Phil Vickery MBE
Phil Vickery MBE is one of the legends of Rugby Union. Capped 73 times for his country and twice a British & Irish Lion, he also captained England at more...
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Phil Vickery: 'I never saw another Lions tour coming &ndash; it's wonderful'
Phil vickery, one of the most resilient players in the game, captains the lions against the 'very dangerous' western province today. the tour's unofficial back-slapper tells chris hewett about the honour of leading the side and the importance of keeping his feet on the ground, article bookmarked.
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Phil Vickery is not a saint. Not quite. Last Wednesday night in Durban, he trundled agriculturally onto the King's Park pitch – even in his youthful pomp, there was something of the Cornish clodhopper about him – and spent eight joyous minutes clattering into rucks and mauls before trundling off again, a yellow card at his back and an overly-theatrical expression of wide-eyed innocence on his face.
"At the very best, that was reckless," he was told by the referee, Jonathan Kaplan, who had spotted him applying a boot to a South African who had taken up a horizontal position wholly offensive to all right-thinking front-row forwards.
The following morning at training, the Lions' forwards coach Warren Gatland revisited the incident with considerable verbal force, tearing filthy great strips off Vickery for his indiscipline. A short while later, the management told him he would be leading the side in today's important game with Western Province at Newlands, one of the grandest stadiums in world rugby. There was nothing incongruous or contradictory about this decision. Gatland spent enough time in the thick of it during his own playing career to understand how hard it is to be a saint at the sharp end, and anyway, the front row has its own code of conduct. An angelic prop is no prop at all.
Yet when the finest tight-head specialists of the modern era come to be assessed, Vickery will surely be counted among the least malicious. Yes, he left a stain on his own England debut by clouting the Welsh flanker Colin Charvis at Twickenham and getting himself cited; yes, he brought down Paul Emerick, the American centre, with a knee-high hack straight out of the Norman Hunter self-help guide to aggressive defence during the last World Cup and earned himself a suspension.
He can describe a game in pure Anglo-Saxon more fluently than any of his peers – one famous description of a goal-line stand against the French in Paris would have qualified him for a stint on "Derek and Clive (Live)" – and, as the Chinese legend on one of his tattoos suggests, he will fight anyone to the finish.
But few players are more revered, partly because of his extraordinary physical resilience – three back operations, one neck operation, a fractured eye-socket and a busted forearm would have seen off most sportsmen, even those who dedicate themselves to this unusually brutal game – and partly because of his generosity of spirit. That generosity shines through as he discusses the honour of being asked to captain the Lions and the respect he feels for the South African rugby animal.
"Twelve years ago, when the Lions were last in this country and won the Test series, I was a young player making his way in the game," he says. "I watched bits and pieces of it on television without fully understanding the enormity of it, but like most young props, I'd been an ardent supporter of Os du Randt [the folk-hero Springbok loose head] since seeing him play in the World Cup a couple of years earlier. Then, in 2007, I played against him in the World Cup final and lost. Disappointed as I was, I still felt happy for him – proud for him, in fact – when he picked up his winner's medal that night in Paris. And when I saw him after a game the other day, I gave him a big hug. It just goes to show what a silly old sentimental sod I am."
Vickery is 33 now. More or less everyone thought he was washed up at 30, but the "everyone" did not include Ian McGeechan, who had taken over as director of rugby at Wasps and signed him from Gloucester, despite a mass of medical evidence that suggested he was crackers even to consider it. "I remember sitting at the press conference, next to poor old Chris Wright [the Wasps owner], who kept on being asked whether it wasn't a big gamble to be taking me on," he says. "And I'm thinking: 'They're right. It is'. But if you're lucky enough to play at a club where people have your best interests at heart and want you to do well, anything can happen. They've been unbelievable, these last three or four years: titles with Wasps, lots more caps, the England captaincy at a World Cup and now this. Hand on heart, I never saw another Lions tour coming. It's wonderful."
McGeechan is not in the least sentimental. He can do the nostalgia bit as well as any triumphant old Lion of 1970s vintage, but a professional coach does not taste success as often as the Scot without having a ruthless streak somewhere, however well disguised it might be.
He did not pick Vickery for this tour because he saved his bacon in 2006 and enjoyed the feeling. He picked him because he felt he was right – exactly right – for a senior role in a freshly-assembled squad facing the not inconsiderable challenge of mounting a credible challenge to the reigning world champions in the space of a month.
"Phil is so good around the group," McGeechan explains. "He has this buzz about him. He'll talk to anyone and everyone, make them feel positive about themselves, while all the time setting the right standards as a leader. We all know he's been through a lot with injuries, but I can't fault his enthusiasm. You can see from the way he trains how much this means to him. It's like he's become young again."
