Christmas dinner notes

For the past several years, I have hosted a Christmas dinner in November (according to Cambridge tradition). These are my notes.

Page references are to Rose Elliot’s New Complete Vegetarian, and items are listed roughly in order of when you can make them.


  • In 2019 I started tracking whether I had bought the right amount of food for 11 people.

Executive summary

Turkey, nut roast, onion gravy, Dublin vegetables, roast potatoes, sage & onion stuffing, cranberry sauce, bread sauce, sweetcorn, red cabbage, pigs in blankets. Followed by Christmas pudding, brandy butter, and bought custard.

Cranberry sauce

Page 65. 225g cranberries, 175g caster sugar. Make entirely in advance.

2019: bought 300g cranberries, made about twice as much as was eaten on the day.

Bread sauce

Page 65. 275ml milk, 3 cloves, 2 large slices of bread, 15g butter, 1 onion, 1 bay leaf, nutmeg. Make entirely in advance.

2019: Made double the recipe and this was about right for 11 people.

Red cabbage

Page 133. 1kg cabbage, and whatever else you want to throw in. Prepare the day before and just slow-cook for hours on the day.

2019: used 1kg cabbage, it was nearly all eaten - this was the right quantity.

Roast potatoes

Page 131. 2.5kg Maris Piper potatoes easily serves 12 people, ~6tbsp plain flour, olive oil. Parboil the previous night and store in water. Roast for about an hour after they’re parboiled.

Alternative if you don’t have space: potatoes Dauphinoise

For two years I did not have enough cooking space to accommodate roast potatoes, so made potatoes Dauphinoise or boulangère. Page 129. Remember to layer salt and thyme in with the onions. Slow-cook, and add in loads of double cream an hour before serving.

2019: bought 1kg potatoes and 600ml double cream, this was about right.

Nut roast

Page 171. The following ingredients are for double the recipe, and serves 12. 130g butter, olive oil, 2 large onions, 450g cashews, 400g breadcrumbs, 2 lemons’ worth of juice, 8tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley. Prepared entirely in advance, baked on the day. Requires a full hour of baking, but tin can sit on top of turkey tray so will fit.

2019: bought 60g parsley and made about 3x the recipe; this was nearly double what was required for 11 people.

Sage and onion stuffing

Make in advance, and cook in oven for any time between 30min and an hour. Put in as soon as turkey comes out to sit.

Add half the packet of sage to the onion and butter mixture, with pepper, and mix. Then mix with breadcrumbs. Add salt gradually, in case you decide it doesn’t need so much after all, and more sage as you go, if needed. Too much sage is chemical; not enough is disappointing. Taste as you go.

2019: made with 2.5x800g loaves of bread, which was more than twice as much as required.

Creamed style sweetcorn

This one is inherited from my grandparents, who lived for a while in America and must have picked this up there. Pour out of tin, and microwave before serving.

Red onion gravy

Page 66. 2 onions, olive oil, 50g plain flour, 2 garlic cloves. Make the day before and microwave before serving.

2019: made two saucepansful (the red Le Creuset ones); this was about twice as much as required. 2018: ran out of this serving eleven people with double the quantity in the recipe.

Mashed carrots and parsnips (Dublin vegetables)

Mashing is because I have never lived anywhere with room to roast them.

1kg of each. At least 45min, probably an hour, roasting. Boil the day before until soft, then mash with butter and put in fridge. Microwave on the day.

Pigs in blankets

Put in as soon as turkey comes out.

2019: bought 16 chipolatas, ended up with three spare.


Start defrosting on early afternoon of day before, put in fridge to finish defrosting overnight, get out of fridge first thing in the morning.

2019: bought 2x “medium serves 4 minimum 2.2kg”, this was much, much more than required. We ate a little over 2kg.

Christmas pudding

And brandy butter, custard.

2019: bought about 900g of Christmas pudding, this was about right or a tiny bit under. Bought 200g brandy butter, 1l custard; this was twice as much custard and brandy butter as required.