Close up shot on christmas decorations at Coworth Park
In conversation with

Festive feasting with Adam Smith

November 12, 2021

Coworth Park’s Michelin-starred executive chef, Adam Smith, takes time out from his busy countdown to Christmas to share some of his top tips for a festive feast to remember.

What are your tips for cooking the best possible Christmas turkey?

I recommend using a 6 ‒ 8kg bird as this size doesn’t need too long in the oven and is more likely to retain its moisture, which is essential for a succulent Christmas dinner. I remove the legs and cook these separately with the crown, I find this keeps the meat moist and you can stuff the legs with a mix of sausage meat, chestnuts, sage and onions and cook slowly. I recommend cooking the turkey crown for 50 – 60 minutes at 185˚C/gas mark 4, and then resting for a good 45 – 60 minutes.

Has Christmas dinner changed over the years?

I’m not sure there’s anything on the plate now that wasn’t there ten years ago. However, I do feel things have become more refined with a real focus on the quality and provenance of the ingredients, rather than just piling the plate up high, which is how I remember Christmas as a child.

Do you have any advice for how to put a twist on the traditional trimmings?

I’m a great believer in the classics and, more importantly, cooking the classics well. The one exception I make to this is that I like to jazz up the stuffing. This is done with the addition of many different ingredients from apricots to rosemary, or even truffle and foie gras for a richer taste. For really flavoursome gravy, try adding a teaspoon of Marmite.

Beautiful dining table, set for christmas at Coworth Park
Close up shot on a white plate, with a christmas pudding at Coworth Park

What’s a good alternative to turkey for the roast?

Duck is a great alternative. It makes a delicious roast and is something we don’t usually have every day so it feels very special and fitting for a festive occasion.

What makes the perfect Christmas pudding?

I think Christmas puddings are at their most delicious in their second year, when they’ve had plenty of time to rest and age well. The other important thing is choosing the right recipe and as I like a bit of tradition my go-to recipe dates back to 1885.

Do you have any recommendations for taking the hassle out of Christmas Day cooking?

The secret here is all in the preparation. I suggest preparing all your vegetables the day before so that they’re ready to be cooked. You can also prep the turkey by boning the legs and preparing the crown so they’re ready for the oven. By sticking to the simple things there’s less fuss and really delicious food. For a starter, in my opinion nothing beats a good old-fashioned prawn cocktail.

What’s your favourite canapé to serve at a Christmas party?

I love smoked salmon blinis served with a chilled glass of Champagne. We don’t have food like that very often in my house but Christmas is the perfect time for these canapés, and they’re quick and easy to make.

What are your standout dishes at Coworth Park this year?

At Coworth Park the expectations of our guests are particularly high. Some are looking for authentic traditional dishes and others for something a little different. It’s about finding the balance between the two and providing a memorable experience for everyone. I add a couple of special, luxury dishes and combine these with the classics. For example, this year we’re starting with a beautiful fresh crab salad garnished with caviar. For the main course, there’s a choice of braised turbot, salsify, pear and chestnuts or traditional roast turkey with all the trimmings.

Christmas wreath on a blue door of the Dower House
Portrait of Chef Adam smith exective chef at Coworth Park Ascot

What wine would you pair with a Christmas dinner?

I think you can’t go far wrong with a classic red or white Burgundy, but it’s a must to start with some celebratory fizz.

What’s your typical Christmas Day?

I’ve worked every Christmas Day since I was 15 so that’s my tradition! When I get home after work though that’s my time to be with my family and enjoy delicious food. If I were at home on Christmas Day I definitely wouldn’t be doing the cooking!

I hope my ideas add to your enjoyment of the festive season, and if you get the chance please do come and dine with us at Coworth Park.

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