Christmas tips from Phil Thompson
Have yourself a merry little Christmas with some festive tips from Phil at THOMPSON St Albans.
1. Prepare the day before to make Christmas Day cooking go smoothly
Christmas Day dinner is all about the prep, so get as much done the day before as possible. Peel and cut your vegetables and leave in saucepans covered with water overnight.
Again, to make less work on the day, boil your potatoes the day before and refrigerate. Then get your roasting tray nice and hot – preferably with goose fat – and gently tip in the potatoes. To get extra crispy roast potatoes, top tip from my Nan, she used to score the potatoes with a fork and at regular 30-minute intervals gently and lovingly spoon the fat over every single potato.
Pre-cook your Christmas pudding too so all you have to do on Christmas Day is gently warm it in a steamer.
2. Christmas Dinner itself
You can’t beat the traditional, classic Christmas roast turkey dinner with all the trimmings, and a boozy Christmas pudding with brandy Crème Anglaise. And of course, the classic pig in a blanket is a must! That tops any roast turkey dinner off for me! Try brushing the bacon with a little maple syrup, lay a single sage leaf on the sausage then roll them up. Cook till golden brown and this will add a great contrast of flavours.
Instead of just boiling your sprouts, try peeling down the leaves until you’re left with a tiny middle. Boil the middle in salted water for 2 minutes then drain, add to a pre-heated frying pan with a little oil, then add the outer leaves and gently toss. When they start to colour, sprinkle with toasted almonds and redcurrants. This will really liven up a boring sprout!
3. Don’t overcook the turkey
Try buying a crown instead of the whole bird; it will cook more quickly without the legs on. Start with the oven on high – 180C for the first 45-60 minutes. When the skin is golden, cover with tin foil and turn the oven down to 150C for another 30-60 minutes depending on the size. To check if it’s cooked, stick a knife or roasting fork deep into the thick part of the breast. If the juices run out clear, it’s done, then leave to rest for 30 mins before you carve.
If you are cooking a whole turkey with the legs on and are concerned about drying out the breast meat before the leg meat is done, make some deep cuts into the legs so they cook quicker. Alternatively put some stuffing under the skin covering both breasts, so they take longer to cook.
Don’t forget to keep basting the turkey while its cooking. This will give the turkey a nice golden crisp skin. If it starts getting too dark before its cooked, cover it with tin foil, then for the last 10 minutes take it off again to re-crisp the skin.
4. Create a festive atmosphere
Creating a festive atmosphere at home or at work is a really great way to get the festive spirit flowing! During the month of December here at THOMPSON St Albans, we deck out the restaurant with seasonal yet rustic decorations such as pine cones, candles, orange slices and cinnamon sticks, swags with fairy lights in every room and the odd bauble, and of course a MASSIVE Christmas tree!
There is a wonderful, warm friendly atmosphere in the restaurant at this time of year, with Christmas music playing and the unmistakeable smell of warm, spiced cider and mulled wine coming from the bar.
Even just looking at our Christmas Menus can get you feeling Christmassy, not to mention giving you great ideas for a wonderful Christmas menu at home.
As a thank you for booking a party of six or more, we are offering a few little treats for the party organiser. Those ordering from the Christmas Party Menu will receive a £20 voucher and bubbles on their next visit. Party organisers booking on the set menu will be given a bottle of wine and homemade chocolate truffles.
We are open between Christmas and New Year, excluding Sunday nights, Mondays, Tuesday lunch time and Boxing Day, with the exception of Christmas Eve when we are open for lunch and dinner. On New Year’s Eve I will indulge you with my luxurious 7 Course Tasting Menu and treat you to the chimes of Big Ben at midnight but also… the bag pipes! They will be played by our very own Stephen McIlvenny, Commis Chef and youngest member of my team here at THOMPSON St Albans, who will also be playing at our Burns Night Event. We are open for a traditional Sunday lunch on New Year’s Day; families and sore heads will be very welcome to join us!
5. Ingredients should be seasonal and fresh
On our a la Carte Menu in December, you will see some beautiful seasonal ingredients such as venison, pheasant, quince, earthy root vegetables and fragrant spices. Fish will be matched with beautiful shellfish, vibrant brassicas, braised red cabbage, kales, winter leaves and deep, flavoursome dressings.
Our Christmas menus include delights such as lightly oak-smoked salmon, rich braised beef and honey roast parsnips, poached pears with caramelised puff pastry and many more dishes, combining wonderful seasonal ingredients with carefully balanced flavour combinations.