At this time of year it is important to be prepared for the impending festivities and today I am going to focus on the preparation of the much anticipated Christmas dinner!
A Christmas dinner is one of the highlights of this festive season for many of us foodies, and now a few weeks out we begin lusting over turkey and stuffing, homemade gravy and the all-important cranberry sauce! For the cooks on Christmas Day, stress levels can be high; balancing plates, pots and pans to cook up a delicious dinner for the family.
I have had the pleasure of working in a Michelin star restaurant in the past, which means I am well used to the many intricacies a busy kitchen can create! In this blog I want to share with you a few tips and tricks to prepare, cook and serve a stress free Christmas meal for the family.
Preparation is Key
Before we consider anything else, preparation is key to success. The difference between those who succeed in the kitchen and those who cook in a hot mess is all down to patience and preparation. Here are my tips and tricks to run a Christmas kitchen smoothly;
- Prepare vegetables the day before, cover with damp kitchen roll and place them in the fridge to save time on Christmas morning. Potatoes can be peeled and kept in water, I wouldn’t keep other vegetables in water.
- If using a fresh turkey make sure to leave it out of the fridge for at least 30 minutes before cooking in your pre heated oven. If using a frozen turkey make sure to defrost your turkey in adequate time.
- Don’t forget to soak your ham overnight, it doesn’t need to be kept in the fridge when soaking but ideally in a cool spot.
- There are some things you can make the day before such as a soup, the stuffing, cranberry sauce and trifle if you fancy it.
- Work within the confines of your kitchen; don’t think of having roast vegetables if you’re not going to have enough space in the oven.
- Less is more; there’s really no need to go mad and do lots of dishes. If you can do the essentials really well your family and guests will be happy.
Write a List
- Take some time now to decide what you are going to cook for Christmas dinner; from starters to main course, dessert and possibly some evening snacks to nibble on when the turkey has long been consumed. Write a shopping list of these ingredients and at this stage don’t forget the condiments such as gravy, bread sauce, cranberry sauce, apple sauce etc.
- Writing this shopping list will significantly help your Christmas dinner planning and the earlier you do this, the more time you have to reflect and add items you may have initially forgotten about.
- Two days before Christmas buy all your fresh ingredients, but don’t leave everything too late. For any foods and sauces that preserve well, make sure you buy them in advance to avoid disappointment if they are sold out in the shops.
To inspire your Christmas cooking I am sharing three of my top Christmas recipes that you might choose to follow over this festive season!
Starter: Leek and Potato Soup
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
- 4 -5 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped
- 4 leeks-medium size
- Chicken stock approx 1 ½ litres
- Salt and pepper
- Knob of butter
- A little olive oil
Heat the chicken stock in a separate pan.
Trim the leeks, removing coarse outer leaves, slice thinly and wash very well.
In a large heavy-based pan, heat a little olive oil, add the butter, onions and garlic and cook slowly until the onions soften.
Add the potatoes and leeks, season with salt and pepper and continue to cook on low heat for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add enough hot stock to cover the vegetables and simmer gently until the vegetables are tender, approximately 10 minutes. Liquidize, add more stock if necessary and taste and correct the seasoning if need be.
Main Course: Glazed Mustard Ham
- 1 x 3-4 kg ham
- 1 onion, peeled and stuck with a few cloves
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 pint dry cider
- A few peppercorns
- English mustard
- Whole cloves
- 200-250g Demerara sugar
- runny honey
Soak the ham in cold water overnight.
Next day put in a pan with fresh cold water, bring to the boil then discard this water.
Cover in fresh cold water add the onion, bay leaf and peppercorns and bring slowly to the boil, remove any scum, add the cider and simmer slowly until cooked.
Allow 20 minutes per lb (450g), so a 3-4kg ham should take 2 ½ – 3 hours to cook.
Test by sticking a skewer in the middle, leave for 20 seconds and press to the back of your wrist. If hot, the ham is completely cooked through.
Remove from the water and allow to cool a little.
Using a small knife, cut the rind off the ham (leaving the fat), then score the fat in a diamond pattern and stick a whole clove in each diamond.
Using a knife spread a good layer of English mustard over the top. Then drizzle the honey all over and spread the sugar on top of this.
Place on a roasting tin and add a little cider in the bottom, bake in a hot oven 220C for about 20 minutes or until the top is caramelised. Baste regularly with the syrup and juices to ensure a nice glaze.
Serve warm or at room temperature.
Dessert: Christmas Pudding and Brandy Sauce
Makes a 2 pint pudding or two 1 pint puddings – serves 8-10
- 120g sultanas
- 120g raisins
- 270g currants
- 25g candied peel, finely chopped
- 25g ground almonds (optional)
- 110g shredded suet
- 50g self raising flour
- 110g white breadcrumbs
- 1 tsp mixed spice
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- Good pinch freshly grated nutmeg
- 225g soft dark brown sugar
- 1 Bramley apple, peeled and grated
- Grated zest of ½ an orange
- Grated zest of ½ a lemon
- 2 large eggs
- 1 tin/400ml Guinness
- 2 tablespoons Brandy or Irish whiskey
Start the pudding the day before steaming.
In a large bowl, put the dried fruit and then the suet, sifted flour, spices, almonds, sugar, bread crumbs, grated apple, orange and lemon zest. Mix together thoroughly.
In a small bowl, whisk the eggs with 150ml of Guinness and the brandy. Add this to the dry ingredients and mix well. The mixture should be quite wet – add more Guinness if necessary. Cover with cling film and leave overnight.
Next day, mix again and add some more Guinness, the mixture should be soft and quite wet.
Lightly grease the pudding bowl and put the mixture in. Cover with greaseproof paper (folded in the centre to make a pleat), tie this on securely and then do the same with a sheet of tinfoil.
Steam the pudding in a steamer or just in a saucepan, sitting on a saucer with always a little water in the base for 5 hours (4 hours for a one pint pudding). Make sure to keep the water topped up.
When cold remove the tinfoil and paper, clean the bowl and then cover again in the same way with fresh paper and tinfoil.
Keep in a cool dark place.
Will keep well for months.
On the day steam again the same way for minimum 1-2 hours.
Serve with pouring cream or brandy sauce.
- 1 pint milk
- 3 level tablespoons corn flour
- 2-4 tablespoons caster sugar
Blend the corn flour with a little of the cold milk until smooth and add 2 tablespoons of sugar.
Heat the remaining milk until just coming to the boil but not boiling.
Pour onto the corn flour, stirring well.
Add back into the pan and heat until it reaches boiling point stirring all the time. Allow to cook on a low heat for a few minutes stirring occasionally.
Taste and add more sugar if desired.
Will keep if covered in a warm oven for an hour or so.
I hope this post will help you feel and be more prepared and relaxed this Christmas. Whatever is on the menu, sit back, relax and enjoy this precious time with family and friends! If one of your new year’s resolutions is to learn new cooking techniques, dishes and tips check out my range of upcoming cookery classes at Wee Buns.
Wish you all a happy, safe and peaceful Christmas time.
Until next time,