These Lions are fortunate indeed to have Vickery to turn to in what feels and smells like an hour of need. This afternoon's match with Western Province is, the prop admits, "very dangerous for the tour," by which he means that defeat here, a week shy of the first Test against the Boks, could shatter confidence, undermine morale and even threaten the sense of unity in the squad.
"We've been slowly building towards the Test series over the last couple of weeks, winning our matches and developing our style of play," he says. "But arriving here in Cape Town, seeing so many people at the airport, receiving all the text messages wishing us luck, knowing that the red army of supporters are on their way... the risk is that some of us will start thinking about the Springboks too early, when there are still a couple of provincial games to go. Of all the teams we face outside of the Tests, this lot will be the most close-knit, the most together. It's my job to ensure no one gets carried away with the peripherals.
"Captaincy is not something a player should go looking for, but now I've been asked, I feel hugely honoured. The thing is, I don't want to be a part of the first Lions side to lose on this tour, and I certainly don't want to be captain of it. We have to go hell for leather today, because the reality is that when the Test side is named, there are going to be a hell of a lot of terribly disappointed people. Speaking personally, I have this chance to make sure I'm not one of them – that my name is on the team-sheet when Ian makes his choices.
"At the same time, though, I want to enjoy this trip. A Lions tour is a little like playing in a World Cup: you're living in this very small bubble, cocooned in an environment where the most trivial things tend to become very big problems. If you can't step back and see it for what it is, you won't appreciate the experience as you should.
"Back in 2001, when the Lions lost to the Wallabies, it was a terrible disappointment. But when I look back on it now, I regard it as a fantastic trip. If you're going to be bitter about all the things that don't go your way over the course of a career..." There was no need for elaboration.
Back in 1997, another highly popular, deeply respected English prop – Jason Leonard of Harlequins and the world – came to South Africa with the Lions and played the back-slapping, gee-'em-up role so central to the success of a tour of this nature. Leonard understood the crushing dismay of those not picked for the elite team, because he was one of the players left out. Yesterday. McGeechan agreed that Vickery was 2009's version of "good old Jase".
There may, however, prove to be one significant difference. While Leonard, a hot favourite for the Test berth before departure, was nudged aside by Paul Wallace, the awkward little Irish scrummager, Vickery is in a good position to make the cut. One strong performance today could clinch it for him. Just so long as he keeps his boots to himself.
Big Phil: Fact file
*Born 14 March 1976
*England caps 71
*Lions tours 2001 (3 appearances), 2009 (1 appearance)
*Honours 2003 World Cup, 2007 Premiership, Heineken Cup
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PHIL Vickery MBE DL
Rugby Union Legend and winner of Celebrity Masterchef
PHIL VICKERY MBE DL
Aka “the raging bull” – rugby union legend – celebrity masterchef winner.
Phil Vickery MBE DL is one of the legends of Rugby Union. Capped 73 times for his country, and twice a British & Irish Lion, he also captained England at the 2007 World Cup and was part of the historic team that lifted the Webb Ellis trophy in 2003. Although retired from the game he is still actively involved through coaching and commentating. His views are regularly sought by the media and he writes regular columns for the national press.
He was awarded an MBE in 2003, appointed a Deputy Lieutenant of Gloucestershire in 2015 and is an ambassador for The Prince of Wales Trust in June 2017 he became a non-executive director at Creed Food Services. He also has his own clothing company Raging Bull Leisurewear.
Also available for voiceover work. Phil was born in Cornwall and has subtle westcountry accent.
MORE ABOUT PHIL
Phil is the son of farmer and his brother still runs the family farm in Cornwall. He has a passion for the outdoors, farming, the countryside and for inspiring people to eat well.
Phil was something of a sensation as a dab hand in the kitchen winning the 2011 series of Master Chef.
He is often seen on television either commentating or hosting or cooking on multiple mid-morning shows and at food demonstrations.
He has just recently been made a patron of The Country Food Trust Charity which produces food and donates it to people in need. Their aim is to feed over one million people in the next five years.
Facts & Achievements
Born: 14th March 1976
Teams: London Wasps (2006-2010), Gloucester Rugby (1995-2006)
Honours: England (73 caps), British & Irish Lions (5 caps)
Lives in Gloucestershire with his wife Kate and children Megan and Harry.
He was awarded an MBE in 2003, appointed a Deputy Lieutenant of Gloucestershire in 2015
Founder of the successful sportswear company Raging Bull.
BIOGRAPHY / HISTORY
PHIL VICKERY IS ONE OF RUGBY UNION’S GREATEST PLAYERS.
He is a former English rugby union tighthead prop. Capped 73 times by England. He enjoyed a memorable career at club and international level, he played in three Rugby World Cups and was a member of England’s World Cup winning squad in 2003, playing in all seven matches in the tournament, then captaining his country to the final in 2007. He also toured Australia and South Africa with the British and Irish Lions and was also capped 5 times.
