When we think of a Good Christmas, nothing can be more important than the Chrimbo meal itself. It’s the one time guaranteed to bring the whole family together.
The problem is that cooking Christmas dinner all too often sees one member of the family draw the short straw, have to wake up hours before everyone else, get stressed alone in the kitchen and then be in a mood with everyone else for the rest of the day. To add insult to injury, they could be a terrible cook as well.
This is not what a Good Christmas is about. Instead, we want you guys doing this as a family - the cooking and not just the eating. Do it together and you’ll actually enjoy yourselves as well as come up with something seriously tasty, and probably bag some brownie points too. This year, with all the cooking apps out there on the tablets of the world, there’s no excuse in not knowing how.
Before you start you're going to need three things. First up is an iPad or Android tablet, second is a selection of good apps and third, if you’re lucky enough to be Pocket-lint, a Michelin Star chef to show you how. We grabbed ourselves a copy of Great British Chefs Feastive Edition on the iPad and chose Bruno Loubet as our cook, but, if he isn’t to hand, you can always opt for another world class chef. Here’s one we made earlier.
Cooking on Christmas day doesn’t have to be just about turkey. A Good Christmas can be had with any type of bird. In fact, making all the family happy here is what matters, so if you happen to all prefer a good stir fry, then do that instead. For us, we’re sticking with Christmas style food. So, if you want a kebab, you're on your own.
So, how do you find a decent Christmas recipe? Enter technology and the world of apps. This is where the family fun can start. Gather everyone round and have a hunt through the app store for these bad boys to get yourself a good selection of meals to choose from.
First up is the aforementioned Great British Chefs Feastive Edition which features a whole heap of quick, easy and, above all, tasty dishes and all from the kitchens of 21 Michelin starred chefs. It is also entirely Christmas focused, but gets rather inventive with its bird based foods, as you will see in a bit. It's priced at £1.99 and comes with voice control, ingredient search and a shopping list creator too.
Other options are apps like How to Cook Everything for the iPhone, which transforms Mark Bittman’s best selling cookbook into a portable version. It’s also currently skinned in a rather festive form with a few extra dishes to get you in the Christmas mood.
To be perfectly honest though, the best way to get the family involved is to get them searching. Bravely hand the iPad over to the team a few weeks before the big day and see what sort of delights they come up with. Expect the majority of it to involve chocolate but, that’s ok, that’s what pudding is all about.
Bruno went for his festive quails and chocolate souffle taken from his recipe selection in the Feastive app. The advantages here are that no-one can complain about which cuts of meat they get and that everyone gets to carve. It's also a little different, just as tasty and smaller which also means half the cooking time.
First pointer - we seriously advise doing your shopping a week or two before Christmas as you don’t want to run into any food related issues on the big day. It can create all sorts of stress that would break the karma that Good Christmas is all about.
In fact, why not ditch the idea of going to the shops altogether? Instead, boot up your tablet or phone and download yourself something like the Ocado app. Then simply match up the ingredients on the recipe with what you need from the shop. No need to leave the sofa.
If that option is a tad expensive then you could always go for something like Tesco groceries to get your bits and bobs. Most of the matter is in the cooking, so don’t sweat it too much about getting top notch ingredients, although it will help if you can manage the good stuff.
There are also a few other alternative routes to app-based shopping. The craftier iPhone user could even try something like Around Me to find local butchers and grocers. It means putting something back into the community which is definitely in keeping with the Good Christmas spirit and might also lead to a pleasant festive season’s trip to exchange Yuletide pleasantries with your local shopkeepers.
Once ingredients do arrive, try and get the family involved by divvying up putting them away, or alternatively, pull up the recipe and get them laid out and ready to go. Either way, rest assured that the technology has helped get your sorted with minimum fuss, minimum stress and maximum smugness.
We spoiled the broth, our Michelin star cook fixed it
Now to the cooking itself. This is the really fun part and a great opportunity to get everyone involved. You want to start out by selecting all the ingredients used in your meal, working out which parts require preparation and which can go straight in. Then allot the tasks to your family by age range.
