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How To Cook For Special Events Stress Free

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Don’t boil over

Grantley Hall’s Shaun Rankin serves up his tips to make party cooking as stress free as possible

Michelin-starred chef Shaun Rankin has put together a selection of his best tips and tricks for cooking for a major event, from adding twists to classics to incorporating seasonal ingredients.


Coming back to his Yorkshire roots, Shaun joined the team at Grantley Hall in 2017; a beautifully restored Grade II* listed Palladian mansion in the heart of the North Yorkshire countryside and the home to Shaun’s eponymous fine dining restaurant, Shaun Rankin at Grantley Hall. The restaurant champions locally grown and sourced ingredients, taking advantage of the herbs and vegetables grown in the hotel’s very own Kitchen Garden. Using only the best raw ingredients from hand-picked suppliers within a 30-mile radius, the restaurant offers quality meat from nearby farms, specialty cheeses from across the county and fresh seafood from the nearby Yorkshire coast.

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Here, he offers up his tips to make cooking for a major event – such as Christmas – a little less stressful.

Add a Twist to Classics

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“I enjoy putting my own twist on traditional Christmas dishes. For instance, swapping out the usual roast turkey for a locally sourced venison roast seasoned with juniper berries and serving it with a rich red wine and blackberry sauce, incorporating seasonal Yorkshire blackberries. Alternatively, creating a fish pie using locally caught seafood from Whitby, a coastal town in Yorkshire, can be an excellent choice for those who prefer fish. It’s made by combining cod, smoked haddock, and prawns in a creamy sauce, topping it with mashed potatoes, and baking until it turns a beautiful golden brown. For an extra Yorkshire touch, elevate your cranberry sauce with a dash of Henderson’s Relish and a hint of ground ginger for warmth and depth of flavour. Yorkshire’s renowned rhubarb can also be incorporated into a trifle by layering stewed rhubarb with custard, sponge cake, and whipped cream, creating a delightful dessert with a regional touch.”

Presentation Matters

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“I believe that presentation is crucial in the culinary experience. Elevate your dishes by paying meticulous attention to plating, using garnishes and arranging components thoughtfully on the plate.”

Balance Flavours


“I always aim for a harmonious balance of flavours in each dish and throughout the entire meal. It’s important to incorporate sweet, savoury, tangy and rich elements to create a truly satisfying dining experience.”

Prioritise Quality

“I cannot stress enough the importance of choosing top-quality ingredients and focusing on proper cooking techniques to bring out the best flavours in every dish. Cooking with care and attention to detail is the key to crafting a truly memorable meal.”

Incorporate Seasonal Ingredients

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“To create dishes that are both festive and fresh, I like to highlight the best of what the season has to offer. This involves incorporating local winter vegetables, fruits and herbs.”

Advance Preparation

“To minimise stress on the day of the dinner, I recommend preparing whatever can be done in advance. This might include prepping ingredients, making sauces, or even partially cooking certain dishes.”

Time Management

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“Planning out your cooking schedule for the day is essential to ensure that all dishes are ready to be served at the same time. This avoids any last-minute rushes.”

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Picture of Mark Kebble

Mark Kebble

Mark's career in journalism started in 2001 when he landed a role on a small lifestyle magazine in Angel, North London. Soon enough, the magazine was purchased by a larger organisation and Mark found himself promoted to editor at the tender age of 23. He later became group editor, working on magazines for Angel, Crouch End, Muswell Hill and Highgate. He was also involved in a launch in Hadley Wood and a major new group website, later becoming Group Hub Editor. In 2021, Mark joined Zest Media Group and oversaw the launch of many Absolutely titles across the UK. To date, Mark has launched in Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire, Sussex, Essex, Yorkshire and Cheshire. When he does have some free time, Mark is also the Chairman of an amateur football club in Surrey and is also a fully qualified FA football coach.
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