Phil, ended his club rugby career in 2010 at London Wasps, against Gloucester on 25 September, which is where he started his career.
Having joining the London side in 2006 after eleven years with Gloucester Rugby. He was given the nickname “Raging Bull”.
Since hanging up his boots Phil continues to give up his time for a number of charities – including The Pied Piper Appeal and Wooden Spoon.
In addition, Phil is an official ambassador to both the Prince’s Countryside Fund and Six Nations title sponsor RBS, including the banking group’s RugbyForce scheme.
Phil was part of ITV Sport’s team for their exclusive coverage of the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand, and in October 2011 he was crowned BBC Celebrity MasterChef champion after beating journalist Kirsty Wark and actor Nick Pickard in the final.
He started with the Cornish club Bude, then moved to Redruth, during which time he first appeared in an England Colts side. In 1995, England ‘A’ coach Richard Hill persuaded the 19-year-old Vickery to join Gloucester Rugby, where he became known as “The Raging Bull”.
Whilst at Gloucester he started in the 2002 Zurich Championship Final (the year before winning the play-offs constituted winning the English title) in which Gloucester defeated Bristol Rugby. The following year he missed their 2003 Powergen Cup Final triumph through injury.
In April 2006 he announced he was quitting Gloucester Rugby after 11 years and signed for Wasps in a 3-year deal. Vickery made his Wasps debut in their 23 – 13 win over London Irish on 8 October 2006.
On 28 October 2010, Vickery was forced to retire from rugby after suffering from several neck injuries. He played his last game at Kingsholm against Gloucester on 25 September, which is where he started his career.
His representative career went from strength to strength, with appearances for England U21s and Colts in the 1996–97 season.
Vickery made his England debut against Wales aged 21 on 21 February 1998, coming off the bench to replace Darren Garforth against Wales at Twickenham in the Five Nations tournament, a match England won 60–26. It was the completion of a rapid rise through the England set-up, after only 34 first team games for his club and just 81 days after his England A debut.
Summer 1998 saw Vickery taking part in the tour of the Southern Hemisphere as part of an England squad. The tour had benefits for some players, bringing through future stars of the England side such as Vickery himself and Jonny Wilkinson. Vickery recovered from a neck injury in April 1999 and played in that year’s Rugby World Cup. He toured Australia with the British and Irish Lions in 2001 and played in all three tests.
Vickery was appointed captain of the England squad that toured Argentina in 2002 and led the side to victory against The Pumas in Buenos Aires. Vickery helped England on the road to the 2003 World Cup, he played in all seven games in the tournament and captained the side against Uruguay. He scored his first international try when he came off the bench against Samoa in England’s third game of the tournament. He played a full part in the 2004 Six Nations before taking a break.
Making his international comeback, Vickery came on as a replacement against South Africa for the first Autumn Test between the two sides on 18 November 2006. After playing well, he drove over to score the winning try, which was converted by Andy Goode, and England won their first game since February that year.
He was selected on 2 January by new England Head Coach Brian Ashton to captain the side during the 2007 Six Nations and 2007 Rugby World Cup. He was one of only four players to have started both the 2003 and 2007 RWC Finals, the other three being Jonny Wilkinson, Jason Robinson and Ben Kay. Vickery was again selected for the 2008 Six Nations Championship; and captained the side to win the Millennium Trophy and achieve their best result in the tournament since 2003.
CELEBRITY MASTERCHEF WINNER 2011
Winning menu: Scallops with black pudding, followed by loin of lamb with baby carrots and fondant potatoes, chocolate orange bread and butter pudding.
Not to be confused with the actual TV chef of the same name, former England rugby captain Phil Vickery was something of a sensation on the 2011 series as he brushed aside Kirsty Wark and Nick Pickard in the final.
The grizzled tight-head grew up on a farm and definitely knows his ingredients. As well as cooking on multiple mid-morning shows, he’s helped McDonald’s by joining a campaign to source producers for their menus, has advised and supported the British butcher team and was also the face of last year’s British Sausage Week.
He’s also said that he’d consider setting up a restaurant in his native Gloucestershire.
2011 winner Phil Vickery has gone on to promote wider food awareness by backing campaigns and working alongside manufacturers. In June 2017 he became a non-executive director at Creed Food Services. He is often seen on television cooking on multiple mid-morning shows and at food demonstrations.
One of the county’s most successful ever rugby players has teamed up with one of its most successful family-run food businesses in an exciting new partnership.
Mr Vickery will become a non-executive director at the Staverton company and will be involved in some client facing activities. He will also attend the Creed board meetings.
Creed’s values and positioning are a great natural fit with my personal interest in identifying the beliefs and characteristics that make us all so different and enable us to achieve our ambitions, however big or small,” said Mr Vickery.
