This time tomorrow you'll likely be getting the last pieces of your dinner together.

From prepping the turkey to getting all your veggies perfect, for the chef of the house, the annual Christmas dinner can be a time of stress and pressure.

And even celebrity chef, Oxfordshire's Dame Prue Leith, agrees it can be a draining experience.

Speaking from her home, dressed in her distinctive colourful contemporary style, she said: "Normally I would be in Oxfordshire for Christmas, but this year I'm going to my son's in London.

"I am doing the cooking but only Christmas Day. The thing about Christmas – people find it absolutely exhausting and stressful – but that's because you’ve usually got more to worry about than just Christmas dinner which is after all just a roast and steamed pudding.

"What’s stressful is getting the house ready, getting all the rooms decorated, getting all the shopping done and all the food for the rest of the time and planning all of that.

"This time I’m arriving with all the prep done. I’ll have the roast turkey all ready to go in the oven.

"I’ll have the sprouts made into a puree and lots of garlic and cream and that will just need to go in the microwave."

And Dame Prue, who built her career around food, first as a restaurateur and chef and later as a judge on Great British Menu, before moving to The Great British Bake Off, said: "More often that not we have turkey but I have had all sorts of things. 

"One year everyone said they didn’t want turkey and we had Chinese pancakes which were really delicious.

"The children were little and they liked the fact they could fill up their pancakes with bits of duck.

"Then after Christmas we’ll come back and the day after Boxing Day we will have my husband’s family, the Playfairs will descend on us."

Dame Prue and her husband John Playfair recently downsized from the 17th century Georgian manor house Chastleton Glebe, which she lived in for nearly 50 years, to a modern barn near Moreton-in-Marsh.

She said: "Two years ago we sold the big house and we kept the farmhouse and a little bit of the land around it and sold the rest with the big house.

"So we now have a brand-new house which we built during lockdown which is lovely."

Mr Playfair is a fan of Harley-Davidson motorcycles.

She said: “His children call it his mobility scooter because it has two wheels at the back, so it can’t turn over – but I love it!

“We go pub-crawling around the Cotswolds. I do the drinking because I’m on the back, and it’s the loveliest.”

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And apart from great pubs the Cotswolds has some of the best food shops too, she believes.

"I’m very keen on shopping locally. We get all our vegetables from Vegetable Matters which is a 20 minute drive away and has really beautiful veg.

"I get all our fish from Chipping Norton from Patrice Roger who used to be a chef. He makes wonderful tomato and black olive soup and platters – I get his niçoise salads for 10 in summer.

"All our bread is from Mark’s bakery – he does really good sourdough and brioche.

"And we go to Aldi in Chipping Norton. I buy 28 day aged Aberdeen Angus steaks – absolutely delicious."

At an unbelievable 82, the tireless Dame Prue is now embarking on a new challenge with her first-ever one-woman stage show.

She said: "I’m so worried about it. I’ve never done one before and I am really extremely anxious.

"I was talking to Joanna Lumley about doing this as she and I share a producer director for our one-woman stage shows.

"So I rang her up and said, 'you’re an actress so of course you can do it and people come to see you. 'You are known for various different things – campaigning, acting' – and I said 'the only thing people know about me is that I eat cake for a living, why would they come?'

"She said very sweetly, 'you will be fine. Don’t forget that every single person that has paid good money to see you likes you anyway, they’re on your side, they want to have a good night'. So I’m just hoping that turns out to be true."

There have been rehearsals and several tryouts in Bath, Leamington Spa, New York and LA as the show will go to the States where Bake Off has had stratospheric success.

"I got better," she said. "The first night in Bath I thought, what am I doing, this is so horrible, I was so frightened.

"But everybody said I didn’t look frightened and the audience ticked all the right boxes and said they would recommend it to a friend.

"But by the time I’d finished I was really enjoying it. The American audiences were so over the top and enthusiastic, they were whooping and hollering. They were shouting out ‘We love you Prue’ – it’s crazy."

The first half of the show will be Dame Prue sharing anecdotes from her career.

After a childhood spent in South Africa, Prue came to London in the early 1960s where she opened Leith’s Restaurant.

During her career that followed as an esteemed cook, she has been a food writer for the Daily Mail, opened her own cookery school and has published several cookbooks.

She said: "I’ve had a really long and fascinating life and done a lot of different things.

"The show starts with 45 minutes where I talk about my career in the form of funny stories. It’s really disaster stories in the catering business."

One horror story will be the night Prue served a dinner for 300 people at the Tate Gallery when she realized at the last moment her speciality Stilton soup was off. “I could smell it from a mile away.”

The waiters took it out to her van and they rushed to her cookery school where all the teachers helped make a soup from anything they could find that was white, edible and soft.

“It was mainly mussels and cream cheese. But the next day the boss of the Tate rang me and said what a triumph the whole thing had been and could she have the recipe for the Stilton soup.”

She added: "In fact I thought of calling the show ‘How to wing it’ because there’s lots of stories like that. Catering is full of disasters, things always go wrong and there’s nothing you can do but get through it."

Dame Prue will be on our screens tonight when she judges the first of two special celebrity Bake Off episodes on Christmas Eve and New Year's Day on Channel 4.

"That's all in the can," she said.

As usual it is likely to one the biggest Channel 4 hits of the festive season which many say is due to people liking to see nice people - like this year's finalists Syabira, Abdul and Sandro - doing nice things.

"I think people love it because they know what they are going to get," agreed Dame Prue. "It’s totally reliable. Nobody is going to be horrible. It’s warm, it’s like a duvet blanket.

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"When we were locked up in the bubble filming during Covid – in prison, well more like a holiday camp – I think the reason we and Strictly were the first productions given permission to film was because the Government realized that the nation needed something like Bake Off and Strictly which is entirely nice and no stress.

"The most stress you get in Bake Off is when somebody’s gelatine doesn’t set or they’re running late and they can’t finish the decoration.

"And it’s a lovely show to be on.

"Nobody believes me when I say this but it’s absolutely true – I’ve been on that show now for six or seven years and I have never heard anyone, none of the crew, anybody, be rude to each other or any kind of row.

"Presumably somebody must have got cross with somebody somewhere but I’ve never caught them at it.

"The whole atmosphere just doesn’t lead to fisticuffs."

Dame Prue Leith's first ever UK Tour ‘Nothing in Moderation’ comes to Oxford New Theatre on March 21.

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