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The top Derbyshire chefs share their food tips for Christmas

'When I cook for us all I tend to do a beef wellington' says The Bulls Heads' Mark Aisthorpe. Photo: Getty Images
'When I cook for us all I tend to do a beef wellington' says The Bulls Heads' Mark Aisthorpe. Photo: Getty Images

From beef wellingtons to festive tables laden with some of the best food and drink from the county, four of Derbyshire’s best chefs share what’s cooking in their kitchens this festive period.

Great British Life: Mark Aisthorpe is looking forward to a Christmas working at The Bulls Head. Photo: The Bulls HeadMark Aisthorpe is looking forward to a Christmas working at The Bulls Head. Photo: The Bulls Head

Mark Aisthorpe, chef patron, The Bulls Head at Holymoorside

Former Great British Menu regional finalist Mark has worked in some of the country’s best kitchen before he set his sights on opening The Bulls Head in 2016. Since then, Mark has celebrated the best of Derbyshire’s food and drink, including from local foragers and farmers, through his exquisite menus and seasonal plates that have also earned him and his team a coveted three AA Rosettes. This is how Christmas looks like for him.

Where will you be on Christmas Day?

I will be working and, surprising to a lot of people, I actually love it.

If you’re working, when will you celebrate with family?

We have a family meal between Christmas and New Year, but we close January 1st – 18th and go on holiday – this is our Christmas.

You can have a Christmas meal anywhere – where do you go?

A log cabin on the side of a mountain in the alps, snow all around, log fire roaring away, sat together as a family overlooking the mountains - just says Christmas to me!

What Derbyshire food producers feature on your festive table?

Thornbridge Brewery and lots of local shot game and foraged produce.

What’s your family Christmas dinner – and who cooks it?

When I was younger it was always my mum or my nan, traditional turkey or goose - both great cooks. When I cook for us all I tend to do a beef wellington.

What kitchen tool should every home cook be given?

Thermomix 100%. A great gadget with so many uses.

What one tip does every home cook need to know at Christmas?

Brine your turkey to keep it juicy and add flavour, use a temperature probe so you know when it’s cooked and let it rest.

Great British Life: Lauren's festive table will including ingredients from many Derbyshire food and drink producers. Photo: Lauren WilsonLauren's festive table will including ingredients from many Derbyshire food and drink producers. Photo: Lauren Wilson

Lauren Wilson, co-owner Riverside Kitchen

Lauren and Ralph Wilson run Riverside Kitchen at David Mellor in Hathersage. A café and sometimes supper club celebrating Derbyshire’s rich larder of food and drink producers, Christmas time means family time, alternative festive feasts and a table groaning with local produce.

Where will you be on Christmas Day?

We are all going to Oxfordshire where my Mum and brother live, it’ll be an exciting time.

If you’re working, when will you celebrate with family?

We close on Christmas Day and Boxing Day, so we are fortunate to be off.

You can have a Christmas meal anywhere – where do you go?

Southern Italy where they eat vast amounts of seafood with chilled fizz, preferably by the sea and a long table with friends and family.

What Derbyshire food producers feature on your festive table?

Oh quite a few! A White Peak Distillery G&T, Robin’s Lions Mane mushrooms from the Derbyshire Mushroom Emporium to start on sourdough from Welbeck Bakehouse. Pickles from Felix at the Crocked Pickle Co, Tom’s beef from Bubnell Cliff Farm and Bonsall organic potatoes with our homemade crackers and Hartington Stilton - to name a few.

What’s your family Christmas dinner – and who cooks it?

This is a bit of a divider to be honest. I’m very non-traditional but depending who I’m cooking for will depend on which route I take. I always cook if we are at home and, if I have to go a more traditional route, I’ll buy a local turkey from our friend’s farm, dry brine it a couple of days before then butter underneath the skin. I’ll make sure we have lots and lots of vegetables plus sauces, condiments and yorkies to keep everyone happy. Pudding might be a very boozy tiramisu.

If I was just thinking of me, I’d go off piste and use lots of eastern spices, I’d scrap the turkey and have fish, I’d cook on the fire table or BBQ and make it as interesting as possible. I come from a family who didn’t have Sunday roasts and it’s stuck with me…!

What kitchen tool should every home cook be given?

A silicone spatula, fine micro plane and a hand pull blender, possibly one of the best things ever invented.

