Do you find Christmas stressful? Looking to take the hassle out of the Christmas dinner?
Don't freak out but Decmber the 25th is just less than a month away! There is no doubt it is a stressful time of year, but it should be an enjoyable time too. Now, I can't help with shopping for the vast array of presents, juggling the social engagements, making it to all the school nativity plays, carol services & pantomimes, but I can try to help take some of the hassle out of the food on Christmas day!
At this time of year, when people are in my cookery classes, I am often asked for tips and advise on food over Christmas. My best advice would be to KEEP IT SIMPLE.
Prepare things in advance where possible. I find that I want to enjoy the day and the social occasions also, not stuck in the kitchen stressing about the food. This is supposed to be enjoyable and fulfilling.
For me, I am lucky enough that both my family and my husband's family are nearby so we don't have to choose any year which family we will spend Christmas with, we spend it with both! We have a turkey dinner with one family at lunchtime and a goose for dinner with the other family in the evening. Obviously, we have very small portions at each meal but we are very lucky that we get to see everyone on the Big Day. We take turns in hosting the meal and I always bring at least one course to the host's house!
Below are 10 tips that I hope may help you take some of the stress out of the Christmas dinner.
1. Now: Make your red cabbage now and freeze for Christmas, you will find the recipe below.
2. Dessert: Make your Christmas pudding well in advance, (if you don't like traditional pudding, why don't you make a chocolate biscuit cake version). Alternatively, a lemon tart would be delicious if you don't want traditional and can be made 1-2 days in advance.
3. Menu: Plan the menu, keep it simple, but tasty. I usually opt for a smoked salmon salad, turkey, baked ham, red cabbage, sprouts, roast potatoes and cranberry sauce, followed by a delicious Christmas pudding with brandy butter.
4. Outsourcing: Outsource items to other family members, eg. ask a brother to bring the ham, a sister to bring the starter and your mother to bring the plum pudding, made from an old family recipe! It can be a lot of pressure, and financial burden on one person.
5. Decoration: Get the kids involved in place settings or decoration. They love craft and decorating so why not get them to make place names for everyone?
6. Time: allow extra time when cooking the main course. Remember that when you have lots of things going on in the oven, it can take longer for things to cook. Allow the turkey to stand for 30mins before carving.
7. Turkey & Ham: Buy enough to have some leftovers the next day but unless you enjoy making up batches of curries or pies, don't buy a massive turkey or ham! If you don't want to deal with a large turkey, why don't you get a boned and rolled turkey from your butcher? Buy the best quality you can afford, eg organic bronzed turkey. Bake the ham the day before, have it hot on Christmas eve if you like, chill overnight but serve at room temperature on Christmas Day.
8. Gravy: Make the gravy the day before, prevent the last minute pressure. Jamie Oliver has a nice recipe for this.
9. Brussel sprouts: The supermarkets and veg suppliers are loaded up with Brussel sprouts in the lead up to Christmas. It is traditional, but not everyone's favourite veg! Why not give a modern twist and shy away from the overcooked soft sprouts of our youth? If you shred them and steam fry in garlic and olive oil and top with bacon lardons, it can also be delicious. You can shred them the day before, store in the fridge covered in damp kitchen paper and they only take 5 mins or less to cook.
10. Cheese: Never underestimate a good cheeseboard. Visit a good cheesemongers or a well-recommended local deli and buy a selection of cheese. While you may not eat it on Christmas day, a nice cheese board can make a fabulous, lunch, supper or final course to any dinner and if kept well will last for the whole holiday.
Check out my red cabbage recipe:
Cabbage is in season all year round. This festive dish is delicious and very easy to make. Best of all, it is ideal for Christmas Day and can be made a month in advance and frozen!
What you'll need:
450g Red Cabbage
450g Cooking apples
1 tbsp vinegar
2 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
5 star anise
1 tsp ground cinnamon
What you'll do:
Shred the cabbage. Place it in a saucepan with vinegar, sugar, salt, star anise (tied in muslin), cinnamon and water, bring to the boil. Next, peel, core and quarter the apples, lay on top of cabbage, reduce the heat to a simmer. Cover it and cook for around 30 mins with the lid on or until the water is absorbed. The handy thing about this recipe is that this can be frozen and reheated when needed. Feel free to omit the star anise & cinnamon if you prefer.