’Twas the night before Christmas... not a creature was stirring... apart from all the raucous Christmas guests partying up and down the country.
Which can be on the daunting side for even the most dedicated host or hostess. But fortunately – and however discerning your taste – there are lots of delicious, creative options to make the festive period easy, enjoyable and, most importantly, fun.
Now this may seem counterintuitive coming from a food writer, but you do not have to make everything yourself. At Christmas, I focus my cooking energies on the main event – the turkey and all the trimmings, which I view as an extra large Sunday lunch.
For the rest of it, I’m prepared to use all the help I can get. It is not because I can’t cook it myself, but because I’m hosting a party and I want to enjoy it, too.
This is the most important thing to remember. At this time of the year, we’re all here to have fun. Food is my work and, much as I love my work, when I party I like to relax, have fun and make the most of my time with friends and family rather than being stuck in the kitchen tending to canapés.
Which is where the finest* range comes in, allowing you to take the work out of entertaining and focus on the fun, without compromising on the quality or taste of what you’re serving your guests.
Tesco’s expert buyers have taken on the hard work of finding the very best ingredients with an excellent provenance so you know you’re buying the very best.
So, armed with a seasonal sloe gin fizz – a good slug of finest sloe gin in a champagne flute, topped up with some luxurious finest English sparkling wine, offset with a dash of orange bitters, for fragrance, if you’ve got them, here are some foodie highlights from the range.
How to cook the perfect Christmas turkey
Central to my Christmas is a really good turkey, and a finest* Free-range Heritage Narragansett Turkey is more than up to the job. This rare breed was developed in Rhode Island.
These ones are raised in East Anglia, and they’re packed with flavour. Ignore all the “never turkey” pundits – they just don’t know how to cook one properly. Follow the roasting times for your turkey’s weight and, for truly sensational results, roast your bird breast side down for all but the final half-hour’s cooking.
That’s when you turn it back on its back to brown and crisp the skin over the breast. Why? Because all the turkey’s fat, and therefore flavour, is around its back. Roasted this way, all that fat renders through the breast meat as it cooks, keeping the bird moist and packing it with flavour.
The other key is to let the bird rest for a good 45 minutes. This has the double advantage of allowing the meat to relax and hold its moisture and allowing you to finish off the side dishes in relative calm. Serve with a couple of bottles of finest* Gran Rioja Reserva; for my money, Spain’s most famous is my go-to turkey wine.
Bring on the canapés
As guests arrive, I like to offer a chilly glass of finest* Premier Cru Champagne and have some canapés standing by. And one thing I’ve learnt over the years (and I can’t explain it): people are always disappointed if there isn’t some smoked salmon.
The finest* range offers one that has been flavoured with Laphroaig single-malt whisky. Serve on rye bread with a little smear of cream cheese, topped with capers and a little dill.
The finest Christmas pudding
The other thing I’ve learnt is that, despite gorging themselves on salmon, luxury seafood starters, turkey, stuffing, potatoes and even Brussels sprouts, at Christmas everyone always has room for dessert.
The number of times I’ve missed “Stir-up Sunday” (the last Sunday before Advent when you traditionally make a Christmas pudding) and failed to make a Christmas pudding doesn’t bear thinking about. So I’ve sampled a few bought ones over the years. And the finest* Christmas Pudding is especially good, and packed full of Courvoisier cognac.
So three hearty cheers for a flaming pud, served with a luxurious glass of finest* Sauternes. Now I’m off to put my feet up in front of The Great Escape.
To make your Christmas the finest yet, visit tesco.com
Enjoy the finest Christmas
The Tesco finest* wine and food range is in selected stores now UK-wide.
For more Christmas wine and food inspiration and information, or to order from the Tesco finest * range online, visit tesco.com