“It could be anything – walking again after a spinal injury, winning a Rugby World Cup, setting up your own successful business, or just making other people happy.”
“Each of us is climbing our own personal Everest and that takes hard work, skill, dedication and sacrifice. I’m looking forward to unearthing great stories that demonstrate the rich variety of human achievement around us.”
The partnership is built around a shared commitment to achieving more by believing in yourself. For Creed, that means being far more than just a foodservice wholesaler, it aims to celebrate the human values at the heart of the business that are encapsulated by the company’s motto, ‘Believe in More’.
Chris Creed, chief executive officer of Creed, said, “We’re really excited about working with Phil. It’s a true meeting of minds. Our business is built around Believe in More, a mantra that guides everything we do with our customers, partners and employees and recognises the importance of values and friendship in business.
PHIL VICKERY – SON OF CORNWALL
Find Phil Vickery on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram
PHIL VICKERY – RAGINGING BULL – INTERVIEW
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England’s Rugby World Cup finals: the inside story on 1991, 2003 and 2007
1991, twickenham: australia 12-6 england simon halliday.
It always goes down as the game we should have won, if we hadn’t changed our tactics. But when we played Australia we knew they’d put 40 points on us in Sydney a few months earlier. We’d played some very good rugby against them and where they had done really well was out wide. We’d missed a number of tackles on David Campese and he’d scored three tries, but without those tries the scoreline would have been a lot closer. So we thought we needed to play a more fluid game against them. It wasn’t something we were talked into – we spent the whole week working out how we were going to win the game. The consensus afterwards was we’d played all the rugby but we didn’t nail the key moments. Back in the dressing rooms, Australia were almost too exhausted to celebrate. They had literally spent the entire second half defending.
We were still trying to come to terms with the defeat, and how we should feel after losing such a match at our own ground, when we left Twickenham, but there were hundreds of people singing Jerusalem as we walked to the coach. I felt it was a real acknowledgement we’d been part of something really special. We had no doubt we could win. There was no lack of belief, and we came into it riding some good momentum. On the day, we left it all out there. We gave it everything.
We had been on a five-and-a-half-week tour of Australia and Fiji, then we went home for a few days, before having seven weeks for the World Cup. We weren’t able to see our wives and girlfriends during the competition, so we’d been away from our homes and our jobs for months. I was a banker at UBS at the time and I turned up at the office on the Monday. There were 750 people on my trading floor and when I walked in they all stood up and applauded. We hadn’t won but that showed me that we hadn’t failed. My boss took me to one side and suggested I go away with the family for a few weeks, but I hadn’t worked for months. I politely declined his offer.
Obviously rugby is a profession now but when you think about the values of the game and the human elements of it, that hasn’t changed. Or if it has, it hasn’t necessarily been for the better. I had a sympathetic employer and a job to go back to, whereas now if you get forced out of the game through injury you’ve got nothing. We need to look after our people and we’ve got work to do on that. But the sport has been absolutely fantastic. It was wonderful to see Japan play the sort of rugby that needs to be played; teams who have not embraced that – Ireland perhaps – have come unstuck. England, though, have set the standard. The way they played that semi-final against New Zealand was game-changing. It’s been a huge success and a lot of these teams will get better. I’m chairman now of European Professional Club Rugby and, watching the tournament, I think it’s been a wonderful shot in the arm for the game worldwide.
2003, Sydney: Australia 17-20 England (aet) Phil Vickery
Preparation-wise, you’re not really going to get any fitter in that final week and you’re probably not going to be going through any great tactical changes, it’s just about managing all the micro-details and arriving in the best possible physical and mental state. You can drain so much energy out of yourself just thinking about the occasion.
None of us had ever been to a final before and I remember the conversations I had that week with family members and with all the guys. I always liked positive distractions – I liked having family and friends around, talking about something different, going into spaces and worlds where you relax. And of course by that time we’d been through so many ups and downs together as a team, as all teams do. You get all these emotions rolling up. But everyone’s different and you’ve got to learn how to get the best out of yourself. I remember Jonny Wilkinson, his preparation was very calm. He’s got to be thinking about the pinpoint dot on a rugby ball. I’m thinking there’s a loosehead prop forward who wants to tear my head off.
I used to love playing away from home. You found out more about yourself and your teammates, somehow. Not that it’s easy at home, but when you’re away you find out what you’re made of. I always think that’s the greatest test of yourself as a human being. The 2003 final was the perfect example: you’re in Australia, in their national stadium, in Sydney, playing the host nation in a World Cup final. Bloody hell, come on.
Everyone has this perception about how well we were playing in 2003 but the reality is we didn’t play that well – we just won. We were losing at half-time against Wales in the quarter-final, and in the semi‑final Jonny kicked every point. In the final we went to extra time and won it with a right-footed drop-goal by a left-footed kicker. We weren’t dominant, we just did what needed to be done.
