Festive Food Q&A: Jo Laidlaw, The List Eating & Drinking Guide Edinburgh editor

  • The List
  • 21 November 2018
Festive Food & Drink Q&A: Jo Laidlaw - The List Eating and Drinking Guide Edinburgh editor

Our food critic shares what's to be found cooking in her kitchen at Christmas

'Tis the season to gather together with loved ones and eat ourselves into a stupor until the new year. Since we've been dreaming non-stop of turkey and trimmings since the weather turned cold, we decided to ask some professional foodies about their culinary inspiration, the secret behind their Christmas show-stoppers and how they innovate on the classics.

Here we chat to our very own Jo Laidlaw, The List's Edinburgh food & drink editor.

Christmas isn't complete without a cocktail, what's your ultimate go to festive tipple?
I have a real weakness for Baileys at Christmas. Sweetdram's Smoked Spiced Rum makes an amazing Dark and Stormy and I'm hoping Santa brings me some Aelder Elixir this year (unlike last year when my husband misheard me and bought me a bottle of elderflower liqueur. Not the same thing).

Who is your favourite chef or what is your favourite cookbook for festive cooking inspiration?
Christmas food can be daunting and for my money no-one's better than Delia for the step-by-step instructions you need to take the panic out of the day. But once you've mastered a basic Christmas lunch anything goes - fling some Ottolenghi in there! Diana Henry's A Bird in the Hand is a gorgeous book of chicken recipes with loads of ideas you could adapt for Christmas. And of course, Nigella. She tweeted me back last week. My life is complete.

How can you spice up the usual Christmas side dishes to give them an exciting twist?
Don't boil anything. Seriously. Stir-fry the sprouts with pancetta and chestnuts, gently braise the red cabbage with nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves and a splash of apple juice, you get the picture. Boiling water is the enemy of flavour.

How would you convince someone to eat out for their Christmas meal?
Good food, good company, someone else does the clearing up – what's not to love? If you're nervous about eating Christmas meal out, then go for something non-traditional rather than trying to recreate your usual home-cooked meal. And remember to tip heartily and well: hard-working hospitality staff are giving up their day so you can have yours, so play nice!

Are you an eat your advent calendar all at once or strictly one per day sort of person?
I have children. It's a battlefield.

Do you have any recipes or food traditions that have been passed down in your family?
We have an anti-tradition: my family all have an enduring hatred of dried fruit, so collectively we shun the evil that is Christmas pudding and mince pies and just eat cheese. We basically eat cheese from the 24th to the 6th. And we don't care.

What is your Christmas show-stopper?
My Boxing Day Leftover Mush. Basically bubble and squeak, with all the leftovers – stuffing, sausages, sprouts, bird. Topped off with a fried egg and brown sauce. Magic.