What one tip does every home cook need to know at Christmas?

Prep in advance.

Great British Life: Paul Sykes is happy to be open and looking forward to time with family at Christmas. Photo: Kenny Brown, Manchester Evening NewsPaul Sykes is happy to be open and looking forward to time with family at Christmas. Photo: Kenny Brown, Manchester Evening News

Paul Sykes, chef owner at Hyssop and the Hare, Glossop

Jess Hine and Paul Sykes, the dynamic couple behind Glossop’s newly opened Hyssop and the Hare will be extra thankful this Christmas. They have just opened their new businesses after their much-loved restaurant Hyssop, also in the town, was devastated by fire in September 2022. Here, chef owner Paul, shares his Christmas food tips and their plans. hyssopglossop.co.uk

Where will you be on Christmas Day?

I will be at home this year, with my one-year-old daughter and my partner Jess. I’m normally working, it’s a rarity to be off! After the past year, we decided to spend this year as a family and get some well needed family time.

You can have a Christmas meal anywhere – where do you go?

Claridge’s in London. Because why not, just the sheer opulence.

What Derbyshire food producers feature on your festive table?

Meat from Mettrick’s Butchers on Glossop High Street. I’ll have some beers from Thornbridge and Buxton Brewery too.

What’s your family Christmas dinner – and who cooks it?

I definitely don’t cook on Christmas; nobody ever lets me. I’ll oversee the cooking at my mother-in-law’s this year, I can’t help myself. The beef will probably be my responsibility, the rest is a free for all.

What kitchen tool should every home cook be given?

A temperature probe - don’t overlook that turkey.

What one tip does every home cook need to know at Christmas?

Don’t be afraid to add lots of butter and salt to everything. It’s Christmas after all. Sherry vinegar in your gravy too, it’s a game changer.

Great British Life: Christmas is a time for family and cooking Christmas dinner for chef, Luke. Photo: Dan BurnsChristmas is a time for family and cooking Christmas dinner for chef, Luke. Photo: Dan Burns

Luke Payne, chef owner at The Pack Horse, Hayfield

Luke has been at the helm of the multi awarding winning Pack Horse with wife, Emma, since 2016. The elegant dining pub puts seasonal, sustainable and local produce at the core of its ethos with food and menus changing with the seasons. Christmas, for Luke, means some all-important time off with family for him and his team and a time to get cooking in his home kitchen. thepackhorsehayfield.uk

Where will you be on Christmas Day?

I’ll be at home enjoying some family time, we close The Pack Horse on Christmas Eve night and reopen on New Year’s Eve night. I believe it’s really important for the team to get to spend Christmas with their family, which is more important than any money we would make that week.

You can have a Christmas meal anywhere – where do you go?

Trinity Restaurant in Clapham, London. Adam Byatt’s cooking is a masterclass of classic technique which he makes look effortless, every dish I see coming from the kitchen looks ethereal and long may it continue to be a bastion of modern classical brilliance.

What Derbyshire food producers feature on your festive table?

We are incredibly fortunate to work with John Mettrick at Mettrick’s Butchers in Glossop. His passion for sourcing the highest welfare meat of outstanding quality fits exactly what we do at The Pack Horse, and he champions local farmers producing the finest beef and thanks to good practices and some of the best grazing land and rolling hills in the country.

What’s your family Christmas dinner – and who cooks it?

I always cook the Christmas dinner- part of me is a bit of a control freak and it just seems a little wrong to me if the chef in the family didn’t do it! We are having goose this year, I like to change it up every year as I find turkey can be a little boring and monotonous, last year we had a beef wellington.

What kitchen tool should every home cook be given?

A meat thermometer. It’s all well and good following a recipe, but every oven is different and there are some great resources out there (the River Cottage Meat book in particular) which provide accurate temperatures to aim for when preparing meat in a variety of ways to different tastes. A meat thermometer gives you a level of accuracy which will transform your home cooking.

What one tip does every home cook need to know at Christmas?

Use more butter and salt than you think is reasonable! It’s a real secret to success, and it’s Christmas after all, so indulge a little. If doing turkey, lather the bird under the skin in a butter seasoned with garlic and lemon peel, and cook it low and slow, basting every 20 minutes before blasting on a high heat at the end to get the skin crispy. And always allow plenty of time for meat to rest, it relaxes everything and retains moisture.



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