Beloved home cook Dame Mary Berry embarks on an enchanting winter retreat to Scotland, her mother’s homeland, in a heartwarming festive special.
Drawing inspiration from her own family vacations, Mary prepares an assortment of delectable dishes suitable for any Christmas celebration. Joining her in the kitchen are friends Andy Murray, Iain Stirling, and Emeli Sande.
Tune in to “Mary Berry’s Highland Christmas” on BBC One and BBC iPlayer, starting from Wednesday, 13th December at 9pm.
In an interview with Mary Berry:
Tell us about the new show, Mary Berry’s Highland Christmas?
Well, it’s really rather exciting. I’ve been meeting different celebrities who have Scottish ties and I’ve been cooking some delicious Scottish recipes, and it’s all things that you might like to serve over the Christmas time, during the holidays, two special desserts, main courses to feed family and friends and even perhaps when I do Fondue, it might be jolly nice to have on New Year’s Eve.
Why Scotland and the Highlands, do you have family ties there?
Yes, my mother was born in Scotland, and I love it there. We loved to visit family when I was young and a favuorite when our children were growing up too. We had a lot of Scottish traditions growing up and they have stayed in our family ever since.
What do you want audiences at home to take away from the Christmas special?
I want them to take away the warmth of Scotland. The show is all about lovely warming dishes and an emphasis on family and including the traditions and the delicious food of Scotland. People will really feel the warmth from the whole programme, and in the past, I have made recipes just for the couple of days over Christmas, while these can in fact, be enjoyed at anytime.
How have you been enjoying filming in the Highlands, tell us about some of your favourite locations and the set?
Oh I’ve loved it, we have had some wonderful adventures in different parts of Scotland and into the Highlands. We have had this cold weather that we’re having but everybody is hardy in Scotland, you just dress for it. I’ve wrapped up and I’ve enjoyed being outside. It’s a get up and go attitude in Scotland, taking full advantage of the amazing scenery. Which has been stunning, we have had blue skies and cold days but have loved every second.
Were any of the locations new to you or had you been before?
I have been to Scotland several times on family holidays, so I was totally at home. The great thing about Scotland is that when you get to the Highlands, there’s the most amazing views and the air feels so fresh that you just want to be outside and soak up the beauty.
What are some of the highlights of this show?
I really loved filming on the Jacobite Steam Train, the scenery was absolutely unbelievable. You’re going through the countryside where very few other people go. It was stunning – the sheer beauty of it, and I couldn’t stop looking out the window at the hills, the views, the skies. It was a beautiful day, and that was a great highlight. Looking for reindeers in the Highlands was lovely, seeing them in their natural habitat and we were lucky to see some very young reindeers too, absolutely beautiful animals and so very soft with their warm fleece.
You mention putting a Scottish spin on some traditional Christmas recipes, what can you tell us about a Scottish Christmas?
The spin on the recipes are my spin but with a Scottish influence. Some of the classic flavours are a nod towards their traditions, but of course all the food will be enjoyed everywhere! We make a mulled wine which I give to the local cèilidh dance group, as well as canapes using the finest Scottish smoked salmon.
The edible wreath sounds like a showstopper! Can viewers at home try this?
The wreath is so beautiful. And it’s something to have maybe as an alternative to Christmas pudding. Many people think it’s a tradition and you must have it but the wreath is much lighter. It looks really really pretty too, not too difficult to make and I took great care in baking it. The wreath that we did, I filled it with cranachan, which is a whiskey cream, toasted porridge oats with brown sugar. We all loved it.
Pairing leftovers with fondue at Christmas is a great idea, had you done this before? What else can you do with leftovers?
I haven’t, not with fondue. You can do this with a lot of leftovers at Christmas because everybody is sort of cooking things just in case. Normally you just use crusty bread but something like a leftover cauliflower that’s still fairly crisp, you can dip it in. And a roast potato, because we always do too many roast potatoes. If you cut them up small, reheat them until they are piping hot and just dip them in. Absolutely ideal. Also any sort of veggies that are left can go in. Just absolutely lovely.
