How to make Christmas Lunch easy!

christmas dinner table how to organise christmas day dinner what to cook
John Quigley red onion
John Quigley of Red Onion.

Delegation, preparation and organisation…these are the 3 watchwords that will get you through a stress free Christmas Lunch.

We asked John Quigley of The Red Onion to give us some tips on how to have a stress free Christmas.  The following is a recap on how to serve up the perfect Christmas Lunch. It’s pretty much all you need to know and is bound to impress friends and family and hopefully give you time to relax and enjoy a few sherries on the big day too.

Remember, keep it simple and concentrate on 3/4 quality side dishes rather than a multitude which will only get you in a tiz. The key words to get you through the festives are preparation, organisation and delegation! so try to get well prepped before the 25th and rope in family and friends to lighten the load


Crab, avocado, tiger prawn and pink grapefruit cocktail with sweet chilli Marie Rose dressing.


Bacon roast Turkey with sage and onion stuffing.

Sea salt roast potatoes.

Orange and star anise glazed carrots.

Green bean almondine.


Flaming Alaskan bombes


Starters should be light and tasty, you don’t want to fill up everyone ahead of the main event.

Seafood adds a real touch of luxury to Christmas dinner and the following starter is simple, fresh & zesty.

Crab, tiger prawn, avocado & pink grapefruit cocktail with zingy marie rose dressing.

Serves 8 people

For the dressing;

Ings;4 tbsp Mayonnaise,4 tbsp greek yogurt,4 tblsp sweet chilli sauce,juice of 1 lime,1 tbsp ketchup

Method; Combine all ingredients in mixing bowl & mix well.Cover & keep in fridge. Prep up to 3 days in advance.

For the salad

Ings; 250g (9oz) white crabmeat (if in a can drain well),2 lge Avocado,1 pink grapefruit,2 tblsp light olive oil, Juice of 1 lime,300g cooked peeled tiger prawns, Small handful chopped mint leaves, A few shredded iceberg leaves,

Method; Peel & cut grapefruit into small bite sized pieces. Peel & cut avocado into bite size pieces. Combine grapefruit, avocado, crab, prawns, iceberg, mint, lime juice and olive oil in a bowl and lightly season with salt & pepper. Gently toss together and divide mix between cocktail glasses cover and leave in fridge for up to 2 hours. When ready to serve top each cocktail with a generous spoonful of the dressing.


Traditional roast turkey and trimmings.

Handy chef tips;

For the turkey you will need a large roasting tin preferably non-stick which measures approx 40cm x 30cm (make sure it fits your oven!), ideally made from carbon steel with riveted handles.

Don’t keep opening the oven door, this will reduce the temperature and the turkey will take longer to cook.

Fresh or frozen?

Fresh: Collect fresh turkey on 23rd or 24th December; remove packaging and any giblets (reserve for gravy). Wipe inside the turkey with damp kitchen roll and outside with dry kitchen roll if the turkey is wet, place on a large deep plate covered with foil and place in the bottom of the fridge – bring to room temperature 1 hour before roasting.

Frozen: Needs to be thawed in the fridge by Christmas Eve. Remove packaging and thaw in a cool place or immersed in cold water thawing times – allow 1 hour 50 mins per 450g/1lb. Size to buy – 2.25kg/5lb serves 4/6 people, 3.6kg/8lb serves 6/8 people, 5kg/11lb serves 8/10 people, 6.75kg/15lb serves 10/20 people.

How long to roast?

Weigh the turkey on your bathroom scales after it has been stuffed. Allow 18 mins per 450g/1lb.

Is it cooked?

If you have a meat thermometer push into thickest part of thigh it should read 90C if turkey is cooked. Alternatively pierce thigh with skewer if juices run clear and golden turkey is cooked if they are pink or bloodied return bird to oven for further half hour.

Bacon basted turkey

Ready in 2 hours 50 minutes plus about 30-45 minutes resting. Serves 8

Ings; 50g unsalted butter,3.6kg/8lb Turkey,8 rashers streaky bacon,Salt & pepper,

For the stuffing

Ings; 75g/3 oz white breadcrumb,25g/1oz chopped fresh sage,1 large onion finely sliced,900g/2lb pork sausage meat, Salt and freshly ground black pepper,

Method; Mix breadcrumb, sage and onion then stir in 2tbl boiling water, mix thoroughly. Mix sausage meat into this mixture thoroughly, season with salt & pepper. Preheat the oven to fan 170C/conventional 190C/Gas 5. Wash a 3.6ky turkey (thawed with giblets removed) inside and out, and dry well with kitchen paper. Loose the skin and pack as much of the stuffing into the neck end as possible then tuck neck flap under bird. Weigh the turkey and calculate the cooking time 18 minutes per 450g. Lift the turkey on to the roasting tin and rub 50g butter over the skin. Season generously with salt and pepper, then cover loosely with foil and roast for the calculated time, basting with the juices every hour. With 30 mins cooking time left to go, remove the foil and drape 8 rashers of smoked streaky bacon over the breast and thighs and return to the over. At the end of the cooking time remove the turkey from the oven. Cover with a tight tent of foil and leave to rest for up to 45 mins before you carve.

Fresh cranberry sauce.


150g/5oz caster sugar, 200ml/7floz water, 75ml/3floz orange juice, 1 orange zest 50ml/2floz red wine, 200g/7oz cranberries, 2 star anise.


1.Combine all ings in sauce pan, bring to boil and simmer for 20 min till cranberries burst and sauce thickens.

Taste and adjust for sweet or sourness.


