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Food + Drink

Christmas Kitchen Tips From London’s Top Chefs

Looking for Christmas dining inspiration? London’s top chefs share their tips for an unforgettable celebration. 

With little over a week to go, it’s time to draw up your Christmas menu and finalise the shopping lists. Whether it’s for a big festive affair packed with family and friends, or a romantic meal for two, these festive tips and tricks for all the traditional dishes – as well as some that break the kitchen norms – are guaranteed to bring a little extra je ne sais quoi to your table.

Here’s how to serve up festive food like a professional. Did someone say hostess with the mostess? 


Traditionally the main event at the Christmas Day table, the turkey has remained a festive mainstay since the sixteenth century. Now’s the time to switch up the recipe to nail the centrepiece in a new, exciting way. Here’s how.


Chantelle Nicholson, Apricity

“The joys of turkey aren’t limited to just the meat. Take all your turkey bones and roast them in butter, then make a rich turkey stock by simmering with water for a few hours. I love a fat-enriched stock. Once you’ve strained it you can blend it to emulsify it too. Use a bit of miso in your gravy to give it more depth of flavour.


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Margot Henderson, Rochelle’s Canteen

“I am turkey obsessed and have cooked the turkey every year with Fergus since we met. One thing is for sure; brining is definitely a must. Brine in a 15 per cent brine overnight and then add softened butter to the skin. Next, wrap the turkey in bacon or porchetta to protect the breasts. Stuff it with chestnut and apple stuffing and away you go. You need to start on a higher oven heat before dropping to low for a long slow roast, followed by a good rest at the end. Every bird is different just like every oven is different, so feel your way.

I always make a turkey pho with any leftovers; bones, skin, and leftover meat. I always have kombu, chilli, spices, some hunk of pork, soy, fish sauce and noodles in the cupboard. A big broth after Christmas is very reviving and a great cleanse. Also, turkey toasties are always fun. Add all the trimmings and away you go.”


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Kerth Gumbs, Fenchurch Sky Garden

“As well as brining your turkey to avoid it being bland and dry, I also like to prepare a butter and spice rub (it can be any spice you like) to help the meat stay moist, tender and fragrant, with a nice crispy skin. Keep the butter cold and roll it out with a rolling pin then run your fingers under the skin of the turkey breast creating a gap to spread the butter mixture directly on the flesh of the bird.”


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If you’re looking for new ways to celebrate, trying to impress guests, or just searching for a change from British tradition this year, here are flavour-packed and exciting ways to put a twist on Christmas dining, from harissa turkey to zaatar lamb. 


Chris Shaw, Toklas

“The key is simplicity by serving one nice centrepiece, either meat or fish. Opt for Porchetta if you don’t want turkey as the butcher can stuff it for you. Serve alongside a hearty gratin dish, which is always good because it can be done the day before.”


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Sabrina Gidda, Modern South Asian Kitchen

“If you are hosting friends and family and are pushed for oven or prep space my top tip is to turn as many of your vegetable sides into warm or ambient salads as you can. With beautiful global flavours and textures, you can create flavour interest so that it won’t feel disjointed that they are served cold. I’m thinking of big roast carrot and pomegranate salads, and shredded sprouts with tahini. All of this will look gorgeous on the table allowing you to focus on getting your main hot dishes spot on.

To really amp up your Christmas dinner, my advice is to dip into big global flavours. Some people love the super traditional Christmas but I prefer a riot of flavour so that it doesn’t feel like another Sunday roast. You can pick one or two dishes to start bringing in some interest. Some great options are hot honey chipolatas, sesame miso sprouts, gunpowder spiced roasties, a jaggery glazed ham and a preserved lemon and harissa turkey.”


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Luke Farrell, Speedboat Bar

“It’s all about roast goose. Serve it roasted on a bed of crispy sauerkraut to cut through the richness with roast potatoes cooked in the fat. I throw in the neck, tongue, wing tips, and webs in a Thai metal pot called a ‘mor din’, then slowly braise it all with soy sauce, Thai numbing lemon pepper, rock sugar, star anise, clove, cassia, whole garlic cloves and ginger. It goes all sticky, and just before serving, pull through a big pile of bouncy egg noodles with some spring onions and Chinese celery. I usually prepare this before going to the pub on Christmas eve, when we tumble back I heat it up all bubbly and fragrant and serve it with seriously sharp chilli sauce.”


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Fadi Kattan, Akub

“In Bethlehem, I serve lamb shoulder. Rub it in olive oil, zaatar leaves, sumac and allspice and leave it to marinate overnight at least, preferably for two days. On the day, rub it again with a mix of nutmeg, cinnamon, coriander, ginger and cloves, then sear on high heat until golden on the outside. Next, place the lamb in a roasting tray with garlic and a bit or water at the bottom before it goes into the oven at 170°C for around three hours and 30 minutes. The meat should fall off the bone when it’s cooked. Reduce the juices and serve on the side with rice jewelled with chestnut and mince meat.”


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One thing stays the same every year: overcooking leads to lots of food over the next few days. Here’s how to enjoy it creatively, all while minimising food waste.


