Preparation is key: How to avoid Christmas Dinner chaos
Preparing Christmas dinner is no small feat, with multiple family members and tastes to cater for. For most of us, there is nothing better to do on Christmas Day, then enjoy a glass of wine with friends and family, but instead we are stuck in the kitchen peeling carrots and boiling potatoes, whilst wondering if it is possible to somehow make the oven bigger to fit the sheer amount of food in. All of us have been there, and we silently swear to be ‘better prepared next year’.
But it doesn’t have to be that way, and with a little pre-planning and creative use of freezer space, the chaotic Christmas can be a thing of the past – there is no need to be up at the crack of dawn basting the turkey! If you prefer to spend time opening presents and relaxing with the rest of your guests on Christmas Day, then the time to start thinking and preparing for the big day is now.
With this in mind we asked Barbican Kitchen co-owner and celebrity chef James Tanner for his top five tips for getting ahead this Christmas.
Most supermarkets and suppliers will soon be, if they aren’t already, promoting their Christmas order times, dishes and produce. To avoid the panic filled aisles the week before Christmas, start making your orders now. This might also give you a choice from the best produce available, and not the last, sad looking turkey or wilted vegetables.
Start cooking now
There are lots of dishes which can be cooked now, with some even tasting better with the extra time. Your Christmas pudding can be made now, and if kept in a cool, dark place, with mature nicely. Gravy can also be made in advance and frozen, with the juice from the turkey added just before serving. Stuffing also freezes well, and if made in an oven dish, can simply be popped in the oven on the day.
Obviously there are some things which taste better if made from fresh, but you can still ensure you have a head start with a few simple tricks. Peeling the potatoes a few days in advance, boiling your sprouts and parsnips the day before, as well as making the Yorkshire pudding batter will significantly lessen the load.
Keep it simple
Don’t tackle too much at once! Remember, Christmas Dinner is just a roast, with a few added extras. Don’t try to make elaborate, new dishes which haven’t been tried and tested. This will give you more time to make sure your dishes are perfect, such as increasing the likelihood of your potatoes being crispy and the turkey being moist.
But for those of you who want to be a bit creative, simply put a new twist on traditional favourites. For instance, honey roasted parsnips with pancetta and red onion, sprouts with chestnut and orange, or even garlic buttered savoy cabbage – all involving little effort, with just a few extra ingredients!
Nothing is worse than having no freezer or fridge space, make sure you clear enough space for all your food prep in the lead up to the big day.
An age old saying, but one that is still true – ‘preparation is key’. Be organised and start marking lists of things that can be bought in advance, as well as rough timings of when to cook what. Don’t leave it all to the last minute, or you will miss out on the festive fun, and spend the majority time in the kitchen with sauce in your hair, as well as feeling exhausted. A well written list, and a rough schedule will likely mean the difference between a hot lunch, and a host of hungry guests.
For those of you not racing round the house trying to put the kids to sleep, make sure you do all the last minute prep the day before. This includes weighing the turkey and working out its cooking time – this will determine when you will eat, so needs to be right! Another tip, if a bit obvious, is to make sure all your frozen food is out of the freezer and defrosting.
Finally, don’t forget to leave out a mince pie and carrot.