Stressed out at the prospect of preparing a Christmas Dinner for the family?
My firm belief about Christmas is that it’s a time for stealing all the kids’ toys. If you’re up to your eyeballs in the kitchen, how you can you build that LEGO set or try to fly your nephew’s drone in the back garden?
For me, then, preparing Christmas dinner requires three things: advance prep; short cuts and outright cheats.
Fortunately, the rather lovely people at Bacofoil agree with me 100% and sent me some supplies to cook a festive dinner for the family. With their help, today I’m sharing my five favourite tips for a stress-free Christmas dinner.
I have a confession to make – over the years, I have thrown out more than one baking tray because I couldn’t face cleaning it. At Christmas, especially, who wants to spend half an hour hunched over the sink with a scouring pad when you could be having a nice walk?
Bacofoil has a genius range of products to help including disposable roasting trays perfect for turkey and vegetables. There also also roasting bags which allow you to pop the turkey and flavourings inside. They’re great for keeping the meat really moist but also keep a lot of mess in.
I tend to pop lemon and garlic cloves into the sealed bag, after I’ve seasoned the chicken (half of our family hates turkey!). Then, just snip open the top of the bag for the last 30 minutes of cooking to get crispy skin on the top of the bird. Tastes awesome, and no sticky baking tray!
If I want to make roast potatoes and have a little time before Christmas, then I par-boil potatoes a few days ahead of time. After 10 minutes in the pan, rough up the edges, and dredge the potatoes with a little flour or semolina. Pop them into the freezer, and when you’re ready to put the roasties in the oven, just tumble them into a tray with some hot oil, sprinkle with sea salt and you’re good to go.
If you don’t have time to prep the spuds ahead of time, my even faster cheat is to use new potatoes for roasting – they don’t need par-boiling OR peeling, and roast in around an hour in a hot oven.
Cheat on the Sides
There’s a time and a place for purity in food, and I’m fairly sure Christmas Day is not that time. I always use frozen vegetables (they’re often better quality than fresh, especially when it comes to peas), pre-prepared gravy and if I die without ever having made a bread sauce that doesn’t come from a packet – well, I’m fine with that. Which leads me to tip number 4, which is…
If you add an ingredient it counts as home-made
Using packet gravy? I always add a teaspoon of Marmite – it makes the taste a little richer.
Jarred cranberry sauce? Liven it up with a splash of orange juice and a sprinkling of nutmeg and cinnamon.
This means when people ask, “Did you make the gravy?” I feel entirely justified in taking all the credit. On a bad day, I consider that opening a packet, adding water, or warming through on a stove also counts as “making” a dish.
Remember People Love YOU More
When push comes to shove, nobody in my family comes to my house for the food.
They forgive the fact that the plates don’t match, there aren’t enough wine glasses so someone always has a mug of champagne, and it’s the Law of Christmas that each year you’ll forget to put at least one thing you’ve cooked onto the table (Yorkshire puds, most recently). It’s more important we’re all together and everyone’s relaxed and having fun – and if the price of that is frozen veg and pre-made potatoes, then that seems perfectly fair to me!