Ravinder Bhopal, Jikoni

“I love using up panettone (there’s always so much of it gifted at Christmas) in an unexpected savoury way. Cut or tear the panettone into bite-sized pieces; melt butter and infuse with chopped sage and garlic before pouring over panettone pieces on a lined baking sheet. Sprinkle over black pepper and finely grated parmesan and bake at 200°C until crisp and golden. Run the croutons through salads, roasted vegetables or brussel sprouts – they bring a sweet, festive and delightfully unexpected flavour to the Christmas table.”


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Florence Knight, Sessions Art Club

“The key to improving cold leftovers has to be condiments. These are some of my favourites: Kewpie Mayonnaise, French Dijon mustard, Geeta’s mango chutney, Maison Marc’s cornichons.”


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Douglas McMaster, Silo

“I suggest using all the brussel sprout scraps, including shredded bits you don’t need, or the outer layers of each sprout to make kimchi. It’s the ultimate veg scrap recipe and gets even better at Christmas – the fermentation cauldron doesn’t discriminate!”

Rishi Anand Khatri, Dishoom

“Got guests on Boxing Day? I recommend making a stuffed leftover turkey paratha with leftovers. Firstly, chop your turkey. Next, mix any leftover vegetables with some spices (I recommend red chilli powder, garam masala, turmeric, and cumin powder), plus a little green chilli for heat, and coriander for freshness. If you love cheese, add cheese! Combine everything, and stuff it into a wholewheat dough (made with wholewheat flour, salt, and water). Roll the dough out and cook both sides on a griddle. Spread some butter. When it’s lovely and crispy and golden, you’re ready to eat. You could also use the same mix to stuff into naan bread, or to make a deliciously Christmassy toastie.”


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‘Tis the season to indulge; take tips from Oliver Marlowe and Julien Alvarez on how to do it right.


Oliver Marlowe, The Apollo Arms, Ganymede, The Hunter’s Moon

“Leftover Christmas pudding calls for tiramisu. Substitute classic ladyfingers for leftover pudding, layer it with your mascarpone cream, then repeat until the dish is full, finishing with a sprinkle of cocoa powder, shaved chocolate and clementine zest – rest for three hours before serving.”


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Julien Alvarez, Ladurée

“Put a festive twist on Ladurée’s iconic macaron with the modern Christmas log, perfect to complement varied Christmas table décor themes. Pick any flavour, whether classic or trending, from Vanilla Pecan, Isfahan, Pistachio, Chocolate Hazelnut and Mango Yuzu.”


Because what is a Christmas dinner without a cheer to the festive season?


Monica Bacchiocchi, Head Sommelier, Wilton’s Restaurant

“Open a nice bottle of champagne and all festive tension is washed away – the celebrations begin! Start with some nice Sauternes or Barsac with foie gras en croute to warm guests on arrival. Next move to a fantastic New Zealand Pinot Noir or a great St. Emilion Grand Cru to match with turkey and pigs in blankets. Cream Sherry is the perfect accompaniment with Christmas Pudding and is an all-round evergreen tradition to enjoy throughout the festive period. A blend of PX sherry, that gives aromas of dry fruits, raisins, dates, and dried figs, and Oloroso sherry that adds the nutty aromas. An open bottle of sherry can easily last until the new year.

Consider having a bottle of alcohol-free sparkling wine in case any of your guests don’t drink (my favourite is French Bloom) – let’s all have a toast together!”


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Giulia Fenoglio, Head Sommelier, Franco’s

“My festive wine favourites are for sure, bubbles (in this case champagne) to cheers and celebrate with family and friends. For white meat like turkey, I would pair either a full-bodied white (Chardonnay like Cervaro della Sala from Antinori or a Cortese Soave La Rocca Pieropan, both of which have the structure and body to sustain a meat like turkey) or a medium-body red (Barolo from Piedmont made from Nebbiolo Grapes, an aged one as it requires soft tannins), or a young Etna Rosso from Sicily. For Christmas Pudding, I would probably go for Passito di Pantelleria (my favourite is the Donnafugata ‘Ben Rye’) or a nice glass of Champagne, possibly vintage or Extra Brut. With foie gras, I would pair a nice glass of aged Madeira.”


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Jennifer Wagomer, Global Head of Wine, Zuma

“The best festive wine pairings are always the ones that make your dining companions happy. One of the most important parts of hosting (or being a valued guest) is reading the room and understanding that the wines that you specifically love may not be what appeals most to others. If you love Pinot Noir (and it may be the best pairing for the meal) and everyone else only drinks white wine then the pairing is less important than your guests’ joy.

My favourite festive wines are in bubble form, which should not come as a surprise to those who know me. I generally love to introduce smaller Champagne producers to friends as an alternative to their usual go-to bottles. It also makes for fun conversation between sips. Some of my favourite grower-producers are Chartogne-Taillet in Merfy and Georges Laval in Cumières. If you are looking for more budget-friendly bubbles I tend to steer friends to Cremant d’Alsace, where the production method is the same, but the prices are friendlier to most wallets.

As for tips and tricks, try something a bit different and introduce your guests to Japanese sake. There has been a huge increase in interest surrounding it, and I am a massive supporter of this trend. As far as pairings go, there is a range of styles, weights and flavour profiles that are sure to be a hit with even your most discerning of guests. Most wine shops have a sake section and someone to speak with regarding options that will make you the talk of the party. Contrary to popular belief, the alcohol by volume is not that of a spirit, but more like a full-bodied red wine.”


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