As the final part in my Christmas Dinner Making 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 cook to serve with the actual meal! And don’t get me started on the year I set fire to a pavlova in the grill oven at my parent’s house (thank goodness I caught it quick and binned it before anyone knew there was meant to be an extra pudding 😉 ).
Here we go. Here’s my Christmas Dinner Making Schedule, starting of course, with pudding!
Up to 1 year in advance
Yes really! Christmas Puddings need a minimum of 6 weeks to mature and they can last over a year in a cool dark place easily so get started early and make your pud now. Do it in the slow cooker or your Instant Pot and as long as you dry the pudding off and replace the greaseproof paper and foil or cheesecloth covering, it will last beautifully in a cool cupboard until the Big Day. You could divide the mixture between 6 dariole pudding basins if you only have a few pudding eaters amongst you. (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 keep as well).
Up to 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!
Up to 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 the jar. Or put them through the dishwasher on the hottest cycle and again, use whilst they and the sauce are still warm.
On Christmas Eve
Now here’s where you can really get ahead. If you have the time on Christmas Eve, parboil the potatoes (or give them 2 minutes in the Instant Pot on Manual to the same effect), chuff them up in a colander then leave until cold and refrigerate covered with cling film.
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 first thing to remember is to relax and enjoy it! Christmas has been a year coming and you want to celebrate with your loved ones, it doesn’t actually matter if things don’t proceed with military-esque perfection (in fact they are almost always so much better for a few comical hiccups along the way!).
- Figure out what time you want 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 if that’s how you plan to reheat it and leave to simmer away on low until later this afternoon when you have digested dinner. It’s almost impossible to overcook it by this method.
- 1 hour 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 from fresh today, 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 of 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. I’ve made some shocking gravies in my time! As I struggle with getting a predictably good gravy from pan juices made just before serving, I except my shortcomings and make it ahead now. I make my Instant Pot Chicken Gravy in advance and freeze it. Thaw overnight in the fridge on Christmas Eve and reheat 15 minutes before serving on the hob.
If you want to make it on the day, 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). Add either 1 pint of boiling water or chicken stock (and I love Kallo stock cubes) depending on how thick and flavourful the resting juices from your turkey are.
And you’re done! You’ve made it – your festive feast is on the table, it’s time to eat!
Merry Christmas to you all 😀 xxx
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