Preparing for Christmas

11_ChristmasDinner

Christmas for me is about spending quality time with however many of my family I can see and enjoying great hassle free food. So whilst I feel that the roast turkey, or any other bird or joint is actually quite easy, it is the only time of the year we spoil ourselves and indulge in ‘all’ the trimmings.

gammonWe always have a lovely baked gammon on Christmas Eve as this leaves lots of wonderful ham to have cold over the following days. This year there are only 3 of us on Christmas Day so will have a small turkey. I like to have a whole bird rather than a crown even for just a small number as we love the meat from the legs as well as the breast and its great to have some leftover turkey to have cold or to use for other meals between Christmas and New Year.

small_3053390368On Boxing Day this year there will be 5 of us and I shall serve goose. Then after a slow build a much largergroup of family descend on us on the Saturday so I have planned roast pork for 17 as everyone will have had their fill of turkey by then.

With all this in mind, in order to be able to enjoy the days and not be in the kitchen non-stop I try to prepare as much as I can in advance. Today I am making a gravy that will form the base of the gravy on each of these 3 days. I have made this gravy now for several years and not only has it always been a great time saver, I think it is quite good value and is probably the best flavoured gravy I have ever made.

gravy_ahero_A1I stick to Jamie Oliver’s ‘Get-Ahead Gravy’ recipe and today I have made half as much again as the recipe suggests. Once made I will freeze it in 3 portions and each day defrost 1 portion. On each day I usually make extra stock from the bird giblets and use this and more vegetable water to add to the defrosted gravy to not only to make it go further but also to bring a little of the bird flavour to the gravy. I tend to add less water at this prep stage as I know it is going to have more stock added when I get it out to use it. This way, in it’s more concentrated form it also takes up a little less space in the freezer. (I’m going to pinch a little bit of it tonight too to use in my ham and butternut squash risotto!). This gravy is already thickened with flour so all you do is defrost and heat on the day.

Cranberry_SauceTomorrow I will make and freeze many of the sauces that we each prefer. I always try to make each family members favourites, so that means, cranberry sauce, bread sauce, brandy butter, and this year for my grandson a special request for leek sauce.

8ab34d705fd98225fcface58faf18e00None of these individually take much time at all but preparing them and freezing them in advance just helps me tick something else of my list and makes the cooking on the day that much easier. I don’t freeze the brandy butter because it will keep for a long time in the fridge.

This year, with large numbers to prepare for on the 27th, I am going to buy, prepare, par-boil and freeze potatoes, carrots, parsnips and brussel sprouts. Not only does this get the shopping part out of the way early, it saves time on the day, spreads the disposal of the trimmings and on the day it means that the potatoes can be quickly tossed into the hot goose fat in the oven saving the need for having lots of boiling on the hob that day.

The brussell sprouts will be halved and pan fried with chestnuts, garlic and pancetta. The carrots and parsnips are also ready to be roasted with a maple syrup and orange glaze.brusselsproutspancetta-a

Mince pies will be made next week with the homemade mincemeat and the Christmas puddings are just waiting for the final steaming. That just leaves the stuffing, which I like to make on the day as I add giblets to it, and the starters.

I haven’t found any starter recipes that take my fancy that can be cooked ahead and frozen yet so I will make these on the day. (Unless any of you have any you want to share with me?)

joyeaux-dessert10-croquembouche-487x740I’ve decided this year to buy the best desserts the stores have to offer for my big gathering as everyone will have had their fill of Christmas pudding by then. I really wanted to have a beautiful Croquembouche as everyone loves profiteroles and the shape is so joyeaux-dessert10-croquembouche-487x740perfect for Christmas. I haven’t been able to find one being advertised yet so I may have to buy ready made profiteroles and assemble it myself.

I’m hoping that preparing ahead will stop me from being overly stressed in the run up to Christmas and on those days when I’m entertaining. I don’t want to feel totally exhausted when it’s all over!

Shopping for food before Christmas seems to get more fraught each year as everyone seems to shop as though the shops are going to be closed for weeks instead of a day or 2 at most. I bought my goose from Goodman’s Geese on 31st October when the price was at it’s lowest. Geese will freeze for a few weeks without any noticeable effect. The gammon and huge pork joint for the 27th I bought a couple of weeks ago when large pork joints were on half price offer.

This planning helps spread costs, buy at the best prices, spread rubbish disposal, help ease stress and leaves me free to enjoy the holiday.

If you want any recipes just let me know and if you have helpful tips on having a stress free Christmas please do share!

photo credit: Edsel L via photopin cc

Article by Linda Penman