Feeding the family on Christmas Day can be a stressful experience, but for Darren Cadwell it’s all in a day’s work.
Darren heads up the kitchen team at Blackpool Victoria Hospital, which will be preparing 3,000 meals on the big day.
The team will spend the festive period peeling, roasting and mashing more than 100kg of potatoes, expertly preparing 50kg of Brussels sprouts and 50kg of glazed carrots, roasting 50 turkey crowns and serving up more than 100 litres of delicious gravy.
As well as the main meal, patients and staff working on Christmas Day can choose to have either melon balls or tomato soup to start, and the chefs will prepare more than 80 litres of brandy sauce to accompany serve up more than 20kg of festive Christmas pudding.
Describing how his Christmas day is organised, Darren said: “My head chef on Christmas Day will be Roy Cooper, who will start work at 5am and begin to prepare the lunch time meal including getting the five huge catering ovens nice and hot ready for the cooking to commence.
“At 6am three more chefs will start including a breakfast chef who will prepare and serve more than 1,300 breakfasts for both staff and patients. As lunch time approaches the team will add the finishing touches to the lunch including glazing the carrots, boiling the sprouts and making sure the turkeys are kept beautifully moist.
“Once lunch is finished at 1pm, the ovens will be switched off and preparation for the evening meal will begin. We’ll be serving a cold buffet style evening meal including sandwiches, salad, fruit juice, Christmas cake and each patient will receive a Christmas cracker too.”
Months in the planning, Christmas is one of the busiest times of the year for the kitchens at The Vic.
As well as the 900 Christmas dinners served on the day itself, in the run up to Christmas more than 700 staff attended the annual staff Christmas dinner, which of course is served with all the trimmings.
Top Tips for the perfect Xmas Dinner
Kitchen manager Darren has offered up his top tips for keeping your turkey moist, your potatoes golden and crispy and how to avoid soggy sprouts.
Darren’s Tantalising Turkey:
* Soak your turkey for 24 hours before cooking in a pan of water with a handful of sliced fresh ginger and 10 sage leaves. This will not only ensure your turkey stays moist during cooking but will infuse it with a beautiful flavour.
* For cooking, sit your turkey on a bed of carrots, celery and onions, pour over oil and water and cover with foil. Place in the oven and baste every hour. Halfway through cooking remove the foil to allow the turkey to brown. Don’t forget to keep basting each hour.
Darren’s Perfect Roast Spuds:
* I like to part-boil my potatoes with a teaspoon turmeric, we use a large tub of the spice here at the hospital as we are cooking for such large numbers. Pre-heat your oven tray with some oil.
* Once part-boiled, drain your potatoes and add to your hot over tray. Do not season at this point as the salt draws out water and causes the potatoes to stick. Cook in a hot oven, 200-250 degrees centigrade, for 20 to 25 minutes. Take out of the oven and season well. Pop them back in the oven for the final 20 to 25 minutes and you will have delicious crispy potatoes with a fluffy centre.
Darren’s Sensational Sprouts:
* I like to keep it nice and simple with sprouts. Make sure your water is boiling hot before adding your sprouts. Cook for no more than five minutes. Drain and add seasoning and serve straight away. This keeps them nice and crunchy not horribly soggy.