Using Heston’s latest Waitrose recipes to make a cheap, easy and delicious Heston Blumenthal Christmas Dinner menu.
A couple of years back we pushed the boat out with a Heston Blumenthal Christmas dinner menu. It was a luxurious and outstanding meal (with exception of that weird trifle), but took four days and the better part of £100 to make.
This year, frankly, we couldn’t be arsed. We’ve both been inhumanly busy and what precious little down time over the festive period will be spent zonked out watching Badder Santa or playing Alien: Isolation on the PS4. (In between getting kicked and jumped on by nephews and nieces, that is).
But we still want our own early Christmas dinner done the way we like it (or at least the way Heston Blumenthal tells us to like it). So this time we’ve assembled the Heston Blumenthal Christmas Dinner recipes that we think will give us the quickest, easiest and cheapest meal possible.
Our menu is gonna be:
- Heston’s Christmas Turkey recipe (actually, we’re cheating and using a ChefSteps method)
- Heston’s Ultimate Roast Potatoes recipe – a couple of tricks make his the best roasties ever
- Heston’s Christmas Gravy recipe – two shortcuts to Heston’s Roast Chicken gravy equal easy luxury
- Heston’s Pork Vanilla & Apple Stuffing – a new Heston Christmas recipe we’re eager to try
- Heston’s Christmas Carrots recipe – one tweak makes these the best & easiest carrots you’ll make
- Heston’s Brussels Sprouts recipe – a firm favourite that converts anyone to this classic Christmas veg
- Heston’s Curry-Glazed Parsnips recipe – an exciting new recipe sent to us by Gary Fenn of BigSpud
That’s seven components just for a main course. So while we are calling this easy it’s still going to take 2 days: one night of prep before a night of cooking. But, when a chef has four-day-long chocolate cake recipes, or needs £140 of ingredients to make a chilli con carne, we think two nights work and a fiver a head qualifies as cheap and easy.
Dessert: I also fancied making Heston’s Mulled Cider trifle recipe, because I love a trifle at Christmas. But since you basically start by baking biscuits from scratch just for one layer it’s completely against our lazy ethos this year. We’re just having one of those dinky Hidden Clementine Puddings from Waitrose instead.
Special Equipment: Sous Vide Cooker, Brine Syringe
Special Ingredients: None
Time: 2 easy days (about 2 hours each day)
Here’s a video of Heston making his curry-glazed parsnips recipe:
And here’s one of Heston making his Christmas classic Turkey Gravy recipe:
Split in to two days –one to prep, one to cook and serve- here’s our step by step guide to making our selection of cheap, quick and easy Heston Blumenthal Ultimate Christmas Dinner recipes.
Our three most valuable bits of advice to make cooking Christmas dinner as easy as possible are
1. Make a List (check it twice) – Write down all the steps you need to take on the day of cooking. This’ll help you visualise everything you need to do. Plus, it’s satisfying to cross things off as you go.
2. Set out all your ingredients before starting – time to use all those crappy Gü dessert pots none of us can bear to throw away. Having everything already chopped, measured and to hand saves you rummaging in cupboards or clearing space for scales. Zero panic.
3. Keep tidying and cleaning as you go – not just good for your psychological wellbeing on the day, but to avoid your cooking descending into a spectacular mess. Put oils, sauces and ingredients back where they belong to keep your workspace clear so you’ll always have somewhere to put down a pan or plate. Stay on top of washing and drying too. The last thing you want in the last half hour of cooking is a sink full of Gü dessert pots.
The Night Before
The bulk of the work for this meal takes place the night before, making cooking on the day simple and relaxing. It’s mostly cutting, pans and then putting things in clingfilm or Tupperware.
Step 1: Prepare Turkey Brine
Ever the modernist, Heston loves to use a brine to make meats more tender and moist. At the most basic you can just mix loads of salt and water (6g – 8g salt for every 100g of water) then dunk the meat in it for a few hours.
