Embrace the turkey feast like a pro, with MW’s round-up of festive accoutrements guaranteed to impress the whole crowd. (Even that surly aunt everyone swears to never to invite again)
Words: Alex Doak
Cooking with bacon? We have the cure
If you’re thinking of buying anything from our list, this is the one you need to buy the soonest, to get ahead on bacon – for pigs in blankets, yes, but also as the best way to lock in your turkey breasts’ moisture while it roasts away in the oven; by cross-latticing rashers across the back, they come out crispy and make wonderful “duelling” garnishes for the plate. This home curing kit comes with everything you need to do just that – just add pork and follow the recipes. Included in the kit are curing mixes for original, sweet and smoked cure bacon, plastic gloves, sealable bags, muslin and a butcher’s hook.
Embrace your inner elf
Face it: Christmas knits are here to stay, thanks in part to the cult success of Sarah Lund’s chunky number in The Killing, the hipster crowd’s tireless cult of infantilisation, and also the efforts of properly stylish outfitters like Thom Browne to bring this formerly woeful garment into fashion-forward territory. No one blends playful and preppy as well as New York’s Mr Browne and we genuinely love his Fair Isle Wool And Mohair-Blend Sweater – a perfect example of his kitschy aesthetic. Crafted from an incredibly cosy wool and mohair-blend, it’s knitted with a traditional Fair Isle motif in the label’s signature tricolour hues. Just leave it off until you finish whisking the gravy…
Peace of mind, in digital form
You could trust Jamie Oliver’s rather painful technique: sticking a metal skewer into the turkey’s leg for 5 seconds, removing and seeing if it singes your tonque. Or, you could retain some sense of taste and invest in a Super-Fast Thermapen meat thermometer, to be absolutely doubly sure you won’t put your entire family at risk of salmonella. The method, come Christmas Day? Check the turkey 30-60 minutes before the estimated finish time, then about every 15 minutes thereafter, removing it when it reaches 170°F. If it’s stuffed, check the temperature of the center of the stuffing to make sure it’s cooked to 165°F.
Spread some (English) sparkle
You can’t sit down for Christmas lunch (dinner? Always somewhere in between…) without cracking a bottle of fizz beforehand. And while champagne is the obvious choice, an English sparkling white would be the more discerning, saving you money without stinting on quality. It’s all down to Sussex and Kent sharing the same seam of chalky soil as Champagne itself, as well as a similar climate. And one boutique maker (available in Waitrose) that has been taking advantage of this serendipitous situation long before the Ridgeviews and Nyetimbers of the world is West Sussex’s Bolney Wine Estate. Its 100% chardonnay-grape Blanc de Blancs was rated 17.5/20 by Jancis Robinson, whose tasting notes remark: “Pineapple fruit – very ripe and defined. Backed up by good bready autolysis though. This is great English fizz: all the ripeness of the new world, all the structure of the old world. Very good.” Enough said.
Light up the table
It’s worth a good rummage around Georg Jensen’s website if you want some genuinely tasteful tree decorations this year: come Christmas, the Danish silverware maestros are all about the very opposite of tinsel. If you invest in one thing, though, these gold-plated brass tealight holders are the most enchanting addition to any table display, casting a lovely dappled light. The stencilled design is based on the Christmas Wreath, made with the smooth organic forms of the leaves of the magnolia tree.
Get lunch off to a cracking start
Trust that perennial Santa-in-shop-form, Fortnum & Mason to up the Christmas stakes. Their ‘Sensational Six Person Super Cracker’ is a whole new take on the cracker tradition, spreading even more conviviality around the table (assuming you have 6 people or less). And the fun doesn’t end with the confused mass pulling, or the jokes written by Stephen Fry; inside are eight musical whistles, each corresponding to a different note, and simple-to-follow sheet music to create your very own festive table orchestra. The result will be one of two things: either beautiful festive music or an almighty racket.
Red or white? (Red, of course)
You can’t go wrong with a Marlborough sauvignon if you’re adamant about your white wine, but to pair perfectly with your roast turkey, stick to New Zealand but instead go for a pinot noir; the smooth, low tannins and bright fruit work very well with the bird, which does not have the fatty character that you would look for to match with a fuller-bodied red. Churton Marlborough’s 2013 The Abyss has, as Berry Bros. & Rudd’s Catriona Felstead notes, “an intense nose of macerated red cherries with hints of vanilla. Layers and layers of intense, lush red and black fruit follow in the palate. There is the savoury twist that we expect from Churton but this is much more fruit driven in style. The wine has beautiful texture, exceptionally fine tannins and a long, mineral finish.”
Own the table; carve like a king
Gentlemen: choose your weapon. Actually, don’t; just go for this beautiful and quietly showy carving fork and knife from Robert Welch. Just imagine it: presenting the table with your perfectly roasted bird, golden and gently steaming, only to draw even more humbled gasps as you place your hinged, oak-cased Radford carving set beside it, lift the lid, and begin providing for your loved ones with confident flashes of stainless steel and juicy meat. Merry Christmas, everyone.