If you've ever wondered what chefs cook for Christmas, this is it! Here Tom presents 10 mouthwatering festive recipes, from a festive goose and a baked camembert pithivier, to perfect stuffing and mace meringue. They are so simple, and a joy to prepare - even better to eat!
This Christmas is a bit uncertain at my end. It's the first year in many that my wife Beth and I haven't known where we'll be on December 25th. Having just opened another restaurant, I have my work cut out for me in Marlow, so we may well just stay put. But the one thing I am sure about this Christmas is that I'll be the one cooking.
You might think I'd have had enough of the kitchen when it comes to my rare days off. But not a bit of it - especially not at Christmas. Christmas food is wonderfully simple - it's all about a home-cooked feast. It's about people having a lovely time together, and putting food at the centre of it. For me, as a chef, that means I don't have to worry about presentation skills or Michelin-standard food. Everything just has to be really, really tasty!
These 10 recipes are absolutely the sort of thing I'll be cooking this year. Truth be told, I love both goose and turkey, but as some of you may be less acquainted with roasting goose, I've given you the recipe for a beautiful slow-roasted one to put in the middle of your Christmas table. Pink and tender, it makes for the perfect hot slice on Christmas Day, but it'll also work a treat flaked and diced in a Boxing Day bubble and squeak (which is almost better, in my view).
I've also given you a handful of my favourite trimmings, ideas for a canapé, two starters and an ace mace meringue with my dried fruit compote. And the best thing about them? They're all super-easy; almost everything is done in a pan or in the oven when I cook at home - I don't even have a microwave - so you don't have to worry about knowing any technical cheffy tricks.
This year, I'm going to be the typical 40-year-old bloke running around doing his shopping on Christmas Eve. I've no idea what I'm getting Beth yet - hopefully there'll be something left other than some ropey old flowers from the 24-hour garage - but at least I have one certainty: there will be food!
Smoked ham, blue cheese and redcurrant jelly straws
A little twist on the classic cheese straw. They're really easy. Sure, you need to make your own pastry, but a nice hour cooking in the kitchen on Christmas Eve is a lovely ritual, don't you think?
Makes around 40-50 375g flour A pinch of salt 200g diced butter 75g blue cheese, grated 75g grated cheddar, grated 50g parmesan, freshly grated 1 tsp English mustard powder ½ tsp cayenne pepper 2 egg yolks 75g redcurrant jelly 150g smoked ham, finely chopped 1 tsp cracked black pepper
1 Sieve the flour and salt together into a bowl. With your fingers, rub the butter into the flour until it looks like fine breadcrumbs. Stir in the cheeses, mustard powder, cayenne and egg yolks. Add a little water if needed to make a fine dough. Wrap in clingfilm and put in the fridge for at least 1 hour.
2 In a small saucepan, heat up the redcurrant jelly and water together until it's a smooth jam, but not too hot - just so it's loose.
3 Roll out the pastry to the thickness of 2 £1 coins stacked on top of each otherabout 7mm thick. Try to roll it into a square shape. Paste the loose redcurrant jelly on top. Sprinkle on the chopped smoked ham and then evenly throw on the cracked black pepper. Cut the square down the middle to create two rectangles. Transfer the pastry on to a tray lined with parchment and refrigerate for 1 hour to rest.
4 After 1 hour, set the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4, trim the pastry and turn each rectangle so that the longest edges are at the top and bottom. Cut each rectangle vertically into strips about 1cm wide and arrange them on a tray lined with parchment. Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden and crisp. Leave them to cool on the tray. Serve, but go carefully - they are well crumbly!
Whole baked camembert pithivier with celery in walnut oil dressing
There's one word for this dish: lush! The combination of cheese, celery, walnuts and grapes almost make for a winter Waldorf salad in pastry. The fillings are often wrapped in wilted spinach - but here I've replaced it with vine leaves, which give a lively, bitter flavour. It's great as a starter, but it's also brilliant cold with your meat leftovers on Boxing Day.
