Scotland's National Chef Gary Maclean shares festive recipes - plus tips on how to reduce food waste this Christmas

Scotland's National Chef Gary Maclean has teamed up with Love Food Hate Waste Scotland to share festive recipes and top tips for avoiding food waste this Christmas.

Published 8th Dec 2020
Updated 21 st Sep 2023

As Christmas this year will look a little different, Love Food Hate Waste Scotland and chef Gary Maclean have developed a range of recipes for different households, as well as some top tips on reducing food waste.

Gary Maclean said: “This year will definitely be different for many of us, with a lot of ‘firsts’ for Scottish households but the issue of food waste during Christmas remains.

“The simplest way to reduce your household food waste is to plan your shopping, plan your meal prep and plan your cooking time.

“If we plan ahead that little bit more, we can help tackle the 50,000 tonnes of food waste that will be thrown away this Christmas and ultimately fight climate change.”

Iain Gulland, chief executive of Zero Waste Scotland, added: “While this Christmas will be different for many people, as a nation, we will still waste thousands of tonnes of good food, a lot of which is avoidable.

“To put this into context, over £11.5 million pounds of meat and poultry alone will be thrown away throughout December. Everyone really wants to enjoy Christmas Day, however, no one likes throwing away money or good food.

“Taking simple steps, like resisting the urge to overbuy and using a shopping list to avoid doubling up on ingredients, are easy ways we can all reduce food waste and do our bit to tackle climate change."

Food waste

In a bid to cut down on food waste, Love Food Hate Waste Scotland has released these stats...

  • Over 1 million Scots will leave it as late as Christmas Eve to begin doing their festive food shop.
  • Over a third of Scottish households don’t do any planning for their Christmas meal food shop.
  • In contrast, more than 20% say their festive food planning begins in November or earlier.
  • A quarter of Scots admit they feel worried or stressed about shopping for food for Christmas Day.
  • 84% of households will have leftover food from their Christmas Day meal.
  • Roast potatoes are among the festive foods most commonly leftover by Scots.

Top tips for food planning this Christmas

How to plan for Christmas dinner by Scotland’s National Chef, Gary Maclean.


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Plan, plan and plan again. I know it’s boring, but it’s vital. Plan what you are going to serve, plan when you are going to prepare it and plan how you are going to deliver it.

Family style serving

This one is just as important as planning serve dinner on platters, bowls or large plates, which you can place on the dining table.

There are two reasons for this. One: if you serve in bulk it’s much easier to deliver food hot and in perfect condition. Two: your guests can help themselves.

This not only save s you a load of stress but also makes for a much more pleasant dining experience for your guests.

They won’t feel obliged to eat a plate full that you have given them and they can pick and choose what they want to eat. I also find kids large and small eat more food this way.

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For me Christmas is all about spending time with the kids, making sure to give them your time; it’s a special day.

My memories as a kid was my Mum working really hard and being stressed all day in the kitchen making the Christmas dinner.

The best way to avoid that would be to prep ahead of time. I always do everything on the 24th so that I have a stress free Christmas day.

Where will you use to cook?

Think about the equipment you have in your kitchen and design your menu carefully, taking this into account.

Try and have a good mix of food coming from every area of the kitchen some things from the oven, some done in the pressure cooker if you have one, some from the stove.

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Also ensure you have cold food on your menu as this also uses that vital bit of kit the fridge.

Try not to have too much food coming from the same place.

Don’t over complicate

Work within your capabilities and don’t be over ambitious.

Don’t create a whole dinner entirely with new recipes: always have a couple of dishes that you know inside out.

This will give you the headspace and time to try something different. It also ensures your guests have something edible to eat if the new stuff doesn’t work out!


This is my most important tip and I have left it to last. Remember, it’s just a plate of food the worst that can happen is you have to phone in a different plate of food.

Traditional festive recipes from chef Gary Maclean

Starter recipe for two: Cream of Leek & Potato Soup

Soup is a classic starter and can be prepared in advance giving you more time to concentrate on the main event.

This amount should make 6 portions leaving you with leftovers to store in the fridge or freezer to enjoy another day.


