Or at least, a bit easier!! I’ve been asked loads of times how to make cooking easier. Of course, there’s no one answer, that would be way too easy. But here are some guidelines and plenty of helpful tips I’ve learned from experience/ my mistakes.
I’d like to help to make your Christmas lunch 2018 really delicious and the most stress-free festive feast ever!
The only way to do this is with a little preparation and planning. It will mean that you’re comfortable and confident, ready to create a delicious meal for your loved ones and also have a chilled and enjoyable day yourself.
Here’s a few general tips I’ve learned over the years:
- Try to keep it simple, but tasty. Know your limits and don’t try anything extravagant or totally untested. A main dish with a few side dishes is more than enough, we eat way too much on Christmas day!
- If you are cooking for people with dietary requirements, like no sugar or gluten-free, get them ready in advance or make the whole menu gluten/ sugar free. There are simple ways of doing this and it will make your life much easier. The last thing you need is to be cooking many different dishes for people on the big day.
- People expectations don’t matter. Cook the best meal you can with the skills and ingredients you have. Cook the food you love and I’m sure others will enjoy it too. Trying to cook like super chef once a year is just unrealistic!!
- Chill! Take it as easy as possible on the day. Using this plan below, it will be plain sailing!! Try to keep calm and be focused. Have some trusted helpers around if you can, who are good in a kitchen. What you’re doing is not easy, especially if you do not cook meals like this regularly.
- Things will, very probably, go wrong. Take it all in your stride. You’re cooking for loved ones and it’s supposed to be fun!! Remember that professional chefs make mistakes and lose their cool all the time, but staying calm, taking some deep breaths if you need to, will ensure your meal is delicious.
Check out our recent Christmas recipes:
Some preparations tips:
The run up….
- If you can do a dry run of the meal you have planned, invite some people over for a pre-Xmas feast.
- Buy dry and frozen ingredients, things that will store well, don’t leave all your shopping to the last minute.
- Cook dishes beforehand that can be easily frozen or jarred, like the Wellington, Cranberry Sauce, even the gravy.
- Yorkshire puds can be made before and frozen. Just warm them in the oven for 5-10 minutes.
- Oven space will probably be an issue on the day, plan your menu around this, make sure there is a balance between dishes prepared in the oven and on the hobs.
- Equipment check, make sure you have big enough dishes, tins and pans. Especially if you don’t normally cook for lots of people.
- Sizing up recipes. If you’re cooking for a full house, you may need to double or sometimes triple recipes, this can be a challenge. Recipes don’t always work out so well when multiplied up, it’s simply a case of using common sense, especially with things like flavourings, spices etc. Taste the dishes regularly. Always!
- If you think the meal will be ready for 1pm, set a meal time for 2pm. Don’t feel pressured into getting a meal out bang on time, people are enjoying a drink and the Xmas vibe, take you time, hurry leads to mistakes.
The day before
- Get a load of your cooking done on Xmas eve. I know this is idealistic, it’s such a busy time of year, but if you have time, doing all, or some of this, will make Christmas day so much easier in the kitchen.
- Re-read your recipes highlighting areas of confusion or difficult bits, small things you might miss when busy.
- Plan a cooking list for the day (see below), noting times for cooking and if different from the recipe, quantities calculated.
On the day
- Have a good breakfast. Sit down and look over what you have planned with a cuppa. Start calmly, as you mean to go on.
- Get the kitchen organised, make sure you know where everything is and have all the ingredients and equipment to hand.
- Have a washer uperer on standby all day. If they want to eat your lovely food, they’ve got to play ball and get the marigolds on! Ask them nicely and I’m sure someone will help
Delegate jobs for success. You’re the cook, let other people set the table, peel the vegetables, tidy up. In an ideal world, surround yourself with helpful and competent people. That’s a secret to kitchen success!!
- Have a festive tipple, but not too many!! Being tippled in the kitchen is a recipe for burnt bits.
- Always best to start earlier than you think, time in the kitchen really flies.
- It’s true what they say with a Roast Dinner, it’s all about timing. Cook your veg last, as this will not do well sitting around waiting to be served.
- Warm your plates in the oven if you have time. This will ensure everything is hot for service.
- Clear the kitchen down before serving, get as much surface space as possible. Serving up is one of the most important times of the process. Make sure everything is simmering or warm and you’ve thought a little about how you’re going to present the meal.
We’ll be cooking using this plan:
Cooking List/ Timetable – Example (with time added for plenty of chatting and sipping)
1 hour Wellington or Nut Roast
1 hour Brownie Cake (including decoration time)
30 minutes Shallot and Red Wine Gravy
45 minutes Soup
30 minutes Glazed Roots
30 minutes Creamy Mash
20 minutes Cranberry Sauce
20 minutes Yorkshire puds
20 minutes Brussels Sprouts (essential!!:)
30 minutes **For when things don’t necessarily go to plan or totally mess up:)**
I hope this helps, do let us know if you have any questions in the comments below.
Happy Cooking and Merry Christmas! Lee and Jane:)