Nigella Lawson ‘s brilliant countdown to Christmas lunch

The brilliant countdown to Christmas lunch: Don’t panic! Nigella Lawson has the big day all wrapped up with her step-by-step guide to cooking the perfect turkey with all the trimmings

  • TV Chef Nigella Lawson shared advice for preparing meals throughout Xmas
  • She advises counting crackers and checking cutlery on Christmas Eve
  • She says the first thing to do on Christmas Eve is take the turkey out the fridge 
  • Nigella says on Xmas day everything can be warmish if the gravy is piping hot 

There is no point denying it. This is not just lunch: it is the focus of our expectations. 

It is also a huge undertaking.

 The work itself, however – all the preparation and organisation – is not so terrible. 

Peeling potatoes and trimming brussels sprouts, writing a list of what must be done, and ticking it off as you go is hugely satisfying. 

You don’t have to operate quite like this, but I find it helps, and so have included here a tight timetable that demands, but delivers. 

This doesn’t need to be followed to the letter, but I suggest that if you want to go off piste, you chart your own proposed trajectory.

I have concentrated on two days, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. 

TV Chef Nigella Lawson (pictured) shared a breakdown of what time to prepare each part of Christmas lunch 

You may find it easier to start the preparations a few days earlier (see my Make Ahead suggestions alongside some recipes) and finesse the timings accordingly.

CHRISTMAS EVE (at the latest)

First thing, take the turkey out of the fridge. 

(Take the giblets out as soon as you get the bird home and stash them separately in the fridge, throwing away the liver.)

 Put all the giblets into a saucepan (with lid) along with the other ingredients to make the stock for your Allspice Gravy, then put it all on the heat and get on with preparing the turkey while the stock comes to a boil.

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Get out a very large pan (with lid) – one that will fit the turkey roomily – or a clean bucket or plastic bin, and add all the ingredients you need for brining My Spiced And Super Juicy Roast Turkey. 

Stir well and lower the turkey into the brine, adding more water if needed.

Cover with the lid and put it somewhere cold. This now just sits, infusing, until Christmas morning.

Meanwhile, once the giblet-water has started boiling, cover with a lid, turn down the heat to very low and leave for 2 hours.

You could use this time to get on with everything else, in whatever order you like – or you can man several pans at once, which is more efficient, so long as it doesn’t stress you out:

Nigella advises putting Christmas pudding (pictured) to steam for 3 hours on Christmas day at around 12.45pm

● Cranberry Sauce; or make this further ahead.

● Panettone Stuffing Squares, but don’t add the eggs yet.

The above are non-negotiable, I feel. You may want to add (or not) the following, and if so, start on these today:

● Bacon-Wrapped Chipolatas : wrap the chipolatas in the bacon ready for cooking.

● Beetroot Orzotto, but only up to the point before the soured cream is added.

When the above are either done or under control:

● Take the giblet-water, after its simmering time, off the heat, then remove the lid and leave to get cold.

● Check that you’ve got all the plates, cutlery and napkins you need for tomorrow and that there’s champagne, white wine, fizzy water (or any combination you want to serve) in the fridge, or in a small clean plastic bin stuffed with ice, to save fridge space.

● Count the Christmas crackers and, if this applies, put them beyond any child’s reach.

● Slice a good-quality white loaf, cut the crusts off and leave on a rack to go stale for the Bread Sauce .

Nigella recommends counting Christmas crackers and checking cutlery on Christmas Eve in preparation for the next day (file image)


The following, unsparing, schedule is based on a 2.30pm lunch, cooked with the benefit of a double oven. 

I know not all of you will have two ovens, and this is all perfectly possible, if harder, with one oven. 

In many ways it’s more of a conjuring trick than a culinary exercise. 

Once cooked, the turkey can sit for an hour, or longer, out of the oven so long as it is not in a draught; and as it comes out, the oven can be turned up for the potatoes. 

A hot oven for the Perfect Roast Potatoes is the only crucial factor – that and the gravy. 

So long as the turkey is cooked, the potatoes are crisp and the gravy piping hot, everything else can be warmish.

10am Peel and cut potatoes, then leave in cold water, as directed. 

● Take bacon-wrapped chipolatas out of fridge.

10.30am Take turkey out of brine, sit it on a rack in the sink (or over a tin) and leave to drip, drain and come to room temperature 

Nigella suggests putting prepared potatoes in a pan to parboil at 11am on Christmas Day (file image)

● Preheat 1st oven to 200°C/fan 180°C/gas mark 6 

● Trim Christmas Sprouts (p 44) and leave in a colander 

● Take prepared stuffing out of fridge.

10.40am Put chipolatas in oven 

● Infuse milk for bread sauce.

11am Put prepared potatoes in pan on heat to parboil.

11.10am Take chipolatas out of oven and leave wrapped in foil.

11.20am Melt basting glaze ingredients for turkey.

11.30am Baste turkey with half the glaze, and put in 1st oven

● Potatoes should be at parboiling stage, or will be within the next 10 minutes, so keep an eye on them, then drain, dredge and leave in pan.

12 noon Baste turkey with remaining glaze 

● Put large pan of water with steamer attachment on to heat 

● Now sit down calmly with a glass of wine, or cup of tea, and look over everything else that needs to be done so you are not panicked by the quick-fire work later 

● Lay the table.

Nigella advises wrapping chipolatas in bacon ready to cook on Christmas Eve (file image) 

12.45pm Put Christmas pudding in bottom part of pan with steamer attachment to steam (for 3 hours).

12.50pm Prepare Maple-Roast Parsnips, and leave in a tin, preferably a foil throwaway one 

● Put sprout water on and let it come to the boil. You can leave it with its lid on, with the heat switched off, once it boils.

1pm Preheat 2nd oven (if available) to 250°C/fan 230°C/gas mark 9, putting in a roasting tin with goose fat to heat up at the same time (this will be for the potatoes).

1.30pm Put potatoes in hot fat in 2nd oven.

1.45pm Add prepared bread to infused milk and finish off bread sauce ● Put parsnips in oven on rack below potatoes 

● Finish off stuffing, by adding eggs etc, put in dish and pop in oven below turkey 

● Baste turkey at the same time 

● Check sprout water, bring back up to boil, then cook and drain sprouts.

2pm Turn potatoes over 

Nigella suggests lastly whipping up Eggnog Cream to complete Christmas lunch (file image)

● Check turkey; it should be done. Take out of oven and leave tented with foil 

● Pop foil parcel of chipolatas in oven to reheat.

2.10pm Put Beetroot Orzotto on to reheat 

● Fork through cranberry sauce 

● Warm chestnuts in butter, add drained sprouts and toss in pan, leaving with lid on and heat off till lunch.

2.20pm Finish Allspice Gravy 

● Take parsnips out and plate up 

● Check seasoning and heat of bread sauce 

● Take stuffing out of oven 

● Finish off the sprouts.

2.30pm Bring everything to the table, leaving potatoes and hot gravy till last.


3.30pm Have a quick nip out to the kitchen, whip up Eggnog Cream and serve with the Ultimate Christmas Pudding.

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