Olive oil

1 onion, finely chopped

2 leeks, rinsed thoroughly and sliced

400g potato (peeled weight), diced

1.2L vegetable stock

150 ml of double cream or crème fraîche



Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat and then add the chopped onion, potatoes and leeks. Cook until soft.

Pour in the vegetable stock and bring to the boil. Simmer until the vegetables are tender and season well.

Whiz up in a blender until smooth and creamy.

When ready to eat, bring back to the boil in a clean pan, add the cream or crème fraîche and then simmer until hot.

Serve with chopped chives and an extra swirl of cream.

Add a bit of Christmas sparkle - top your soup with a swirl of truffle oil for a seriously special start to Christmas dinner.

Main recipe for two: Roast Turkey Joint

Turkey is traditional but often people buy too big and end up wasting a lot. If you’re cooking for two, a turkey joint is a great way to go. It doesn’t take as long to cook as a whole turkey either which means you have more time to relax.


Turkey joint (approx 1.5kg)
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 carrot, roughly chopped
50g butter, softened

Take the turkey joint out of the fridge about an hour before you are ready to cook it.

Heat the oven to 190C/170C fan/gas 5.

Put a rack inside an ov en tray with the onions and carrots underneath.

Rub the butter on the joint and season well. Add it to the rack above the veggies.

Pour in enough water to cover the veg and cover the tray with a tent of tin foil.

Roast for 40 minutes per kg in weight, plus an additional 20 minutes (so for a 1.5kg joint roast for 80 minutes).

Take the foil off 20 mins before the end to brown the skin.

To check it’s cooked, pierce the thigh with a skewer and the juices should run clear.

Leave the turkey to rest for 20 mins somewhere warm.

Keep the strained veg and liquid in the bottom of the tin and the juices from carving to make gravy.

Dessert recipe for 2: Easy Individual Christmas Trifles

Using frozen berries for this dessert means no fresh fruit goes to waste! Serving the trifles in individual glasses means you only use what you need, and they look pretty spectacular too.

Also, look out for individual portions of custard to save buying a huge tub if it’s not required.


100g frozen red berries

½ tbsp maple syrup, honey or caster sugar

75ml double cream

75ml fat free yoghurt

¼ tsp vanilla essence

4 sponge fingers

200g custard

Sherry, optional

White and dark chocolate, to decorate

Edible gold dust, optional


Make a simple compote by putting your frozen fruit in a pan with your maple syrup, honey or sugar and heating slowly until the fruits stew slightly.

Lightly whip your cream with the vanilla essence and fold in the yoghurt.

Soak your sponge fingers in milk, sherry or your favourite spirit and layer the bottom of each glass with them.

Spoon over your berry mixture, then your custard, then your cream in layers until full (depending on the size of your glass, you may only get one layer of each).

Hold back a little berry mixture for the top if you wish.

Top with chocolate shavings and adorn with gold dust, if desired.

Add a bit of Christmas sparkle

Infuse your compote with star anise and soak the sponge fingers in a spicy dark rum for a fabulously festive flavour.

Main recipe for four: Roast Turkey

gary maclean

Gary Maclean says of this dish: "Turkey is traditional but often people overbuy and end up wasting a lot. To make sure you don’t buy too big a bird, we’ve given you a suggested weight which will leave you with a little bit leftover for the famous boxing day sandwich."


2 to 2.5kg Turkey

1 onion, roughly chopped

2 carrots, roughly chopped

Fresh herbs (inc thyme and sage and parsley for sides)

75g butter, softened

Salt and pepper


Heat oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas 6. Have a shelf ready in the middle of the oven without any shelves above it.

Scatter your onion and carrot over the base of a roasting tin that fits the whole turkey, but doesn’t swamp it.

Season the cavity of the turkey with plenty of salt and pepper, and take a handful of each of your fresh herbs and put them inside.

Sit the turkey on top of the veg and rub the softened butter all over the skin. Add salt and pepper.

Put the turkey on the middle shelf of the oven and cook for 20 minutes.

Turn the temperature down to 180C/fan 160C/gas 4 and continue to cook for 1hr 20-1 hr 40 depending on weight.

To check it’s cooked, pierce the thigh with a skewer and the juices should run clear.

