Christmas is coming...

Thomas and Katie Mackay have stars in their pies
Thomas and Katie Mackay have stars in their pies
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WHEN you’re young it seems like Christmas just happens by magic. On Christmas morning the presents are all under the tree, the stockings are all hung, the house is festooned with decorations and there’s a tempting aroma of the delicious feast to come filling the home.

Of course, the preparation for all this is far from magic. As any family will tell you, there’s a lot of hard work that goes into making the most special day of the year just that.

Fortunately, for those culinary creatives stuck for ideas, help is at hand, in the shape of the two-day Foodies Christmas Festival which will help you sort everything from delicious home-made mince pies to a main course that will have the family clamouring for left-overs come Boxing Day.

“It’s definitely the cooking tips people come for,” admits director Sue Hitchen. “It is really aimed at promoting local produce and great Scottish food and drink, and we have found in previous years that people were very keen to follow the demonstrations and then they would go off and buy the ingredients, so that’s clearly what a lot of people are looking for.”

The event at the EICC is expecting 8000 people through the doors next weekend, and there will be something for everyone – even those from slightly warmer climes.

“We have GMTV food critic Charles Metcalfe this year, who has promised to bring along some good Australian wines and show off a few tips on how they do Christmas in Australia,” says Sue.

Other top chefs taking part include Jacqueline O’Donnell of The Sisters, Mark Greenaway, pictured above, of Restaurant Mark Greenaway, Paul Tamburrini of The Honours, Jeff Bland of The Balmoral and Graeme Pallister of 63 Tay Street.

To whet people’s appetites ahead of the big event the organisers have encouraged local foodies to whip up a few culinary events over the coming week.

Included among them is what, for many, will be an invaluable demonstration of a skill often taken for granted – the carving of a Christmas roast.

Run by Edinburgh New Town Cookery school, the master class is being led by principal Fiona Burrell, who admits the art of carving is a particular skill. “It’s the sort of skill that people just assume men have, but in reality it’s not something people do as much anymore so there’s no reason why they should know,” she says. “It depends on what you are carving, but one of the most basic errors that people make is not having the knife they are using sharpened before they carve.”

And when it comes to turkey Fiona has a few more neat tricks up her sleeve.

“With a turkey you need to take the knife down to the neck of the bird and then carve outwards at an angle. You should go for thin slices as well – it makes the meat go a lot further, which is perhaps not what everyone wants with turkey, but it also makes carving it a lot easier.”

• Foodies Christmas is being held at the EICC, December 1 and 2, full details at www.foodiesfestival.com. The Pre-Christmas Carving Demonstration and Dinner is being held on Wednesday, November 28, full details at: www.entcs.co.uk