Christmas Dinner De-stressed!
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Kitchen Magic or Mayhem?
Maybe you’re a whiz in the kitchen and could be a contender for GBBO 2018. I, on the other hand, am an absolute clutz who can make food that tastes alright but often resembles a dinner plate that’s made it out of a war-zone. I definitely have some substance, but no form! Luckily, Christmas Dinner isn’t about looking good. It’s about filling, tasty, traditional treats.
I am very much a Christmas dinner traditionalist, so if you’re looking for someone who serves Chicken Tikka on Christmas day I’m afraid you’ll have to look away. It’s definitely a big roast turkey for me and all the trimmings you’d expect in ridiculous quantities.
The biggest problem I have with Christmas dinner is timing and space. I cook at my mum’s (who is an even worse cook than me and has given us food poisoning from turkey before) and although her dining area is quite large so we have a big table to work with, the kitchen is absolutely tiny! I also don’t want to be running around like a headless chicken all day trying to time this and time that, take that out and slot that in with 5 different alarms going off… been there, done that, wasn’t a fan. I want to do as little work in the kitchen as possible and then plonk myself on the sofa with a glass of fizz (well, a little bit of fizz and mostly lemonade if I’m honest), and a box of chocolates for starters. Er, it’s not just me that does that, right?
Here are my Five Top Tips for Cooking a Stress-Free Christmas Dinner
1. Do what you can the night before.
Very little really needs to be done fresh on the day other than the actual process of cooking (or warming up pre-cooked) food. That means if you’re doing seasoning, chopping, preparing etc. you can do it in advance and pop it in the fridge (or freezer) ready. A lot of things actually taste better the night before if there’s flavour to be absorbed – such as honey glazing the parsnips and carrots. I chop and glaze them, pop them in a foil tray with some clingfilm on in the fridge and they’re ready to go into the oven when there’s space.
It’s definitely worth making a food-plan and assessing what you can get out of the way. It’s a shame to spend such a special day doing things that could have been done previously. It’s not all about food either – you can lay the table the night before if you’re not using it for breakfast too!
2. Slow cookers make amazing gravy.
I love my slow cooker. You can do a lot with it. Maybe you’re using yours for the meat or something else, but I actually use mine for the gravy! I chop lots of onions in and pop my gravy in and let it cook on slow from the night before. You’ve got an entire pot of delicious gravy ready to be spooned into your best table jug and the onions can be served with it, or strained and served on the side. Extremely tasty and it’s about 15 minutes work!
3. An electric steamer might be your new best friend.
Steaming is a really healthy and efficient way to cook vegetables. By getting a tiered steamer – I favour electric but you can also get on-hob tiered steamers – you can save an absolute ton of work space for a small kitchen. By putting the food at different levels, you can also cook a bunch of stuff at different temperatures which means you can get a lot of stuff done at once. I cook cauliflower, broccoli, sprouts, butternut squash and peas in my steamer, and then pop parsnips and carrots in the oven (honey glazed, of course) to give them a crisp. Gone are the days when I’d be juggling four different size pans on the hob and trying to time each one precisely to avoid soggyness. Just turn the steamer down if you need more time and don’t want them to overcook!
4. Frozen is for cool mums (see what I did there?)
No, I haven’t been paid by Iceland for the making of this post. That would have been nice, but I’m not quite important enough for that yet. Frozen food is nothing to shy from. Frozen food is often cheaper, easier to store (unless you have a giant fridge, mine gets mostly taken up by a beast of a turkey) and it doesn’t matter if your numbers aren’t quite right as you can adjust on the day. It’s also easier to cook, especially if you get something that comes in those oh-so-convenient foil trays so you don’t even have any washing up to do at the end. Does anyone in the world enjoy washing up?
Of course, you don’t have to buy it frozen. If you want to save some time and do some prep in the previous days, you can make it fresh and then freeze into trays so you can just get it out and pop it in the oven on the day, freeing up the morning to spend with the family (or the wine bottle).
5. Stores make really good desserts.
I used to make Christmas cake months in advance, letting it sit with the brandy and the fruit and then painstakingly crafting my icing a week before Christmas. It usually ended up with the cake looking like a snowman had thrown up on it and although I’ll admit, it was certainly tasty, it actually ended up consuming a lot of time – and costing more than just buying one. I’ve found that if you splurge on a really nice dessert you save a ridiculous amount of time. And no one cares. No one has ever said to me “That dessert tasted shop bought.” or “Ew, you bought this from M&S?!”
Just buy something nice. Or two or three somethings and have some options. If you want to save time and stress, don’t slave over a cake or dessert unless you enjoy it.
Do you have any tips for making Christmas Dinner a stress-free experience?
Today’s Codeword is: PENGUIN, if you would like to read another post and gain another entry, then head over to Me and B Make Tea for their take on Your Christmas Dinner De-stressed.
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