We shared a glass of something mulled with chef Adam Handling of Ugly Butterfly in St Ives as he revealed how he’ll be spoiling his staff on Christmas morning, how long he suggests resting the turkey, and a tantalising teaser about his big plans for 2024 …
What does Adam Handling’s Christmas look like?
I’ll be working on Christmas Day at The Loch & the Tyne – my pub in Old Windsor – so I’ll be cooking up a feast for our guests. I’m going to go in really early on the day to cook the whole team a special Christmas breakfast before service – smoked salmon, caviar, pigs in blankets, black pudding, poached eggs, fruit, Champagne … the full works. Only one bottle though, because we’ll have plenty of work to do!
What’ll be under the tree?
I don’t think I’m even going to get the time to put a tree up this year. Life is for giving, not receiving, so I’ll be giving presents to all my friends and spoiling my son, Oliver. He’s already picked out loads of toy cars and a Spiderman camping set that we’ll be testing out in the living room.
Traditional turkey or something else?
If I did get the chance to celebrate Christmas at home, it wouldn’t be turkey. I’d be serving a beautiful beef wellington with all the trimmings and lots and lots of roast potatoes. In the evening, I like to bake a whole Vacherin and dip the leftover roast potatoes in the cheese, drink some red wine and watch a film.
Let us in on your secret turkey-prepping tip.
If you’re going to do turkey, cook it at a high heat in the morning, let it rest for hours and then warm it for serving. It’ll be perfectly cooked and stay juicy. Resting is the key; the meat relaxes and the juices soak back in. Too often turkey is dry because it’s been overcooked and hasn’t been rested for long enough.
Roast potatoes cooked in duck fat, and heavily roasted brussels sprouts with chilli and bacon. I don’t like parsnips, so they wouldn’t be on my table, but there would be loads of hispi cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower – vegetables you can put in the oven on one tray and make life easy for yourself. Stop boiling vegetables! And, most importantly, tonnes of pigs in blankets, except I call them kilted sausages because I’m Scottish.
What’s for pudding?
I’m not a fan of overly boozy Christmas pudding, so I’d only have one of those if it’s light. Otherwise, anything that’s chocolatey – I love a yule log. I’m a massive cheese fiend so, after dessert, I’d be attacking the cheeseboard and drinking plenty of port.
Christmas drink of choice?
It would definitely be a glass of bubbles while cooking, and I’m hugely into my wine so Christmas would be the day to bring out the big guns and celebrate with something really special. I’ve just launched a range of wine packages on my online wine shop, including a few favourite picks. Adam’s Dream Vintage Christmas package has some of my absolute favourites – like Krug Vintage Brut 1988 and Chateau Lafite Rothschild 1988 – and it comes with a tin of caviar and truffle-stuffed Tunworth cheese. There are only three available, and I even deliver them myself!
What games will you be playing?
I don’t really do board games but I’ll probably play some card games with my friends – we get very competitive …
What’s on TV?
Any Christmas films – you’ve got to love Die Hard.
What about New Year?
I’m Scottish, so Hogmanay is the most important day of the year for me. The way we celebrate New Year’s Eve at Ugly Butterfly in St Ives is incredible. We’re doing a late-night party until the sun comes up and I’ll be there as a guest, so come and join us and have a drink with me to celebrate the bells.
Plans for 2024?
Everyone that knows me knows I don’t stand still, and 2024 will be the biggest year for me personally, as well as for my restaurant group. All will be revealed very soon, so watch this space …
Image of Adam: Jason Alfred Palmer
Enjoyed reading about Adam Handling’s Christmas? Read about Harriet Mansell’s Christmas here.
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