Have you ever been curious about a traditional British Christmas Dinner? If you have, today is your lucky day! Thomas Brock has written a detailed account of his Christmas dinner in the latest entry of Thomas’ Blog! Read, learn some new vocabulary, and practise English!
In essence – the most fundamental or essential nature of something.
“In essence, the project is about improving communication within the company.”
Mainstay – a person or thing that is the most important or essential support of something.
“The mainstay of the company’s success has been its ability to adapt to market changes.“
Centre-piece – the central or most important item in a collection or display.
“The centre-piece of the art exhibit was a sculpture made entirely out of recycled materials.”
Excessive – more than is necessary or normal.
“His excessive spending habits led to him filing for bankruptcy.”
Slab – a flat piece of something, especially a thick piece of material such as stone, concrete, or wood.
“The construction workers laid a slab of concrete for the new building’s foundation.”
Cavity – a hole or hollow space in something.
“The dentist filled the cavity in my tooth with a temporary filling.”
Must-have – something that is essential or necessary to have.
“The new smartphone is a must-have for anyone who values high-quality camera features”
Synonymous – having the same or almost the same meaning as another word or phrase.
“”Big” and “large” are synonymous words.”
Ludicrously – extremely or absurdly unreasonable, unfair, or out of proportion.
“It’s ludicrously expensive to own a car in the city.“
Forgo – to give up or do without something, especially something desirable.
“She decided to forgo dessert in order to save room for dinner.”
Caramelise – to heat sugar until it turns brown and has a distinctive flavor and aroma, used in cooking or baking.
“The chef caramelized the onions to add a rich, sweet flavor to the dish.”
Traditional British Christmas Dinner!
If you know me, then you know that I am a huge lover of food! I want to share some amazing food with you and even use food as a way of learning about language and culture. And what better way to begin my food love letter, than with the Great British Christmas Dinner.
As I mentioned in my last post, this year I was lucky enough to enjoy two Christmases, and Christmas just wouldn’t be Christmas without some amazing food! And with two Christmases, comes two Christmas dinners. One prepared by my auntie and uncle, and one by me, my very own small-scale Christmas dinner, all made by me.
As amazing as the food was created by my auntie and uncle, with help from all the family, what I really want to share is my Christmas dinner. This was the first time I had ever made Christmas dinner, so it wasn’t perfect, but I gave it a good shot.
The traditional Christmas dinner in the UK is in essence, a roast dinner, or Sunday lunch. However, it is no ordinary roast dinner. The mainstay of Christmas dinner in the UK is turkey. I believe that traditionally goose was preferred, but these days turkey is the go to centre-piece. Many families will often serve two or even more meats, beef, pork, lamb, duck are some I’ve had in the past.
Here is a list of what I think are the components that you would expect to find on your plate if you are enjoying a Christmas dinner in the UK:
- Roast meat(s) – Usually turkey
- Pigs in blankets
- Roast potatoes
- Brussel sprouts
- Carrots and/or parsnips
- Mashed Swede
- Bread sauce
- Cauliflower Cheese
- Cranberry Sauce
There are other items that you may find on the table at christmas, and I did not prepare all of the items on this list. I will make future blog posts about rast dinners and make sure to mention all of the foods in the list above!
So, the turkey! A large bird such as a turkey can be tricky to get right. You need to cook it for long enough to ensure it is cooked all the way through, but at the same time, it is possible to over-do your turkey and be left with very dry meat.
There are different practices when it comes to the turkey. Some will start the cooking process the night before Christmas day, others wake up in the early hours to get it in the oven. A common practice is to cover the turkey in strips of bacon, and of course to stuff the turkey with stuffing.
Our family turkey was cooked to perfection by my auntie and uncle. It was delicious. But for my own personal Christmas dinner for three, a turkey was both difficult to obtain and also excessive. We therefore went with a roast chicken.