Carefully remove the tin from the oven, set the turkey aside, cover with foil and allow to rest for 15-30 minutes.

As you lift the turkey, let any juices pour out of the cavity into the roasting tin. You will use this tray to make your gravy.

Side dish recipe for four: Buttered Brussels Sprouts


400g Brussels sprouts, pre-trimmed

20g butter, melted


Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Once boiling add your Brussels sprouts and cook for 2-3 minutes.

Take them out and rinse them under cold water, or add to a bowl of iced water to cool down.

Remove and set aside.

Five minutes before dinner time, put your Brussels sprouts on a tray, pour over the butter and toss to coat.

Season well and pop them into a hot oven to warm up.

Side dish recipe for six: Gravy


1 heaped tbsp plain flour

750ml chicken stock

1 splash red wine or port (optional)

1 tbsp cranberry sauce


Take the tray used to cook the turkey (with the chopped veg) and put it directly onto the hob (if this isn’t possible, transfer to a big pan ensuring you scrape all the good stuff off the tray).

Add the flour and stir with a wooden spoon to combine, scraping up the sides as you go. It may be a little grainy but that’s ok.

Slowly add your stock and continue to stir everything together. Let it bubble away on the heat until it has reached your desired consistency.

At this point you can add a swig of red wine, or a spoonful of cranberry sauce (or both) for extra flavour.

Strain through a sieve into a clean pan and keep on a low heat until you are ready to serve.

Side dish recipe for six: Make in the Morning Stuffing Balls

If you want to make extra stuffing balls if you have ingredients left over they make a great Boxing Day sub sandwich with brie and cranberry sauce.


40g butter

1½ onions

600g sausage meat

120g breadcrumbs

Juice of 1½ lemons plus zest

Handful chopped parsley

Handful of fresh sage

Salt and pepper


Vegetable oil


Get ahead and make these stuffing balls on Christmas morning.

Melt the butter in a saucepan. Once melted add the onion and gently fry until soft.

Add your cooked onion, sausage meat, lemon juice and zest, fresh herbs, a pinch of nutmeg and salt and pepper to a bowl and mix until combined.

Using wet hands, roll the mixture into 12 even balls and chill for half an hour.

In a high sided wok, fry you stuffing balls in the vegetable oil until cooked through and golden brown on the outside. Set aside.

When the turkey is resting and while your potatoes are cooking, pop your stuffing balls onto a small tray and cook for 15 minutes.

Love Food Hate Waste Scotland: Food storage hacks

It is safe to freeze food such as chicken or turkey right up to the use by date, and then defrost in the fridge when required.

Fresh meat including turkey should be frozen in an airtight container or wrapped well.

Either defrost in the microwave using the ‘defrost’ setting or thaw in the fridge overnight and cook within 24 hours.

Milk can be frozen in an ice cube tray to create the perfect tea sized portion and added to a hot drink straight from the freezer.

If eggs are nearing their expiration date, yolks and whites can be separated and frozen. With the yolks perfect for enriching omelettes, the whites can be used for sweet treat meringues.

Bread can be frozen either as a whole loaf or as the last few slices in the bag.

Slice the bread up and loosely tap on a hard surface before freezing to prevent the frozen slices sticking together. Bread can then be toasted straight from the freezer.

Boil uncooked potatoes for about five minutes, cool and then freeze. When needed, thaw overnight and roast the next day.

Mashed potato also freezes really well. Let the mash cool and then freeze in an airtight container.

Bakery goods including pies, tarts and cakes (except those with fresh cream) can be portioned or sliced and frozen. Portions can then be defrosted and reheated.

Cauliflower and broccoli - Try making a big batch of cauliflower or broccoli cheese and split into individual portions for freezing.

This is a great option if the veg isn't going to last much longer or you’ve bought too much. It's very tasty with garlic in the cheese sauce, then topped with breadcrumbs and parsley.

To find out more about Love Food Hate Waste, as well as more tips and recipes, visit their website.

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Known for cake making, experimental jam recipes, Champagne, whisky and gin drinking (and the inability to cook Gnocchi), Rosalind is the Food and Drink Editor and whisky writer for The Scotsman, as well as hosting Scran, The Scotsman's food and drink podcast.
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