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Prince Charles’ Scots staff reveal how to have a five-star Christmas at home

Staff at one of Scotland’s most exclusive residencies have revealed how to have a homemade Christmas fit for a King-in-waiting.

Dumfries House, in Cumnock, East Ayrshire, is a £45million country house owned by Prince Charles’ educational charity The Prince’s Foundation.

Built in the 1750s, it is one of the few homes which still has much of its original 18th-century furniture, including dozens of specially commissioned pieces.

Dumfries House estate, which is free to access and open to the public 24/7, has large green spaces, multiple childrens play parks, a beautiful Walled Garden, and several woodlands walks.

Guided tours of the house are available all year, while there is also the Coach House Cafe, Woodlands restaurant, the five-star country guest house Dumfries House Lodge, and the Dumfries House Lodge Restaurant.

There is also the Walled Garden Bothy, which is a two-bedroom cottage, a Visitor Centre, and can be hired for weddings.

Dumfries House hosts a number of events over the festive period.

The Prince’s Foundation is a charity, and all proceeds from events at Dumfries House are reinvested in the organisation’s education and training programmes, many of which are delivered on the estate.

In December, the house hosts its ‘Christmas Tour with Festive Banquet in the Library’ experience.

The event, which can be attended for £74.50 per person, sees diners treated to a glass of Prosecco on arrival in the Entrance Hall, followed by a candlelit tour of Dumfries House.

A three course festive dinner, fit for the Prince himself, is then served in the Library, with a banquet-style dining experience, which includes house wine and soft drinks.

Dumfries House Hospitality manager Evan Samson, and Head House Butler Stuart Banks, have a combined 15 years experience of working at the Ayrshire mansion.

And they have shared their Christmas dining secrets with the Daily Record – so you can recreate the five-star experience in your own home.

Prince Charles' Scots staff reveal how to have a five-star Christmas at home
Head House Butler Stuart Banks lights the candles in the Pink Dining Room at Dumfries House.

Table dressing

Evan said: “At Dumfries house, we do many Christmas events, and we tend to use some extravagant, huge, candelabras on the tables.

“When you’re at home, you don’t need something quite as big, so we’ve looked at something that can be amazing on the table, while still allowing you to talk to your family and really engage together.”

Staff say you should have a wreath to make your table as good as possible, with your napkins folded in a shield or fleur de lis style.

Cutlery should be set out with starter cutlery on the outside and main course cutlery on the inside.

Forks should always be on the left of the plate, with knives on the right, with their blades facing the forks.

Dessert cutlery should sit above the plate, with the fork horizontal and facing towards the knives, and the spoon above the fork, facing the opposite direction.

The perfect table dressing would see glasses for white wine, red wine and water, as well as for port and champagne, if they’re on offer.

Stuart said: “Glasses are very important in the look of the table – they add that little bit of height and that little bit of drama.

“All of this can be done before, so that, the less you’ve got to do on Christmas Day, the more time you’ve got to relax and enjoy it.”

Evan added: “Now that the table’s almost set, it’s time to get creative.

“You can add any small touches you want to really make it stand out and make it really impressive.

“We have some red tea lights and some gold tea lights, but be creative, use what you have in the house.

“With kids, you could have battery operated tea lights or, if you want to go for the impressive route, you can have a real black candle.

“Now, remember, Christmas is all about the joy and the fun of it.”

Prince Charles' Scots staff reveal how to have a five-star Christmas at home
Dumfries House Hospitality Manager Evan Samson.

Drinks

White wine, red wine and water are the perfect drinks for a Christmas dinner, according to the staff.

As well as port if you are having cheese or champagne, to add that extra sparkle to your celebration.

But Evan created the ideal concoction for wining and dining friends and family at Christmas – His Perfect Christmas Cocktail.

Evan said: “When I think of Christmas I always think of orange, and the kind of spices that come through.

“I’ve tried my best to give you that in the cocktail.

“It’s not a rush, it’s not a race, you want to get everyone shaking, everyone involved, and hopefully everybody can enjoy it.

“We made it with Morgan’s Spiced Rum and Kraken. If you like a bit more spice, the Kraken is a lovely choice to choose.

“When it comes to making the cocktails, I always say precision is very important.

“We’re trying to balance the sour flavours against the sweet flavours, and so it’s not overpowered by the alcohol either.

“A top tip, if you’re doing it at home or doing it for an audience, we always shake with the glass behind us, so if the glass does come off it goes over your shoulder.

“If you do it the other way and it comes off, you’re covering your guests, and that’s not as good an experience for them.

“The water from the ice goes into the alcohol and takes the edge off it and just makes it a little bit more palatable.

“For service, you can get creative. You can serve it in a martini glass.

“For a garnish, we made some dehydrated oranges, they’re really, really simple and quite effective.

“Hopefully, as you lift the glass to drink it, you’re getting the aroma of that orange.

“My number one tip is to make yours first and then make your guests’ drinks afterwards – make sure you’ve got a drink.

“While you’re making one for everyone else, make sure you can make one as you go.”

Evan’s Perfect Christmas Cocktail

Place some ice in your cocktail shaker and add two measures, around 50ml, of your rum of choice – Captain Morgan or Kraken.

Morgans will make a bright orange, slightly spicy cocktail, while using Kraken will result in a darker cocktail with a spicier taste.

Add one measure, 25ml, of Solerno blood orange liqueur or substitute, such as Triple sec or Cointreau.

Next add a double measure of orange juice and around a measure of freshly squeezed lemon juice, then a bar spoonful of sugar syrup.

You can make your own sugar syrup by boiling down equal measures of sugar and water in a pan.

Shake and serve.

You can also serve it over crushed ice, if you wish, and you may also add dehydrated orange.

They can be made by covering half of them with nutmeg and putting them in the oven for an hour.

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The dinner

Evan said: “Putting the food on the table and letting the guests help themselves – I think that’s the magic of Christmas.

“The accompaniments are just as important as the turkey itself.

“Remember to get your containers ready and have them sitting on the table.

“That all helps for making your life easier so that, after you’ve done your cooking, you can sit down to your meal and really enjoy it.

“Remember your cranberry sauce and your bread sauce – and please don’t forget your gravy either.”

The Christmas Tour with Festive Banquet in the Library, which begins at around 6.15pm, is available on December 10, 11, 12, 18, 20 and 21.

It and other tours can be booked by visiting here.

An overnight stay at the exclusive five star Dumfries House Lodge, which includes bed and breakfast, can be added for an additional £160.00 per room.

For more information call the Lodge on 01290 429920.




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