The young ones (within reason) can handle things like stuffing birds and mixing the messy bits together in bowls. The older members, who can be trusted with knives and fire, get to take care of the more complex cooking elements but, by all means, use the opportunity to pass on some of the more careful skills so long as the wee ones are supervised when doing so. In fact, Bruno did a similar thing with Pocket-lint when preparing his quails, leaving one of us in charge of reading out instructions from the iPad with the rest either chopping or stuffing. No fool, he did the actual cooking himself. Yes, chef.
Taking a leaf out of his book, a good tip can be to get the best chef in the family to handle the actual heating element of the meal and head things up, it will ensure stuff tastes better in the end.
On the way, you might encounter the odd issue with things like weights and measures. Usually it’s a case of "I say cup, you say 0.95 fl oz" etc. Take advantage of the tablet you have to hand and fire up Convert Units free or similar to make the process a bit easier.
Pocket-lint’s quails taken care of by Bruno, we turned to dessert. Typically this is the mucky part, so it might be wise to invest in a Christmassy tablet cover. We suggest a quick search on Etsy for something homely. If your tablet does suffer a sugary fate not quite the same as but similar to that of Alderaan, then you can always pick up something like Brasso’s gadget polish to get it clean.
We were lucky enough to experience the joys of a Michelin star cooked souffle. While making it, however, we realised our lack of whisk could create a rather tiring mixing episode. Luckily, we had the beefy whisking arm of a pro chef to fix that but this is something you might not have.
Either leave any mixing to the group at large - passing round the load from time to time, turning a blind eye to the odd finger dipped in the bowl - or invest in a decent electric whisk which, according to our resident expert for the afternoon, all good kitchens should have.
Bruno's top cooking tips
Having a chef like Bruno Loubet on hand does mean we managed to pick up a few clever cooking tips from the best and it just wouldn't be fair if we didn't pass them on.
1. Get some good knives and keep them sharp
Bruno had a rather special story behind his set of knives. Using the famous French Opinel brand since he was a kid, they are part of his family and French history and now he has a set with his name on. Whatever you've go to hand though, they're nothing unless you keep them sharp. It means you get a clean cut on whatever it is you are preparing which will help later when it comes to cooking.
2. Electric whisks are useful
Case in point, our rather enjoyable episode which involved attempting to beat egg whites, failing and then letting Bruno take over. A whisk ends all this and will get a lot more use than you might think.
3. Glaze the pan selectively
Depending on whether you are preparing a gravy or a dressing, glaze the pan using either wine or, if the latter, vinegar. Reduce and then pour over the main dish to boost the flavour.
4. Poke your turkey
The bigger the bird, the more you want to stuff inside it. Make sure you poke holes in the bird and fill them with rolled up bacon, garlic and anything else you can think of to keep it moist and infuse more flavours. Soaking it over night in a bucket is not necessary.
5. Keep your juices
There's nothing worse than a dry piece of meat. Whatever you've cooked, make sure you keep the juices that pour out of it. Add them back in wherever you can for a flavour boost.
6. Rest your meat
Best of all, don't let the juices escape at all. Once you're done cooking a joint or a bird, cover it with foil to keep the heat in and let it rest - 10 minutes per kilo. Roasting forces all of the liquids to the centre of the meat and it's resting that lets it return to where it belongs instead of ending up pouring out onto your chopping board.
With the cooking over and the Christmas meal sat waiting on the table, it’s time for the eating. Sadly, there’s no effective Christmas cracker app at the moment, so you’ll have to buy your own or make them if you’re really inventive. For a few tech ideas, you could always pack them full of things like iTunes gifts cards, USB keys and SD cards.
The final thing you’ll need is a little ambiance and, once again, your tablet can come in handy with music apps and services. Spotify is an obvious one with a few good playlists, or you could always go for something cheap and certainly cheerful like the Christmas Fireside app, complete with flaming log and 55 minutes of tinsel-tinged classics.
Whatever you cook, we hope it’s a Good Christmas for you.
For those who want to find out more about Great British Chefs Feastive Edition, check out our app of the day here.
If you are interested in Bruno, then his website can be found here.
What are your Christmas dinner tips? Let us know in the comments below.