Nick Nairn’s delicious Christmas dinner recipes

NICK Nairn serves up a multi-course treat in a comprehensive, belly-stuffing array of dishes for the festive season, including a traditional turkey dinner, a partridge-based alternative, a lobster starter and a delicious apricot and walnut tart

Chef Nick Nairn. Picture: Phil Wilkinson/TSPL
Chef Nick Nairn. Picture: Phil Wilkinson/TSPL
Chef Nick Nairn. Picture: Phil Wilkinson/TSPL

Christmas Dinner - Turkey with all the Trimmings

Serves 6 - 8


For the turkey

5-6kg turkey

olive oil

1 orange

4-5 sprigs of thyme

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the veg

500g Brussels sprouts

100g smoked bacon

1 kg parsnips

30ml olive oil

1.5kg red rooster potatoes

jar goose fat

500g sausage and sage stuffing

For the gravy

turkey juices

splash white wine

1 tbsp plain flour

250ml chicken stock (or veg water)

½ tsp gravy granules

If you’re going for a traditional turkey dinner, follow my advice and you’ll be fine!


If using a frozen turkey, allow at least 24 hrs for it to defrost completely. If you can afford a fresh one, order it asap and you’ll be able to collect a couple of days before Christmas - support your local butcher!

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Remove the giblets as soon as possible and set aside for stock later. Cook the bird from room temperature.

Cut the skin between the leg and the breast then gently open out the legs, this will allow the heat to penetrate quicker. Cut the orange in half before placing inside the cavity of the bird along with the thyme. Brush the turkey generously with olive oil. Season well with salt and pepper and place in a roasting tray. Cover the bird loosely with tin foil to allow a flow of air to circulate.

Cook at 200C for approx 30 minutes then reduce to 160C and cook for a further 75 minutes before removing the tin foil. Turn the heat back up and cook for about 15 more minutes to get the skin golden brown (keep basting - scooping up the juices with a ladle or large spoon and pouring them back over the bird). Remove from the oven, cover and leave to rest for 30 mins. Cooking time will depend on the exact weight of the bird. A simple rule is 20 minutes per kilo plus 30 minutes at the end plus 30 minutes resting.

A great tip is to invest in a digital food thermometer (Go to our online Cook Shop - click Cook Shop at the top of the page - to buy a Thermapen, they’re great!) and use it to check to ensure that the thickest part of the breast has reached a core temperature of 75C. This will increase by some 10C while resting. If you don’t have one, however, for peace of mind, pierce the thickest part of the leg with a skewer, the juices should run clear.

While the bird is cooking, peel and evenly chop your potatoes, boil for 10 mins in salted water then drain well. Shake them in the colander to roughen up the edges and season with pepper. Heat the goose fat in a roasting tray in the oven (200°C) and, when good and hot, tip your potatoes in and stir around and pop back in to cook. Check them after 20 mins and turn over. Cook for a further 20 minutes. Remove from the oven when they’re lovely and crisp on the edges and serve immediately.

For the parsnips, peel then remove the top and bottom before cutting lengthways into quarters. Remove any woody parts then place in a roasting tray. Rub lightly with olive oil, season and place into a hot oven for 30 minutes, turning at least once.

Place the stuffing in a lightly oiled separate tray, press down, and cook at 190C for 30 mins until the top is crispy. Don’t put it in the bird – by the time it’s cooked through the bird will be overdone, and the stuffing grey and squashy. It’s much nicer done separately.

For the sprouts, remove the root then peel off the outer leaves. Shred them as if they were mini cabbages. Finely chop the bacon. Fry the bacon in a little oil and butter, throw in the shredded sprouts and stir-fry. Add a tbsp or so of water and continue to fry for a minute. Serve immediately.

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For the gravy, pour off and discard any fat from the roasting tray then pour the turkey juices into a small saucepan. Bring to the boil before adding a splash of white wine, whisking in a tbsp of flour until smooth then adding some veg water or chicken stock, plus a few gravy granules (if you like or need) to thicken.

Lobster Crumble

Serves 8


4 Deluxe lobsters, defrosted

4 shallots, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, finely sliced

200ml dry white wine

100ml chicken or vegetable stock

200ml double cream

4 tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley

1 tsp fresh lemon juice

For the crumble

50ml Primadonna extra virgin olive oil

100g stale breadcrumbs

60g freshly grated Parmesan

2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley

sea salt and black pepper

Serve for supper on Christmas Eve with crusty bread, a glass of white wine and a big salad.