Serves 8 1 whole camembert, unwrapped 1 small jar of vine leaves 500g ready-to-roll puff pastry Flour, for dusting Egg wash: 3 egg yolks with a splash of double cream 150g walnuts, roughly chopped 150g seedless white grapes, cut in half 4 sticks celery, peeled and sliced ½ bunch chives, chopped 200ml cider vinegar 100ml walnut oil 3 tbsp runny honey
1 Remove the cheese from all of its packaging. Unravel 8-10 vine leaves and cut out the stalks. Dry the leaves on some kitchen roll and wrap the cheese completely in the vine leaves, trying not to leave any gaps. Set aside.
2 Cut the puff pastry in half and roll into 2 circles (about 15cm) on a floured surface about the thickness of two £1 coins on top of each other. Put the wrapped cheese into the centre of one of the circles. Brush the egg wash on the pastry around the outside of the cheese. Gently put the second piece of puff pastry on top of the cheese and seal around the outside. Try to ensure there are no air pockets. Cut around the cheese with a knife, but leave a skirt. Push the skirt together with a fork to seal it down. Brush the whole of the pithivier with the egg wash, then mark lines from the centre of the top down to the skirt with the back of a knife.
3 Sprinkle 50g of the chopped walnuts on top, then put the pie on a parchment-lined baking tray. Leave it in the fridge to rest for at least 1 hour before cooking.
4 Bake in a preheated oven at 200C/400F/gas mark 6 for 25-35 minutes until the pastry is golden brown and cooked. Remove from the oven and leave to rest for at least 15 minutes before serving.
5 Mix together the grapes, celery, chopped chives, cider vinegar, walnut oil and honey to form an almost "raw" chutney. Serve with the pithivier and a large glass of port.
Brown and white crab omelette with gruyere cheese
Crab is a plentiful shellfish, but still has a decadent feel. I've used the brown meat for a kick of flavour, the white for luxury. It goes really well with the nutty, rounded flavour of gruyere. An easily knocked together starter that feels extravagant.
Serves 6-8 65g butter 150g plain flour ½ pint (280ml) milk 10 whole eggs Salt and black pepper 200g gruyere cheese, grated 2 tbsp chopped chives 250g picked white crab meat 50g creme fraiche 2 egg yolks 100g brown crab meat 1 tsp gentleman's relish or Worcestershire sauce 1 tbsp English mustard
1 Melt 15g butter in a pan over a medium heat. Stir in the flour and cook for about 1-2 minutes. Add the milk, little by little, stirring all the time until all of it has been added and the sauce (roux) is smooth. Cook for 2‑3 minutes and put to one side to cool.
2 Whisk the 10 eggs together and season. Put the rest of the butter into a nonstick frying pan with an ovenproof handle and melt on a medium heat. When the butter has melted, pour in the eggs and cook slowly for 4-5 minutes.
3 Remove the pan from the heat, cover with the grated gruyere cheese, then sprinkle on the chopped chives and the picked white crab.
4 In a bowl, mix together the cooked roux sauce, creme fraiche, egg yolks, brown crab meat and gentleman's relish or Worcestershire sauce. Add the English mustard and season. Spread this mix all over the crab omelette. Put the pan under a preheated grill and cook until brown and a little singed. Serve in the middle of the table for all to share!
Whole slow honey-roast goose
You're slow-cooking this goose, but remember you can't leave it in the oven for too long! Imagine you're doing a casserole with no stock, just a dry heat. I've nodded to the typical Chinese pairing of duck with Szechuan pepper here - that and, with the honey, go beautifully with the gamey meat.
1 Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas mark 6. With a small, sharp knife, lightly score the goose all over. Be careful not to cut too deeply: just small cuts into the skin. In a pan, toast the cloves, Szechuan pepper, juniper and sea salt.Leave it all to cool, then crush it to a powder in a spice grinder or pestle and mortar. Rub the mix into the goose. Put the goose on to a cake rack and then into a baking tray. Put the whole thing in the oven for 25-30 minutes.