Did you have any particular favourite recipe from the show?
Oh, I think it certainly was the Highland beef pie. In Scotland they use different cuts of meat and so we used shin of beef and made it into a wonderful tender, full flavoured pie, with pickled walnuts and a lovely pastry on top. I actually served it the other day at home when we had Sunday lunch guests, I thought I’m not going to do a roast, so I made the Highland beef pie and everybody absolutely loved it.
You meet Andy Murray and his Gran, what can you tell us about filming with them?
Andy Murray has a stunning hotel in Dunblane, and his granny makes the shortbread that is served in the hotel which was delicious. They were so lovely to be with, granny Shirley and I are the same age and so we could keep Andy in line and help him learn to cook. He was nervous, as he doesn’t cook at home but he did really very well.
I made a kedgeree because you often have smoked haddock in Scotland and kedgeree is very popular everywhere. Whilst it might not be seen as Christmassy, I would serve kedgeree on Christmas Eve because traditionally fish is often served on Christmas eve and it’s a lighter alternative to meat.
You have some great other celebrity guests in this show, how was it filming with them and are there any funny stories you can tell us?
Well, Emeli Sandé, she was absolutely great. When you think she’s sung all over the world, at the opening ceremony of the Olympics, the White House but she was very relaxed and keen to learn because she doesn’t get time to do much cooking usually and loves to entertain at Christmas with her family. We made a beautiful Buche de Noel and she had a go at everything, including piping the decoration and was very enthusiastic, delightful to teach and wow what a beautiful voice.
You film on the Jacobite Steam train, had you been on the train before and what was that like to experience?
I hadn’t been on the train before and it was absolutely packed with people, just like us, wanting to see the very best of the Scottish countryside. It was lovely, everybody was very excited about it and also a steam train, they’re not going to be here forever. It was a lovely moment in time, the sun shone through the window of my carriage and the views were breathtaking. We had a piper that greeted us when we arrived, which was lovely.
What makes for a perfect Christmas party?
I think preparation really. Invite your loved ones and any friends that may feel a little lonely around Christmas and choose the food that they’re going to enjoy. If you’ve done all the preparation, all the decorations, once you’ve planned it all, it can take all the stress away from it and you can really enjoy it yourself. I think do as many things that you can do ahead of time, so that you can actually be with your guests.
What are your Christmas traditions?
A Christmas family tradition that we usually do is that I ask all the family to think of something they can do to entertain us. So it might be the family all doing something together. It might be one person playing an instrument as my granddaughter plays the trumpet. It might be somebody doing a poem. It could be anything and they all come prepared to do a little act, just a few minutes and that’s great fun. We play a lot of games too.
How do you usually spend Christmas morning?
We usually go for a dog walk first, and then we go to church and everybody comes round to ours afterward to have a drink. We serve lunch at about 2pm and then we sometimes record the King’s speech to watch it an hour later.
How will you be celebrating Christmas and New Year this year?
This Christmas everybody is coming to us. On New Year, we usually have the same group of friends that we see and we all move around different houses each year, taking it in turns. Everybody brings a dish too which is good.
What is your favourite childhood memory of Christmas dinner?
There are a lot of those. We always had Christmas pudding with I think it was brandy or rum sauce and my father would always put extra brandy over it. He would take his spoon, turn it upside down with the rounded part at the top, and then everybody would shriek at him and say ‘you’ve got your spoon the wrong way up grandpa’.
He would then pour the brandy or rum so that it was much more than a tablespoon over his pudding, and then of course, he’d light it and it would never light, that was one of the funny things I remember. And the other thing I remember was that my father, who was quite strict, used to write a poem for my mother and it would be read out when we were opening presents, and it was always the memories of that year, particularly the highlights of it, and how mum had coped and how proud he was of her. It was lovely.
Do you have a new Christmas jumper for this year?
Yes. I have a lovely, cream jumper that I wear in the show with red writing on that says ‘Fa La La’ and that was all written across the top of it and I loved it.