The traditions of Christmas we carry in our heads, and attempt to replicate, are very much Victorian: if we close our eyes, we can almost see the Dickensian table, groaning with the weight of all the food and drink. In those times, goose would almost certainly have been the main event: nowadays, the majority of Christmas Dinners in England (and the rest of the UK) will feature turkey.
There has been a move in recent years to re-introduce the goose, or alternatives such as venison, to the Christmas table, but the English have embraced the turkey in the last century, and are resistant to change. Hopefully, though, they will be sitting down to a free-range bird from a good breed, such as a Norfolk Bronze, rather than a watery and insipid turkey from the bottom of the supermarket deep freeze.
Here, I give a typical menu for Christmas Dinner and for the follow-up evening supper as served in many English households on Christmas Day.
- Starter: There is no real "traditional" Christmas starter, but a simple and light first course involving seafood such as salmon, either smoked or as a pate, or perhaps a shrimp cocktail (prawn, in the UK) or salad. Other hosts/cooks may serve a soup, or indeed, nothing at all.
- Main: Roast turkey, chipolatas (small pork or pork and beef sausages), crispy bacon (that has protected the turkey breast during roasting), stuffing, roast potatoes, roast parsnips, Brussels sprouts, carrots, small roasted onions and perhaps another green vegetable such as cabbage or broccoli. Small individual Yorkshire puddings are liked by many. Bread sauce and/or cranberry sauce will be served, and a good, rich gravy made from the giblets is essential. In larger households a second joint of meat will also be served, such as roast pork, rib of beef, or perhaps a gammon ham.
- Pudding: Christmas Pudding, flamed with brandy, served with brandy butter, cream or custard (or all three!). Mince pies may or may not be served with the pudding, or may come out later. Christmas cake may be served with the after-dinner coffee, or may be reserved for later in the day.
After dinner is the traditional time for the kids to play with their new presents, and for the adults to either sleep off, or attempt to walk off, the meal. However, the food has not finished, as later in the day, once people have recovered, out will come Christmas Day Supper, often as a help-yourself buffet.
- Christmas Day Supper: leftovers from the roast and other cold cuts such as ham, beef, chipolatas etc. Sausage rolls (sausage meat in pastry shells, not bread rolls). Cheeses, especially a really ripe Stilton served with a glass or two of crusty port. Preserves and pickles, some of which may be home-made. Mince pies and Christmas cake. And turkey sandwiches.