Sea salt roasted potatoes

Ings;2.5kg Maris Piper potatoes peeled and cut into 5cm chunks,50ml olive oil,30g unsalted butter, Flaky sea salt,

Method; Place potatoes in large pan of cold water, bring to boil, turn down heat simmer for 7 minutes until edges are soft, drain in colander shaking to roughen edges, pour oil & butter in deep roasting pan and heat for 3-4 mins over medium heat until butter has melted, add potatoes in single layer coat in oil and butter, return to top shelf of oven roast for 1 hour at 200C/Gas 6 turning over after 30 mins, drain oil from potatoes and cook for 5 mins more to crisp up, sprinkle with sea salt to serve. When it comes to vegetable accompaniments cut a quick corner by buying ready prepared vegetables – baby carrots are ideal they do not require peeling as are ready topped & tailed green beans.

Orange and star anise glazed carrots.

Ings;500ml of vegetable or chicken stock, 50g unsalted butter, juice of 1 orange, approximately 800g baby carrot,
Method; Put stock, butter and orange juice in medium sized pan and bring to boil – add carrots, return to boil reduce to medium heat and cook for 12-15mins stirring occasionally. By the time carrots are tender you should be left with a small amount of buttery sauce to glaze carrots with, if not take out carrots, boil down juices further and put carrots back in and toss in the buttery sauce, sprinkle with parsley.

Green beans Almondine

Ings;450g green beans trimmed,50g unsalted butter,

50g shaved almonds, juice half a lemon, salt & pepper,

Method; Place the beans in a pan of salted boiling water, simmer for 3 mins until tender. Drain and transfer to serving dish meanwhile heat butter with almonds in frying pan stirring until nuts are golden squeeze in lemon juice season with salt and pepper and pour over beans.


The gravy can be made a couple of days in advance as soon as you’ve purchased your turkey. If you’re using frozen remove giblets as soon as turkey is defrosted.

Ings; The turkey giblets, including the neck and liver,1 onion, peeled and sliced in half,1 carrot, sliced in half lengthways, a few stalks fresh parsley,1 stalk celery (plus a few leaves),1 bay leaf,6 whole black peppercorns,2oz unsalted butter,2oz plain flour,2 tbsp wholegrain mustard, Salt & pepper,

Method; Start off by rinsing the giblets then add them to a medium saucepan along with the halved onion. Pour in 850ml (1.5 pints) of water and bring up to simmering point. Then, when you’ve removed any surface scum with a draining spoon, add the rest of the ingredients, half-cover the pan with a lid and simmer for 1.5-2hours. After that, strain the stock.

For the gravy, melt butter in medium pot whisk in flour and cook for 3 mins until golden gradually whisk in the turkey stock cooking until the gravy is smooth, stir in mustard, simmer for 5mins adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, allow to cool and cover and place in fridge. Prior to serving gravy, on the day heat through in saucepan and add 6tbslp on cooked turkey juices.


An alternative to Christmas pudding but still with a festive feel, you’re sure to impress your guests and it can be prepared up to 3 days in advance, freeze on a baking tray and then just pop in the oven.

Flaming Christmas Pudding Bombes x 8

Ings; 8 x 1cm thick slices of Madeira cake,8tsp chocolate spread,8 scoops good quality rum & raisin ice cream,4 large egg whites,220g/8 oz golden caster sugar,¼ bottle rum to flambé,2 tbsp demerara sugar,

Method; Using a 6com round cutter stamp out a disk from each slice of Madeira cake and place on a baking sheet lined with baking parchment, spread each disc with a teaspoon of chocolate spread, top with a scoop of ice cream and place in the freezer. Now make the meringue, whisk egg whites until they hold stiff peaks, gradually add caster sugar whisking well after each addition, and continue whisking for a minute or two until the meringue is stiff and glossy. Cover each cake and ice cream ball with the meringue mixture and return to freezer until needed.

To cook on the day, place baking tray on middle shelf of pre-heated oven 240C/Gas 9 for 2-3 minutes until golden at the edges, remove meringues from oven and put onto individual plates. Bring rum and demerara sugar to the boil and flambé spoon over individual puddings at the table – remember to turn the lights down for effect.


2 Days before-Make minty crème fraiche dressing. Make Puddings. Make cranberry sauce.

Christmas Eve-Peel the potatoes and keep covered in cold water. Make gravy. Make stuffing. Peel and cut carrots.

Christmas Day

9.30am Stuff turkey and calculate cooking time, preheat oven.

10.00am Put turkey in oven to roast, timings based on 4K bird

10.30am Wash and prepare salad leaves for starter.

11.30am Start potatoes

12.15pm Remove turkey, cover tightly with foil, leave to rest

12.30pm Pop potatoes in oven

1.00pm Prepare side vegetables

1.30pm Heat the gravy

1.45pm Plate up salmon salad and cover

1.45pm Warm plates and serving dishes and put out starters on table

2.00pm Start lunch-Phewee!

christmas dinner table how to organise christmas day dinner what to cook

us foodie explorers



I am Emma and with my husband Mark write Foodie Explorers which is a food and travel website.

I am a member of the Guild of Food Writers and British Guild of Travel Writers.

We have a wide range of judging experience covering products, hotels and have judged, for example, for Great Taste Awards and Scottish Baker of the Year.

Along the way Mark gained WSET Level 2 in Wine and I have WSET Level 2 in Spirits as well as picking up an award with The Scotsman Food and Drink Awards.    

Usually I can be found sleeping beside a cat.

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