No need to get in a tizz over Christmas dinner — follow our tips for a stress-free celebration with the perfect Christmas planner!
It’s all in the prep
1. Sort it out: Clean out the freezer well in advance. Make space for Christmas food to be stored in one place. It saves time rummaging through an overstocked, messy freezer.
2. Measure it: Check your roasting tray is big enough for the turkey and small enough to go in the oven.
4. Make lists: Don’t try winging it. Lists will help you be in control and ensure nothing’s forgotten. Once you’ve had a pre-dinner drink, they’ll be invaluable.
5. Share the load: If guests offer to bring a starter or dessert, say YES. If you’re worried what they’ll bring, point them in the direction of a favourite recipe.
6. Sweet cheat: Christmas pudding can be made months in advance and frozen to avoid extra pressure building up to the day.
7. Shop smart: Buy non-perishables like frozen food, stuffing mix, cranberry sauce and booze in advance to reduce the size of your shopping list for the Big Day.
Time it right:
A simple plan is the answer to getting everything served together.
The day before
- Prepare veg such as carrots and sprouts. Put in food bags and chill.
- Prepare your starter as far as possible.
- Prepare the stuffing. Calculate the turkey cooking time and add 1 hr for resting.
On the day
- Heat the oven. Cook the turkey for the calculated time, allowing for resting.
- Parboil the potatoes and parsnips.
- When the turkey is done, transfer to a warmed serving dish to rest, covered with foil.
- Increase the oven temperature to 200C. Cook the roast potatoes and parsnips for 40 to 50 min.
- After 30 min, add the stuffing and sausages.
- Make gravy from turkey juices; cook the carrots, sprouts etc on the hob.
- As items are ready, put in warmed serving dishes and cover. Serve the starter.
- Carve the turkey, check everything is on the table and nothing’s still lurking in the oven, and tuck in!
With a few tricks up your sleeve and using freezer faithfuls, you can overcome most mishaps.
- Burnt veg can be quickly replaced using frozen peas simmered with shredded lettuce, chopped spring onions and a dash of cream.
- If you run out of time to make a pudding, a tub of good-quality vanilla ice cream makes an instant Italian dessert (known as affogato). Serve with a shot of hot espresso coffee poured over.
- If the turkey is taking forever to cook, keep hunger pangs at bay by rustling up bruschetta with ciabatta from the freezer, pesto and Parmesan shavings.
What to do if…
1. You can’t get everything in the oven/on the hob: If you have a microwave, don’t forget you can always make use of that to steam green veg and even start off your roast potatoes.
2. Your roast potatoes aren’t crisp: Sprinkle them with a little polenta, increase the oven temperature to 220C and cook for a further 10-15 min until crisp.
3. The turkey is underdone: Carve the turkey, lay the slices in a roasting tin, pour over some gravy or hot stock and simmer until everything is cooked through.
4. The gravy is lumpy: Stir it with a hand whisk, then pour through a sieve into a warmed jug.
5. You run out of fridge space: Cooler boxes with ice packs are handy for keeping cheese, butter, salad stuff and drinks chilled for a day or two. However, store meat, fish, paté, dips, soft cheese, cream and creamy desserts in the fridge. Most vegetables will be OK in a cool pantry.
6. Your cranberry sauce tastes too tart: Just add the zest and juice of a very juicy orange.
7. Your sprouts are soggy: Try sautéing with some smoked streaky bacon.
Well done, you’ve pulled off a stress-free Christmas, you definitely deserve a delicious cocktail or two.