to rest and reflect.

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