Chef Mark Evans’ top tips for cooking Christmas dinner

Cooking the festive feast is a doddle, says the Spinneys’ chef. Here’s why:

We asked Spinneys’ chef and new product development manager Mark Evans to reveal a few first-class secrets to cooking the most important of holiday meals.

Q: What are your 5 top tips for cooking the Christmas dinner?

A: The first and most important tip is prep as much as you can; this will save so much time and allow you to socialise with guests, which is what the day is all about. Make sure everything that needs to be defrosted or chilled is done so –it’s surprising how this can be easily forgotten!

A definite must is to make sure your fridge is ordered correctly; keep any raw meat below cooked products. Particularly if this is your first time cooking, make sure the turkey size is appropriate for the amount of people you’re serving and that it fits in your oven...I hear many people complaining that their bird is too big!

Q: What’s the secret to perfectly well-risen Yorkshire puddings?

A: This might not be a secret, but my main advice would be to follow the recipe exactly, even down to the tin size it recommends. Most instructions will call for you to use an equal amount of milk, plain flour and fresh eggs but always be sure to check.

Q: What’s the one thing you can cheat in a Christmas dinner without your guests realising?

A: You can definitely do things to make your food look upmarket without going to extreme lengths or spending hours in the kitchen. My tip is to combine 260g Spinneys Sage and Onion Stuffing with 350g minced turkey or chicken, adding 140g egg yolk and mixing thoroughly. Then, throw in 110g dried cranberries and 90g cooked chestnuts cut into 10mm pieces. Roll this mixture into 50g stuffing balls. Lastly, gently pan fry them in butter and bake in the oven at 180ºC for 12 minutes and there you have it! No one will ever know.

Q: What’s an alternative for Christmas pudding?

A: Amy, Spinneys’ food editor, knows her way around brilliant festive treats, so I’ll pass this one on to her:
“For someone who doesn’t like Christmas pudding, I would recommend our cherry, almond, apricot and white chocolate florentine tree or our spiced honeycomb ice cream parfait; both are light and more subtle in their festive flavourings. If you’re looking for a quick fix though, our meringue wreath is perfect; it’s really simple, quick to assemble and you can customise it as you like (adding vanilla, orange zest or spices to your cream)– it’s guaranteed to wow guests as a centrepiece”.

Finally, what do you love most about Christmas?

I could talk to you for ages about the food, which of course is a big part of it for me, but mostly I love to spend time with the family, as cliché as that sounds. My sons are 18 and 22 and both live in the UK, so I really love going back to spend some quality time with them.