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Scottish chefs give their top Christmas dinner hacks

Looking to make preparing Christmas dinner easier? Then follow these top tips from Scottish chefs for a (relatively) hassle-free festive banquet.

Published: December 19, 2016

Top Christmas dinner hacks from Scottish chefs

Mark Greenaway

(Chef and owner of Restaurant Mark Greenaway)



1. My number one tip is to plan ahead.

Figure out exactly who you’ll be cooking for and make a menu.

Carefully read through any recipes that you are going to use to avoid any unwanted surprises when you come to cook the dishes.

Once you know exactly what you will be cooking then you can put your shopping list together.

Once your list is complete, you can split it into dry and fresh ingredients.

You can start picking up any dry ingredients and drinks needed in the coming weeks; this means that the bill for the shopping on Christmas week won’t be quite so painful.

2. It is also the perfect time of year to get to know your local butcher, fishmonger and greengrocer. It means that you’ll be able to get the best deals and advice when it comes to your ingredients.

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3. Often the person who takes on the cooking ends up working too hard. Try and delegate some of the jobs to your elves. Teamwork is essential when planning a feast. Allow time during or at the end of cooking to chill out a little so that you can enjoy the day as much as your guests.


1. Prepare as much as you can in advance. On Christmas Eve, have as much prep done as possible. Side dishes can be cooked earlier on Christmas day and warmed through while the turkey is resting out of the oven. This saves on oven space and stress.

2. The best way to thicken gravy is to mash one of your roast potatoes and stir it through the gravy. Yes, this means sacrificing one of the roasties but it is really worth it and saves messing around with flour.

3. For delicious roast potatoes, place the potatoes in around the turkey for the last 40 minutes of the cooking. The potatoes will cook in all of the lovely turkey juices and it saves on oven space and washing up.

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4. Jazz up your Christmas dinner table with some interesting side dishes. Roast your Brussel sprouts with chestnuts and pancetta. Bring carrots to life by cooking them in orange juice with some orange zest, butter and star anise.

5. Make a large dessert that can be shared by everyone and make sure that there is plenty of it so that you can enjoy the leftovers in the following days. Choose something that can be prepared in advance like a trifle or a cinnamon and brioche bread and butter pudding. This gives more time for a stress-free Christmas and allows for time to actually enjoy the day. If you are choosing to do a baked dessert, then it is essential to make it the day before as oven space is prime real estate on Christmas morning.

Post Christmas

In the days following Christmas, the last thing you want to be thinking about is cooking, so think ahead to the possible leftovers and get creative.

Leftovers can be looked after carefully and used to feed you and your family for the few days after the dinner.

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For example, leftover vegetables can be easily turned into a comforting and wholesome soup. Leftover meat can be used in so many ways from sandwiches to stews – get creative and don’t let any go to waste.

Neil Forbes

(Former Scottish Chef of the Year and is chef/director at Café St Honore)



1.Do as much as possible beforehand, so there’s no last-minute rush.

It shouldn't just be the role of one person in the home to do all the slaving over the stove.

2. It’s a time for everyone to be together and enjoying each other's company, so bring the party into the kitchen and roll your sleeves up and peel those tatties.

3. Only buy what you need. There’s always a shop open if you need something desperately.

It’s better to avoid having too many leftovers or buying just for the sake of it.


1.You can prepare your vegetables on Christmas Eve, peel the root vegetables and the potatoes.

Blanche them in boiling, salted water, refresh them under a cold running tap then put in a covered container until you need them.

2. Root vegetables are then ready to be roasted in the oven, drizzled with honey and a stick of cinnamon in the tray to add lovely flavour.

3. Too many sprouts? Then shred and blanche them in boiling water, drain and put into a pan with bacon lardons, button, chestnuts and some ripped tarragon and thyme, salt and pepper.

It Makes a delicious stir fry.

Lea Harris

(The first Scot to appear on the Great British Bake Off and blogger)

Lea Harris. Picture: contributed

Lea Harris. Picture: contributed


If you’ve found something you love, don’t feel obliged to trawl the supermarket shelves for something different just for the sake of it.

I really love Paxo Sage and Onion Stuffing, I’ve tried making my own but nothing seems to quite have that texture and taste that takes me right back in time.


It’s a novel way of cooking the turkey – but wrapping it up in a muslin cloth – is my special tip.

It keeps the meat nice and moist.

I start by pouring some port over the turkey and wrap it up in a large piece of muslin that I buy from the fabric shop. It goes into the oven looking like a mummy.

I baste it as normal and make sure there’s some water in the bottom of the roasting tin. Sometimes I’ll take the muslin off before it has finished cooking, but other times I just leave it on.

It comes out of the oven with the muslin black. Unwrap it and the turkey inside is lovely and moist.

Post Christmas

1.For leftover turkey sandwiches, add some tasty trimmings.

I make extra stuffing by putting the mix in a loaf tin and topping with sausage meat. Bake then once it’s cold you can cut it into slices to put on the sandwiches.

2. Use up extra Christmas pudding and mince pies by crumbling into either shop-bought vanilla ice cream or into rich custard, then freezing – stirring occasionally – for a delicious festive dessert.

Jane Walker

(Owner, Christmas dinner cook and front of house manager at The Stockbridge Restaurant)



1. To save time on the big day, prepare the veg the day before.

If roasting carrots and parsnips, blanch them first in boiling water for a few minutes then cool them down quickly in a bowl of iced water to stop them cooking.

