Christmas dinner is one of the highlights of the year. A plate piled high with perfectly-cooked festive food, a tall glass of wine, and the sound of Christmas songs playing in the background…Sigh! It all forms the centrepiece of a day spent with friends and family. What could be better?
However, the thought of cooking the Christmas dinner that will eventually make it to a beautifully dressed table is rather less idyllic. If you want to ensure your Christmas meal goes off without a hitch, here’s what to do…
Start by getting organised. You’ll need to do the food shopping (remembering all the extras such as drinks, napkins, crackers and candles) no later than by December 22nd. That way, you won’t have to endure a last-minute dash around a crowded supermarket. Don’t forget to buy an extra roll of foil to keep things warm!
Next, write out a plan of attack. This will act as a timeline, taking you from the moment you put the turkey in the oven to the minute you drain the peas. The trick, however, is to start at the end: decide what time you want to serve dinner, and work your way backwards from there.
Of course, what no-one ever tells you is that the secret to a stress-free Christmas dinner is to making most of ahead of time. There are lots of components that can be cooked in advance without spoiling, such as:
Simply freeze it in a container and defrost it on the day. For extra depth of flavour, add the juices from the turkey once you’ve heated it through.
It’s quicker (and safer) to cook stuffing outside the turkey cavity, so make it ahead of time. You can freeze it in the dish you’ve cooked it in, provided it’s both oven safe and freezer safe, which means you can heat it in the oven and bring it to the table without anyone being any the wiser.
If you’re making your own cranberry sauce rather than using the jar variety, you can make it ahead of time. Blitz your cranberries in a food processor and add other delicious spices to give it real depth of flavour, and make sure there’s a good squeeze of lemon or orange juice in there to prevent it discolouring.
Boil the Brussels sprouts for a minute or two less than you usually would. Then, drain them and drop them straight into very cold water to stop the cooking process. Store them in the fridge, and then simply heat them back up in the microwave or in the oven on Christmas day.
Yorkshire puddings are notoriously hard to get right on Christmas day, and that’s due to the fact they require a very hot oven in order to rise properly. Heat (and space) is hard to come by in an oven on Christmas day, so cook yours ahead of time, pop them in the freezer and then give them 10 minutes in the oven on Christmas day to warm them up.
As well as cooking what you can ahead of time, you’re going to need a fridge freezer with plenty of room – after all, where else are you going to keep those parboiled potatoes, the pigs in blankets or the white wine that needs chilling? So, ahead of Christmas Day, bin anything that’s been lurking on the top shelf for too long and do a general re-organise and tidy. Consider plugging in a camping fridge for anything you can’t fit in your standard fridge – it’s the perfect place for alcohol or cheeses.
It’s also worth washing up as you go – or nominating a family member to be your pot washer. You’ll use every utensil, pot and pan while you’re cooking, so expect a mess. But, you’ll feel less stressed if someone is tidying up behind you, and you’ll also have significantly less to deal with after dinner… perfect, as you’re going to be too full to move!
Finally, don’t forget about dessert – you can prep it ahead of time, and it’s a great idea to make one that is best served cold (as you can serve it straight out the fridge), such as a chocolate mousse or a trifle.