Christmas tips from Truro School Cookery’

Aj looks forward to Christmas all year, and his cottage is already festooned with twinkly lights and homegrown holly. The salmon smoker in his garden is hard at work curing his Christmas morning breakfast, his pantry is lined with jars of homemade mincemeat, chilli jelly and Christmas chutney and his homemade gifts of allotment elderflower cordial, pickled beetroot and green tomato jam are waiting to be wrapped in his hand printed paper. Margot the cockapoo is enjoying wearing her home-knitted woolly jumper and her Christmas Eve collar is hung up over the fireplace ready for the 24th. Maria, on the other hand, is already complaining that Christmas is a conspiracy against working Mothers. In her house, it’s a different kettle of fish entirely… she’s on first named terms with the local DPD driver, has missed all the supermarket delivery slots and completely forgotten where she hid the Christmas presents bought before the November lockdown. The chickens have hung up a ‘Not laying until Spring 2021’ sign on the hen house, she’s already drunk the mulled wine she bought back in October, and is wondering whether she can change the date on the homemade chutney Aj gave her last year with a bottle of nail varnish and a sharpie.  What they do both have in common however, is their view that whether you’re having turkey, beef or goose for dinner this year, it’s the gravy and roast potatoes which really make the feast.  

Now, gravy wise, there are three main rules.  Firstly, instant gravy powder does not have a place in anyone’s kitchen– a little plain flour stirred into the meat juices in the pan is all your need as the starting point. Secondly, you need to save the vegetable cooking water to stir into the roasting pan next, seasoning well and gently bringing to a simmer. Lastly, it’s about what you add towards the end – a dash of Worcestershire sauce, spoonful of redcurrant jelly or caramelised onion chutney, or a glug of red wine…the list is endless.  Good seasoning is a must, and finally the juices from the rested meat.

Roast potatoes are a bit more emotive. Both Aj and Maria agree that you MUST use a good quality floury potato such as a King Edward or Maris Piper; peeled, parboiled and drained before returning to the pan to be shaken with the lid on for those all-important floury edges. They also agree that the fat in the roasting tin should be pre-heated and REALLY hot before the potatoes are put into roast. Now Maria swears by a light olive oil topped with lots of crushed Cornish sea salt, whereas Aj goes ‘old school’ with goose fat, then ‘rogue’ topped with a crumbled chicken oxo cube. Whoever you choose to follow, roast at 180 c / Gas mark 5 for at least 45 minutes, turning regularly then draining on plenty of kitchen roll before serving ….. and don’t forget to save the crispiest tastiest little morsel for the Chef!!

However, and with whoever, you are celebrating this Christmas, please take time to enjoy the simple things, and let’s all raise a glass to a very healthy and happy 2021.

Love from Maria, Aj and the team at Truro School Cookery xxx