Christmas dinner is something we all look forward to - not least the delegated cooks, willing or otherwise, who spend weeks planning the menu for this annual highlight.
But as we prepare to stuff the turkey, steam the pudding and put the finishing touches to the table setting, spare a thought for the nation’s chefs, who have done all this dozens of times over the last few weeks.
Greg Goodison, executive chef of four local pubs and restaurants, is a champion of classic home cooking. His contemporary take on hearty, traditional favourites is stamped across the menus of the Scotsman’s Pack in Hathersage; the Wheatsheaf in Bakewell; the Eyre Arms at Calver and the Old Original Bakewell Pudding Shop.
But by the time Christmas day arrives, he’s carved more turkeys than most self-respecting butchers – and by the time Boxing Day arrives he’s more than happy to tuck into something a bit different.
His answer this year is guinea fowl – the leg slow roasted and the juicy breast pan fried.
“I love game and guinea fowl is my favourite,” says Greg, who lives in Norton with his young family.
”I’m a big supporter of local produce and our game is all reared on local farms and moorland around the Peak Park.
“Game is bang in season at this time of year and this is a perfect dish over the next week or two – the pancetta, parsnips and spices add an extra Christmassy feel.”
Greg will be working up to Christmas Eve, serving dinner to hundreds of hungry revellers in the three weeks leading up to the big day.
But Christmas Day is a holiday and he’ll be celebrating with the family at home.
“It’s a bit of a busman’s holiday for me as I’ll be the one cooking,” laughs Greg.
“We have a traditional turkey but I also do a joint of beef and cauliflower cheese has become a favourite Christmas dinner accompaniment in our family - it’s the highlight of the meal for me!”
It’s the same story for Greg’s brother Jack, who is head chef at the Scotsman’s Pack.
“We see each other Christmas morning at my dad’s,” says Greg.
“Then it’s back to the kitchen to roll our sleeves up.”
Greg is a well-seasoned chef. His first job was as a pot washer at Champs in Ecclesall Road. That whetted his appetite for the hospitality business and he trained as a chef at Sheffield College.
Over the next five years he worked his way up the ladder at local restaurants and eventually became head chef at Champs, where he had started out.
After broadening his experience at a Nottingham gastro-pub, he returned home to Sheffield to work with the BrewKitchen group and then at the award-winning Devonshire Arms in Beeley, on the Chatsworth Estate.
For the last three years he has been executive chef of the Scotsman’s Pack and its sister venues, run by Bakewell husband and wife team Nick and Jemma Beagrie.
“It’s a great time of year at our pubs,” Greg says, “The festive decorations, open fires and Peak District settings make each place really atmospheric, plus we’ve got some great menus available focusing on some quality seasonal produce.”
Recipe by: Greg Goodison
Slow roast guinea fowl with smoked pancetta mash, parsnip crisps and a spiced plum and raisin chutney
100g pancetta, cubed
1 whole guinea fowl (ask your butcher to prepare this for you)
250ml chicken stock
6 plums, diced and stoned
1 star anise
50ml cranberry juice
25g brown sugar
25g white sugar
1 cinnamon stick
2 sprigs rosemary
1 white onion, peeled and roughly chopped
2 large white potatoes, peeled and roughly chopped
30g unsalted butter
25ml double cream
Salt and pepper
Place the onion in a deep oven tray with the rosemary, salt and pepper. Place the legs in the tray and add the chicken stock (do not submerge the legs). Cover with foil and place in the oven at 160C for three hours. Check during cooking, adding stock if required. Once ready the skin should be golden and crispy. Remove from the oven and leave to rest for two to three minutes.
Put the plums in a heavy-bottomed pan. Add the sugar, star anise and cinnamon. Add the cranberry juice and raisins. Simmer on a low heat until the plums stew down to a thick, chutney-like consistency. Taste and add sugar as required. Warm through when serving, removing the spices.
Boil the potatoes with a pinch of salt. Once soft drain then put them through a potato ricer. Melt the butter then add it along with the cream, salt and pepper to taste.
In a separate pan fry off the pancetta in a small amount of oil until crisp and golden. Add the pancetta and pancetta fat to the mash for an extra salty flavour.
Remove skin then peel slices of parsnip ready to create crisps. Deep fry the peelings in 170C oil until golden brown. Place onto kitchen towel and pat to remove excess oil.
Add a little oil to a metal-handled frying pan. Once hot place the breasts in the pan skin-side down. Add a pinch of salt and pepper. After a couple of minutes the skin will turn golden. Turn the breasts over with a pair of tongs and seal. Put the pan in the oven to finish the breasts for four to five minutes at 180C. Plate the dish and garnish with watercress.
To make gravy save your guinea fowl bones to make a game stock.