1. A turkey can be too large for a small family or just a few people, so I’d suggest choosing a really good free-range chicken from a local butcher or farmers’ market. There’s something very Christmassy about queuing for provisions in small shops with steamed-up windows when it’s cold outside.
2. Another great alternative to turkey for me would be duck. And if you can source one, go for a wild mallard as they’re so full of flavour and have less fat than a commercial breed. However the good old Barbary, Gressingham or Aylsbury breeds are very good. Remember to keep the rendered fat for the roasting of the potatoes and roots - just add some thyme and garlic.
3. For me venison is the king of the meat world at Christmas time and you should be able to source easily from good butchers or game dealers. I particularly like roe deer as it tastes a little sweeter and is more tender than say a red deer or sika. I must insist you serve it pink if its the haunch or saddle, however the shoulders make the richest and sweetest stew and casseroles especially if you add a hint of cinnamon. It’s very seasonal and works well with dried fruits, and even the jellies and chutneys you made earlier in the year.
4. I’m going to suggest fish as another choice here. I love salmon, but finding the best can be tricky. I buy from Loch Duart for its sustainable credentials but I also like how it’s not too fatty, or too big. The fillets are a good size and are manageable. Just try not to overcook the fish, slightly underdone will keep it moist. Just add a twist of salt and a squeeze of lemon, then aah, delicious!
5. Last but no means least I’m going veggie - and an option not to be sniffed at either! We are all being told to eat less meat and quite rightly too, it’s important to have plenty fibre in our diet and with wonderful root vegetables around at this time of year like beetroot and parsnips, it’s a delicious and easy way to eat. I’d suggest a bake made from thinly-sliced roots with garlic and cream and interleaved with potatoes and roughly-chopped chestnuts, topped off with breadcrumbs, thyme and walnuts mixed with butter then crisped under the grill with a little cheese on top. Heaven, well almost!
Neil Forbes is taking part in the Big Dinner (www.bigdinner.co.uk) event which encourages people to host a dinner party in their own home.
Anyone anywhere in the world can take part in as long as a £25 registration fee is paid and they have access to broadband.
Celebrities such as comics Fred MacAulay, Elaine C Smith and Hardeep Singh Kohli, will join participants in being linked up by social media, while two short films about the work of 500 Miles will be broadcast to show how the charity is changing lives.
Big Dinner founder and Edinburgh-based lawyer Olivia Giles became a quadruple amputee 12 years ago when she caught meningococcal septicaemia which forced surgeons to amputate her hands and lower legs in order to save her life.
She has since become a high -profile advocate for amputees, in particular those living in some of the poorest parts of Africa who are forced to crawl on the ground or limp around on home-made wooden legs.
The 48-year-old’s charity 500 Miles now runs two clinics in Malawi with plans to open a third in Zambia, and she now wants to raise £500,000 to help African amputees walk again by getting Scots to sit down for a global dinner party on 7 March.
CONNECT WITH THE SCOTSMAN
• Subscribe to our daily newsletter (requires registration) and get the latest news, sport and business headlines delivered to your inbox every morning