To add extra flavour you can infuse a range of herbs and spices into the brine. Coriander seeds and star anise are popular, but we’re going with a personal preference of peppercorns, thyme and lemon zest (never use the flesh of a citrus fruit in a brine, as the acids will “cook” the meat like they would a ceviche).
Add these to the brine, bring to the boil and then allow to infuse off the heat for 20 – 30 minutes. The brine will take a while to cool which is an ideal time to get on with the rest of your prep.
Step 2: Peel and Boil Potatoes
Peel your potatoes.
For extra flavour save the skins and bag them up in muslin (or a cheap hair net like we use). As Heston tells it, most of the flavour of a potato is in the skins. Add these to the water you simmer the potatoes in to turbo-charge the flavour.
The spuds themselves want cutting into quarters. Sharp corners = more crispiness.
Then rinsing under the tap until the water runs clear, to get rid of the excess surface starch.
That done add em to a pan of salted water and simmer for about 20 – 30 minutes. Don’t let the water reach a rolling boil or the movement will break up the potatoes.
You want them really well cooked and almost falling apart. We find it’s best to have a colander at the side of the cooker and fish them out one-by-one when they look ready.
But until that 20 minutes is up you’ll have time to…
Step 3: Cutting
Heston has a specific way he likes to cut his carrots, but to be honest you can chop them whichever way you like.
We’ll be cooking ours in the oven rather than on the hob (it saves space), so you can double wrap them in foil. Try to keep the carrots in a single layer for even cooking. Dot with butter, add a couple of tablespoons of water, a small sprinkle of sugar (to enhance their natural sweetness) and any herbs you want to add. We’re using thyme, but caraway seed is another Heston favourite.
For the sprouts just peel off the outer leaves, halves them and then shred them as finely as you can. This is Heston’s plan B for sprouts. Plan A is that you peel and separate every single leaf, but that takes forever and there’s far too much waste for us to recommend doing it.
Try to separate out the bitter white-yellow cores, so you have mostly fine green leaves.
Parsnips are even easier than the carrots. Just peel them, quarter them and chop out the tough cores. Cut the remaining bits to roughly equal thick batons.
All the veg can now go in the fridge for tomorrow.
This is also a good time to slice up your bacon. Depending on how much you like you’ll want one or two rashers of the streaky stuff finely sliced for the parsnips, and one or two very finely diced rashers to go with the sprouts.
Step 4: Stuffing and Gravy Prep
Don’t put your chopping boards in the sink just yet! You’ve got a couple of onions, some mushrooms and an apple to hack up.
Half the onion and the mushroom are for the gravy, so they can be covered or put in some Tupperware until tomorrow. The rest of the onion needs to be gently fried for about ten minutes until soft, then set aside to cool.
This is a good time to blitz up a few old bread crusts for the crumb topping of the stuffing.
Step 5: Sausage Meat for Stuffing
Unlike the last lot of Heston stuffing we made, where sausage meat is fried them baked along with fifty-something other ingredients this is just a simple matter of bunging a few things in a bowl and then mixing them up with your hands.
Not many things, just those onions, coriander, Dijon mustard and the contentious vanilla seeds.
Step 6: Caramelised Apples for Stuffing
The ease of this’ll depend on your skills as a caramelist. We found that the apples benefitted from a sprinkle of extra sugar on top, as well as being sat in a pool of melted caramel. They don’t take long.
Too cool them lay them on greaseproof paper – otherwise the cooling caramel will glue itself to whatever you lay the sliced rings on.
Step 7: Brine and Seal the Turkey
By this point you’ll have been at work for 2 hours or so, and that brine you made earlier will be stone cold.
Strain it through your finest sieve and then use a brine injector to deliver the flavoured salty goodness to the heart of your turkey breast.
Give it a minute to rest / drip then seal the breast in a vacuum bag. This, along with the side veg, gravy veg and roast potatoes is now finished and can be put in the fridge for tomorrow.