2 After this time, pour off any fat - keep that to one side for another time. Reduce the oven temperature to 140C/230F/gas mark ½. When it's down to that temperature, put the goose back in and cook for a further 2 hours, basting it in its own fat every 20 minutes. After this time, drain 90% of the goose fat from the tray and pour the runny honey over the top of the goose. Turn the oven back up to 180C/350F/gas mark 4 and put the goose back in. Roast for a further 30 minutes, basting every 5 minutes with the honey until it caramelises. Watch that it doesn't burn. On the last baste, add the soy sauce and glaze the goose. Take the goose from the oven and leave to rest for at least 45 minutes with a piece of tin foil on top to keep it warm.
Perfect roast potatoes
The secret to roast potatoes is to thoroughly boil them until they're fluffy. Parboiling leaves unwanted moisture in the spuds.
Serves 8 8 maris piper potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks Vegetable oil
1 Preheat the oven to 220C/425F/gas mark 7. While the oven is heating up, bring a pan of salted water to the boil. Add the potatoes, return the water to the boil and blanch them for 8-10 minutes, until they are cooked through and tender. Drain them with a colander and leave to steam-dry for a couple of minutes. Be very careful not to break them up too much.
2 Heat a thin layer of vegetable oil in a roasting tray on the hob. Add the potatoes and stir them around so they are thinly coated with oil on every surface. Put the tray in the oven and roast the potatoes for 45 minutes, or until crispy and golden brown.
Walnut and apricot stuffing mix
It's hard to go wrong with stuffing - it's always amazing as far as I'm concerned - but this one is a seasonal great that couldn't taste any better with poultry.
Makes enough for a large bird 200g butter 3 onions, diced 2 tbsp chopped tarragon 4 tbsp chopped parsley 800g sausage meat 150g toasted walnuts, roughly chopped 150g fresh breadcrumbs 2 tsp salt 3 tsp cracked black pepper 100g dried apricots, chopped 1 tbsp chopped juniper berries 1 tsp mace Grated zest of 1 orange
1 Melt the butter in a saucepan, then add the diced onions. Cook until soft, but don't colour them. Stir in the chopped herbs, remove from the heat and transfer the mix into a large bowl, then leave to cool.
2 When cool, add the rest of the stuffing ingredients and stir until well mixed. The more you mix it, the firmer the mix will be.
3 Preheat the oven to 160C/325F/gas mark 3. Line a loaf tin with baking parchment and push in the stuffing mix. Push it right into the edges. Put the stuffing into the oven for 45 minutes, until just cooked.
4 Remove the stuffing from the oven. Turn the oven up to 210C/410F/gas mark 6½. Mix together the dijon mustard and tomato ketchup, then brush it on top of the stuffing. Sprinkle with the thyme leaves and put it back into the oven for 8-10 minutes, until it caramelises.
Kale with toasted brazil nuts and bacon
I love that irony brassica flavour of kale, and combined with brazil nuts (which are everywhere at Christmas time) and good-quality bacon (make sure you go to your butcher for a good home cure), it's magic.
Serves 6-8 200g blanched whole brazil nuts 75g butter 200g bacon lardons 1 onion finely diced 2 garlic cloves, grated 1.5kg picked kale, stalks removed Salt and black pepper
1 Put the brazil nuts on to a baking tray and roast in a preheated oven at 190C/375F/gas mark 5 for 10-12 minutes, until golden brown and toasted all the way through. Remove from the oven and leave to cool. When cold, roughly chop them with a knife.
2 Heat up a large saute pan over a medium flame. Add the butter and the bacon lardons. Cook until the bacon is browned and crispy. Remove the bacon from the pan with a slotted spoon and drain on some kitchen roll. Add the diced onion and the garlic to the pan with the butter and bacon fat. Cook until soft.
3 Stir in the picked kale and let it wilt: this will take about 2-3 minutes. Season and stir in the bacon and brazil nuts. Serve.
