Published date: 19 December 2023

NHSPS chef Matt Lewis gives tips for stress free Christmas Day cooking

Matt Lewis is a chef at NHS Property Services’ Clacton Hospital. For 20 years, he has seized the opportunity to brighten the lives of his patients, by pouring care and compassion into every meal.

Hospitals can be difficult environments and, for patients who are staying over Christmas, this can be an isolating time, spending the festive season away from home and their families.

Matt works tirelessly all year round at Clacton; however, he says he enjoys being at work during the Christmas period to help spread cheer when patients are facing a challenging time.

“Bringing smiles to the patients’ faces by cooking them a good Christmas dinner makes them think they are home, and to me, that makes it all worth it,” Matt said.

And Matt has shared a range of techniques and insider tips this festive season, to help make cooking a Christmas dinner less demanding, as well as revealing his coveted Christmas cake recipe.

The kitchen professional champions the cause for simplicity with his cooking and is keen to stress that when it comes to successful festive fayre, prior preparation is the key.

“By preparing things in advance wherever possible, it makes what can feel like a daunting task much more enjoyable,” he explains.  

“When we do the basics right, that’s all that is really needed. Traditional dishes like roast turkey and trimmings are called classics for a reason. Don’t start putting these weird concoctions together we see on TV – you don’t need 17 kinds of stuffing; you don’t need all these bells and whistles. If it’s done well, simple is just perfect.”

He also contends that utilising every ingredient helps reduce waste, so any juices produced from the roasted meat can enhance a delicious gravy and serve as a delectable basting juice for roast potatoes.

“Use the water from your vegetables, put the juices from your roasting tin into the gravy as well; it just brings the flavours up,” Matt said.

He added that compostable plastics, cardboard and any leftovers should also be recycled appropriately, preventing any waste from hitting landfill, reminding us all that we can have a green Christmas every year!


Matt’s traditional Christmas cake

To make a crowd-pleasing Christmas sweet treat, here is Matt’s recipe for his beloved Christmas cake:


  • 800g - Mixed dried fruit
  • 250g - sunflower Spread (or suitable alternative)
  • 4 eggs
  • 120 ML of Milk (8 tbsp)
  • 2 tbsp golden syrup
  • 250g - soft brown Sugar
  • 500g - self-rising flour
  • 4 tsp Mixed spice

The 9 easy steps for making the perfect fruit cake:

  • Preheat oven to 170c/150c fan. 
  • Grease and/or line tin as appropriate
  • Put all ingredients, excluding fruit, into mixing bowl / food mixer
  • Beat together well, scrape down, mix again, (that second mix is important!)  
  • Add fruit, stir in by hand (you don’t want to break up the fruit)
  • Pour mixture into tin, make small depression in top of cake mix; this will help to prevent a domed top.
  • Cook for 1 hour 15 mins, test to see if cooked, if not, then cook another 10 mins then recheck it
  • Allow to cool for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack
  • The cake can be eaten fresh or frozen for up to 2 months, but once thawed, use within 5 days
  • Icing is optional