CHRISTMAS LUNCH: TIPS & TRICKS FROM SPINNEY’S CHEF MARK EVANS

Christmas. It’s one of those festive times that means something to everyone. For me growing up as a child, it always represented my brother’s birthday with a proper sit down turkey lunch with all the trimmings (not quite sure how a Hindu/Parsi household came to celebrate Christmas in the Western ‘traditional’ way). As a teenager, it came to represents guiltless amount of partying, sleeping in and holidays! And now  as a wife (I married a Catholic), we go back to how I remember it – celebrating Christmas the traditional way with our ‘family’ (in Dubai that would mean friends).

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So when Spinney’s invited me to their pre-Christmas annual event, memories of my childhood came rushing back – food and childhood are two things which are so inter-twined. The room was set up beautifully with 4 tables differently decorated, a Christmas tree with its dancing lights at the back of the room and Christmas carols playing softly to add to the Christmas cheer. I am sure the kitchen was buzzing with frantic last minute instructions, but Chef Mark had the most gorgeous smile when he stood in front of us to demonstrate some tricks and tips and then carve out the most succulent, perfect turkey I have had in a long long time. Everything that we had at the dinner is available at Spinney’s (including the stuffed turkey which you can pre-order and all you have to do is pop it into the oven).

Of course, my ChefTalk mind coaxed me to ask Chef Mark Evans some Christmas lunch related questions. And here is my chat with Chef Mark which I had over some delicious dessert and cheese.

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Chef Mark Evans

What is the best way to cook a turkey? Any tips to make it more juicy?

The way I would do it is to go the bone and roll method where you take pull the legs away from the body and cut along the natural line leaving with you with just the turkey breast. You then add your stuffing and tie the turkey with kitchen twine. To make it moist, put some butter under the skin and cover the turkey in tin foil. To add more flavor, you can add herbs to the butter. My rule of thumb is that you cook the turkey for ¾ of the time covered and for the last ¼ of the time, you let it cook without a cover to brown the skin. What is important though is to cook the covered turkey on a bed of veggies and some water or stock.

Once the turkey is cooked, remove from the oven and lift onto a carving board. Cover it tightly with foil and leave it to rest for 30 minutes. This also gives you time to turn up the oven temperature to crisp up the parsnips and roast potatoes and other veggies. The turkey gravy is light so add the jus that comes out from the turkey back in the gravy for more flavor. TIP: Use the roasting tray to make the gravy.

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What stuffing recipie would you recommend? Could you share it with me?

Fruity Christmas Stuffing

  • 100g dried cranberries
  • ½ tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 50g blanched almonds
  • 2 clementine’s, peel on, quartered
  • 100g dried dates, roughly chopped
  • 1 eating apple, grated
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp allspice
  • 350g fresh breadcrumbs
  • 1 tbsp. chopped rosemary
  • large knob of butter

 Method

  1. Heat oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6. Tip the cranberries into a bowl and cover with boiling water. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a frying pan and soften the onion. Tip into a large bowl and leave to cool. Add the almonds to the same pan and toast until golden brown. Leave to cool, then roughly chop. With their peel on, whizz the clementine quarters in a food processor until puréed. Drain the cranberries.
  2.  Add the nuts, clementine purée, cranberries and the remaining ingredients, except the butter, to the onion, with plenty of seasoning. Stir everything together, then tip into a casserole dish. Dot with butter, cover with foil and roast in the oven for 30 mins. Uncover, then roast for a further 15 mins until crisp and golden.

Roast Potatoes – to par boil or not to par boil?

Always par boil. When you drain them, toss them in seasoned flour coating them and then fry them in duck fat and place in the oven to roast.

TIP: In case you are planning on serving hasselback potatoes, there are two ways to thinly slice the potatoes without your knife going straight through – put a barbecue skewer (chopstiks) through the potato lengthwise, slightly closer to the base (you need to leave about 1/4  inch off the bottom). Using a knife slice each potato crosswise, cutting down vertically.  The skewer will prevent the knife from cutting entirely through the potato.

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Which goes best with plum pudding – cream, ice cream, custard or brandy sauce?

Traditionally plum pudding has always been served with brandy sauce. But if I had to choose, I would add ice cream too.

How do you make the perfect mulled wine? And what would you recommend as a good, non-alcoholic option to serve to the designated drivers?

Each family has its own traditions of making mulled wine. I can only share how I like to img_5931make it. Of course you need to use good drinking red wine and fresh orange juice – the ratio is 2 part orange juice for 1 part wine. So assuming we are going to be using 1 bottle of red wine (usually 1 liter), you will need 2 liters of fresh orange juice. Add to the mix 2 sticks of cinnamon, 3 star anise, 4-5 cloves, thumb size ginger, brown sugar to taste and what I do differently is that I add orange zest to it as well. The idea is to bring this mix to a boil and then reduce the heat to bring it to a simmer – if you over boil it, the wine will evaporate.

For the non-drinking people, I would suggest you replace red wine with red grape juice and follow the rest of the insturctions.

TIP: Always serve mulled wine warm (not hot)

What is the best food to cure a hangover?

That one is easy. A full English fry up with organic fried eggs, veal bacon, beef sausage, roast tomatoes, mushrooms – the works. What I also love adding is the brown HP sauce.

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Well, that’s that! Thank you. Thank you. Thank you!

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