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Get ahead like professionals do

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: December 07, 2013

Visit the Perfect Christmas Dinner website from Ashburton Cookery School for recipes, tips and video guides to stress-free Christmas food

Visit the Perfect Christmas Dinner website from Ashburton Cookery School for recipes, tips and video guides to stress-free Christmas food

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Last week turkey – this week all the trimmings, with recipes from Ashburton Cookery School.

Watch any TV chef in their kitchen and they'll talk about "prep" – getting everything ready and prepared in advance. It's not normally necessary in a domestic kitchen, but Christmas calls for special treatment. With a turkey taking up all the space in the oven, it helps not to leave the veg and gravy until the last minute.

Darrin Hosegrove, of Ashburton Cookery School – winner of the Small Business category at the recent WMN Business Awards – says you need to have the mind-set of a professional chef and get as much as you can done the day before.

Slightly undercook veg, refresh in cold water and store in a tub in the fridge until you need them. Reheat in a microwave or a pan. You can even freeze your roast potatoes says Darrin, whose recipes are below.

And gravy's not that complicated either and it uses up all the lovely juices from the meat. "Get ahead of the game and there's no need to panic," says Darrin.

Visit Ashburton Cookery School's perfectchristmasdinner.co.uk website for tips and video guides to Christmas cooking, or download an app from the iTunes store.

Next week: desserts.

Perfect Roast Potatoes

There is nothing better than a golden roast potato with a crispy skin and soft fluffy inside. You can get ahead with your potatoes and par-boil and freeze in advance of Christmas Day, ready for roasting straight from the freezer.

Serves 4

1kg even sized potatoes (King Edward are good)

sea salt

duck fat or corn oil

Peel the potatoes and cut into even sized roast potatoes. Wash well in cold water so that the water runs clear and there is no starch in the water at all.

Place the potatoes in a large enough pan, cover with fresh cold water and a large pinch of salt.

Bring to the boil over a high heat and boil the potatoes rapidly until they are three-quarters cooked and the edges are starting to break down. Care needs to be taken at this stage that you don’t end up with mash.

Carefully drain the potatoes into a colander and allow the steam to evaporate off of the potatoes for a couple of minutes. Then rough the potatoes up slightly by shaking in the colander.

Place the potatoes onto a tray lined with clingfilm, allow to cool slightly. The potatoes can either be roasted straight away or frozen at this stage so they are ready well in advance. If freezing, allow the potatoes to go solid on the tray first and then they can be decanted into a freezer bag until required, this way they will not stick together.

Pre-heat an oven to 180C (350F, gas mark 4). Place a suitable sized roasting tray with a layer of duck fat or corn oil on the bottom into the pre-heated oven.

Place the potatoes straight into the hot oil or fat straight from the colander or straight from the freezer whichever is your preference.

Allow the potatoes to roast for approx 20 minutes then baste and turn the potatoes over and then roast for a further 20 minutes until they are golden and crispy on the outside and fluffy in the middle.

Cauliflower Cheese

This classic British side dish is well worth the effort with a simple cheese sauce over fresh cauliflower florets all roasted to a delicious golden brown colour. Why not make your own mark on this classic dish by adding your own choice of cheeses to the sauce.

Serves 4

200g cauliflower florets

250ml milk

20g unsalted butter

20g plain flour

25g mature Cheddar cheese

1 tsp English mustard

sea salt

black pepper

Place the cauliflower florets into boiling salted water and cook for approx 4 to 5 minutes or until the cauliflower is just cooked, drain the cauliflower and allow the steam to evaporate.

Place the cauliflower into an ovenproof dish and pour over the cheese sauce. Top with a little more cheese and bake at 200C (400F, gas mark 6) for 15 minutes.

Melt the butter in a heavy based pan. Add the flour and mix well, cook for a few minutes. Gradually add the warmed milk stirring constantly until the sauce is smooth. Simmer for approx two minutes.

Add the grated cheese and mustard and leave to melt. Season with salt and pepper and pour on top of the cauliflower.

You can assemble the cauliflower cheese the day before and then bake in the oven on Christmas day for 15 minutes until golden brown.

Honey Roasted Parsnips

Parsnips are one of our best winter vegetables and bring a wonderful sweetness to the meal. This classic recipe adds a drizzle of honey during roasting to make them even more flavoursome.

Serves 4

2 large parsnips

olive oil

1 tbsp organic honey



Peel and cut the parsnip into even-sized pieces, removing any core. Place into a bowl and drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper.

Place the parsnips into a hot oven to roast at 200C (400F, gas mark 6) for 15 minutes.

Drizzle over the honey and then place back in the oven for a further 5 minutes.

You can peel, core and cut parsnips on Christmas Eve and then refrigerate for roasting the next day.

Cranberry Sauce

Nothing tastes of Christmas quite like cranberry sauce. This recipe combines the tart taste with a hint of orange, the perfect accompaniment to turkey.

Serves 4

400g frozen cranberries

200g caster sugar

1 orange (juiced)

orange zest

Place all the ingredients into a stainless steel pan and simmer on a low heat for approximately 20 minutes. No extra liquid is required as the cranberries will have sufficient moisture to make the sauce.

Allow to cool a little before serving.

This sauce can be made well in advance and stored in the fridge in an airtight container or glass jar and reheated when required.


A roast dinner isn't complete without gravy. Forget about the stuff that comes from jars. We mean thick, flavoursome and rich, real gravy. You can make it in advance and it is well worth the effort.

Serves 4

750ml chicken or beef stock

4 chicken wings or 2 turkey wings

250g mixed chopped onion, carrot, leek and celery

4 sprigs of thyme

3 cloves garlic (peeled not chopped)

1 tsp tomato puree

sea salt

cracked black pepper

Chop the chicken or turkey wings into smaller pieces and fry in a little oil for 4-5 minutes until caramelised and golden in colour.

Add the chopped vegetables and thyme and continue to cook until the vegetables are golden.

Add the garlic and tomato puree, cook for a further minute.

Add your chosen stock and bring to the boil. With a small spoon or ladle remove any impurities from the surface.

Simmer the gravy gently for one hour to develop in flavour.

Push the gravy through a sieve with the back of a spoon to extract as much flavour as possible.

Bring to the boil, season with salt and pepper and finally pass through a fine sieve to remove any impurities. Serve the gravy into sauceboats.

Make this gravy three days in advance and then finish with seasoning and pass through a fine sieve on Christmas Day.

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