Step 8: Assemble the Stuffing
The apple slices should be cool by now, so lay them in the tray you’ll be cooking your stuffing in, we’re using a metal loaf tin (and an egg poaching ring in an attempt at fancy presentation).
Pack the sausage meat on top and cover with clingfilm. Put in the fridge for tomorrow.
The Day of Cooking
This is going to be three hours off staggered work. Everything up until the final 15 minutes happens at steady and relaxed pace.
3 Hours Before Serving
Put the turkey breast into your sous vide setup. The meat will sit in here out of the way until serving time.
2 Hours Before Serving
Put the oven on and put in the tray of oil and beef dripping for your potatoes.
Melt butter to make a beurre noisette to use in your gravy.
Fry the chicken wings and skimmed milk powder to use in your gravy.
Set chicken wings aside while you cook the vegetables.
90 Minutes Before Serving
Start frying the veg for the gravy.
Put your potatoes in to roast.
Add wine to the gravy vegetables and reduce.
Add stock and chicken wings to the gravy pan and simmer.
Fry the breadcrumbs for the stuffing then mix with sesame seeds.
60 Minutes Before Serving
Turn the roast potatoes.
Put the foil wrapped carrots in the oven.
Toast the curry powder for the parsnips.
Fry bacon for the parsnips.
Fry bacon for the sprouts.
30 Minutes Before Serving
Put the parsnips in a pan with butter and the curry powder. Stir for a few minutes.
Turn the roast potatoes , add bashed garlic and herbs.
Put the stuffing in the oven.
Add honey to the parsnip pan and cover. Stir every few minutes to prevent sticking.
Strain the gravy (press the food in the sieve to extract as much liquid as possible).
Blend beurre noisette into the strained gravy. It’ll turn unexpectedly pale. Keep warm on a low back hob.
15 Minutes Before Serving
Add sprouts to a pan of butter and water. Stir well and cover, shaking every few minutes to prevent sticking.
5 Minutes Before Serving
Add bacon to the pan of sprouts, stir and remove from the heat.
Add bacon to the pan of parsnips, stir and remove from the heat.
Remove carrots, stuffing and roast potatoes from the oven.
Remove turkey breast from sous vide rig. Slice open bag, pat breast dry and carve into thick slices.
Take everything to the table and let everyone serve themselves.
That’s literally it you have just made Heston Blumenthal’s Cheap and Easy Christmas dinner recipes.
Written down it might seem like a lot of steps, but we promise this was the easiest and most efficient Christmas dinner we’ve ever made. And for the most daunting-to-prepare meal of the year that has to be a good thing.
Christmas dinner is a famously complicated and demanding meal. Making every last element from scratch is a great way to show your loved ones you care (or just to show off your cooking skills), but for us it’s always a massive investment of time and effort. Though that’s mainly because we always pick longwinded Heston Blumenthal recipes.
This time we’ve found the perfect formula, and with barely any changes from Heston’s exact recipes.
We really liked the parsnips – they don’t taste of curry but of sweet, warming spice. The sprouts and roast potatoes were great as always. Carrots worked brilliantly in the oven. Aside from not having those deliciously caramelised edges you’d never know they hadn’t been cooked on the hob.
The stuffing was declared an absolute failure. The apples are a dominantly sweet in every mouthful they’re a part of and the sausage meat just shrank and toughened. As for the vanilla? Just no. It’s the exact opposite of the gorgeous Heston Stuffing recipe we first made.
Like many of Heston’s recipes these dishes aren’t slap-you-in-the-face attention seekers, just subtly and deliberately high quality versions of dishes you’ll have made before. The fact that this meal was so easy made them all the more enjoyable.
About the only change worth making would be:
- Cook the parsnips in the oven same as the carrots.
- Use a thickener, that gravy is still too thin.
P.S. here’s the utterly awesome Alien: Isolation in all its glory. Merry Christmas!
Would you try to make these Christmas recipes, or have you got a favourite Christmas recipe of your own? Would YOU put vanilla in your stuffing. Tell us your thoughts in the comments section.