safefood teams up with home cook hero Suzie Lee to help take the stress out of festive cooking

Christmas dinner is arguably the most important meal of the year and safefood has teamed up with local home cook hero Suzie Lee to take the stress out of festive cooking and ensure that everyone has a safe and tasty Christmas.

Dr Linda Gordon, Chief Specialist, Food Science, safefood commented: “At safefood, we’re here to take the stress out of Christmas for home cooks and our website www.safefood.net/christmas has everything you need; food safety tips, a cooking time calculator for your turkey and tasty leftover recipes so you can make the most of Christmas. The month of December is the busiest month of the year on our website and last year, more than 110,000 people visited our site between Christmas Eve and Christmas Day to find great Christmas cooking advice.”

Northern Ireland’s home cook hero, Suzie Lee said: “Turkey, roast potatoes, stuffing and mountains of vegetables, who doesn’t love sitting down with family to enjoy an amazing Christmas dinner? To many though, the thought of having to cook this festive feast can be a very daunting and stressful task, especially when doing it for the first time. That’s why I’m delighted to team up with safefood to try and help take the pressure off our local Christmas cooks with expert advice on how to create the perfect Christmas dinner and still enjoy the festive celebrations.

The key to a successful Christmas dinner is often down to the preparation. Plan everything out beforehand and stick to that plan. Make your stuffing the day before and peel potatoes, carrots, and any other vegetables you are having and leave them in pans of cold water over night. Whatever size turkey you’re having this year, everyone will be aiming for it to be tender and juicy, so use safefood’s handy turkey cooking time calculator at www.safefood.net/christmas to work out how long it will take to cook.”

Suzie Lee’s Top Tips for Cooking the Perfect Christmas Dinner

Get your fridge ready – Give your fridge a good clean with warm soapy water and re-arrange the shelves to make space for your turkey

How much turkey do you need? Don’t buy too big a turkey. Think about how many people you’re cooking for (children eat less than adults) and whether you want any leftovers

Give yourself enough time to defrost – If your turkey is frozen, ensure you leave enough time to defrost it prior to cooking. Allow 24 hours for every 4-5 pounds/1.8-2.2kg.  Defrost your turkey on dish or tray on the bottom shelf of the fridge.

Don’t wash that bird – Do not wash your turkey as this splashes food poisoning bacteria around your kitchen through drips, drops and splashes – proper cooking will actually kill any germs present.

How long to cook your turkey? Raw poultry and meat can contain germs like Salmonella and Campylobacter, so it’s important to cook these foods thoroughly. Use safefood’s turkey cooking time calculator at www.safefood.net/christmas to work out how long your turkey will take to cook.

Preheat your Oven and get the turkey ready – Preheat your oven to 180° (Fan Assisted). Slice into the thigh and drumsticks – this ensures the turkey is cooked evenly.

What about stuffing? For stuffed turkeys cooked in a fan oven, you should allow extra cooking time and it is essential you check the stuffing itself is piping hot all the way through. Use safefood’s turkey cooking time calculator at www.safefood.net/christmas. For any other oven types, cook stuffing separately in a suitable dish.

How to check your turkey is cooked – Use a meat thermometer to check your turkey is fully cooked. If you don’t have a meat thermometer, use a clean fork or skewer, pierce the thickest part of the breast and thigh. You know your turkey is properly cooked when there’s no pink meat in the thickest part of the breast and thigh, the juices run clear and the meat is piping hot throughout.

How to store leftovers – Cover any leftovers and place in the fridge within two hours of cooking. Once in the fridge, any leftovers should be eaten within three days.

Freezing meats – If freezing leftover meat or poultry, wrap well and make sure it is stored in a suitable container for freezing. Freeze cooked meat for no more than 6 months approx. – this is for quality rather than safety

Only re-heat food once! When re-heating food, ensure it is piping hot all the way throughout. Make sure food is only re-heated once!

Suzie Lee’s Roast Christmas Dinner (Serves approx. 8 people)

Turkey

10lb approx. turkey

Olive oil

Salt and pepper

1 large onion

(Save the giblets, wing tips, tail, tips of legs for the gravy stock)

 

Stuffing

1 large onion finely diced and sauteed

400g sausage meat

220g natural white breadcrumbs

2 tsp dried sage

2 large eggs

2 tbsp of whole milk

Salt and pepper

1 tbsp Olive oil

 

Roasties

2kg Maris Piper potatoes peeled and cut to even size for roasties

Salt

1 tsp baking soda

Olive Oil

Salt and pepper to season

Brussel sprouts or Tender stem broccoli

300g Brussel sprouts or broccoli

100g smoked bacon lardons

180g whole chestnuts

1 tbsp butter

 

