The consummate host will tell you to treat the Christmas feast like a Sunday roast, just on a larger scale. But the truth is it can be hard to resist all the extras – the trimmings that sneak into the menu on top of roasties, red cabbage and sprouts; the desire for extra sauces; the requests from guests for a different pudding (or three).
Whatever your menu, let our experts help you get the essentials – those crowd-pleasing must-haves – just right. We’ve put to the test all manner of methods for roast potatoes in order to find the perfect result; we’ve run gravy through the gauntlet to settle on an ideal approach.
There are shortcuts, too, for stuffing, frozen veg and canapés, recommended by chefs and food experts to make your life easier.
Dig in, and have a very happy Christmas!
The main event
Turkey and all the trimmings is still the nation’s most loved festive tradition (behind decorating the tree, according to a John Lewis survey) and sales of the bird are up 23 per cent this year at Waitrose. Here we share our favourite recipes for 25 December.
The showstopper turkey
Simply push onion quarters and a cored apple into the cavity of the bird and roast to a golden brown.
The deconstructed turkey
Mark Hix separates the legs from the crown before cooking to use the whole bird to maximum effect. The legs are stuffed with thyme, onion and turkey mince, served alongside perfectly cooked breasts.
The perfect roast potatoes
King Edward or Maris Piper, goose fat or sunflower oil, crunchy coating or pure chuff? Eleanor Steafel tests all approaches side by side to establish the ultimate method for first-rate roasties.
Read the full tips and get the recipe here
The gravy everyone remembers
Gravy is where all the flavour can be found in a roast dinner. You don’t need buckets of it, but get it right and a couple of spoonfuls can make the meal. The roasting-tin contents, the fat, extra liquids and thickening tricks – Eleanor Steafel weighs it all up for best results.
Read the full tips and get the recipe here
For many of us, iced Christmas cake and a flaming steamed pudding is sacrosanct, while others prefer a bit of light relief from all those vine fruits. Our favourite options follow.
The classic Christmas pudding
Diana Henry’s recipe has evolved over the years but now she’s found her ideal formula, it’s not changing. The fruit is soaked in ale, rum or whisky, and the juice of an orange and lemon; tea-soaked prunes, mashed banana and grated apple also star.
Alternative festive desserts
For Christmas pudding naysayers, alternatives can be no-hassle but still grand: “a platter of black grapes; a glowing slab of quince cheese (buy it) to eat with the Stilton; dried figs – stuffed with a chunk of plain chocolate and a nugget of marzipan – each wrapped in purple tissue paper,” Diana Henry writes.But anything homemade must be rich or glittering or both. Cue Sauternes custards, bitter chocolate cake with cranberry compote, and a meringue wreath with mango, passion fruit and pistachos.
Picking drinks for Christmas can feel like yet another daunting task so our experts have put together a series of suggestions to make it a little bit easier, from festive wine selections to party shopping guides and the best no and low options around.
The 25 best wines to enjoy this Christmas
Victoria Moore recommends wines to pour with a warm mince pie, while you decorate the tree, and to match smoked salmon; some all-round good-value bottles that work as house wines or to open for impromptu drinks when neighbours drop in; and wines to drink with classic Christmas food.
What to serve at every occasion
A guide for hosts and guests: what bottles to stock up on and what to take for big bashes, family gatherings and more, from wines and spirits to beers, cocktails and softs.
Tips and tricks
Even if you think you’ve got your food and drink line-up nailed, there’s always room for inspiration. Our taste tests, product reviews, recommended cheats and shop-bought solutions will help the day run all the more smoothly.
Nigella Lawson’s Christmas dinner shortcuts and other items it is acceptable to buy
Taking culinary shortcuts is a must for any host wishing to retain their sanity over Christmas, and not least because the oven has a finite capacity. Do as Nigella says and give yourself the gift of a few clever kitchen hacks this year.
The Telegraph’s Christmas taste tests
Putting in the hard graft so you don’t have to, we hit the aisles to taste and rate the high street’s Christmas creations. In strict blind tests, products from the supermarkets and specialist suppliers are judged on taste, texture, quality and design, in order to set out those that are most worth your money – and which will bring festive cheer to your table.
William Sitwell appraises snowy icing and plump vine fruit in a line-up of bakes, ranging from bijou designs to large rounds to feed a crowd. The best cuts the right balance between naff and classy.
Shop-bought pies must be really special to lure Diana Henry away from her homemade half-dozen. But with buttery pastry and mincemeat that both smells and tastes of festive cheer, there’s a champion on the shelves this year.
The surprise winner tastes just how Mark Hix likes this festive classic – not too oily, firm in texture and perfectly smoked.