Stress-free Christmas Dinner Entertaining
We all know that feeling: it’s Christmas Day, your family is on the way to your house, none of the sides are ready, and you forgot to buy the cranberry sauce! Hosting a Christmas meal for your family can be stressful, but there are ways to avoid last minute panic and help you get everything on the table in time…stress free! Keep reading for a list of top tips to get your kitchen under control this Christmas.
- Prep your veg the night before………Peel potatoes, carrots, and sprouts and any other veg you’re having and leave them in pans of cold water overnight. This will save you a lot of faff and additional mess on Christmas morning. If you’ve got lots of space in your fridge (unlikely), you could even pre-cook your potatoes and parsnips on Christmas Eve to save even more time.
- Don’t boil vegetables such as sprouts, carrots, and parsnips, they are much better roasted. Flavour can be embellish with the addition of ingredients like olives, parmesan cheese, pancetta etc…
- To Roast – Make sure you’ve got enough baking trays for your carrots, sprouts, parsnips etc…. its essential that you don’t crowd your tray with too many ingredients otherwise they will boil up like a stew. If your looking for crispy parsnips and potatoes then be sure to socially distance them on the baking tray (forgive the expression, as if we haven’t heard it enough I hear you say). By distancing them you’ll have the best veggies in town.
- Season, Season, Season – Be sure to season the main dish (Turkey, Chicken, lamb, Duck, Pheasant….) the night before, with whatever you’re going to put in the cavity, rosemary, thyme, onions, garlic, mustard … etc it will make a huge difference to the flavour. Complete the prep so that it is oven ready.
- Remember to take the meat out of the fridge at least an hour, or preferably two before you are going to pop it in the oven in order to allow it to come up to room temperature so that you don’t shock the meat and make it very tough.
- Rest is best, in more ways than one. Remember to rest your cooked meat … Turkey, Chicken, beef, lamb …. for at least 20 minutes, per kilo of weight to maximise the succulent flavours and enable the meat to relax once out of the oven. I usually rest mine on a nearby vacant hob just above the oven or on a warm shelf… loosely cover it in foil that you might have previously wrapped it in. The meat doesn’t have to be served piping hot … just warm is fine, particularly so that you can carve it without burning yourself. It is the job of the gravy to heat up the meat, so just make sure your gravy has just come off the simmer when serving. By taking the meat out and resting it will also free up the oven to cook the final bits like roasting sprouts, parsnips and potatoes.
- If your cooking pigs in blankets, remember you could add them to the roasting dish with the meat in the last 20/25 minutes or so – as per the instructions. This will save another roasting tin (and more washing up)!
- You could also roast the potatoes the day before and refresh them … so cook them up to a crisp yellow the night before, then re roast them into a hot oven for 20 minutes giving it a blast of heat at 200 degrees just before eating. For the best roast potatoes, heat the oil/fat first then drop the pre-boiled potatoes in the hot fat/oil, you’ll get a much better finish.
- Make the gravy ahead – from the roast this weekend perhaps…. It will keep in the fridge for up to four days or you can freeze it, then refresh on the top by topping up with juices from the roasting tin.
- Make sure you’re confident about the menu, in other words don’t try something you’ve never cooked before, the uncertainty will cause unnecessary stress.
- Don’t think everything has to be homemade, there are some fantastic Christmas puddings and mince pies out there…… it’s the family time that counts.
- Wash up as you go along, or delegate the tasks between the group …..there’s nothing worse than it all piling up. Be sure to delegate the tasks between everyone, even Aunty Mary who always manages to disappear to the bathroom when the work needs to be done!
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Kumud Gandhi is a Nutritional Food Scientist bestselling Author, Broadcaster, and Keynote Speaker on the subject of nutritional health for productivity & performance in the workplace. In 2010 Kumud founded ‘The Cooking Academy’ a cookery school that focusses on cooking for nutritional health and wellbeing. Kumud regularly presents to international audiences on a variety of topics such as ‘Eating for Immunity and a Lifetime of Wellness’. She is an expert in the field of Wellness in the Workplace and works with organizations to create transformational change in employee health & well-being through nutrition and health coaching.