From marvellous meats to tasty trimmings and everything in between, the traditional Christmas dinner, filled to the brim with everyone’s favourite festive flavours, is what the big day is all about.
For many, it’s the most anticipated – and celebrated – meal of the entire year. Whether you’re making it for the first or fiftieth time, get yours off to a flying start by getting your hands on high quality meat – the centrepiece of any festive feast. For the freshest, most mouth-watering produce, we say shun the supermarkets in favour of your local suppliers and let the experts help you create a show-stopping dinner.
Nicholson’s Butchers is Whitley Bay’s last remaining independent family butcher, with over 100 years’ experience and a reputation so good that locals are known to happily queue outside its doors throughout the Christmas season. From plump turkeys and hand-prepared three-bird roasts (filled with chicken, duck and pheasant and homemade stuffing), to seasonal veg and homemade extras, including cranberry jelly, chipolata sausages and personalised pies, the family business has everything you could think of to create your perfect Christmas dinner, as well a few of their very own cooking tips to share. Notepad at the ready…
Nicholson’s White Turkey
If you and your family can’t imagine your Christmas dinner without turkey, then look no further than Nicholson’s specialist white turkey. The birds are traditionally reared in spacious, open farm buildings, filled with natural light, plenty of ventilation and fresh food and water, to ensure not only a safe and healthy quality of life, but succulent and flavoursome meat too.
Pre-heat oven to 190C (fan 180C/gas mark 5). Loosen the skin of the turkey neck and, using your fingers, smear softened butter under the skin, across the breast and over the legs. Season well with salt and pepper. Place the bird in a large roasting tin, breast side down, and seal the tin with foil. After a hour, remove the turkey and foil and turn over. Place the bird back in the oven and re-cover with foil. Remove the foil for the last 30 minutes of cooking so that the skin can brown.
For turkeys under 4kg, cook for 20 minutes per kg, plus an additional 70 minutes. For turkeys over 4kg, cook for 20 minutes per kg, plus an additional 90 minutes.
Tips Bring the bird up to room temperature (Nicholson’s recommend two hours before cooking) to allow the bird to rest and help keep the meat tender. Never stuff the body cavity of the turkey – just the neck end. Flavour your butter with cloves and orange zest for a festive twist. Buy a probe thermometer to allow you to cook your turkey to optimal temperature (it should be above 73C) and ensure that it is safe to eat. After removing from the oven, allow the bird to rest uncovered for at least 45 minutes to enhance the flavour before serving.
Cooking a goose on Christmas Day may sound daunting (and perhaps a little old-fashioned), but it’s a great way of guaranteeing juicy meat and the crunchiest roast potatoes, thanks to the bird’s high fat content. Nicholson’s has been sourcing its free-range geese from Boulmer Farm, on Northumberland’s Coast, for over 60 years. The birds are allowed to roam freely and are fed carefully-selected feed to ensure steady and healthy growth. Their skin is also dry plucked, to ensure extra crispy skin.
Pre-heat oven to 240C (fan 220C/gas mark 9). Take the goose out of the fridge one hour before cooking, to make sure it’s at room temperature for cooking. Remove the wrapping and the giblets. Prick the breast with a fork and sprinkle with a little sea salt. Place the bird on a rack in a roasting tray, and cover loosely with foil.
Cook for 10 minutes at 240C (fan 220C/gas mark 9). Reduce to 190C (fan 170C/gas mark 5) and cook for 20 minutes per kg for medium-rare meat, or 32 minutes per kg for well-done meat.
Baste the bird with pan juices every 30 minutes. Rest the bird for 30 minutes before serving, while still covered in foil, for added juiciness and easier carving. Check the meat is piping hot throughout before serving.