Belfast Telegraph

'I just love Christmas... it was a no-brainer to do this show'

Get in the festive spirit with BBC One daytime show, The Best Christmas Food Ever. Georgia Humphreys gets a taste of what we can look forward to

Winning recipe: Catherine Fulvio and Paul Ainsworth take the heat out of Christmas cooking
Winning recipe: Catherine Fulvio and Paul Ainsworth take the heat out of Christmas cooking

What's your favourite thing about Christmas? If the answer is "food" (and why wouldn't it be?) then your mouth will be watering at BBC One's new daytime cooking show.

Airing every weekday for two weeks as December kicks off, The Best Christmas Food Ever sees chefs Paul Ainsworth and Catherine Fulvio share their favourite recipes and tips for making those festive family meals even more special. Plus, there are a few famous names joining them in the kitchen.

From focaccia to panettone to Christmas Day tiramisu, Southampton-born Ainsworth and Fulvio, from Co Wicklow, rustle up an impressive 64 recipes over the 10 episodes.

Discussing what to expect from the series, Fulvio, who is also a food writer and owns a cookery school, says: "Whether you're a great home cook, whether you've never cooked Christmas in your life, there is something for absolutely everyone. It will get you into the warmth and spirit of Christmas. There's fantastic humour, some laugh-out-loud moments."

"With our busy lives, Christmas is the only real time that we actually probably all get together and just switch off, take time out and really enjoy and embrace being with each other," suggests Ainsworth, who is chef-patron at Paul Ainsworth at Number 6 in Padstow, Cornwall. "And I think, with Christmas food, we all try and make an effort."

Being professionals, they have plenty of handy tips for making that time in the kitchen less stressful, too.

"Something Catherine said, which I thought was brilliant, she has this golden rule: just have two things left to do on Christmas Day," reveals Ainsworth. "And, actually, that really, really makes sense; you can make your gravy a couple of weeks before."

Celebrities appearing on the show include the likes of actor and panto star Christopher Biggins and popular presenters such as Chris Bavin, Angellica Bell and Jay Blades.

Laughing, Fulvio shares that some celebs "asked highly technical questions" as they cooked, while others asked things like, "Can you deep fry that?"

But they certainly had a lot of fun with their guests and produced some delicious-sounding food together.

"I wanted to show Martine McCutcheon the best Yorkshire puddings that she could make," recalls Ainsworth, who competed in the BBC's Great British Menu and is also a regular guest chef on BBC's Saturday Kitchen.

"It's just about knowing what to do; make a Yorkshire pudding mix the day before and allow it to rest in the fridge overnight, pull it out about an hour before, get your tins nice and hot, know what fat to use, where to fill the mould up to."

"Martine McCutcheon - I'm a massive fan, so I was a bit starstruck," adds Fulvio, who has had various cooking series on RTE, including Catherine's Family Kitchen.

Of other memorable people starring on The Best Christmas Food Ever, she continues: "Debbie McGee was such a wonderful lady and it was so interesting how she tells her story about her life when Paul (Daniels, her late husband) was alive and how she manages her life and her Christmases now."

Ainsworth admits he put a lot of preparation in to make sure the show was the best it could be.

"I cannot tell you how many late nights, early hours of the morning I spent writing up these recipes, really thinking about them and actually trying to hit the brief," he says.

He was particularly nervous for his special turkey recipe.

"Long before I ever thought I'd get the chance to go on television or anything, I always said, 'You can't cook a turkey brilliantly by doing the whole thing together'," he elaborates. Instead, he suggests cooking the legs and the breast separately.

"People really get worked up and anxious about it (cooking a turkey) and I'm going to show people how to do the best turkey legs ever, that on their own are a lovely dish."

For Ainsworth, this Christmas will be extra special because his little girl, Aricie, is now two-and-a-half.

"Last Christmas and the year before, she had no idea of what was going on, but she knows exactly what is going on this Christmas," says the chef, who lives in Cornwall with wife, Emma.

And it's fair to say Fulvio, who has two children, Charlotte and Rowan, with her Sicilian husband, Claudio, is looking forward to the holidays, too. "I live for Christmas," she says, "so, for me, doing this (show) was literally a no-brainer."

The Best Christmas Food Ever, BBC One, weekdays from Monday, 3.45pm

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