As Christmas rapidly approaches, we speak to another one of Britain’s top chefs to get his take on Christmas food and cooking during the festive period.
Ronnie Kimbugwe is Head Chef at Bel and the Dragon, a group of nine unique and elegant country inns located in Southern England. With a hearty menu, fine wine and that warm welcome you’d expected, the restaurants are incredibly popular and reviews on Trip Advisor rarely dip below 4 stars.
As Head Chef for the group, Ronnie creates the menus and recipes for the restaurants and liaises with suppliers on everything right down to pricing. It’s a pressure job, but having previously worked his way up to Senior Sous Chef at Gordon Ramsay of at Claridge’s, he’s the perfect man for the role.
So what about Christmas then? A time when people really look forward to the big festive meals and those great seasonal British ingredients come to the fore.
Ronnie tell us: “I love cooking with all the British ingredients that are around at this time of the year. I especially enjoy slow cooking at this time of year and creating hearty, wholesome dishes which remind me of home.
“I love the combination of chestnuts, Brussels sprouts and bacon. I think it’s extra special because they are not really eaten at any other time in the year. The sprouts have to be bright green, crunchy and fluffy though, not bland and boiled!”
The menus at Bel and the Dragon this Christmas certainly scream tradition and seasonality, with everything from the traditional roast turkey though to Grilled Rib-Eye Beef and Seared Orkney Scallops.
So with this in mind, it’s of little surprise what’s on the menu at Ronnie’s own house on Christmas Day.
“It’s always turkey with all the trimmings… and plenty of wine! There are about 15-20 of us so it is a load and an extremely merry day!“ he says.
“As well as Christmas pudding we also serve a mouth-watering chocolate rocky road Christmas cake which is out of this world!”
Throughout the Christmas period, it’s not just turkey, turkey and more turkey. As with all top chefs, Ronnie does like to vary what he cooks. So we asked him what other things he particularly likes to cook at this time of the year.
“The first time I remember having turkey at Christmas I thought was a chicken gone wrong!
“I quite like getting away from the turkey and cooking other sorts of meats as well, particularly game. I love venison and making pies and casseroles.
“Another of my favourites is chorizo with scallops. Home is by the seaside and so you can’t get better than fresh scallops straight from the sea at this time of year!”
And for his outright favourite recipe at this time of the year?
“It has to be langoustines straight from the fisherman, straight out of the pan before they even get to the table.
“Add a squeeze of lemon, perhaps some garlic and chunky gluten free bread.”
Ronnie Kimbugwe’s tip for cooking Christmas Dinner
Throughout our Christmas food series here on Feel Christmassy, we are asking all of our chefs for their top tip to anyone cooking Christmas Dinner themselves.
Ronnie says: “The best tip is to get everyone else involved. This turns Christmas into a family event rather than a chore. It lightens the work load for you! Somebody can do veg, someone else the stuffing and so on. So it makes the whole process more fun and interactive.”
We’d like to thank Ronnie for taking the time to talk us through his thoughts on Christmas food. If you’d like to read more about Bel and the Dragon, or even book a table, you can visit the website at the link below: