Head Chef at Ambleside's Rothay Manor Daniel McGeorge offers advice on how to make the perfect Christmas dinner by the

A WANDER through street markets at Christmas time certainly is a thrill for fans of festive food and drink, with amazing smells and spectacular sights of indulgent treats sizzling in the gloved-hands of hungry visitors while enjoying their Christmas shopping.

But when it comes to creating the perfect Christmas atmosphere indoors – namely, the dining room, Ambleside’s Rothay Manor Hotel has top tips in abundance.

Jenna Shail, who owns the hotel with her husband, Jamie, says: “It sounds like a bit of a cliché, but the long-awaited Christmas dinner really is the centrepiece to Christmas Day itself.

"The decorations may be fantastic, the gifts may be perfect, the feeling in the air may be magical – but there’s nothing like a dry turkey and soggy vegetables to cast a shadow over what should be the most wonderful day of the year!

“If you want to wow your guests this Christmas, our Head Chef Daniel McGeorge has some top tips for producing the perfect Christmas lunch; and while he’s normally very protective about his secrets that unlock the key to a perfect family dinner, he’s overflowing with Christmas spirit this year and is happy to let The Westmorland Gazette readers in on his top tips.”

Dan says: “Firstly, don’t rush! Christmas can be stressful enough with last minute shopping, so I’d recommend getting up early one morning and pick up your turkey a couple of days ahead of Christmas Day. It goes without saying that firstly, you need a really good quality turkey.

“The bird is definitely not a part of the meal to skimp on and you don’t want it to be too dry, which is where the bacon comes in.

"Bacon isn’t just a tasty and visually attractive addition to the turkey, it’s key to keeping it nice and moist.

"Lay a good few rashers of the streaky variety across the top of your turkey and make sure you baste her continually during cooking. I find that by spooning pan juices over it, the fat melts through the skin and into the meat, which in-turn adds extra flavour while preventing it from drying out in the oven's dry heat.

"If turkey’s not your thing, why not switch it up and go for a goose instead! I find that a great finishing touch is to add thyme and garlic to mine for added flavour, too.

“It’s not just prepping ahead with the turkey – or goose. That’s vital, but all the trimmings as well. It’s much more enjoyable if you do most of the prep’ the day before.

"It’s all too easy to just think ‘ah I’ll sort the veggies out tomorrow’, but if you get them sorted on Christmas Eve, it makes cooking the bird on Christmas day all the more enjoyable. Trust me, getting all those veggies prepped and ready to go is a trade secret!

"Do them the night before and make a list – even check it twice, so you can tick things off as you go.

"Another tip for the main course is to make the perfect roast potatoes by giving them a good fluff up before roasting to get a nice crispy outer layer. Just give them a good hard shake in a colander after boiling them and before putting them in the oven to help them crisp-up.

“And for my final top tip, you can top-off all your hard work with a glass of wine – but make sure it matches the richness of the meal. We find that a Chilean Merlot goes best, although we always pair or Christmas turkey with a good quality French burgundy!”

l For those who would rather be waited-on hand and foot, Rothay Manor is taking Christmas dinner bookings now, at https://rothaymanor.co.uk/festive/ or by calling 01539 433 605.