Taking the hassle out of the Christmas dinner!

Do you find Christmas stressful? Want to take the hassle out of the Christmas dinner?

Dec 25th is only one month away! There is no doubt it is a stressful time of year, but it should be an enjoyable time too. I cant help with shopping for the vast array of presents, juggling the social engagements, making it to all the school nativity plays, carol services & pantomimes but I can try to help take some of the hassle out of the food on Christmas day!

At this time of year,  when people are at my cookery classes, I am often asked for tips and advise around food over Christmas . My best advise would be to KEEP IT SIMPLE.

Prepare things in advance where possible. I find that I want to enjoy the day and the social occasions also, not stuck in the kitchen and stressed about the food.

For me, I am lucky enough that both my family and my husbands are nearby so we don’t have to choose any year which family we will spend Christmas with, we spend it with both! We have a turkey dinner with one family at lunchtime and a goose for dinner with the other family in the evening. Obviously, we have very small portions at each meal but we are very lucky that we get to see everyone on Dec 25th. We take turns in hosting the meal and I always bring at least one course to the host’s house!

Below are 10 tips that I hope may help you take some of the hassle and stress out of the Christmas dinner.

1. Now: Make your red cabbage now and freeze for Christmas, Recipe here.

2. Dessert: Make your Christmas pudding well in advance, (if you don’t like traditional pudding, why don’t you make a chocolate biscuit cake version).  Alternatively, a lemon tart would be delicious if you don’t want traditional and can be made 1-2 days in advance.

3. Menu: Plan the menu, keep it simple, but tasty. I usually opt for
Smoked salmon salad
Turkey, baked ham, red cabbage, sprouts and roast potatoes and cranberry sauce.
Christmas pudding with brandy butter.

4 . Outsourcing: Outsource items to other family members, eg ask a brother to bring the ham, a sister to bring the starter and your mother to bring the plum pudding, made from an old family recipe! It can be a lot of pressure, and financial burden on one person.

5. Decoration: Get the kids involved in place settings or decoration. I find that girls in particular love craft and decorating things, why not get them to make place names for everyone?

6. Time: allow extra time when cooking the main course. Remember that when you have lots of things going on in the oven, it can take longer for things to cook. Allow the turkey to stand for 30mins before carving.

7. Turkey & Ham: Buy enough to have some leftovers the next day but unless you enjoy making up batches of curries or pies don’t buy a massive turkey or ham! If you don’t want to deal with a large turkey, why don’t you get a boned and rolled turkey from your butcher? Buy the best quality you can afford, eg organic bronzed turkey. Bake the ham the day before, have it hot on Christmas eve if you like, chill overnight but serve at room temperature on Christmas Day.

8. Gravy: Make the gravy the day before, prevent the last minute pressure. Jamie Oliver has a nice recipe for this.

9. Brussel sprouts: The supermarkets and veg suppliers are loaded up with Brussel sprouts in the lead up to Christmas, it is traditional but not most people’s favourite veg! Why not give a modern twist and shy away from the overcooked soft sprouts of our youth? If you shred them and steam fry in garlic and olive oil and top with bacon lardons it can be delicious. You can shred them the day before, store in the fridge covered in damp kitchen paper and they only take 5 mins or less to cook.

10. Cheese: Ireland has some amazing cheese. I think it is a wise investment to visit somewhere like Sheridan’s Cheesemongers or a good local deli and buy a selection of Irish Cheese. While you may not eat it on Christmas day, a nice cheese board can make a fabulous, lunch, supper or final course to any dinner and if kept well will last for the whole holiday.

I hope you enjoy the time leading up to Christmas!