Food: River Cottage’s Lucy Brazier loves Christmas so much that she’s been roasting turkeys since January


Lucy Brazier’s new cookbook, Christmas At River Cottage, was written with contributions from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.

Christmas is known to be the most wonderful time of the year, and it couldn’t be truer for Lucy Brazier of River Cottage.

She wrote Christmas At River Cottage during England’s third lockdown in early 2021, which involved cooking and eating at least three turkeys. “There are probably very few people who could really get away with it and still be excited about Christmas,” she laughs. “And I’m one of them – I was probably the right person to write it down because I hold onto magic.”

Brazier has worked with chef and TV presenter Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall at River Cottage for over a decade, and now she’s finally bringing her party dreams to life in the cookbook, which is packed with Christmas recipes, from craft activities and more.

For Brazier, the love of Christmas runs in the family: “My mother is really good at this, and my grandmother was too,” she says. “So I was brought up in a house where it was the final of the year and we saved up, so everything was special and magical, and we had a lot of food. It’s kind of classic working class, saving. all year round to kick things off a bit at the end. ”

Now the cooking and organizing is on him, Brazier admits that Christmas is quite different. “I still want that buzz I had as a kid – that real excitement, which I think you only get when you’re not the one making Christmas,” she says wistfully. “But I always try to find that moment in everything I do.” There are a few perks of being an adult during the holiday season; for starters, you can drink hot cider (“a huge plus”) while still being allowed to “open the fridge and eat whatever you want,” she says.

When you are a devoted Christmas lover, it certainly isn’t a last minute affair. Brazier began preparations in September, both at home and at River Cottage, stacking the pantry with “lots of goodies – pickles and chutneys and things that we can then pull out.” Then came Stir-up Sunday, the last Sunday in November where you bake your Christmas pudding. “It’s the start of Christmas proper for me,” says Brazier. “I’m tossing my pudding and making minced meat for the tarts – that’s the signal it’s about to start. But I already have a lot of it in the pantry … Nobody wants to arrive in mid-December and thinking, ‘Oh my God, I have a huge to-do list’ – when in fact, you can rummage in the cupboard and pull out your chutneys and pickled cabbages, it’s very handy. ”

Despite his diligent preparations, Brazier admits that things are still likely to go wrong that day. “Every Christmas is not perfect,” she says, and is not here to tell you that there is a magic solution to make it all right. “My honest answer is it’s pretty stressful,” she says. “Having spent years doing it, being organized, writing a book about it and working at River Cottage, I always feel stressed out – there is always a moment just before anything that I feel stressed out about it. . ”

To alleviate some of this anxiety, she advocates an “old-fashioned organization”. “I tend to have a pile of stuff like a few spare jars for gifts or a bottle of brandy – if there is stuff that I forgot or used I will have a little stock. things that I can go to, “she says. And if things go wrong – maybe you forgot an ingredient or burnt a dish -” it really doesn’t matter.

Brazier is particularly looking forward to this Christmas, as last year’s Christmas was so quiet due to Covid restrictions. She’s hoping people “might” celebrate it in a more traditional sense – just getting together and eating something delicious and having a good drink, having a good time together without the pressure of gifts or whatever. that people stress “.

Despite his love for the holiday season, there is one tradition that Brazier could do without: sending cards. “I hate Christmas cards and have been doing it for a long time,” she says passionately. “It’s partly to do with trash, and partly to do with – what’s the point of giving someone a Christmas card that you see? You give it to them and they give you one back, that Seems like a pointless thing to me. If I have a family in America that is different, I would send them a card, but when it’s your neighbor or someone you work with, you don’t really need it. ”

Minimizing mind-blowing Christmas waste is a big part of Brazier’s mission. “It’s close to the heart of River Cottage and everything we do there, and it’s been important to Hugh from the start of his career,” she explains. “We’re still learning, but we’ve tried to find answers to all of these lasting questions. When we get to Christmas, personally I think we really don’t need half of the things we have.”

She suggests easy swaps, like using old tote bags instead of wrapping paper. “There was a period in the 80s and 90s when decadence, excess and luxury [were everything]She muses. It’s harder at Christmas because people want excess and we want to be surrounded by enough food and drink, but there are other ways to get there. ”

Ultimately, she says these little changes don’t make Christmas less Christmas.

Christmas At River Cottage by Lucy Brazier and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall is published by Bloomsbury Publishing, priced at £ 22. Photograph by Charlotte Bland. Available now.

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