To Stress or Not to Stress – That is the Question?
The family are coming for Christmas dinner and instead of the usual standard roast dinner for two, we are catering for 10.
Everyone is expecting a 3-course meal worthy of Jamie Oliver while being entertained and plied with drinks and aperitifs while waiting for the main meal.
All of this is to be done in a small ground floor apartment in central London with 4 overexcited grandchildren running around on a massive sugar rush from all the sweets and chocolate they had instead of breakfast.
What’s not to get stressed about!
I don’t want to be locked in the kitchen for 4 hours, I want to spend some quality time with the family. So how do we do it?
Here are my top tips and shortcuts to avoid the stress of cooking Christmas dinner:
1. Plan your meal
Plan your meal. Write down your dishes and a list of ingredients for each one. Don’t make it up as you go along.
Check your cupboards and the fridge
Check your cupboards and the fridge. Don’t assume you have an item especially if you haven’t used it since last Christmas. Make sure it is in date ie safe to eat. Cranberry sauce is my worst culprit for this.
Delegate. You can’t do everything. My sous chef aka Nanny is enlisted to help. Even the older children and grandchildren can do things like organising the table. Providing of course you can get them to put down their new mobile phone or gaming device.
Move the cold drinks
Move the cold drinks out of the kitchen fridge. We put the drinks in a chiller somewhere other than the kitchen. This stops the constant procession of children (mine are 36 & 40), daughters-in-law and grandchildren in and out of the kitchen getting in my way. This also leaves the fridge clear for food.
Make a plan of what to do when. Take the cooking times and work backwards from what time you plan to eat. Eg turkey crown in @ 10:00am – out @ 12:00pm.
Don’t give your guests an exact time for dinner on the table. If they don’t know what time dinner is then it can’t be late! Seriously though give an approximate time only.
Organise the kitchen
Organise your kitchen before you start cooking. Dig out the larger roasting tins and bigger saucepans in advance.
Prepare in the veg in advance
Prepare the fresh veg the day before. Just keep it cool and covered, it will be fine.
This is not for everyone, it just takes too long, but I make my own stock for the Christmas dinner gravy. The recipe for the gravy is here but I make mine well in advance and then freeze it. Just defrost it on the day and add the juices from the turkey tray for the best gravy.
Get a turkey crown
Turkey is notoriously difficult to cook properly because of the different thicknesses of the meat. Professional chefs almost always remove the legs and cook them separately. Save all the bother and buy a turkey crown instead. It cooks evenly in a much shorter time, just make sure you rest it properly for at least 45 minutes.
The crowded hob
The hob can get very crowded so don’t forget the microwave. Some carrots in herb butter only take 8 minutes and retain all their texture and flavour.
Wash up as you go
Our dishwasher, no not Nanny, it’s a Hotpoint, trembles with fear when it realises there is a big meal on the way. Washing up as you use pots and pans etc will reduce the mountain to do after the meal.
PS Don’t forget to turn on the hot water to all-day so you don’t run out.
These ideas have helped me over the years to prepare Christmas dinner with the minimum of stress. I hope they help you too.
Have a very Merry Christmas
Grandads Cookbook may reference or include sections of text and images reproduced courtesy of:
- Rick Stein (Feature Picture)