Turnips with orange and horseradish
Jars of creamed horseradish usually have a lot of turnip in them. The two are natural bedfellows, and this dish is peppery, powerful and perfect with the Christmas citrus tang of the orange.
Serves 6-8 2kg peeled turnips, cut into 5cm cubes 150ml chicken stock 500ml fresh orange juice, passed through a sieve 200g butter 2 tsp cracked black pepper 70g freshly grated horseradish 2 tbsp chopped parsley A pinch of salt
1 Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Blanch the peeledturnips until they are just cooked. Pour the turnips into a colander in the sink to drain. Leave them to steam dry.
2 Put the pan back on to the heat and pour in the chicken stock, orange juice and butter. Bring the pan to the boil. Reduce the liquid by half. Put the cooked turnips back into the liquid and bring back to the boil.
3 Continue to reduce the liquid until it glazes the turnips. Stir in the cracked black pepper, horseradish and chopped parsley. Season with salt, then serve.
Whole shallots with red wine
Shallots are like super-onions - they're sweeter, and so take on a gorgeous caramelised flavour when cooked. In red wine and spices they are great with the goose.
Serves 6-8 6 cloves 6 whole black peppercorns 2 star anise 2 bay leaves 500ml red wine 150g redcurrant jelly 150ml red wine vinegar 75g butter 1 chicken stock cube 1kg peeled round shallots (try to keep the root intact) ½ bunch of thyme, tied together 2 tbsp dijon mustard
1 Tie up the cloves, peppercorns and star anise in a muslin bag. Put the bag and bay leaves into a large pan and cover with the red wine, redcurrant jelly and red wine vinegar.
2 Bring the liquid up to the boil, then put the butter, stock cube and tied thyme into the pan. Whisk until the stock cube has dissolved. Add the peeled shallots and bring to the boil. Reduce the liquid over a medium heat until the shallots are glazed - about 20 minutes. This will cook the shallots and coat them at the same time
3 Stir in the dijon mustard. Remove the muslin bag and thyme. Serve.
Mace meringue with dried fruit compote and brandy chantilly cream
Macerate the fruits in syrup 3-4 days before and the flavours will be even better when you serve. Anyone can make meringue - this is mine with a brilliant warm English kick.
For the fruit compote 400ml water Peel, zest and juice of 1 orange 1 cinnamon stick 200g caster sugar 75g dates, chopped 75g dried cherries, chopped 75g dried apricots, chopped 75g raisins 75g dried banana, chopped
For the cream 250ml double cream 2 vanilla pods, cut in half and seeds scraped out 75g caster sugar 75ml brandy
1 First make the fruit compote. Put the water, orange juice and peel, cinnamon stick and sugar into a pan and bring to the boil.
2 Put all the dried fruits in a bowl. Pour on the boiled liquid. Cover with clingfilm and leave to cool. They will all soften and rehydrate.
3 For the meringue, whisk the egg whites in a clean bowl - preferably in a table top kitchen mixer - until they reach soft peaks. Add the caster sugar one spoonful at a time and whisk until the meringue is glossy and thick. Add the white wine vinegar and cornflour. Line a baking tray with some parchment paper or a silicone baking sheet. On this, create 6 rough-shaped individual meringues using a large spoon.
4 Sprinkle the meringues with the ground mace and put the tray into a preheated oven at 120C/250F/gas mark ½ for 1½ hours until they are crispy. Turn the oven off and leave them to dry out and cool down with the oven door open. When they are cool, remove from the tray and put on to a wire rack.
5 Whisk up the double cream, vanilla seeds, caster sugar and the brandy until it is firm and thick. Put to one side.
6 To serve, gently bash the tops of the meringues to level them out. Spoon a little cream on top, then some of the fruit compote. Finish with a blob of the whipped cream and sprinkle with the fresh orange zest. Serve.
Top Photo: Festive fare on a packed Christmas table: a festive slow-roast honey goose, perfect roast potatoes, kale with toasted brazil nuts and bacon, a walnut and apricot stuffing loaf, and whole shallots with red wine. Photograph: Dan Jones/Guardian