Christmas dinner is the one meal of the year when we all know what to expect and what we like (even the most committed vegans don’t mess with the formula). We have firm opinions about what should be on our plates; sales if not the consumption of Brussels sprouts will be in the hundreds of millions and turkey will grace the tables of 76% of homes.
Over 100 guests at Inverlochy and Cromlix will enjoy three days of lavish and traditional Christmas celebrations at which the meals (cooked the Roux way) and the spectacular Scottish scenery are the star attractions.
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The holiday menus have been approved by Albert Roux and, says Toby, the ‘essence of Roux’ will be ever present. Cooking at this time of year is less about showing off the distinctive style of the chef as ensuring their values and superlative culinary technique are evident in the classic Christmas dishes they create.
Diners will enjoy turkey from Scottish poultry producer St Brides and top notch and plentiful local ingredients including langoustines, venison and scallops.
Work on the Christmas menus begins in August when the plum puddings are made and continues until Christmas Eve when the turkeys are dressed for the oven. Despite being responsible for so many Christmas dinners each year, Toby remains a fan.
“I try to avoid it as much as possible [in the run up to Christmas], but I enjoy a properly roasted turkey."
He sampled his first turkey of the year in November when he cooked a Thanksgiving dinner at Inverlochy Castle. “I stuffed the legs with mushrooms and chestnuts. Delicious!”
However, Toby tries not to taste more Christmas food than he needs to so he can look forward to celebrating with his family. So what will he be eating this year?
“Because it’s with the family in a new home, probably the greatest hits: prawn cocktail, smoked salmon, roast turkey, roast potatoes, Brussels sprouts, roasted root vegetables, turkey gravy and cranberry.”
And despite the pudding prep intruding on the lazy days of summer, Toby can’t get enough of the stuff.
“I absolutely love it, it’s one of my favourite puddings that I look forward to every year. I generally cook with it in some form or another, not just at Christmas.”
“We’ll have it flambéed with brandy or rum, custard and brandy or rum cream. Then we pig out with stinky cheese and maybe some port.”
However often we prepare it, Christmas dinner can seem a daunting task. Outside the professional kitchen, it is women who are usually in charge; most of us don't attempt this feat solo until we've reached our 34th year but research suggests the satisfaction we feel when we pull it off successfully is second to none.
We asked Toby for a few tips from the restaurant kitchen to help us win the respect of the crowds on Christmas Day and put the essence of Roux on our plates.
"Separate the legs from the crown (breasts) of the turkey. Stuff the legs, slow roast them to have really tender and juicy meat. It's easier to control the different parts of the bird separately and guarantees you can cook the breast to retain moisture."
Good luck and merry Christmas!