Jeff Baker, who has cooked for the late Queen Elizabeth II, explains his foolproof tips on mastering pigs in blankets, crispy roast potatoes, and how to spruce up your sprouts this Christmas Day dinner
Christmas Day dinner is finally here – arguably one of the most highly anticipated and tasty meals of the year. While turkey takes centre stage on plates for many families, there is no denying that pigs in blankets are a coveted staple.
But if you’re in charge of cooking the big dinner this year, then you’ll no doubt face a lot of stress and pressure to get it just right in order to keep your family happy. Unfortunately, there are some common mistakes people make when cooking a roast – from soggy Brussels sprouts to dry meat.
Thankfully, there are some easy steps to perfecting pigs in blankets and Jeff Baker, executive development chef at Farmison & Co is on hand to help. Having begun his career in a professional kitchen in 1983, Jeff has since cooked for the late Queen Elizabeth II and worked alongside some of the world’s top chefs.
The chef has revealed his foolproof tips on how best to master the favourite sausage and bacon additions, along with other cooking, tips including how to get your roast potatoes fluffy yet crispy and how to spruce up your sprouts.
Perfect pigs in blankets
They are one of the most popular parts of the meal but extremely easy to mess up, with chef Jeff revealing what we’re doing wrong.
“It’s important not to burn the bacon – no one wants a charred blanket,” Jeff warns.
“Start by gently heating a heavy-based, non-stick frying pan and begin the cooking process by rendering some base fat – giving a light caramelisation.
“Try not to overcrowd the base of your pan as the sausages need to sit fully flat, with enough room to be turned over.
“If you turn them regularly and cook them evenly over medium heat for around 3-4 minutes, your sausages should be a light golden colour. You can then pop them into roast for a further 6-8 minutes.
“To ensure that you don’t overcook your sausages, gently press them with your thumb to check how they spring back – the more buoyancy you get back the more well-done your sausages will be.”
Crispy and fluffy roast potatoes
Hoberman Collection/Universal Images Group/Getty Images)
When it comes to choosing which potatoes to roast, Jeff always recommends King Edwards or Maris Piper potatoes.
“They’re the best potatoes for the job and, when cooked properly, leave you with gorgeous crispy-edged spuds with fluffy middles,” he argues.
“Though we all love a crispy roast potato, it can be really easy to mess them up.”
The chef warned not to cover them in too much oil or they won’t cook properly.
“If you drown them in too much oil, they’ll burn on the outside and be undercooked on the inside. In order to avoid such a disaster, it’s important to fluff up your potatoes before roasting them – my preferred method is steaming.
“If you’re unsure on how long to cook your spuds for, I would recommend at least 30 minutes at 200 degrees whilst checking them every now and again.
“Give them a shake every now and then to increase the crispiness. If you are still unsure after 40 minutes, take a potato out and give it a try. Not only can you check whether they are ready but you get first dibs on the crispiest roasties!”
Love them or hate them, you might be cooking them wrong, with Jeff advising: “Though many people like to keep it simple and sprinkle their sprouts with just some salt, I like to add some additional flavours.
“For me, sprouts work exceptionally well with a nut crumb and some fresh, juicy pomegranate seeds.
“Start by dropping the sprouts into salted, boiling water for 5 to 6 minutes, drain and slice them into even halves. To make the nut crumb, put breadcrumbs, lemon zest and chopped walnuts into a blender and blitz them. Then, toast them gently until golden brown.
“Once you’ve sautéed the sprouts in salted butter and spooned them into a serving dish, scatter the nut crumb over the sprouts and finish with a few fresh pomegranate seeds.”
What will you have on your plate for Christmas Day dinner? Let us know in the comments.