What makes the most magical Midlands Christmas dinner?

ITV Central presenter Steve Clamp has been finding out the secret to the most wonderful and affordable Christmas dinner.

Turkey, beef or salmon? Roast potatoes or mash? And most controversial of all - dare we include a Yorkshire pudding?

The traditional Christmas dinner is the most loved meal of the year for millions of people across the country, but with that comes the pressure of not disappointing those hungry family and friends excitedly sitting around your table... waiting... longing, even... for something really really special.

I've cooked a fair few Christmas dinners over the years, some more successful than others. But what can we all do, to make sure this year's is the best yet, without breaking the bank in these lean times?

I spoke to Antoine Puissant - he's the head chef at Hilltops Farm.

Based in the countryside near Leamington Spa, they have a shop and a restaurant.

This year they are opening for the first time on Christmas Day. At £80 ahead it's out of the reach of many of us, but even so, it's fully booked.

So Antoine has been hard at work designing a Christmas dinner that won't disappoint those who are spending a fair chunk of money. I asked him to share his five top tips for those of us trying our best at home:

Head chef Antoine Puissant, at Hilltops Farm, shares his five top tips for the best Christmas dinner.

  • Soak your turkey in a brine - this ensures it's nice and moist. For the best brine use a container filled with five litres of fresh water, 300g brown sugar, 500g rock salt, bay leaves, red peppercorns, star anise, cloves, thyme and a quartered orange. Fully submerge your turkey in it for 48 hours while it chills in the fridge. Once brined, wrap in tin foil and cook at 180c.

  • Make sure your roast potatoes are nice and crispy. Boil them until they are soft and fluffy on the edges, then, after draining the water, give them a shake about. Make sure you have heated the oil up in the oven, so it is piping hot, then add the potatoes.

  • Go for honey roasted parsnips and carrots. Coat them in honey but also season with salt and pepper before roasting in hot oil.

  • A good gravy is a great way to (partially) rescue a slightly unimpressive roast. If you go to your butcher, hopefully they'll be able to spare you some beef or lamb bones, usually free, roast them off in the oven and then put them in a stock, add any peelings you've made, I usually boil it for around 8 hours, that gives you the perfect flavour, then you can add gravy granules to thicken it up.

  • Pass some of the load on to others, so it's not just you who is doing the Christmas dinner, otherwise it is too stressful and you're not enjoying Christmas with your friends and family.

A perfect Christmas dinner whipped up by chef Antoine Credit: ITV News Central

So those are the thoughts of a trained chef, but we all know some of the best ideas have evolved in home cooking from generation to generation.

I put it out there on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter "What's your top tip to make Christmas dinner extra special". I was inundated with brilliant advice. Here are just a handful of those...

On Twitter, Daniel Stride Vlogs told me "I finely slice Brussel sprouts and then I turn it into a cheesy bake sprinkle it with breadcrumbs and chives and it makes sprouts amazing!"

Over on my Facebook page Dianne Lilley had this: "I always roast parsnips with maple syrup, it makes them lovely and caramelised."

Andy Dawkins has a nice family tradition going on: "I now make my Mum's homemade bread & onion sauce, it makes Christmas for me, simple I know, but it does."

This is a good one too, from Carol Nichols, "I always add red wine to gravy, stir in and let it rest for a while, it brings a lovely fresh flavour to the meal."

And on Instagram, one of our own presenters chipped in - Charlotte Cross says: "Port in the Cranberry sauce. Elevates it to a whole new level!"

There was a surprising suggestion from @Stretchfitpilates: "Curried mutton, rice and peas are a must."

And if you don't mind, I'll leave the final suggestion with Robert Crookes, again on Instagram. He said: "It's all in the gravy! Bad gravy and the meal is ruined". Why does he get the final shout? Well, he's cooking my dinner this year!

Hopefully some of the above gives you food for thought. And I hope at least some are affordable in these difficult times (the free bones for gravy is a great tip).

And remember, if you are doing the cooking - get someone else to do the washing up!