Lidl Deluxe cooked lobsters are one of the finds of the decade. They’re such great value £5.99 just now. This is a great introductory recipe for lobster, with lots of flavours going on and a nice crunchy topping. I’d serve it for supper on Christmas Eve with crusty bread, a glass of white wine and a big salad. Serve half a lobster per person for a starter or one each for a main course.

First, cut your cooked lobster in half lengthways using a large, heavy, sharp knife. To do this, place the lobster on a sturdy chopping board, back facing up and find the little cross on the lobster’s head, insert the point of the knife into the cross and firmly bring the blade down to cut the lobster clean down the middle. This makes it easy to remove the flesh from the body. Pick out all the flesh from the claws using a lobster pick, or a narrow flexible knife and remove the legs.

For the sauce, place the shallots, garlic and wine into a pan and simmer until the wine has evaporated by two-thirds. Add the stock and simmer again for about 5-10 minutes until the liquid has reduced by two-thirds again. Add the cream and simmer until well thickened. Remove from the heat and stir in the chopped parsley and lemon juice.

For the crumble topping, heat a frying pan until hot and add the oil. Throw in the crumbs and toss until crisp and golden. Remove from the heat, drain through a sieve and dry on kitchen paper. Leave to cool then mix in the Parmesan and parsley.

To finish the dish, reheat the sauce. Once heated through, remove from the heat and fold in the lobster meat. Place the half shells onto a baking sheet and spoon the mixture equally between them. Cover with the crumble mix and pop them into the oven for 4-6 minutes to warm through – the top should be golden brown. Spoon over any extra sauce and serve with a hunk each of crusty brown bread and a large salad.

Roast Partridge with Caramelised Apples

Serves 4


2 Granny Smith apples

4 partridges, oven ready

1 tbsp sunflower oil

Maldon sea salt

milled black pepper

30g unsalted butter

1 tsp icing sugar

16 vacuum packed chestnuts

300ml dry cider

300ml game, pigeon, pheasant or chicken stock

200ml double cream

sprig thyme

3 tbsp fresh chervil, chopped

lemon juice

5 handfuls leaf spinach

dash olive oil

Partridge is a great alternative to the traditional roasts and tastes great with sweet, sticky apples.


Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas mark 6.

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Season the partridges inside and out then heat a large stainless steel frying pan or failing that a roasting tray and add the sunflower oil to heat. Roll the partridges in the hot fat and place the birds on their sides and pop into a very hot oven. The birds should take about 13 minutes to roast, a little longer if they are large, shorter of course if smaller. For average sized birds, give them 5 minutes in the oven then remove the pan and turn the birds on to their other sides. Return the birds to the oven for a further five minutes then turn them breast uppermost and roast for a final 3 minutes.

It’s important to turn the birds as they roast, so they pick up a lovely caramelised skin all over and don↑t dry out. The juices from the pan will really enhance the flavour going into the apples and the sauce.

Remove the partridges from the oven and transfer to a warm metal tray, setting them breast down to rest after roasting. Keep the birds warm but not too hot or they will carry on cooking.

The sauce can now be made in the same pan as the partridges were cooked in. The birds should rest for at least 10 minutes before serving but I would aim to have them cooked and the sauce made before sitting down to my starter.

For the sauce, peel, core and quarter the apples. Put the pan back on to a low to medium heat and add the rest of the butter and the apples. Sprinkle over the icing sugar and gently fry for three to four minutes until the fruit is browned and glazed.

Now add the chestnuts to the pan. Increase the heat slightly and stir until the chestnuts are coated with the butter from the pan. Add the cider and reduce it until it’s almost disappeared. Add the stock and again reduce it, this time by about two thirds. Finish by adding the cream and bringing to the boil. Don↑t allow the sauce to over reduce and become too thick and rich. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Remove the legs and breasts from the partridges with a large sharp knife and return to the tray, keeping the rest of the bones for a lovely stock for your freezer.