You have all this buildup – the waiting, the waiting, the waiting – and then suddenly you walk out of the tunnel. You feel you’re in a surreal bubble, and then the whistle goes and before you know it it’s over. It goes so, so quickly. This England team have guys who have played in big matches, in big tournaments but the World Cup seems to amplify all those things. They’ve got to be the side who handles the occasion better.
This year’s team set a new standard in the semi-finals but they will be thinking they can still be a bit better, be a bit smarter, maybe improve their kicking game. The driver on Saturday is they want to be world champions. The All Blacks game hasn’t changed that: the goal, the purpose, the motivation is exactly the same as it was when they arrived in Japan. It’s just about nailing those micro-details, one last time.
2007, Paris: England 6-15 South Africa Nick Easter
I’d made my debut in the Six Nations earlier that year, aged 28. It was a dream come true, especially so late in my life. I had a couple of Six Nations games, toured South Africa, then we got to the World Cup and in our second game we were absolutely hosed by South Africa. We lost 36-0 and were staring down the barrel of being completely embarrassed.
That was a Friday night. Brian Ashton told us to spend Saturday with our families and that we’d come together on the Sunday. We were expecting a crisis meeting but instead it was off to the pub for a bit of bonding – table football, pool, darts, the rugby on TV. It was: “Right lads, enjoy yourselves, this is on the RFU. Tomorrow we get to work.” On Monday we had the meeting. Some home truths were told. It’s well documented that a number of senior players took control and said: “This is how we’re going to play.” The previous three months had been good from a fitness point of view but from a rugby point of view it was wasted time.
We had some experienced players there and you can adapt very quickly when you need to. We got through a couple of tough pool games against Samoa and Tonga. From the outside we still weren’t rated but as a group we were much happier. We bonded well and a siege mentality formed regarding what was written about us.
We were completely written off before our quarter-final against Australia. It only ended 12-10, but we battered them. That was a turning point and our belief got even stronger. We were probably underdogs for a semi-final against the hosts but confidence and team spirit were high and we got through it. Suddenly we’re in the World Cup final, against the opposition who embarrassed us in the group stages. Here was an opportunity to right those wrongs.
You go into the final, and you know it’s your one shot at creating memories for the rest of your life. Ultimately it was a step too far but it was close. But for a disallowed try and a couple of silly penalties, we could have done it. The loss will never go away – it still hurts now – but when I look back, that World Cup was my most enjoyable time in international rugby.
Over a World Cup you build this rapport, this trust on the field with world-class players either side of you, but then you lose the final and suddenly you’re back home, and you have to wait two months to do it again. They’ll find it strange when they get back but you can’t overestimate how much this England side has improved because of having this time together. Now they’ve got one more experience to go through.
From the outside, and talking to a few people close to the group, they’re getting everything right. England have always had big players in the pack but we’ve been found wanting in the breakdown, especially against the southern hemisphere teams. In the last two weeks, teams who usually school us in that area have been schooled themselves. Plus most of these guys have experience, they’ve got that hurt from the last World Cup, and you can’t put a price on how much that will drive true, competitive animals. You could see their focus at the end of the semi-final. When we beat France we were doing a lap of honour, hugging each other. These guys thanked the fans and then it was: “Job done, now let’s bring that trophy home.”
- England rugby union team
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Phil's perfect Christmas turkey
Whether you’re hosting, or helping, there’s no doubt that the Christmas lunch is one of the most pressurised meals of the year. To ensure we get the turkey just right, Phil Vickery is here with his ultimate guide.
5 kg (just under 12lb) Bronze turkey, with giblets and the wishbone removed. 2 large carrots, peeled 2 large onion, peeled 6 sticks of celery Leek 2 bay leaves 2 chicken stock cubes (optionally Gluten-Free stock cubes) ½ bottle dry white wine 2 pints cold water salt and freshly ground black pepper 55g melted butter 2 tbsp roughly cornflour 4-6 tbsp cold water
Before we start I want to draw your attention to a few really important points. These are my thoughts and should not be confused with a traditional turkey recipe. My method will ensure a juicy well cooked turkey in just a couple of hours depending on the size. If you need information for traditional cooking, then I would steer you towards the British Turkey website
Preheat the oven to Gas 6 / 400 °F / 200 °C / 180 °C Fan.
First job is to remove the giblets from the bird, and if you are using a frozen bird then make sure that it is fully defrosted.
Season the bird well inside and out well with salt and pepper and pack the stuffing into the body cavity.(some suggested recipes at the bottom of this page)
Tie the legs and the Parsons nose together with a piece of string and secure well, so the stuffing is held inside the bird.
Chop all the vegetables into large chunks and place in the bottom of a large baking tray place the turkey on top, the tray should be large enough so the bird has at least 2 inch (5cm) gap all around.