Once cool, pop them into freezer bags, and they are ready to roast on the 25th.

2. To save even more time, your roast potatoes can be parboiled the day before as well.

Boil in salted water and once drained put back into the pot with the lid on and give the pot a good shake to rough up the outer layer of the tatties.

Then place in a tray, cool, pop in the fridge ready to cook the next day. To cook on the 25th I recommend you heat up oil or duck fat in a pot then coat the potatoes, cook in the hot oven occasionally basting them. Always remember to season with sea salt first.


1.Oven space is always a problem in our house.

To free space for a bit remember the bird can rest for an hour or so, just cover with foil and a warm tea towel so it doesn’t cool down too much. This frees up space in the hot oven to roast veg and tatties.

2. I always serve finger food as a starter with some fizz so that it’s more relaxed and saves you some extra washing up at the end of the day. Keep it simple but present it well and in advance so you can enjoy it too.

3. Christmas Day is for everyone, even you! So don’t forget to enjoy the day with your family as well and relax. And remember if the host is relaxed, everyone else will be too.

Post Christmas

I think leftover turkey is great in a pie, especially with any veg leftovers. The best thing about it is you can put whatever leftovers you have into the pie.

David Haetzman

(Executive chef at Firebrick Brasserie)



1.Get as much done the day before.

2.Make the stuffing and stuff the bird. Have your sauces and accompaniments ready – cranberry sauce can be made days or even weeks before – the only exception to this is bread sauce that needs to be made on the day.


1. The best variety to use [for great roast potatoes] is King Edward, giving you the crispy outside and a lovely fluffy meal.

Peel the potatoes and bring to the boil in cold salted water for ten minutes or so or until you can insert a sharp knife.

Drain and shake in the colander to fluff up the outside. There are lots of different fats you can use for roasting – beef dripping, duck fat, vegetable oil – and they will all work well. My preference in the restaurant is duck fat but at home I use vegetable oil. Both produce great roasties.

Put your oil in a deep tray – approx 2.5cm – and put in a hot oven at the same time as putting your potatoes on to boil. Hot oil is very important.

Add your parboiled potatoes and cook for about an hour or until crispy and golden brown, turning once or twice during cooking.

2. Turkey is not the most exciting of meats and it is kind of a shame that it dominates one of the most important meals of the year.

Free range birds are available but they can be expensive. Goose is a great alternative but also expensive. I think something a bit different works well – suckling pig or porchetta – which can be bought from a butcher or online.

It is easy to cook (no getting up at 5am to put it in the oven.) and can be made more Christmassy with the addition of caramelised apple, brown sugar, orange and lemon rind, dried apricots and mixed spice.

Paul Wedgwood

(Owner and head chef at Wedgwood the Restaurant)

Photograph by Ian Georgeson, Chef Paul Wedgwood at his restaurant on the Royal Mile for BArbados feature

Picture: TSPL


Oven and stove space is always an issue on Christmas Day so take a little bit of time on Christmas Eve to prepare some menu items in advance.

Most of your vegetables can be peeled and prepared the day before.


To avoid over-cooking your turkey and it becoming dry, remove the legs at the joint and give them a head start on the rest of your bird. Also instead of stuffing your turkey try loosely filling the cavity with aromatic herbs and vegetables such as rosemary, garlic, celery and shallots. This will add flavour but also aid the even cooking of the bird as it is not too densely stuffed.


When it’s cold outside and the shops are shut its important to be using all your leftovers. To add those extra touches to your menu and give it the wow factor without any extra preparation, try miniaturising yesterday’s starter and main course to become a couple of little Amuse bouche or yesterday’s dessert to serve today as a mini pre-dessert. Remember you can also make soup out of most of your leftovers . . . be creative.

Tom Kitchin

(Chef and owner of the Kitchin)



1.If you prepare as much as you can the evening before or in the morning and think about some helping hands, you will find Christmas Day all the more enjoyable.

If you’re cooking for more people than you usually do, my biggest tip would be to enlist some help from others – get your own little brigade of chefs.

It’s a great way to spend time together, take away some of the pressure and also have fun. Giving people their own tasks makes them feel part of the festivities and even kids can get involved in things like setting the table, which can easily be done on Christmas Eve.

2. Another thing you can do on Christmas Eve is prepare some of the vegetables. At the restaurant, we prepare our dishes to order, but on an occasion like Christmas Day it’s good to get as much done as you can so that you enjoy cooking when the time comes.

You can peel and prepare the vegetables and leave them in damp kitchen roll somewhere cool overnight so they are still fresh when you get round to cooking them the next day. Put on some Christmas music, pour some fizz and pull in some helpers – it will get you in the Christmas spirit at the same time.

3. When it comes to vegetables is to cook more than you think you need. They’re relatively cheap to buy from the local grocer or farmers’ market and a good way to stay within budget. It’s not much extra work to make more and it means you can use the leftovers on Boxing Day for sandwiches, salads, curries or casseroles.


Take it easy: Christmas is a terrific time to experiment with new recipes and dishes and really have fun and show off. But be careful not to put yourself under too much pressure. You want to enjoy as much time with friends and family as you can without too much stress and strain.

READ MORE:  Six festive Scottish recipes perfect for your Christmas Day feast

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