Oh the pressure of Christmas dinner. Not only do you have to create everyone’s idea of a perfect roast (redcurrant or cranberry? Sprouts or green beans? Fresh gravy or granules?) but you have to do it with a smile on your face and a festive flourish! And even worse, social media is crammed with images of perfectly browned turkeys, perfectly crafted Christmas cakes and made-from-scratch bread sauce.
Well Christmas has to be fun for you too, doesn’t it? And for most people, that doesn’t involve toiling over a hot stove for four hours while everyone else sits around eating chocolate and playing with their new toys. So here are some great tried-and-tested tricks to get you through Christmas dinner and onto the good bit – slumped on the sofa with a rerun of Love Actually.
Keep the decks clear
It might feel like a pain at the time, but keeping your work surface clear and staying on top of the washing-up will save time and stress later when you’re trying to serve up – as well as avoiding the post-dinner come-down when you see the dishes piled up! So keep cleaning up as you go, rather than leaving it all to the end. If you have a dishwasher, you can just throw your cooking utensils in while you’re serving up, and then it’ll be ready for the plates and glasses when you’ve finished eating.
Choose a powerful but gentle detergent such as Fairy Platinum or Fairy Original washing-up liquid and dishwasher tablets, to make sure all that roasted-on grease is dealt with, without being harsh on your best crockery and cutlery.
Ditch the turkey
Essentially Christmas dinner is just a slightly bigger Sunday roast. Sure, you might have relatives round, but try not to panic about it: it’s still just meat or a nut-roast, veg and gravy. In fact, you don’t even need turkey – why not go for an easier roast such as beef, lamb or chicken? You can slow-cook them, so if you’re running late with the trimmings you won’t end up with dried-up turkey breast and burned wings. And they take up less room in the oven, which makes the rest of the roast easier!
Make-ahead roast potatoes
Did you know you can make your roasties the day before? And they’ll still come out perfect! Simply peel and parboil the potatoes as normal (making sure you shake the colander when you drain your potatoes to fluff up those edges) and then roast at 220˚C for 20-30 minutes. Then cool and keep in the fridge overnight. On the big day, simply reheat the potatoes in a hot oven for 20-30 minutes.
Prep everything else in advance, too
It’s not just roasties you can get ahead with. You can make a good stock gravy weeks in advance, and freeze it till the big day. On the day, just warm it in the pan and pour in the roasting juices (use some stock to deglaze roasting tin for extra flavour).
Braised red cabbage is super-easy and tastes even better a day or two later, when the flavours have had time to develop.
And if you’re making any sauces from scratch, such as bread sauce, cranberry sauce or brandy sauce for the pudding, get them done well in advance – they’ll keep in the fridge quite happily for a few days, and you can freeze them for a few weeks.
You can also chop all the veg the night before – get everyone to help. If you’ve got older kids it’s good for them to learn how to peel and chop vegetables safely.
Don’t make everything from scratch
Sure, some things are better home-made – roasties and gravy among them – but do you really need to wrap your own pigs-in-blankets or make your own stuffing balls? Most supermarkets have excellent versions in foil trays ready to go straight in the oven, so there’s really no need unless you absolutely love cooking!
Use cooking to entertain the kids
If you want homemade mince pies and Christmas cake, then you could kill two birds with one stone and use it as an opportunity to get the kids away from their screens. There are plenty of easy mince-pie recipes online that the little ones can get busy with – they’ll love rolling out the pastry and putting in the filling. And you could make little Christmas figures out of marzipan to go on the Christmas cake.
After all, this is supposed to be fun, isn’t it?
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