Pour in the white wine, cold water and chicken stock cube, and place the whole tray on to the stove.
Bring to the boil and cover tightly with two layers of foil and pop into a preheated oven.
THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT POINT: Simmer for 5 minutes, covered to get the steam and heat going!
Cook the bird for about 2 hours, approximately. (See table below for your turkey size)
To check if the bird is cooked, remove from the oven carefully as there will be a lot of stock, wine and turkey juices.
Remove the foil and insert a knife where the thigh attaches itself to the body of the bird, the juices should run clear. If not, then cover again with foil and cook for a further 20 minutes.
When the bird is cooked, remove from the oven, turn the oven up to Gas 8 / 450 °F / 230°C / 210 °C Fan.
Tip off the juices for the gravy, then brush the bird well with melted butter or oil and return to the oven to brown beautifully (See table below for your turkey size).
Once browned, remove from oven and wrap in a double layer of foil then 2 clean tea towels, this should keep warm for up to 1 hour.
Re-boil the stock and juices, you may need to add a little more water in a saucepan and skim well.
Mix the cornflour and water together and thicken the bubbling stock, don’t go mad.
Carve the bird the flesh will be soft and juicy, and serve the gravy and stuffing separately.
At this time of year, I always get lots of questions from people worrying about their turkey, so, here are a few of my top tips to help you relax and have a stress-free Christmas.
What size turkey do I need?
Allow 500g / 1lb of meat on the bone for each person, this will give you enough for a meal with some left over. 6-8 people: 4kg (8lbs 13oz) turkey 10 people: 5kg (11lbs) turkey 12 people: 6kg (13lbs 4oz) turkey Make sure you have a roasting tray big enough for your bird and that it will fit in your oven.
How long to defrost a frozen turkey?
At a cool room temperature (no more than 17.5°C), it will take about 2 hours for every 450g / 16oz.
This Morning chef Phil Vickery reveals to us his Christmas cooking tips!
TV Times asked This Morning chef Phil Vickery how to make Christmas cooking a stress- free zone. Here he shares his top tips and reveals what festive plans he and his wife, Fern Britton, have this year
Feeding friends and family at Christmas can reduce even the most competent cook into a frenzy of stress. As the countdown to Christmas Day feasting begins we enlist the help of This Morning chef Phil Vickery.
This weekend is traditionally known as “Stir Up Sunday”, the last Sunday before advent when Christmas puddings were made and families would take a turn stirring the mixture whilst making a wish.
Here Phil, 57, who is married to presenter Fern Britton, gives TV Times his top tips on getting ahead and reveals what will be on the menu for his own festive family gathering….
Phil Vickery gives his Christmas cooking tips...
TV Times : When is the ideal time to make a Christmas cake?
Phil Vickery: "When I was working as a young chef we used to make our cakes at the end of September or early October to ensure they were really moist. You don’t have to do it that early but the golden rule is to soak your fruit overnight before adding it. If you don’t soak it, the dried fruit starts re-absorbing the moisture from the cake and dries it out."
TVT: So, what is the Phil Vickery top tip for making the perfect Christmas pudding?
PV: "I like mine quite light so I don’t pack in too much fruit. I like ones that you can cut a nice wedge through, not ones that are so packed of fruit they fall apart when you slice into them.
"I go easy on the fruit, add a little bit more flour, plus almonds to give a nice texture and I don’t put in too much alcohol. A lot of people overdo it. I also add grated carrots which add texture and give the pudding a lovely golden colour. I used to add coins when the kids were little but I’m past doing that now!"
TVT: What else can we make in advance?
PV: "If I was making mince pies I’d make them now but instead of putting them in the oven, you freeze them in the tray when raw. Once hard, transfer them into a bag and leave them in the freezer. When you need them you literally take them out, pop them back in the tray and stick them in the oven. You can get them all done now and they will be absolutely perfect. I tend to buy my mince pies these days because you can get such delicious ones from the supermarkets."
TVT: What Christmas traditions have you grown up with?
PV: "My mum always made her own Christmas cake, I’ve still got the ornaments that she used to put on the cake; A little Father Christmas on a sleigh and a tiny Christmas tree. And she’d always put a ribbon round the edge. My brothers and I would scrape the bowl when she made the icing and be fighting over who got the most.
"My first mother-in-law used to get Yorkshire puddings, cook them in the oven until they were really crispy then spray them gold and put them on the Christmas tree. Even to this day I can’t believe she did that!"
TVT: What are your top tips to avoid a Christmas Day meltdown?
PV: "My Golden Rule is prepare as much as you can the day before. I roast all my potatoes and cook the parsnips, carrots and sprouts on Christmas Eve then heat them through the next day. Alternatively, you can have the vegetables all chopped up and ready to go the day before. The other golden rule is do NOT have a glass of alcohol until the meal is on the table otherwise I guarantee something will go wrong which is what happened to my This Morning colleague, Ruth Langsford last year!"