Heat a clean pan ready to cook the spinach and return the meat back to the oven to warm. Rapidly cook the spinach in the hot pan with a drop of olive oil, salt and pepper. The spinach will wilt in under a minute. When ready tip it out on to kitchen paper to allow any excess liquid to drain off.

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To serve, warm the sauce through and season with lemon juice and add two thirds of the chopped chervil. Divide the spinach between four warm plates and spoon the sauce, fruit and chestnuts around the spinach keeping a little sauce back. Set the warm breasts on the mounds of spinach and coat with the remaining sauce and sprinkle over the remaining chervil.Additional InformationIf you’re struggling to source Partridge then pop into your local butcher and ask them to order it for you.

Christmas Countdown Walnut and Apricot Tart

Serves 6


For the sable paste tart case (enough for 2 tart cases; we make enough for 4 at a time and freeze the rest)

125g unsalted butter at room temperature

125g icing sugar

2 small to medium eggs, beaten

2½ tbsp double cream

325g plain flour

For the filling

100g unsalted butter

120g soft light brown sugar

2 eggs

100g sultanas, soaked overnight in a little rum

100g soft dried apricots, sliced

100g walnuts, chopped (or pecans)

1 tbsp white wine vinegar

crème fraîche, to serve

For the caramel sauce (makes about 700ml; freeze the leftover)

375g caster sugar

500ml double cream

You could make the tart case ahead and freeze for this lovely festive pud.


For the sable paste tart case, cream the butter and icing sugar together until smooth and light. Slowly work in the egg in a steady stream allowing the egg to mix into the batter. If the batter splits, gently warm the bowl, and mix. Work in the cream and then add the flour in one batch and mix until combined. Do not overwork. Wrap and rest in the fridge for at least 2½ hours before use. It’s best made the day before then it should roll straight from the fridge, otherwise it’s very sloppy.

When it’s ready, roll out on a floured surface, keeping it round and even in thickness. Use your rolling pin to pick up the pastry and manoeuvre it over the buttered flan tin. Use any leftover pastry to patch up any breakages and press the pastry into the sides of the tin and trim the top. Line the case with clingfilm and fill with baking beans and place on a baking sheet and bake at 180C for 10-12 minutes. Remove from the oven and lift out the clingfilm and beans. Return the pastry to the oven for 4-5 minutes to crisp up. To remove the pastry case from the tin, place the tin on an upturned bowl and gently push the outer ring downwards and off the pastry. When completely cool it’s ready to be used.

For the filling, preheat the oven to 170C. Melt the butter until liquid and let cool to blood temperature. Cream the eggs and sugar together to the ribbon stage, then work in the melted butter. Stir in the fruit, nuts and vinegar and tip into the flan shell, making sure the fruit and nuts do not stick up above the line of the filling.

Cook for 25-30 minutes. Serve dusted with icing sugar and a dollop of crème fraîche, with a splash of caramel sauce on the side, if you fancy.

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If you do want to make the caramel sauce, here’s how. First put on a pair of rubber gloves to protect yourself from boiling sugar burns. Heat a heavy based pan over a medium heat. Add the sugar to the pan. When the sugar starts to melt, give the pan a shake and allow it to continue to melt. When there is more liquid than dry sugar, use a heatproof spatula to work in the rest of the sugar, breaking down any lumps. Watch out for hot spots. Gently push the sugar around to incorporate cool sugar into hot areas. Do not over stir or the sugar will clump. When you have a pale golden caramel colour, carefully begin to stir in the cream. The pan will start to bubble the moment you add liquid, so only put in about 50ml at a time or clumps of caramel will form, but work quickly or the mix may start to burn.

When ready the sauce can be served hot or cold. A good way to use it is to cool it and pour into a squeezy sauce bottle, reheating if required in the microwave or a bowl of hot water. The sauce will keep for a week in the fridge and can be frozen.

Nick’s tip: make the roast spuds the day before. Peel chop and boil them for 7 mins in salted water. Drain, shake well to fluff up the edges. Season and pour over melted goose or duck fat, then refrigerate. On the day, simply heat on a flat baking tray for 30 – 40 mins in a hot oven at 200C (can be done while the turkey is resting). You’ll have lovely crisp, flavoursome tatties, with none of the fuss of peeling, boiling, etc on the day.

Nick Nairn is taking part in the Big Dinner ( event which encourages people to host adinner 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.

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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.


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