I was listening to the radio the other day where the show was hosting a phone-in about Christmas dinner hints and tips. All I can say is that I think therapists will have a huge surge in business after the festive period if those callers were anything to go by. One woman was so overcome with the prospect of making lunch for ten that she actually broke down during the call.
I actually really hate many of the articles around at the moment giving relentless tips about how to make this ‘the best Christmas ever!!!!’ I think they are often condescending and always build up Christmas to such gargantuan proportions that it cannot help but be a let-down in some way. You have failed if you do not make your own crackers and your relatives will never forgive you if you do not cook turkey, beef and goose.
Everyone has their own ways of doing things; my mother buys her presents throughout the year to spread the cost but also so she can feel quietly smug by the end of November when everyone else is starting to feel that rising panic in their chests. I also have friends who leave their shopping until Christmas Eve every year. I think they secretly enjoy the jeopardy and feeling of naughtiness that comes with it. Personally, I could not think of doing anything worse.
I have been cooking Christmas dinner for my family since I was quite young; I have always enjoyed pottering in the kitchen away from the chaos of wrapping paper and crying infants next door. Over the years, I have gathered a few things that save time, money and a fair amount of sanity. Please follow them if you wish, but the whole point of Christmas is to have fun and a rest, not feel pressured into having yet another list of things to do.
Happy Christmas to you all!
Christmas Tip 1
Make your own bread sauce. It tastes so much better than anything bought and is actually much cheaper. I make mine the week before and freeze it.
Christmas Tip 2
Order your cheese early. Go to a specialist shop, where they will be delighted that you have been so organised and will help you choose something special. Usually this means you can pick it up on a day of your choice, without having to queue for an hour and a half to be greeted with the fact they have run out of Stilton.
Christmas Tip 3
Use your freezer. Bread sauce, cranberry sauce, pigs in blankets and stuffing can all be made well in advance and frozen. I would not advise freezing the turkey though, as it tends to make the proteins in the meat tighter, which makes it tougher.
Christmas Tip 4
Rest the meat. Do not worry about the turkey going cold when it is out of the oven. You do not need to serve it straightaway, in fact-it is a disaster if you do. Meat needs to rest. A 10lb turkey will sit quite happily for two hours or more after it is taken out of the oven. Simply tent it in foil and cover with a towel. It will not be cold, but will be juicy and moist.
Christmas Tip 5
Read the recipe. This sounds so obvious, but if you are making something to a recipe, read it once and then read it again. There is nothing worse than starting a dish a realising you do not have the right ingredients or the correct equipment.
Christmas Tip 6
Clean and clear out the fridge and freezer now. There are never enough places to store cold items and so throwing out those old jars of jam at the back of the fridge will help free up valuable space.
Christmas Tip 7
Stock up on foil. It is a certainty that you will run out of this at some point; everyone always does, so buy several rolls now.
Christmas Tip 8
Keep it simple. Many people think that Christmas is the perfect time to experiment and try out new, ambitious recipes. The answer to this is don’t. It will go wrong, someone will cry (probably you) and the resentment will stay with you for days.
Christmas Tip 9
Keep things off the hob if you can. Once your gravy is done, put it in a thermos to keep warm. Steam vegetables in the microwave. Anything that avoids the kitchen looking like a steam room is a good thing.
Christmas Tip 10
Roast potatoes wait for no man. The meat can sit, the sauces can sit, the vegetables can sit (for a short time), what cannot wait are the roasties. Any more than a few moments and they will start to go soggy; this is my definition of a Christmas disaster, so try and time the meal so that it is served as the potatoes come out of the oven.
Good luck and happy cooking.