TVT: What are your plans for this Christmas?
PV: "We’re going to have a big family Christmas. Fern’s been away on tour with Calendar Girls but gets back in early December so we’ll be at home together in the run up. We’ll chill out, relax and I’ll try and be a helpful, considerate husband! Fern organises all the presents and decorations and I’m in charge of all the cooking. Our paths don’t cross!"
TVT: What’s your festive meal plan?
PV: "We often like a curry on Christmas Eve and then on Christmas Day it will be very traditional with turkey, all the usual vegetables and trimmings. Fern always eats one sprout on Christmas Day. Quite bizarrely she likes frozen sprouts but she doesn’t like fresh ones. We’ll have Christmas Pudding and then a nice bit of Christmas cake later on.
TVT: Did you like getting your own children involved with preparations when they were little?
PV: "Yes, definitely, they’d be around the kitchen and liked watching what I was doing. I’d sometimes get them involved with things like peeling the carrots or potatoes, or helping with the stuffing so they got an idea of the whole meal."
TVT: Are you fan of making Christmas biscuits?
PV: "I sometimes make Lebkuchen, which are classic German gluten-free gingerbread. They also freeze really well but I tend not to freeze icing, because it weeps when you de-frost it."
TVT: Do you like all the Christmas extras like bread sauce and cranberry sauce?
PV: "I hate bread sauce! It’s like eating wallpaper paste. I’ve never understood it. The origin of bread sauce dates back to medieval times when people used to roast meat and put a tray underneath with bread on it. All the juices would drip down into the bread and they’d mash that up. And I can’t stand brandy butter either. To me it’s just like a load of fat with sugar in it. I’ve never been a fan."
TVT: Can too many home chefs spoil the Christmas broth?
PV: "Definitely, it’s a bit like barbeques, everyone’s an expert! You really don’t need everyone piling in at Christmas, chucking their two-penneth in. It’s likely to all go a bit Pete Tong. You’ve got to focus and keep everyone out of the kitchen if they’re not being helpful!"
See Phil Vickery on This Morning, weekdays 10.30am to 12.30pm, ITV
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Tess is a senior writer for What’s On TV, TV Times, TV & Satellite and WhattoWatch.com She's been writing about TV for over 25 years and worked on some of the UK’s biggest and best-selling publications including the Daily Mirror where she was assistant editor on the weekend TV magazine, The Look, and Closer magazine where she was TV editor. She has freelanced for a whole range of websites and publications including We Love TV, The Sun’s TV Mag, Woman, Woman’s Own, Fabulous, Good Living, Prima and Woman and Home.
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Lions Legend: Phil Vickery
Fresh from news of his retirement, we take a look back at the career of double Lions tourist Phil Vickery. [more]
Fresh from news of his retirement, we take a look back at the career of double Lions tourist Phil Vickery.
The 34-year-old called it quits last week as he brought the curtain down on his outstanding contribution to the sport in frustrating circumstances.
Vickery was been forced to call time on an illustrious career after suffering yet another neck injury.
The London Wasps prop had already recovered from four operations but was told by doctors that he now risked serious injury if he continued playing following his latest setback.
In 2001, Vickery was a rock on which Lions coach Graham Henry attempted to build the platform for a series victory over the Wallabies.
At just 24 years of age, the then Gloucester tight-head played in all three Tests against Australia despite stiff competition from Lions stalwarts Dai Young and Jason Leonard.
Vickery was expected to become a double Lions tourist when Sir Clive Woodward selected his squad for the 2005 tour to New Zealand but injury preventing him from travelling to the Land of the Long White Cloud.
Despite numerous further injury concerns, Vickery fought back to win a place in the 2009 Lions squad to tour South Africa.
He went on to make two Test appearances for Britain and Ireland’s elite against the Springboks, ending his Lions career on a real high with victory over the World Champions in Johannesburg.
That triumph held even more resonance for Vickery after he produced a superb individual performance to banish memories of the personal criticism he had endured with regard to scrummaging difficulties after the first Test defeat in Durban.
As well as winning five caps for the Lions, 'The Raging Bull' made 73 Test appearances for England. Vickery made his international debut against Wales in 1998 and went on to represent his country at the following year's World Cup.
A member of England's triumphant starting XV in the World Cup Final in Sydney four years later, Vickery helped banish some of the disappointment of the Lions' third Test defeat to the Wallabies in the same city in 2001.
Despite the magnitude of that success, Vickery has himself spoken of an even greater sense of pride when he skippered his country to the World Cup Final in 2007 at a time when England had been written off as no hopers.
Devon-born Vickery played his club rugby with Gloucester between 1995 and 2006, making close to 150 appearances before moving to Wasps four years ago.
