Are you in charge of Christmas dinner this year? Vegetarian Chef Eddie Shepherd has some top tips to stop you stressing out come December 25th...
In charge of cooking Christmas dinner this year? Eddie Shepherd – the Vegetarian Chef who brought you Vodafone’s Knock Out Nut Roast – shares some great tips to keep everything running smoothly in the kitchen…
1. Be prepared
“Make the experience more enjoyable and less stressful by getting organised in advance. For starters, shop for your ingredients as far in advance as possible to avoid any last minute panic dashes to the busy shops.
“On top of that, make sure you’ve got all your recipes sorted ahead of time, and once you’ve got all your shopping in, see if there’s anything you can make ahead of time. Even if it’s something that’ll keep a day in advance, you’ll be glad to have the extra time come Christmas day.”
2. Get your friends and family involved
“Christmas is all about getting together with friends and family, and food is a part of that as well! Get friends and family involved in the cooking if you can, it can be a really fun experience to share, even if it is just peeling carrots and chopping onions. Let everyone be part of the preparation of the meal, not just the eating of it!
“Get friends and family involved in the cooking if you can…”
“Also, delegation is important in any kitchen. Don’t attempt to make anything so challenging that means you’re stuck in the kitchen all day. You want to be able to relax with family and friends, so get them involved and give yourself some time to relax.”
3. Get your roasties right!
“My single favourite Christmas dish is straight-forward roast potatoes – they’re so simple but so delicious. I boil the potatoes before roasting them so they’re nice and fluffy, then once they’re generously dressed with fat in the roasting tray, give them a good shake to rough up the outside of the potatoes. This will help to get a really crispy skin to your roasties, and they’ll be a beautiful accompaniment to any Christmas meal.”
4. Start using some apps
“I use my phone and tablet all the time in the kitchen, whether it’s for taking notes on the fly, storing good recipes or just so I have a timer handy, or a calculator to work out measurements and weights.
“My favourite dedicated cooking app is ‘ChefSteps’ – it’s a great app with a fantastic accompanying fantastic website full of modern culinary information. Not only that, it’s packed with stunning photography and videos, and it’s really easy to find your way around. I fully recommend it to anyone.”
5. Adventurous? Try sous vide cooking…
“If you want to try your hand at something a bit different, now’s a great time to learn about sous vide cooking. This involves cooking food in a low temperature water bath – it’s a technique that chefs are using more and more because it’s simple, gives you loads of control and exact results.
“Now the technology is affordable for home cooks and it’s set to become the next big thing in home cooking over the next few years. So, why not get ahead of the curve? There are even apps out there now that’ll calculate the exact time and temperatures you need for whatever you’re cooking.”
6. Get excited about presentation
“For home cooks, some of the effort I put into presentation would be excessive, but there are some simple things that you can do to make your food stand out on the plate. Once you’ve put all the effort into making a lovely meal, it’s well worth making it look as special as possible!
“There are some simple things that you can do to make your food stand out on the plate.”
“Think about colour and shapes when plating up – adding some herbs or leaves to a finished dish can help to make it look more vibrant, and think about having contrasting shapes on the plate. Have a play with how you arrange everything, maybe even think about how you want it to look beforehand and do some rough sketches.
“When I put a dish together, I start with the flavours and work on that until I have something delicious and hopefully, interesting! Once I’m happy with that, then I think about how these elements might fit together in the presentation. I tend to like my food to look colourful, modern, sometimes a bit alien.
I might draw some sketches but in the end you have to have all the finished elements to hand and just try them out on the plate, presenting them in a few different ways until something clicks and you find an idea that really works.”
7. Thinking about a vegetarian Christmas?
“Firstly, I would never try to convert anyone to being a vegetarian. The most I can do is try to show vegetarian food at its very best, but it’s up to individuals to make the decisions that suit them. I hope I can show vegetarian food at its most appealing, by making it as delicious and beautiful as possible.
“Having no meat doesn’t mean you have to lose those ‘meaty’ flavours. I use a lot of deep, ‘meaty’ flavours in my cooking, often by focusing on umami from ingredients like mushrooms and fermented products, or by adding smokey flavours. I also use a lot of fresh herbs and citrus flavours to keep the food vibrant and bright in flavour.”
Try our Knock Out Nut Roast! Fancy something a bit different for dinner this Christmas? Check out our Nut Roast recipe – and some very handy videos – right here.