Let’s talk about that chicken. When it comes to roast chicken I roughly follow Jamie Oliver’s guidelines that I learnt many years ago. It’s important to season your meat. I love the process of preparing food. Everything you do has an effect once the food is served, and one of the best examples of this is in a roast chicken.
So I make a simple mix of olive oil, parsley, salt and pepper, and I use this to cover the chicken. Simple right? Well here is the best bit. If you gently use your fingers to separate the skin from the breast meat of the chicken, you create essentially a small pocket, which is the perfect size for a lovely slab of delicious butter.
I usually cover my butter in the oil mixture first, then I gently slide each slice under the skin. This has an incredible effect of melting and crisping up the skin of the chicken for that delicious golden crunch. The last step is to stick some lemon in the cavity of the chicken. You can boil the lemon first to warm it up. I didn’t bother, I just sliced my lemon in two.
But roast meat is not the only must-have in a Christmas dinner. Our next absolute necessary component is pigs in blankets. If you don’t know what pigs in blankets are, then I’m sorry to say that you have been missing out, but don’t worry, because they are actually incredibly simple. Pigs in blankets are sausages wrapped in a piece of bacon. Simple.
Pigs in blankets are synonymous with Christmas. Despite them being incredibly simple to make and cook, and the fact that they are so ludicrously delicious, the vast majority of Brits only ever have them at Christmas. Perhaps in our dedication to the special feeling of Christmas dinner, we forgo such an attainable luxury all year round.
Next up are brussel sprouts. Brussel sprouts are the marmite of the Christmas menu; some love them, some hate them. I personally love brussel sprouts, but I understand where the hatred comes from. It is very easy to get brussel sprouts wrong. – Often I have seen and heard horror stories of overcooked, soggy, bland, unseasoned, mushy brussels sprouts served at Christmas. – Yuck!
Just like everything on the table at Christmas, or indeed at any meal, at any time of the day, week, month and year, what brussel sprouts require is a little thought, and a little culinary love. The best way to prepare them, in my own humble and very amateur opinion, is to fry them in butter and olive oil with garlic and bacon. No sogginess, tons of flavour, firm yet crispy texture, well seasoned. Besides, bacon and garlic make almost anything better.
Roast potatoes are almost a religion in the UK. We bloody love ‘em. To be quite honest, I would be surprised at anyone who didn’t like soft, fluffy balls of starchy goodness, wrapped in a crispy sweet and crunchy roasted exterior.
I recently learnt the trick of adding some baking powder to the water in which you boil the potatoes prior to roasting. This helps the potatoes become even fluffier. Another trick is to allow your potatoes to dry out once they are done softening in the boiling water.
Wet potatoes will not crisp up nearly as well!
I roasted my potatoes in oil, butter, garlic, rosemary, salt and pepper.
Carrots and parsnips make excellent roast vegetables. They can be roasted in much the same way as the potatoes, but don’t need to be pre-boiled. Both carrots and parsnips benefit hugely from the addition of honey in the roasting process. The added sweetness allows them to caramalise even more, and you end up with a delicious, sweet, sticky roast veg that is packed full of flavour. – I just had carrots this year, no parsnips.
Lastly, let’s talk about gravy.
Gravy is very important to British people. It is a key part of a roast dinner, but you will also find it in other places. In some parts of the UK gravy is the favourite topping for chips, and can even be found in sandwiches. It is made from the juices that come out of roast meat.
I won’t go into huge detail about how I make my gravy, perhaps I will write a seprate blog all about it.
And with that, the dinner is complete.
This blog post has gone on for far to long to include deserts. So I may make a seperate post to talk about the many deserts that make a British Christmas dinner, but until then, that’s it from me.
Please share your own thoughts about British Christmas food!
Have you every tried it? Have you ever made any of it?
What are your own Christmas food traditions in your own countries?
What special foods do you eat in the winter, at Christmas or New Year?
What do you think of my Christmas dinner?
Comment below your answers!
What is your favourite thing to eat in the festive holidays?