Christmas dinner dilemmas sorted

Even the most experienced cooks can find serving up the perfect Christmas dinner a daunting task with so many bits to cook at once. Here’s our tips and tricks to fix the most common problems, from undercooked veg to panics over veggie alternatives.

  1. Everything is ready, but my roasties aren’t golden and crisp

    Don't panic! Heat a large frying pan on the hob with a generous splash of rapeseed oil (or duck fat). When hot, cook the potatoes, stirring, for 5-10 mins until golden and crisp.

  2. My gravy tastes bland

    This could be down to the strength of your stock. If it’s not already salty, crumble in a chicken stock cube and add a small glass of white wine (or a splash of leftover bubbly), ½ tsp Marmite and a bay leaf; season with black pepper. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for a few mins until reduced slightly. Taste and season if needed. Adjust the flavour by adding a little sharpness and sweetness – a small squeeze of lemon and a little redcurrant jelly both work – then thicken as per the recipe.

    For more tips on the perfect gravy, have a look at our simple guide to making gravy for any roast

  3. How can I cook Christmas lunch without dairy?

    Rub oil into the turkey skin instead of butter, switch to oil for cooking stuffing and any side dishes, and watch out for dairy in ready-made stocks and gravies. Serve a herby butter alongside for other guests to add at the table, if they like. Use unsweetened soya or almond milk to make bread sauce. For dessert, try serving up our whipped cream made with coconut milk instead of double cream or brandy butter.

    For more dairy-free inspiration, see our best vegan Christmas recipes

  4. How can I make my menu flexible for vegetarians?

    Choose a vegetarian starter that everyone can enjoy; a seasonal salad is the perfect set-up for the big meal ahead, try adding some punchy cheese or crunchy nuts for a satisfying mix of textures and flavours.

    Ditch the duck fat for the roasties – rapeseed oil is a great alternative. Avoid adding pancetta or bacon to the sprouts (or fry this separately and serve in a bowl for other guests to sprinkle over). Make a vegetarian gravy a couple of days ahead (or buy one), so you can reheat it in the microwave or in a small pan on the hob.

    Avoid gelatine-based puddings (check ready-made trifles) and ensure you’ve used vegetarian suet in the Christmas pudding and mincemeat – or buy vegetarian-friendly mince pies. Don’t forget, we’ve got plenty of recipes for vegetarian centrepiece dishes including our eye-catching red onion and beetroot quiche.

  5. Help! I’ve forgotten to buy nibbles

    If you have pigs-in-blankets, you can turn them into nibbles instead of serving alongside the turkey. Pile onto a plate with an instant dip made from wholegrain mustard and crème fraîche.

    For more easy ideas, try our 3-ingredient canapés that you might be able to rustle up with bits you already have, such as these pesto-stuffed baked mushrooms or oozy Brie and cranberry bites, you could use any thick bread instead of the focaccia to suit what you have. 

  6. My red cabbage is too sweet. Is it ruined?

    Don’t worry, this should be easy to salvage: on reheating, stir in a little balsamic or red wine vinegar (1 tsp at a time) and check the seasoning, adding a little more salt to taste. You could also add a splash of port or red wine to help balance the sweetness, or stir through a herb or spiced butter before serving as in this red cabbage with thyme and caraway recipe. 

  7. The turkey skin is browning quickly but the meat isn’t cooked – what should I do?

    Perhaps you used too much butter on the skin, or your oven thermostat could be inaccurate. If the skin is dark golden but not burnt, cover the bird fully but loosely with foil and return to the oven – it’s likely to cook more quickly if your oven is hotter, so check it ahead of the full cooking time. If the skin is burnt, carefully peel away the burnt bits and cover the breast with streaky bacon or pancetta. Return to the oven and reduce the temperature by 20°C (this may affect the overall cooking time). Keep an eye on it, and cover with foil if necessary.

    Have a look at our seven tips to turkey success and top hosting helps for more pointers when it comes to cooking the perfect Christmas dinner.