Mark Greenaway’s tips for stress-free Christmas dinner

One of Edinburgh’s top chefs lets us into some tips that will make our lives easier and more stress-free when preparing Christmas dinner.

Mark Greenaway can help you take the stress out of Christmas dinner. Picture: Paul Johnston
Mark Greenaway can help you take the stress out of Christmas dinner. Picture: Paul Johnston

Well December is finally upon us and there is just one thing on everyone’s minds – Christmas!

Getting prepared for the festive period often seems like a daunting task but I am on hand to help.

Here I share some of my top tips for a stress-free Christmas:

Brussel Sprouts, Chestnuts and Pancetta

• My number one tip is to plan ahead. Figure out exactly who you’ll be cooking for and make a menu. Carefully read through any recipes that you are going to use to avoid any unwanted surprises when you come to cook the dishes. Once you know exactly what you will be cooking then you can put your shopping list together.

• Once your list is complete, you can split it into dry and fresh ingredients. You can start picking up any dry ingredients and drinks needed in the coming weeks; this means that the bill for the shopping on Christmas week won’t be quite so painful.

• It is also the perfect time of year to get to know your local butcher, fishmonger and greengrocer. It means that you’ll be able to get the best deals and advice when it comes to your ingredients.

• Often the person who takes on the cooking ends up working too hard. Try and delegate some of the jobs to your elves! Teamwork is essential when planning a feast. Allow time during or at the end of cooking to chill out a little so that you can enjoy the day as much as your guests.

Parsnips with Honey and Fennel Seeds

• In the days following Christmas, the last thing you want to be thinking about is cooking, so think ahead to the possible leftovers and get creative. Leftovers can be looked after carefully and used to feed you and your family for the few days after the dinner. For example, leftover vegetables can be easily turned into a comforting and wholesome soup. Leftover meat can be used in so many ways from sandwiches to stews – get creative and don’t let any go to waste.

Over the next three weeks I will be sharing my collection of the perfect side dishes for the big day.

Quite often the focus of Christmas dinner is the bird but I want to push vegetables to centre stage.

Often the veg is an afterthought but with some careful planning and a bit of imagination they can add colour, texture and excitement to what has become a somewhat predictable meal.

As you can see from our Christmas spread, I am sporting a very fetching Christmas jumper – please tell me I am not the only one!? Tweet me a picture of your dodgy Christmas jumper (@markgreenaway) and I might just be inclined to offer a prize to the one that is truly the worst/best!

Brussels sprouts, chestnuts and pancetta

Serves 4


• Brussels sprouts, 4 per person or more if you are a sprout lover

• 5 slices pancetta, cut into squares

• 8 peeled chestnuts

• 20g butter

• A pinch of sea salt


Cut all of the Brussels sprouts in half, discarding the outer damaged leaves

Blanch in boiling water for two minutes only, being careful not to overcook them.

In a large non-stick pan on a medium heat, add your squares of pancetta. Add your Brussels sprouts to the pan along with the butter.

Once the Brussels sprouts have coloured and are fully cooked, add the chestnuts and warm through. Keep warm until ready to use.

Parsnips with honey and fennel seeds

Serves 4


• 500g parsnips, peeled

• 100ml honey

• 100ml cold water

• 60g butter

• Fennel seeds

• Large pinch salt

• Small amount of flat leaf parsley, chopped


Cut all the parsnips in half lengthways and remove the cores.

Cut each half into quarters.

Place all of the ingredients (except the parsley) into a large non-stick pan and bring to the boil. Reduce the pan to a simmer.

Cook the parsnips until the honey starts to caramelise.

Once caramelisation starts, be very careful as the honey can burn quickly.

Check the parsnips are cooked by piercing them with a toothpick or small knife; they are ready when it goes through the parsnip without any resistance.

Cover and keep warm until needed.

Can be served along with a sprinkling of the chopped parsley.

Mark Greenaway is the Chef Patron of Restaurant Mark Greenaway on North Castle Street and Bistro Moderne in Stockbridge.