Cranberry and Orange sauce

1 jar of cranberry sauce

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tbsp of brown sugar

1 juice and zest of a large orange

 

Gravy Stock

2 large carrots

1 large celery stick

1 large brown onion

4 large garlic cloves

1 tbsp of Black peppercorns

1 leek

1 chicken stock cube

1 large brown onion finely sliced

1 tbsp Plain flour

Cornflour paste

1 Olive oil

water

Method:

  1. Check out safefood.net for all the guidelines depending on whether your turkey was frozen or fresh.
  2. Preheat oven 180.C fan
  3. Begin with the gravy stock – remove the tips of the legs, tail and wing tips and giblets from the turkey (sometimes these will be already removed therefore I recommend using another stock cube as these little bits of the turkey add great flavour to the stock). Add the 2 large carrots, 1 large brown onion chopped, 4 large garlic cloves smashed, 1 large celery stick, 1 tbsp of peppercorns, 1 chopped up leek, large pinch of salt and a chicken stock cube, top up with water and bring to boil and then simmer on a low heat for at least an hour to get a good stock for the gravy.
  4. For the stuffing fry off the onions in about 1 tbsp of oil till soft and translucent (leave to cool for 5 mins), then put everything into a mixing bowl and mix well (I recommend using your hands, just dig in but be careful of the hot onions).
  5. If you have a large grill tray please use this for roasting your turkey. Otherwise, place about 4 crumpled up large tin foil logs on the bottom of the tray to act as a barrier so the bottom of the turkey does not touch the tin.
  6. Put the turkey on the grill tray or the crumpled logs of tinfoil. Now prepare the turkey by carefully using your hand to separate the skin from the breast on both sides of the crown of the turkey. Place the stuffing under the skin of the breast of the turkey, make sure the breasts on both sides are covered with the stuffing. The stuffing acts as a barrier and keeps the breast nice and moist.  If there is leftover stuffing make stuffing balls with it and place on a baking tin. Then make sure the outside of the turkey is seasoned well (inside and out) and is rubbed well with oil. Then place 300ml of water in the bottom of the tray, this helps to keep the turkey moist as well. Then add in the onion chopped in half and into the cavity of the turkey. Wash your hands with soap and water after handling raw meat or poultry.
  7. Place the turkey in the middle to the bottom of the oven (not the top shelf). This now needs to cook for approximately 2 hours and 39 minutes according to the Turkey calculator found on Safefood.net. After 1 hour turn the tin 180 degrees so that 1 side doesn’t get browner than the other side.  Do this again at the 2 hour mark. Then at 2 hours 15 min, if it was a dry plucked, dry-aged turkey it can be cooked to 65C, if it was a supermarket high-welfare turkey it should be cooked to 70C. At 2 hours 39 minutes take it out and use a thermometer to check the temperature of the turkey – pierce the thickest part of turkey – breast and thigh, then let it rest for at least 15 minutes. If you don’t have a thermometer pierce the thickest part of the turkey with a skewer and if the juices run clear it is ready.
  8. Parboil the potatoes in 1 tbsp salt and 1 tsp of baking soda from cold water to boiling and until the edges get soft. Drain and leave in colander till cooled – about 15 mins; or can place in fridge to cool quicker. Then shake the colander to fluff up the edges.
  9. Then put the potatoes into the tray and pour about 2 tbsp of oil and toss. Roast in oven for about 40 min. Toss about at about 20 mins. They may need longer if you like really crispy and crunchy roasties.
  10. Shred the Brussel sprouts and then put in pan to steam with some water, add butter to fry off slightly. Then tip off. Now fry off the lardons till crispy, add the chestnuts then add the Brussel sprouts again and toss through – season to taste.
  11. Fry off onion in oil till translucent but if it is catching too soon add a splash of water then add little bit of plain flour, then start thinning out with the stock, season while tasting it. If too thin, thicken with cornflour paste. Add in any leftover juices from the roasted turkey into the gravy to give extra depth. Strain and put in gravy jug
  12. Make the cranberry sauce by adding everything into a pan and mixing it and bringing it up to the boil for 5 minutes. If it gets too thick you can add a splash of water to loosen it.
  13. Timing is key, make sure you put the roasties in with 1 hour to go from finish of roasting the turkey. Make the veg and Gravy with 15 min to go.

Equipment needed:

Baking trays

Oven dishes

Baking parchment

Pots and pans

Sieves

Jug

Measuring spoons

Knives

Bun tin

Food thermometer

Kitchen scissors

Peeler

whisk

baking parchment paper

Scales

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