I have been cooking a family Christmas dinner for over 25 years now, and along the way have picked up some amazing shortcuts, which mean you don’t have to spend all day in the kitchen. They also save on the washing up too!
Christmas dinner shouldn’t be all about one or two people toiling away over a hot stove and boiling pans for hours, only for the meal to be demolished in under 10 minutes. It’s a time for the family to get together over good christmas food and enjoy each other’s company. So see if you can save time with my five shortcuts:
The turkey is usually the main attraction of a Christmas dinner, but unless you are the type of person who is going to use the bones and carcass for soups and casseroles after the meal, I wouldn’t recommend you buying a whole bird.
Instead, why not try a stuffed turkey crown, which is basically all of the delicious white breast meat, and the added bonus of already made stuffing, meaning you don’t have to cook extra. It is also much easier to carve, in easy slices, so you don’t have to have a degree in butchering to serve it up to your guests.
Now some people feel they have to go all out, par boiling, leaving time for the steam to evaporate, then getting the tin hot with goose or duck fat, seriously, all this effort when there are exceptional frozen roast potatoes in the supermarkets? Yes you heard me, frozen roast potatoes.
If you haven’t eaten some for a while you’re in for a very pleasant surprise. Aunt Bessie’s now produce potatoes basted in duck fat, but I actually prefer their HomeStyle roasties, which have a really crispy outside and soft fluffy middle. And I’d even go so far as to recommend their Honey Glazed Roast Parsnips too, just add a tad more honey during the last 5 minutes for an extra sweet flavour.
You don’t need a smorgasbord of ten different vegetables for a great Christmas dinner, for me, the meal is all about the meat, the potatoes and the gravy, so I always only ever prepare two sorts of veg. Of course, we have to have Brussels sprouts, but no peeling and criss crossing the bases for me. Last year I bought a couple of prepared packets of chopped Brussels sprouts and pancetta mix from Asda that you simply stick in the microwave and they were absolutely delicious. It also saved space on the hob and meant I could just pop them in at the last-minute. As for carrots, buy already prepared batons of carrots and par boil quickly, then you can leave for as long as you need until you finally fry them up with a little mustard and honey.
I have to say that my dad taught me how to make gravy, and it is a tried and trusted method of pouring off the meat juices, mixing with a little flour and then adding the stock. At Christmas however, I always cheat and buy a packet of dry turkey gravy mix, which you prepare with the water from the boiled carrots, and a couple of packets of fresh gravy. Once these have been made up, I then add the juices from the turkey to enrich the gravy, and a stock cube for extra flavour. Works every time!
Life is too short to wrap mini chipolatas with streaky bacon isn’t it? Buy yours already prepared and stick them in with the turkey about 25 minutes before the bird is due to come out. And always remember that you can leave a turkey for about half an hour to rest and it will still retain the heat from cooking. This gives you time to get organised with all the other elements of the meal.
As for bread and cranberry sauce, no one would ever know if you made it from scratch or bought it from a shop, so don’t bother going the extra mile for these items, it’s not worth it. If you want to fool your guests, sprinkle some nutmeg onto the bread sauce just before serving, and heat the cranberry in the microwave slowly, adding a splash of red wine or port at the last-minute.