TIPS FOR A STRESS-FREE CHRISTMAS
TIPS FOR A STRESS-FREE CHRISTMAS
Ah, Christmas, it’s the guilt-free time of the year that we eat all around us, drinks are flowing, and we are surrounded by friends and family. Who doesn’t love this time of year?
For many though, the thought of having to cook Christmas dinner can be a very daunting task – especially when doing it for the first time.
So I want to help you have as much as a stress-free Christmas as possible with some tips to help you get there.
First Up – Organisation! This is number one on my list, and the most important tip of all. Write your menu, I know this might sound a bit over the top but I promise you it will set you up for success. Everything from canopies if you do that, down to the drinks to accompany the meal. Have your recipes out or at least list the ingredients you need for each dish including all the sides and trimmings. Have your numbers right both Adults and kids so you down overbuy or underbuy.
Have you got the right equipment? Make sure you’ve got plenty of oven trays, pots and pans and serving dishes. Oh, and not forgetting an extra roll of tin foil – super handy for helping to keep things warm before you serve dinner. Another thing to check is your knives – make sure they’re nice and sharp, as this will make your prepping, cooking faster and easier. When I am writing the menu I also put next to each dish the cooking and serving equipment I need.
In the week leading up to Christmas make sure you’ve got absolutely everything you need, from the obvious like a turkey, potatoes, veg, check you’ve got enough oil to cook with and plenty of salt and pepper for seasoning too. I recommend getting all your food and drink shopping done by December 22nd – that way you can avoid a last-minute trolley dash around your local supermarket.
Brine your turkey on Christmas Eve, as turkey is lean meat, it can become dry very quickly, so I recommend brining for around 12 hours before popping it in the oven to cook. During this process, it’ll absorb extra moisture, which in turn helps it stay moist and juicy, and the brining liquor will also help to season the meat. To do this you’ll need a large pot or bucket, filled with a 10% salt to water ratio, 2 tbsp of sugar and lots of aromats (black pepper, cloves, cinnamon, a couple of bay leaves and orange peel).
Prep your veg the night before: Peel potatoes, carrots, parsnips and have your Brussel sprouts peels and washed (I do this 2 days in advance!) Leave them in pans of cold water overnight. This will save you a lot on Christmas morning.
Get your timings for the big day sorted: Plan exactly how long everything takes to cook and make yourself a to-do list. For example, Turkey goes into the oven at 7.30 am, check it at 8.30 am and lower the temperature and so on.
Keep it fun, get the family involved: Christmas is all about seeing family and friends, and enjoying quality time together. So, why not get everyone involved in the Christmas dinner process, outsource some of the dishes like dessert, cheese boards, trimmings such as stuffing, sauces, chutneys and all that jazz!
Ok I know I make my own but go and buy a Christmas Pudding if you want one and even cook it the night before. You can heat up for a few min in the microwave before serving. Or you can make my gorgeous meringue wreath (recipe on page opposite) that can be made a few days in advance and just topped with cream and fruit on the day.
Wash as you go: If like me when you cook a roast dinner you use every pot, pan and utensil in sight, clean up as you go (where possible). Even if this just means packing the dishwasher before carving the turkey, it’ll ensure you get to relax and enjoy the after-dinner festivities with your family – rather than being chained to a washing-up bowl for an hour after you’ve eaten.
Set the table the day before, have all the crockery, cutlery and glasses washed and out in their place.
Remember to have plenty of lemons and limes for food and drinks, ice in the freezer, cream in the fridge for dessert and Irish coffees, tea and coffee and a selection of both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks.
Have your serving dishes warmed up. Stack them in a 60°C oven. If you have space, warm up your dinner plates too. I promise it makes all the difference!
Most of all enjoy, plan in advance, have everything set up and written out and Christmas day should go nice and smoothly for you so you can be stress-free and very enjoyable!