He went on to win English Premiership and Heineken Cup titles with the Adams Park club but played his last game on September 25, ironically back at Gloucester where his career had started 15 years earlier.
Phil Vickery's factfile
Date of birth: March 14 1976 Clubs: Gloucester, London Wasps International caps: England 73 Height: 6ft 3in (1.90m) Weight: 19 stone 8lbs (122kg)
Vickery's Lions lowdown
Lions debut: Versus Western Australia, June 8, 2001 Lions Tests: 5 (All three Tests in 2001, 1st and 3rd Tests in 2009) Lions non-Test appearances: 8 Total Lions appearances: 13 Lions points: 0 Final Lions appearance: Versus South Africa, Johannesburg, July 4, 2009
Phil Vickery (left) packs down with Keith Wood and Tom Smith in 2001
Vickery on the 2001 tour
"It was a massive event. In 2001, I was 24 so still reasonably young and it was something I always dreamed of. I watched Lions tours as a young man and I never really thought I would be involved in one.
"It was fantastic, playing with Keith Wood and Tommy Smith. Obviously Dai Young was around and Scott Gibbs came out in the end, Brian O'Driscoll etc. There were a lot of big names and I thoroughly, thoroughly enjoyed it.
"I thoroughly enjoyed the tour, although ultimately it finished in disappointment with losing the final Test match and losing the series."
On that famous first Test win over the Wallabies
"The first Test in Brisbane at The Gabba is probably one of my greatest rugby memories and experiences. It was just phenomenal and I'd never experienced anything like it. The support, the euphoria, the expectations, the pressure, the history and everything that surrounds the Lions makes it just a phenomenal thing to be involved in."
A varied tour: Vickery enjoys a trip to the set of Neighbours in 2001
On a special bond with the travelling support
"You couldn't go anywhere without being stopped. I think I've got a pretty good relationship with all supporters, whether they are English, Scottish, Irish or Welsh but being embraced and being part of that with the Lions was truly a privilege. It was something I thoroughly enjoyed and was very pleased to be a part of."
On captaining the 2009 Lions against Western Province
"When you're asked to be captain you say, 'fantastic’. Then, within two seconds, you think, 'Shit, this is quite a big deal.'
"When you play for the Lions you're carrying the dreams and frustrations of millions of people. Sometimes you have to remember that there are a hell of a lot of people who are right behind you and want you to do well.
"When you're in this environment it's a small bubble. You can get carried away and the most trivial little things become a real big problem. It's important to step outside it, realise what you're part of and to enjoy it.
"Since joining Wasps I've captained England to a World Cup final, won 30 or 40 more England caps and been asked to be captain of the Lions. This is the most unbelievable experience and I can honestly say it has far surpassed anything I thought I'd reach again.”
On the third Test win over the Boks
"It was a fantastic day. We won the match and that was all that was important to me.
"There was a lot of stuff written and a lot of stuff said, as always. There was a lot of pressure on me and it’s been quite an emotional couple of weeks but, ultimately, we got a ‘W’, which is the most important thing.
"I’m just thrilled for everyone. Everyone contributed to the tour and everyone contributed to the game and that’s why we’ve come away with a well earned victory."
Phil Vickery tatsed Test glory with the Lions in Johannesburg On the 2009 Lions coaches
“Geech’ gets the best out of you because he trusts you to do the right things. Nobody went over the mark and everyone respected the rules, and it was nice and refreshing to be on a tour where people wanted the best for you.
“The management told us just because we’re the Lions we didn't have to be tee-total. As long as we did our prep work they didn't have an issue with us going out for dinner or drinks. It was like 'Christ, we're actually being treated like adults.
"I've done two Lions tours and I think Warren Gatland would be a fantastic candidate to do it again. And I hope he does. He's a guy who I have the utmost respect for.
"Warren's a typical Kiwi. He's honest, sometimes brutally, but you can be honest back. He gets the guys together and gets the best out of people. I really hope he does it again because it's very, very special."
On the 2009 tour as a whole
"It was a great tour, one which I certainly won’t forget in a hurry. I’m very, very proud of the guys. Ultimately, we’ve lost the series but we’ve taken home a huge amount of pride.
"The Boks certainly deserve their series victory – they’ve had two good wins. But we’ve held ourselves together and I think we can go home and hold our heads high.
"I just hope and pray that Lions tours will always go ahead. This tour’s been very special for me, being with this group of guys, this group of coaches, the backroom staff and everyone else. It’s just been absolutely fantastic and a real privilege to be a part of it."
On life after rugby "I've never been under illusions about what's going to happen in later life as a result of what I've put my body through.
"Do I really want to know what I'm going to be like in later life? Probably not, to be honest.
"But the reality for me is that it's now not just about finishing, it's about how I look after my neck in the coming months and years.
"It's a lifetime of maintenance. It's my future life and how I deal with it."
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