As the final part in my Christmas Dinner for two series, I thought I’d run you through how to get everything on the table at the same time with the least possible stress possible. The principles apply if you are feeding just you and your loved one or a crowd – the only difference is how early you need to start the prep. Take comfort in knowing we have all overcooked the sprouts and undercooked the turkey, not to mention forgetting the potatoes and eating them the next morning as bubble & squeak as they took too long to serve with the meal! And don’t get me started on the year I set fire to a pavlova in the grill oven at Step Mum’s (thank goodness I caught it quick and binned it before anyone knew there was meant to be another pudding 😉 ).
Here we go. Here’s my Christmas Dinner Making Schedule, starting of course, with pudding!
Upto 1 year in advance
Yes really! They last years and more organised folk than me do make them on January for next Christmas! :O Make the Christmas pudding. Do it in the slow cooker like me and simply refresh the greaseproof and foil lid, then tuck it away in a cool cupboard until the Big Day. You could divide the mixture between 6 dariole pudding basins if you only want to serve a couple of you, but cook for 3-4 hours first time around then 2-3 the second steam. (If you are Coeliac like my Daddums, you can make my Individual Gluten Free Christmas Pudding but I haven’t tested leaving it a year – I do mine in the week before Christmas as GF stuff doesn’t always keep as well).
Upto 3 months in advance
Make the Orange & Spice Braised Red Cabbage. It freezes beautifully being such a hardy veg, it withstands slow cooking and reheating without any hint of sogginess. Save a bit for with sausage and mash though, it’s so good with a chubby fat banger and some cheesy mash!
Upto 3 weeks in advance
Make my Ten Minute Cranberry Sauce and keep it in the fridge until the Big Day. Just put it in a sterilised jar and keep chilled. I scrub my jars in boiling soapy water, rinse and place in a low oven (100-120˚C) until dry. Use whilst warm and don’t put your fingers inside. Or put them through the dishwasher on the hottest cycle.
On Christmas Eve
Now here’s where you can really get ahead. If you have the time on Christmas Eve, parboil the potatoes, chuff them up then leave until cold and refrigerate covered with cling film. That’s quite a lot of peeling you’re saving yourself! Also, you can prepare the stuffing for the turkey today just as long as the onions are stone cold before you mix them with the raw sausagemeat. Cover tightly with cling or pop in a tupperware box with a tight seal overnight – it will also be nice and firm and easier to handle this way. Defrost the cabbage in the fridge overnight tonight.
On the Big Day Itself
The key here is to enjoy yourself and relax. There is a fair bit of prep and cooking to do but with a little bit of list writing and forward thinking, it can be fun and stress free. Plus remember, it’s about spending time with those you love and celebrating your good fortune. If the turkey turns out dry or you burn the roasted veg, just pour a glass of something festive and laugh it off! I hardly remember a “perfect” Christmas and really, I’d feel a bit let down if I didn’t get a story out of it each year 😉 …
- Figure out what time you are wanting to eat and work backwards. The turkey takes 20-30 minutes to prep, 90 minutes to cook, needs at least 30 minutes standing time plus if like me you only have one oven, you need the space for the veg to cook in. So get the turkey on no later than 11:30 to eat at 3pm and simply tent in foil and allow to stand – it will only be more succulent and juicy for doing so. Get the cranberry sauce out of the fridge. Put the christmas pud in the slow cooker and leave to simmer away on low until later this afternoon when you have digested dinner! It’s almost impossible to over cook it by this method.
- 1 hour 15-30 minutes before serving time, preheat the oven as hot as it will go with a tray and the fat for the potatoes in. This is especially important if the oven has been off from cooking the turkey earlier in the day.
- 1 hour before, put the potatoes in the smoking hot oil and return to the oven.
- 40 minutes before, coat the carrots & parsnips in oil and seasoning and put next to the potatoes if the trays fit, if not, put them on the rack below the potatoes, which you should turn now (they need turning twice for even browning). If making gravy, do it now as it often takes longer than you think (see note below about gravy).
- 20 minutes before, turn the potatoes one last time plus turn the veg as well. Carve the turkey and put onto a warmed serving plate. Cover with foil to prevent it drying out.
- 10 minutes before, reheat the cabbage in a saucepan over medium heat until piping hot.
- Serving time! Now’s the time to shout your fellow diner/diners and get them to help bringing everything out to the table and for goodness sake, pop the cork on something fizzy! It’s time to take the weight off your slingbacks and relax .
A note on gravy
Oh this is my personal nemesis. I always do something wrong. Too thin, too weak, too lumpy, too bitter, too little, too late. Oh I’ve made some shocking gravies in my time! To me, there is no shame at all in buying the gravy in a pouch ready to reheat with the additions of the pan and resting juices of the turkey. Just taste the juices before you start to be sure they aren’t too bitter. If you want to make your own, I would start it 40 minutes before the meal is due to be served as you can pop the lid on the pan when the flavour and consistency are right and reheat as you bring out the rest of the food – no one wants cold gravy! For two people, start by melting 2 tsp of butter and plain flour together in a small to medium saucepan and when melted, whisk in the turkey juices (use a fat separator jug so it’s not too fatty). Now, if your juices are good and strong you can simply whisk in enough boiling water to make the volume you need, if not, use stock. And yes, mine is in the form of Kallo stock cubes! If you are a proficient gravy maker, proceed with confidence – it is not in my skill set so I’ll more than likely be buying it in this year as it simply is the biggest unifying element of the whole feast. You can’t have too much so
Merry Christmas One & All! May your tummies and hearts be full and the New Year hold the promise of whatever your heart desires 😀 xxx