First, nip off to Brussels to buy your sprouts…

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UPDATED:

22:54 GMT, 3 December 2012

Your essential timetable for Christmas dinner

Q: I want to make this a Christmas to remember. When should I start preparing

A: For this year or for next

Q: This year.

A: Then, sadly, you’ve left it too late. You should have started preparing for this Christmas dinner the moment you finished washing up your last Christmas dinner. So now you’ll just have to make do with the Fast-Track Christmas Dinner.

Q: When should I start preparing the Fast-Track Christmas Dinner

The Fast-Track Christmas Dinner: Plans for this particular dinner should have commenced over three months ago, at the end of August

The Fast-Track Christmas Dinner: Plans for this particular dinner should have commenced over three months ago, at the end of August

A: At least three months ago. /12/03/article-0-0C8FA28A000005DC-397_634x395.jpg” width=”634″ height=”395″ alt=”Sprouts anyone With only three weeks left until the big day, we are really talking about last-minute make-do” class=”blkBorder” />

Sprouts anyone With only three weeks left until the big day, we are really talking about last-minute make-do

Q: Oh dear. Now I feel terrible.

A: Well, that’s a start. Christmas is a marvellous time of the year to feel terrible. As a family, one of our best-loved traditions is to gather around the kitchen table during the festive season, spreading seasonal blame and guilt all around, and feeling terrible.

Q: But if I work really, really hard in my kitchen from now until Christmas, is there any meal I can rustle up in time for the big day

A: With only three weeks to the big day, we are really talking about last-minute make-do. So, action stations: the first thing you simply must do is to fly to Cadiz, home to the only market stall in the world where you can buy just the right sort of saffron-infused sausage meat for your turkey stuffing.

From Cadiz, there is a connecting flight to Brussels, which is, of course, the only place to buy your sprouts. The second you arrive back, you must set about preparing your Christmas turkey.

I always hire a personal trainer for mine, at least six months ahead. It may cost that little bit extra, but it’s the only way to make sure your turkey will be nice and meaty for the big day.

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Q: Do you have any handy tips for ‘livening up’ some of the old familiar Christmas staples — sprouts and parsnips, for instance

A: I always soak my sprouts in Drambuie for a good five weeks before transferring them to an air-conditioned apartment just off the Fulham Road, which gives them a bit of time to simply relax and get to know one another.

Then, five days before Christmas, I douse each different sprout individually in a medium dry sherry — Oloroso, for preference — before sculpting them into attractive seasonal shapes using a sharp knife and a welding iron.

Parsnips can be more of a problem. I always hand-pick mine wearing pure wool gloves, gently soaked in Madeira. Then I parboil them and store them for at least three weeks in my bedroom drawer, surrounded by cotton wool. This gives them the confidence and sense of entitlement that ensures they are marvellously plump and perky when the time comes to serve them.

Q: Any tips for cooking my turkey on the big day

A: I always make a point of setting my alarm for 3.30am on Christmas morning. It’s the perfect time for strangling your Christmas turkey — before it’s had a moment to wipe the sleep from its eyes.

It’s always worth spending just that little bit extra on a decent bird, as a well-brought-up turkey can be persuaded to pluck its own feathers before placing its neck politely on the chopping-block, thus saving the poor old cook an awful lot of fuss and bother!

Q: Further tips, please, for a truly festive Christmas.

A: Fed up with your dreary old home Of course you are! Then why not try moving Selling your old house and buying a new one is the perfect way to breathe new life into the festive period.

Finally, many families try to talk to each other at Christmas for at least ten minutes, but it’s not always easy to think of something to say. So why not collect my series of handy, wipe-clean Xmas Conversation cards, starting tomorrow