A Traditional Scottish Christmas Dinner (with recipes)
Our house was always chaotic at Christmas. When I was little, my parents always had friends and family round for Christmas dinner, and somehow I managed to learn how to cook a traditional Christmas dinner for numbers.
When I grew up and married and had my own children, I prepared a Christmas dinner for 8 or more. Sometimes we invited friends and family round too.
The most important thing about preparing such a huge feast for everyone is timing. Timing and practice makes perfect, though I do confess to getting hassled when it came near time to serve our traditional Christmas dinner, because at the last minute there is so much to do, and so little time to do it in, and of course at that point your guests are seated at the table relaxing and enjoying an aperitif before the meal of the year.
No I did NOT want help in the kitchen, because that put me off my stride and people always wanted to talk, which is fine so long as I didn’t forget something that was in the oven or on the hot-plate, resulting in something getting burned or otherwise ruined. When everything is prepared and ready, it is time to relax.
Our Christmas dinner consisted of a turkey with all the trimmings. I usually bought a frozen oven ready turkey, because you can’t always rely on getting a fresh turkey at the last minute which is when you need to buy it if you want one fresh. You can order one at the butcher’s, but he usually takes his orders in November, and if you forgot to order one you can forget it.
Christmas Table Centerpiece at Amazon
Traditional Christmas Dinner Menu
Preparation of Traditional Christmas Dinner
Christmas dinner preparation starts about 3 days before Christmas, when the frozen turkey is taken out of the freezer to defrost. I like to make absolutely sure it’s defrosted.
When I was first married, I thought it would only take a day to defrost and it wasn’t ready in time, so not making that mistake again.
The morning before Christmas is a good time to unwrap it and check that it is OK. One year I unwrapped it when I was about to cook it, only to discover it had ‘gone off’ and couldn’t be used. It was chicken instead that year. I always kept frozen poultry in the chest freezer and they defrost and cook an awful lot quicker, because they are much smaller.
I used to buy a 20 or 22lb turkey but only a 5-6lb chicken.
Turkey takes 20 minutes to the lb to cook, plus 20 minutes over. However, if you stuff your turkey, and most people do, you have to add the weight of the stuffing to the total cooking time.
A 20lb turkey which when stuffed is probably a 22lb turkey and takes 20 x 23 minutes to cook = 7.6 hours, so I normally put it into a slow oven the night before and let it gently cook all night. We always had dinner about 3pm so it was well-cooked by then. It was either that or get up at 7am to put the turkey in the oven, and there was always the risk I’d sleep in.
So, Christmas Eve was the time to stuff the turkey and put it onto a metal oven tray– I always bought a new tray each year, because it had to be a huge one and you could buy a cheap one for about £2 at the market at Christmas-time that rusted through lack of use before the next Christmas came round.
Oatmeal Stuffing Recipe
Stuffing – oatmeal stuffing one end, and sausage-meat at the neck end.
8 oz oatmeal
I chopped onion
4 oz chopped suet or dripping
1 teaspoon salt
Mix all together and stuff turkey with it. Use it dry, no added liquids. It will be moist when it is ready thanks to the turkey juices.
Roast Turkey Recipe
Wash turkey well under running cold water in sink and leave to dry off a bit on drainer. Place it in tray and stuff it. If necessary sew the stuffing into place using flaps of skin from the turkey and darning needle and thread. You do not want the stuffing to fall into the tray and ruin the stock.
Then either pour oil over turkey or rub in some lard so that it is coated, then dust with salt all over.
Cover with tinfoil and place in oven at low to medium temperature settings.
Meanwhile take the giblets that came with the turkey and put them on to boil with water and salt. Leave to simmer for hours, but don’t leave on all night after you go to bed. It’s a fire risk.
Next morning, your house will smell of cooked turkey. Hmmmm!
Vegetable Preparation for Traditional Christmas Dinner
Peel a big pot of potatoes. I used to allow 3 - 4 medium sized potatoes per person.
I always served the turkey with mashed carrots and turnip (rutabaga) and fresh Brussels sprouts, so they need prepared too.
Peel and chop the carrots and turnip and place in a pan of salted water.
Like the potatoes, they will take about half an hour to cook, so plan to turn the heat on under them about 40 minutes before your meal is due to be served.
Take the outer, damaged leaves only off the Brussels sprouts then score an X in the base with a sharp knife. Wash well. Depending on how 'al dente' you like them, cook them for 20 - 30 mins in boiling salted water. The longer you cook them, the soggier they get. (I like them soggy - they just melt in your mouth)!
Lentil Soup Recipe
If you have finished off making the stock from your giblets, now is the time to make a pot of lentil soup for starters.
