It is that time of the year. The trees have been decorated, the lights strung up around the windows, nativity scenes assembled, and stockings hung (by the chimney with care). It also means that it is time to start planning your Christmas dinner. For many of us, that means making travel arrangements, but for the hosts of these pivotal dinners, it means creating an efficient plan, ordering the turkey, picking the best vegetables, and food preparation. To help you with your Christmas dinner execution we have trawled through the newspapers and found recipes and tips for your starters, turkey, stuffing, desserts, and cocktails.
Repeatedly we found articles describing the Christmas dinner as the most important dinner of the year. Not a feat to be taken lightly. So we thought to help you with your day we will start with some excellent cocktail recipes. In this first article from The Sphere in 1930, we have found some recipes for the Sidecar, Strand, Champagne Punch, and Egg-Nog. You can make non-alcoholic egg-nog, but this recipe calls for brandy and rum. The Champagne Punch sounds delicious with oranges, tangerines, Indian tea, brandy, and garnished with pineapple and grapes.
We came across this recipe for a Christmas Cocktail and it immediately caught our eye on the results page when we read that it included custard powder. You will also need ground ginger, full cream condensed milk, an ounce of butter, sugar, water, and brandy or rum. We are curious how this one will turn out, let us know if you tried it.
Britannia and Eve helps us with some basic party etiquette and reminds us how to be a good host.
‘Mix your guests intelligently at all costs. Don’t expect the loneliest young man to be quite happy without the assistance of some young woman, and vice versa. Forget they are strangers, and that there is such a thing as English reserve. This is Christmas, and we have been fighting a war for four years to promote goodwill among men. A sprinkling of children among the guests is excellent for the Christmas spirit. If they are a trifle boisterous, what of it? – this is the season of enjoyment’.
Traditionally, the Christmas dinner’s centrepiece would have been a goose. But in the last 100 years, the turkey has become the established bird for the Christmas dinner. In 1905, the Illustrated Police News reported the decline of the Christmas goose and the rise of the turkey as the king of the ‘festive board’.
How to pick your bird?
The Birmingham Daily Gazette tells us first we need to pick a turkey that will fit in the oven! Definitely a key factor. Then the breast should be tried between the fingers for flexibility and the flesh should be white.
Picking your turkey. ‘Buy the turkey to fit the oven’. The breastbone should be tried between the fingers for flexibility and the flesh should be white.
The same newspaper also provided cooking tips. The turkey should be well-larded and covered with two pieces of grease-proof paper with water sprinkled to protect the breast meat. Halfway through cooking, turn the bird over, add more fat, and replace the paper.
In the Londonderry Sentinel, we found a guide for cooking and stuffing the turkey as well as making your bread sauce and cooking your vegetables.
The Ballymena Observer recommends adding bacon to the turkey breast and basting with hot fat frequently.
The Bystander gives us a full Christmas menu including roast turkey with chestnut stuffing, boiled turkey with oyster stuffing, roast goose, banana stuffing, and chestnuts as a vegetable.
While your turkey is cooking, you can get started on your appetisers. We have found some excellent recipes from a simple tomato soup to the more extravagant lobster au gratin. You can also try an orange salad or a celery surprise instead.
What do you serve with your main course? Along with the turkey cooking instructions, we saw some recipes for stuffing and vegetables. We may not all love them, but brussel sprouts have become a staple of the Christmas meal. Dundee Courier gives us some advice for cooking the green veg. ‘When preparing sprouts don’t cut the whole of the stalks off. When put into water the leaves disintegrate and become more like boiled cabbage than brussel sprouts. Cut a tiny bit off the stalk, remove damaged leaves from around the outside and place in boiling salted water. When they are cooked run cold water into the pan until the sprouts are really cold. In this way, they retain their colour’. Then they are ready for heating when it is close to the time for dinner.
And of course, you have the all-important bread sauce.
After we have filled ourselves with the starters, the turkey, the sauce, the vegetables, and then more turkey, it is time to move on to the sweet stuff. Britannia and Eve has an excellent recipe for the traditional Christmas pudding. Their essential rule for success is to mix your puddings well.
For a slight twist on the traditional recipe, we found a recipe for an Outback Iced Christmas pudding from Australian in Aberdeen Evening Express.
For a lighter dessert, you could serve the Jelly Crème de Menthe with a layer of sliced bananas.
Finally, you can try some of the cake recipes we discovered in an earlier Cookery Corner about cakes.
Go out for dinner
In the end, if the selecting the turkey, making the stuffing, boiling the pudding, and mixing cocktails are all too much for you, head off to a hotel or restaurant for your Christmas dinner! Here is a scene from a London West-End restaurant from 1910.
Have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!