Christmas is set to be a little different this year with gatherings much smaller than usual and families opting for more intimate settings amid the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown restrictions across the UK.
And even the one per cent may be having a very different yuletide season, with festive feasts filled with the likes of partridge, pork and pigeon.
Speaking to FEMAIL, Signature Staff, a 60-year-old British company providing exclusive household staff to some of the most prominent royal and celebrity families across the globe revealed the requests they’re seeing ahead of December 25.
Signature Staff, a 60-year-old British company providing exclusive household staff to some of the most prominent royal and celebrity families across the globe revealed the requests they’re seeing ahead of December 25. Pictured: Stock image of a Christmas dinner
The company works with UK aristocracy as well as royalty in European countries such as Austria, Spain, France, Greece and Scandinavia, as well as further flung locations in the Middle East and Asia.
In preparation for the festive season, the company’s private chefs are being dispatched across the country and beyond, but before they set off on their travels to some of the most prestigious homes imaginable, they sat down to come up with some key tips for Christmas dinner.
‘It is interesting how both old English gentry and high-end European clients based in Great Britain are very happy with a classic English Christmas roast.
‘A major trend noted by the team this year, however, is going traditional with classic, high quality ingredients, but getting a little more adventurous with the main course and deviating slightly from the simple turkey that many are used to,’ a spokesperson told FEMAIL.
Below, the expert team of private chefs reveal the best tips for the festive season ahead.
What dishes should you make this year?
Mix things up with smaller birds for smaller groups
‘We are seeing a trend amongst HNWIs (high net worth individuals) however, to go against the grain and think outside the box when it comes to the Christmas meal.
‘Traditional meats like goose and duck can also be winners at Christmas and have been making reappearances lately.
‘We can also recommend roast partridge or pigeon/squab this year, if your group is a little smaller than usual.
‘Last year one of our chefs even prepared a Cote de Boeuf, so why not try something new and extra special this year?
Pork cooked in milk with sage and lemon zest
‘It can be cooked in advance and simply left in the oven.
‘Serve with red cabbage, sprouts and roast potatoes.
‘This will bring an alternative, Italian-themed celebratory feel.
Osso Bucco, veal shanks, or veal chops
‘Different, but still classy.
‘Osso a cross-cut veal shanks braised with vegetables, white wine and broth, can also be prepared in advance and left resting. It is an expensive style of meat, but well worth a try.
Pan-fried duck breast with all the trimmings, or a slow roast duck leg with quince and marmalade sauce.
‘For the smaller gathering, duck offers a rich and complex flavour you don’t get with Turkey.
Fill up on finger food
‘Canapés are great for Christmas and often overlooked.
‘We recommend having a lot of “finger food” going around to keep people happy until the main event.
‘There is nothing worse than smelling all of the delicious food being cooked and not being able to eat anything for hours.
Divide up the turkey
‘Turkey is absolutely still popular, though Signature Staff’s private chef team recommends breaking down the bird if you are sticking to this classic.
‘Dividing it up will allow you to roll the breast, stuff it and then cook the legs separately to ensure you always get the moist meat that everyone wants.
‘Side note: it also reduces cooking time and leaves you with more space in the oven.
Preparation is key
‘Once you have decided on what you are serving, you can start to plan.
‘We do not recommend leaving everything until Christmas morning.
‘Try to get as much off your plate as possible before the big day comes, leaving you with simple and achievable goals on the day.
‘For example, you can peel the potatoes and leave them in water either outside, if it’s cold and not much room, or in the fridge.
‘Red cabbage can be made in advance, sprouts can be pre-prepared, gravy can even be frozen.
‘Buy as much as you can in advance so you aren’t running around at late notice when nothing is open. All puddings can and should be generally prepared and frozen or fridged.
Perfect the roasties
‘Roast potatoes are the most important part of a meal for our chefs.
‘They recommend Maris Piper or King Edward for the best results.
‘These can also be made earlier and spread across a few trays to ensure they have space around each potato to get extra crispy.
‘Do not overcrowd the pan!
‘Then when it comes to serve, reheat at high temperature to get even more crispy.
Pictured: Roast partridges with bacon on crumpled paper. The chefs suggested serving it to smaller groups this year
When in doubt, add a garnish
‘The meal isn’t just about what you are eating. Get creative when choosing your colour scheme and decorate the table with some effort.
‘This can go a long way into making everyone feel festive and puts less pressure on the cook themselves – as everyone is halfway there with the celebrations already!
What is Signature Staff?
Signature Staff (formerly Occasional & Permanent Staff) is a company used by the upper classes which has been successfully placing members of household staff with families based in the UK or overseas for over 60 years.
From nannies to chefs, Signature Staff acts as a matchmaker to source the candidate to the best household.
‘And remember, when decorating your plates use this simple chef’s rule: when in doubt – garnish!
‘Holly on the plate or scattered across the table works a treat at this time of year. Just ensure the kids watch their hands!’
Have plenty of the popular foods
‘We find that very few people don’t like stuffing – be it meat-based or vegetarian / vegan.
‘It always goes down well with children, so our biggest tip is to ensure you always have plenty of it.
‘Cauliflower cheese is also a good one as it can be made in advance and everyone enjoys it.
‘We always have some green beans and broccoli or frozen peas in the freezer to bring out.
‘They can just be boiled and ready in minutes on the day, but also go into a nice boxing day salad the next day if not used.’
Don’t forget to have fun
‘It is easy to get stressed on the day, but the preparation will help and rope people in if you need help.
‘Christmas should be fun for everyone and we always enjoy preparing these meals for our families.
‘Mixing things up this year will make the experience fresh and new for you, so we can’t recommend it enough.’