Helping you to get the most out of our region

Local chefs at Christmas

30th November 2020

Debs Pennell caught up with a few of our local food heroes to find out what they prepare for their own Christmas table. Interestingly, not everyone plumps for the traditional turkey!

It really is that time of year again! December is upon us, and despite being a year of uncertainty and ever-changing Covid restrictions, Christmas Day is still going ahead! For our local chefs, butchers and food producers, this is their usually busiest time of the year, with parties to cater for, turkeys to prepare and extra deliveries of food to cover the Christmas period.

Julian Carter, Head Baker of Hambleton Bakery

Julian Carter, Head Baker at Hambleton Bakery

Julian’s run up to Christmas is always busy. The bakery adds extra delicious seasonal treats to their already extensive repertoire. At home, Christmas dinner is a traditional turkey for Julian and his wife, even with two children who are vegetarians. Julian says, ‘I am not prepared to compromise, so it is two types of Christmas dinner in our house: one with vegetarian trimmings, roast and gravy, and one full of meat and more traditional. Our Bronze Turkey comes from Katy Machine at Petty Wood Farm, Melton, who also supplies our free-range eggs.’

01572 812995 (Exton shop),

Sally Knight, Owner at Seven Wells Family Butchers

Sally Knight, Seven Wells Family Butchers

The Knight family took over this traditional butchers’ shop based in Oundle in 2004. Married to a farmer, and with two boys, Sally said: ‘The run up to Christmas is normally a very busy time for us, so, when it comes to Christmas Day, I rather treat it like a normal Sunday lunch! We tend to have goose or home-produced rolled rib of beef, which is served rare. As I come from Yorkshire, there will always be a tower of Yorkshire puddings to soak up the delicious gravy. I cheat with the Christmas pudding, as I normally run out of time to make my own, so I buy one from Pudding & Pie.’

Turkeys ordered through Seven Wells Family Butchers come in all sizes and are supplied by Seldom Seen Farm, based near Leicester. Their Norfolk Bronze turkeys are allowed to roam free in fields on the farm, in the glorious Leicestershire countryside. Make your life easier by stocking up for the Christmas holiday with ready-made pies such as steak and kidney, Cottage Pie or even raised pork pies, all prepared freshly in the kitchen at Seven Wells.

01832 273522,

Ben Jones, Co-Owner of The Olive Branch at Clipsham

Ben (centre front) and his team at The Olive Branch

The Olive Branch is closed on Christmas Day this year for the first time in 20 years, which means all The Olive Branch team will be at home enjoying Christmas with their families. Ben says, ‘I have worked many Christmas Days over the last 30 years and I enjoy working at Christmas; the camaraderie with the team, the joy of making other people’s Christmas special, and the fact that when I get home I am treated like a king – dinner is ready and a glass of red wine is poured! We have a traditional family Christmas Day with smoked salmon and Bucks Fizz for breakfast, and turkey and all the trimmings. I think most of The Olive Branch team – having served Christmas meals throughout December – do not want to miss out on the turkey… it certainly doesn’t put us off. If anything, it excites the taste buds!’ Ben recalls his mother-in-law using the washing machine to wash the potatoes on Christmas Eve! But, he says, ‘that is because she was cooking for 20!’ 

If you are lucky enough to book a table at The Olive Branch in the run up to Christmas their Barman, Billy, will suggest some great beers to go with cheese or Christmas Pudding, and the Restaurant Manager, Alistair, will recommend some wines perfect for turkey. The kitchen team prepare wonderful bread sauce with brandy, braised red cabbage, cranberry sauce, a delicious rich Madeira gravy, Christmas puddings, mince pies and more! And all this is available to buy from the Pub Shop, along with pre-orders for smoked salmon, terrines, etc.

01780 410355,

Adebola (Ade) Adeshina, Chef/Patron of The Chubby Castor 

Ade Adeshina of the Chubby Castor

Ade serves Christmas lunch each year in his highly acclaimed restaurant, and, for the first time this year, he is also providing an exclusive Christmas Day Hamper for collection. This Christmas lunch extravaganza comes in a three- or five-course option and will take all the stress out of your day. Everything for the hampers is prepared in the restaurant, ready for you to enjoy in your own home. Choose from traditional main courses, turkey, beef en croûte and lobster, with an array of delicious accompaniments. All hampers need to be pre-booked before 15 December for collection on Christmas Day. What an incredibly tempting option!

01733 380801,

This article is an extract from a longer piece in our December 2020 magazine – read the full feature, with information on even more of our fabulous local chefs, here (December 2020 issue, from page 49).

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