Today we share Christmas memories with chef Rozanne Stevens, and raid her Christmas recipe collection for some must-cook gift ideas!
What is your first food memory of Christmas?
My first food memory is of the beautifully laid table with the Royal Dalton china and crystal glasses. With Christmas crackers for each person and a Rose’s chocolate at each placemat. My mom would have all the food served on beautiful platters and kept warm on a hot ‘hostess tray’. Does anyone remember those? I think it was the ‘must have’ appliance in the seventies, and it’s still going strong!
Can you tell us a little about your Christmas celebrations, and what it means to you?
As I live in Ireland and my family lives in South Africa, Christmas is a real homecoming. I know it’s the same for many Irish people with loved ones living abroad. Anyone who is a prodigal son or daughter returning home is looking for familiar comforts, traditions and dishes. We don’t expect anything fancy, just to be with our families enjoying the time together.
Do you follow your mother’s recipe for Christmas dinner or have you evolved?
I still make my mom’s pumpkin fritters and green beans with croutons. And I have the most amazing stuffing recipe from my dad and the technique for making the best roast leg of lamb. I’ll be cheeky and say that I make better gravy though and my cider ham is a thing of beauty.
What unusual addition is unique to your Christmas feast?
Most of my recipes have a little twist to be honest. I particularly like serving really tasty vegetable dishes that aren’t an afterthought. One of my favourites is roasted parsnips and pears with blue cheese and walnuts. I also love braised red cabbage with port and spices. It’s very long winded to cook, but can be made the day before.
What are your top three tips for a person cooking their first ever Christmas dinner?
Draw up your shopping list well in advance and place a delivery order or pick up if possible.
Create a time plan so you can get ahead with things the day before, such as peeling and dicing vegetables.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help, if someone can lend a hand doing things like laying the table, plating up the starters or carving the ham.
What are your top tips for cooking roast turkey?
Most turkeys are sold frozen. Leave it to defrost a full 24 hours in the fridge.
Pat the turkey dry with kitchen paper, do not wash it!
Keep the breast meat juicy by pushing softened, seasoned butter under the turkey breast skin. You can add herbs such as sage, rosemary and thyme.
What is the secret to the perfect honey roast ham?
I believe in simmering my ham in a large pot of water and cider first until fully cooked. I then remove the skin and cover it with the glaze before popping it into a hot oven to caramelise. I don’t like baking the ham from start to finish, I think it turns out dry.