Christmas dinner with Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

family enjoying christmas dinner at home

Want to make the perfect Christmas dinner this year? Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall joined us for a live webchat and shared his tips for rustling up an irresistible festive meal. From sprouts to cider – here's his breakdown for the big day

Christmas golden turkey on a table


“It's a good idea to cook the crown separately, I sometimes do this even if I have a whole bird – the liquor from removing the legs and cooking them separately as a kind of coq-au-vin makes fantastic gravy.”


“You could improvise a lovely stuffing with chestnuts, celery, sundried apricots and lemon zest, And you can bake it separately in a greased dish. To make it vegan just use rapeseed or coconut oil instead of the butter, and a dash or nut milk or oat milk instead of the egg.”



“As well as the roast potatoes, I usually do a big tray of roast vegetables in goose or duck fat (use sunflower oil for vegetarians). I would include carrots, parsnips, celeriac, whole shallots or baby onions, Jerusalem artichokes, sprouts and even florets of cauliflower. Don't crowd the tray – they should be in a single layer but not piled up, so it's best to use a tray that fits the whole oven or two trays with one above the other.”


“To get ahead with turkey gravy, have yourself a nice roast free-range chicken this weekend and make a lovely strong stock with the bones and freeze it. You could then add the turkey giblets – neck heart, gizzard etc – when you get your turkey a day or two before Christmas. Strain the finished stock, add a glass of wine, simmer and reduce by about half. You could serve this as it is, or thicken it by whisking in a little beurre meuniere (a paste of butter and flour) into the boiling gravy. You can then reheat it with your roast turkey the next day.”

Horseradish sauce

“If you can get hold of a bit of root, break it finely and mix with a little creme fresh, cider vinegar, English mustard and a pinch of salt and pepper. You'll have the best horseradish sauce ever.”



“I love roasting Brussels sprouts with shallots (cut in half) and chestnuts. Just spread them all out in a big tray tossed with oil, salt and pepper, a few bay leaves and roast in a hot oven for about 30 minutes.”


“I think trifle at Christmas is a brilliant idea! Soak some sponge cake or brioche in a bit of sherry or port, make a homemade jelly with orange juice – or even better, squeezed Christmas clementines – and then good homemade custard on top of that. It's quite nice to make these trifles in individual wine glasses. You have boozy cake in the bottom of the glass, then a layer of jelly. When that's set, you pour on the custard. When that's set, finish with whipped cream and top with your favourite sprinkles – I like grated chocolate and toasted almonds. A sprinkle of smashed up crunchie bar is also a brilliant topping.”

Mulled cider

“I do love mulled cider. Just heat up a litre of strong cider or scrumpy with a cinnamon stick, a few cloves, orange and/or lemon zest and a bashed star anise if you have one. A little dash of brandy and a sprinkling of brown sugar is optional.”



“Wine is such a personal thing. We drink mostly organic and biodynamic wines at home. There are some brilliant ones available on the Riverford website, which is where I get most of mine. The Domaine is good, Pinot Noir is very special and we glug quite a lot or the Finca Fabian Tempranillo. They would be great with the turkey.”

For more recipes and tips on what to do with every ingredient, check out Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's new book, River Cottage A-Z.