Here’s our fool-proof time plan to make this year’s Christmas Lunch the simplest ever. Our easy get ahead roast potatoes and parsnips, plus a great way to make a home-made gravy base, will help you to keep last minute preparations to an absolute minimum.
The timings here are for a 14 lb (6.3kg) turkey, with lunch served at 2 o’clock.
Items that can be pre-made or assembled on Christmas Eve include potatoes and parsnips. Part-roast the day before and they will take just a short time to finish off on Christmas morning. Roast with the tin on the floor of the roasting oven*, turning until tender and a light golden colour. Drain off excess fat, allow to cool, then cover and store in a cool place.
Also get ahead and refrigerate giblet stock, braised red cabbage or vegetable purée, stuffing, bacon rolls, chipolatas and cranberry sauce. Brussels sprouts can also be trimmed then stored in a plastic bag in the refrigerator.
Remove turkey and stuffing from the refrigerator to allow them to come to room temperature before roasting. Also remove 6 oz (175g) butter to soften. Place the red cabbage or vegetable purée in a shallow-based AGA pan and leave out at room temperature.
Assemble the plates and vegetable dishes in as compact a pile as possible, then place towards the back of the warming or simmering oven. Leave lids and sauce jugs to gently warm through on an AGA cork mat (or folded cloth) towards the back of the top plate, where the handles will not become too hot. Alternatively, use the warming plate on your AGA.
Place the Christmas pudding in its china, glass or plastic basin, double-wrapped in foil, at the back of the simmering oven to slowly reheat throughout the morning.
For the bread sauce, bring milk to scalding point in a milk pan, then allow to infuse with the aromatic ingredients at the back of the top plate on a piece of kitchen paper.
Loosely stuff the neck end of the turkey only. Draw the skin flap down to cover the stuffing and secure with a skewer. Place a halved onion and lemon in the cavity. Smear the breast and legs with the butter, and place strips of streaky bacon over the breast. Season the whole of the bird. Place in a full size AGA roasting tin, lined with Bake-O-Glide.
Hang the turkey from the lowest set of runners in the roasting oven** for an hour until nicely browned, turning the tin once if necessary. You now have an hour off to enjoying morning coffee with the family and to open presents.
Baste the turkey, then tent very loosely with foil and return to the same position to continue to roast.
While the turkey is roasting, prepare the garnishes: toss chipolata sausages in a little oil and maple syrup. De-rind streaky bacon and stretch each rasher slightly with the back of a knife, cut into two and roll up. Place in roasting tins or AGA baking trays – line with pre-cut pieces of Bake-O-Glide to make washing up easy, and use a grill rack for the bacon.
Finish making the bread sauce. Remove the onion and add the remaining ingredients, then transfer the cooked sauce to a serving dish, cover with cling film and keep hot low down in the warming or simmering oven.
Check to see if the turkey is nearly cooked, and turn back the foil. Remove the bacon from the breast to allow the skin to become crisp. The juices that run out of the thigh when pierced with a skewer should run clear with no hint of pink – if necessary, return to finish cooking and test again. If using a meat and poultry thermometer, it should read 75°C.
Transfer the cooked bird to a second, clean AGA roasting tin to rest. Cover with a double layer of turkey foil and several clean towels and place on the warming plate if your AGA has one or place in the warm near the AGA on a thick pad of folded newspaper. The large mass of hot turkey needs to rest and insulating it in this way will ensure it remains piping hot for up to two hours.
Once the turkey is resting, place the part-roasted potatoes and parsnips on baking trays to finish cooking direct on the floor of the roasting oven*. If you are using more than one tray, alternate these during cooking so that they all enjoy a good spell on the floor of the oven to become crisp. Once they are evenly done. If necessary, a tray can be kept hot on an AGA toaster or floor grid on the floor of the oven, which will cut off the bottom heat.
Cook the chipolatas in the centre of the roasting oven** and the bacon rolls as high in the oven as possible, alternating these positions after 30 minutes or so. Alternatively, finish browning the chipolatas on the floor of the oven* once the roast potatoes and parsnips have become crisp and golden.
Cover carrots or other root vegetables with cold salted water and bring to the boil on the boiling plate***. Partially offset the pan and boil slowly for 3-4 minutes, then drain, cover and transfer to the simmering oven to steam.
Place the turkey stock in a pan on the boiling plate*** and bring almost to the boil. Make a roux for the gravy base in another pan, using some turkey fat skimmed from the roasting tin, adding an equal quantity of flour – a tablespoon of each will thicken each pint of medium to thin gravy. When the roux has cooked for a few minutes, partially offset the pan and whisk in half the hot stock, a ladleful at a time. Simmer for a few minutes until thickened, then remove from the heat.
Carefully skim or pour off the remaining fat from the turkey roasting tin and save for cooking later. Add the remaining cooking juices to the gravy base. Place the tin on the simmering plate and add the remaining stock in three separate batches, using a flat wooden spatula to scrape the bottom to release every scrap of flavour, adding these to the gravy. Adjust the amount of stock to produce gravy of your preferred consistency, adding a small slug of dry sherry before tasting and adjusting the seasoning. Simmer for a minute, then cover and keep hot in the simmering oven.
Bring a kettle to the boil and take off the heat ready for cooking the Brussels sprouts. Place the red cabbage or vegetable purée to heat through on the simmering plate*** until piping hot, stirring occasionally. Transfer with the steamed carrots to two warmed serving dishes, cover with clingfilm and keep hot in the simmering oven.
Bring the kettle back to the boil, pour into a broad-based AGA pan and when boiling fast, add salt and drop in the Brussels sprouts and cook uncovered for 6-8 minutes until tender, depending on size. Drain and place in a warmed serving dish and dot with a little butter. Keep hot on a chef’s pad or folded cloth on a closed lid.
Transfer the rested bird to a warmed platter and garnish with the bacon and sausages. Whisk into the gravy any turkey juices that have collected. If you want to speed up serving at the table, consider carving one side of the turkey breast and one of the legs in the kitchen before everyone sits down, then present the uncarved side in view at the head of the dining table.
Happy AGA Christmas!
*AGA Total Control and eR7 place on floor grid on floor
** eR7: place on the lowest set of runners in the roasting oven on R8.
**eR3 150/160/170 fan oven: place on any shelf in preheated oven on 200oC
*** Alternatively, if your AGA has an induction hob you can use it instead of the boiling or simmering plates
For a comprehensive list of roasting times for whole turkeys, geese and special roasts such as turkey crowns, see here.
Taken from Richard Maggs, the author of “The Little Book of Christmas Aga Tips”