1 quart of stock
4 oz red lentils
I medium sized carrot
Piece of turnip about a quarter of the size of the carrot
I medium onion
½ pint milk
Salt and pepper
½ oz dripping
Melt dripping, add washed lentils and chopped washed vegetables and simmer until the fat is absorbed. Add the stock, pepper and salt. Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer for 2 hours, stirring occasionally. When cooked, check seasoning and adjust if needed (if it is too salty, add a raw potato to draw the salt off) and give it 10 minutes more. Take soup off heat and strain through colander, return to pot, add the milk, reheat then serve.
Bread Sauce Recipe
Bread Sauce is good to accompany turkey. I confess to using a packet mix, but here is how to make it if you can’t buy a packet mix.
The night before its needed, boil an onion in ½ pint milk in a pan with a lid for a few minutes, then switch heat off and leave the onion flavouring to infuse into the milk. Next day, strain the milk to remove the onion and add about a teacupful of breadcrumbs. Season and reheat. Some recipes call for cloves to be stuck into the onion, and peppercorns to be added but I confess not liking it made that way, so don’t. I will add a knob of butter and maybe a little salt when it is being reheated. Bread sauce needs to be prepared in the last few minutes before serving the meal, otherwise it tends to thicken and develop a skin.
For pudding, my mother always made a traditional Christmas pudding, stuffed with coins wrapped in greaseproof paper which the children always loved to find.
I always bought a ready-made Christmas pudding in, and served it with whipped cream, which also had to be prepared the night before and left in the fridge.
For the children I always bought a Sarah Lee Chocolate Gateau which they preferred to Christmas pudding, or on occasion, made up a jelly and fruit dish to serve with ice cream, again prepared the night before.
Christmas Pudding Recipe
Traditional Christmas Pudding (recipe taken directly from my mother’s favourite cookbook – Good Housekeeping Cookery Book).
1lb fresh white breadcrumbs
1 level teaspoon ground ginger
1 level teaspoon ground mixed spice
1 level teaspoon salt
8 oz shredded suet
8 oz brown sugar
4 oz chopped mixed peel
4 oz currants
4 oz sultanas
1lb seedless raisins
3 oz carrot, pared and grated
2 eggs, lightly beaten
3 tablespoons brandy
2 tablespoons milk
2 tablespoons golden syrup
Half-fill two saucepans with water and put them on to boil. Grease 2 x 2pt pudding basins. Mix together dry ingredients. Mix the eggs, brandy, syrup and milk together and add to dry ingredients. Let the mixture stand for 1 hour, then put into prepared basins, cover with greaseproof paper and tinfoil or a pudding cloth and secure with string. Steam for 8 hours over steadily boiling water. After 8 hours, remove from steamer and cool. Leave the greaseproof paper in position, cover with a clean dry cloth or foil and store in a cool place.
On Christmas Day, steam for another 2 hours. Turn out onto a hot dish and serve with brandy or rum butter or a white sauce flavoured with brandy or rum.
I didn’t like brandy or rum sauce or butter, but Christmas pudding is lovely with fresh whipped cream instead.
Finishing the Preparations
While the soup is being served is a good time to make the gravy. After you remove the turkey from the oven (and you should have taken the foil off half an hour previously and basted it to crisp up and brown the skin). Let it stand for at least 10 minutes, so work that into your preparation time. Remove it from its juices and place it on a platter. Drain as necessary. Take the stuffing out and put into serving dishes. Strain and discard the fat off the top of the stock to make gravy using Bisto gravy powder which you have first added a little cold water to, stir all the time while it comes to the boil, else it will go lumpy.
You should be making your bread sauce at the same time and it also needs stirred while bringing to boil so you really wish you were an octopus at this point. If you wanted roast potatoes, you will need to take some cooked ones out of the pot of boiled potatoes that should be just finished, and throw some into the deep fat fryer, because there simply wasn’t enough room in the oven to roast potatoes along with the turkey. So now you are stirring the gravy AND the bread sauce AND keeping an eye on your potatoes in the deep fat fryer which isn’t automatic so if you don’t get them out in time, they’ll burn.
You still have to mash the carrots and turnips and add a little butter and black pepper to pull out the flavours, and then put in a serving dish. Your plates are heating in the oven the turkey just vacated. And did you remember to put the pudding onto steam? The shop bought ones take half an hour to steam, or 10 minutes in a microwave (what a great invention). Microwave ovens weren’t invented when I first got married.
If you have timed everything just right, you should be able to serve everything up within a reasonable time frame and make sure everyone gets a hot dinner, and you can relax. The pudding is less important because everyone is pretty stuffed after their dinner and so the pudding can wait until later.
Cranberry sauce is normally served with a traditional Christmas dinner, but we didn't like it in our house. What we did find we liked was blackcurrant jelly and this goes really well with all poultry as well as being usable on sandwiches throughout the year.