There’s nothing like planning ahead when you are cooking up a feast for Christmas. My handy guide will help you organise Christmas dinner without dropping a cranberry or burning a sprout.


7 days in advance

Make and freeze the stuffing – try this recipe for apricot and chestnut stuffing

  • 1 largeonion, coarsely chopped
  • 225g/8ozdried apricots, snipped into small pieces
  • 225g/9oz fresh whitebreadcrumbs
  • 75g/3oz salted butter
  • 225g/8oz tinned whole chestnuts, roughly chopped
  • generous bunch flat leaf freshparsley, chopped
  • ground sea salt to taste
  • freshly groundblack pepper
  • grated zest of 1 lemon
  • juice of 1 lemon


  1. Preheat oven 200C/400F/Gas 6. Butter a shallow ovenproof dish.
  2. Add 600ml/1 pint water into a pan with the onion, lemon juice and apricots. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for about five minutes.
  3. Put the breadcrumbs into a large bowl. Melt the butter in a frying pan and pour half of this onto the breadcrumbs. Stir in the lemon zest.
  4. In the remaining butter, fry the chestnuts over a medium heat until lightly browned. Add to the bread crumb mix. Add the apricots, onion and parsley to the bowl. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Turn into a buttered, shallow ovenproof dish and bake in a preheated oven for about 25-30 minutes until piping hot.


Recipe Tip

To freeze: cool and cover the dish with foil, freeze until Christmas Eve.
To thaw: take out the night before using and thaw overnight.  Cook in a pre-heated oven 200C/400F/Gas 6 for 10-15 minutes or until hot and crispy.

Make the cranberry Sauce


There is nothing to get you in the festive mood quite like cooking up a batch of boozy cranberry and orange sauce. It smells like Christmas and it is the perfect accompaniment to Christmas dinner.


  • 100g light brown sugar (soft)
  • 100ml orange juice
  • 250g pack fresh or frozencranberry
  • 25ml orange liqueur


Tip the sugar and orange juice into a pan, then bring to the boil. Stir in the cranberries, then simmer until tender but still holding their shape – this will take about 5 mins if using frozen cranberries or 8-10 mins if using fresh. The sauce will thicken as it cools. Will keep in the fridge for 1 week. On the day, bring to room temperature before serving.



Make this up to a week in advance and refrigerate, or freeze for up to three months.

Heat a finely chopped onion and  ¼ tsp. ground cloves with 2 bay leaves, 600ml (1pt) whole milk and 50g (1¾oz) butter.

Simmer gently for 20 minutes, then remove from heat and leave to infuse. Stir in 200g (7oz) breadcrumbs, add ¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg then season with salt and pepper. Simmer for 3-4 minutes, stir in a little double cream and serve warm.


24 hours in advance

TURKEY – make sure it’s thoroughly defrosted, depending on the size of your turkey you might need to start considering the defrosting process.


Prepare the potatoes:   these can be prepared  well in advance. Par-boil your potatoes for 10 minutes, drain well, and shake to roughen the edges. Cool thoroughly. Now they can be frozen (if made weeks ahead) or if 24 hours in advance put in the fridge on a tray; under a clean tea towel.



Prepare the carrots and parsnips:


Peel, blanch and half cook the parsnips  – there is nothing worse than under-cooked parsnips.  Peel and slice 500g (1lb 2oz) carrots and 500g (1lb 2oz) parsnips, then blanch in boiling water.   Drop into chilled water, then drain and dry, and refrigerate under Clingfilm.


Prepare the sprouts and soak in water


Take the stuffing out of the freezer

While the turkey cooks

Top Tip – Turkey  Preheat oven to 190°C/gas 5. Season the bird, then stuff the cavity with 1 lemon, quartered, 3 bay leaves and one, peeled onion, quartered.

Rub a handful of butter under the skin, then roast according to the packet instructions. If necessary, the turkey will stay hot for up to 1 hour in a warm place, covered with buttered foil and a tea towel.



When the turkey comes out of the oven, put a pan of goose fat in and turn up the heat for five minutes. Spoon the potatoes into the preheated tray, season well with ground rock salt and turn to coat. Roast until sizzling and golden brown.

Don’t be tempted to cook the potatoes in the oven with the turkey as the steam that



Whisk together 2tbsp olive oil, 4tbsp runny honey and 2tbsp wholegrain mustard and mix with the pre-prepared carrots and parsnips. Place on a preheated tray, season well and roast for 30 minutes until tender.


And remember if all else fails reach for the cooking sherry or at the very least the tea-pot! Merry Christmas!