This timetable assumes you’re making a 4.5kg turkey, baked Christmas pudding, and either the smoked salmon or almond and garlic soup to start.
But you can adapt the plan a little for whatever you choose. Follow it and you’ll time your turkey to perfection and produce gravy worthy of any fancy chef. You don’t have to do it all, but it’s tempting – I’ve been honing these recipes for years and they work a treat, I promise!
A comprehensive shopping list is a must, including crackers, napkins, table decorations, nuts, drinks, store cupboard ingredients and a few unisex presents for unexpected guests.
2-3 WEEKS BEFORE
Make and freeze unbaked mince pies.
Make and freeze, almond soup.
Make and freeze, the braised chestnuts with their reduced sauce, bread sauce, stuffing, turkey gravy (ask your butcher for poultry bones) and bacon rolls.
Make Cumberland sauce.
Make and freeze bread sauce.
Make your Christmas cake
Order the turkey. – don’t leave it too late!
1 WEEK BEFORE
Make chimichurri sauce for the salmon starter, and refrigerate in a jar.
Make the ice cream pudding and freeze. Once hard, make the meringue and use to cover the pudding. Refreeze.
Make the brandy sauce if serving the ice cream pudding plain. It will keep, refrigerated, for a week.
Remove the turkey stuffing from the freezer and put in the fridge to thaw.
If you made the last-minute glazed fruit cake, add the topping.
Start defrosting your turkey if necessary.
Cook the ham if serving it cold on Christmas Day.
Remove your frozen items from the freezer (apart from the baked Alaska) and leave to thaw at room temperature or in the fridge.
If having the soup, assemble the toppings in bowls.
Stuff the turkey and chill in a greased roasting pan, covered with a J-cloth soaked in melted, cooled butter.
Put the Cumberland sauce into a bowl.
Boil the potatoes and put in a roasting tin, then chill.
Cook the creamy sprouts, then chill. Bake the mince pies. Decide which dishes or bowls you’ll serve everything in. Lay the Christmas table (don’t forget to leave space for the bird, veg, sauces etc).
If you have room in the fridge, chill the Champagne and white wine.
8am: Take the turkey out of the fridge to bring to room temperature. Chill the Champagne and white wine and other drinks if you haven’t already done so.
9am: Put the red wine on the table with a corkscrew if needed. Put the gravy and bread sauce into saucepans.
9.30am: Set the oven to 180°C/fan 160°C/gas 4.
10am: Put the turkey in to roast. Put the cranberry sauce on the table and put out the coffee things. Warm the mince pies in the oven.
11am: Make the coffee and serve your early guests the warm mince pies. Be sure to join the party for a while.
11.45am: Serve Champagne or sparkling wine with any nibbles you’ve chosen. Make sure you have a glass, with a well-earned sit-down while the turkey cooks!
12.30pm: From now on, check the turkey for “doneness” every 20 minutes. Put the potatoes in to roast.
12.45pm: Add the bacon rolls, chipolatas and stuffing balls to the oven for their 30 minutes of cooking. Once the turkey is done, take it out of the oven and transfer to a serving platter to rest. Remove the basting J-cloth and cover with clean tea towels to keep warm. When the bacon rolls, chipolatas, stuffing balls and potatoes are cooked, remove from the oven and keep warm. Warm the braised chestnuts, put into a serving bowl and cover.
1.15pm: Arrange the smoked salmon on plates, add a dollop of chimichurri sauce and serve or pour the soup into bowls and add the toppings. Sit down, enjoy your starter and have another drink.
1.40pm: Surround the turkey with the stuffing, chipolatas and bacon rolls. Pour off the fat from the turkey pan, add the juices to the gravy and warm through. Warm the bread sauce and put in a jug. Put the roast potatoes on a serving dish, reheat the creamy sprouts in the microwave and pour the gravy into a jug. Put white wine, water and juices on the table and make sure there is a space for the turkey platter.
2pm: Summon the troops! Garnish the turkey and take everything into the dining room. Relax! The worst is nearly over.