Preparing Christmas lunch can be a daunting task for any experienced cook. It does not matter how many times you have cooked a perfect Sunday roast, Christmas Day is totally different and a new level of pressure.
As Christmas Day is a time for spending family and friends, the trick is to alleviate stress by following a few simple guide lines so that you can have a relaxed and delicious lunch.
Be one of those super-organised people who writes the menu at the start of December, and starts preparing right away. Make a Shopping List and a To Do list on your phone or in a notebook that you keep handy, and keep updating them.
Defrost your freezer at the start of December, using up whatever’s there or throwing out anything that’s past its best. This clears space for when you’ll need it most and means that your freezer will use less energy and work more efficiently.
Writing the Menu
When writing the menu, be conscious always of what can be made in advance, and don’t be overambitious. Designate jobs to guests – if you trust them! Everyone likes to help.
Decide what can be made in advance. The Christmas Cake and Pudding are obvious, but Mince Pies can also be made ahead (though not baked) and kept in the freezer.
Niall’s Christmas Lunch Menu
Smoked Salmon with Fennel, Cucumber and Red Onion Salad, Caper Dressing.
Roast Turkey with Thyme Juices
Sage and Thyme Stuffing
Cranberry and Balsamic Sauce
Duck Fat Roast Maris Piper Potatoes
Honey Roast Parsnips
Creamed Leeks with Smoked Bacon
Sweet and Sour Braised Red Cabbage
Christmas Pudding with Brandy Butter
Cranberry and Apple Eve’s Pudding
Niall’s Plan of Action
December 1st : Menu done, ingredient list done and checked twice. Turkey ordered, gammon ordered from Fingal Ferguson at Gubbeen. Those are the two most-important jobs done!
December 3rd : Make the Christmas Pudding.
December 10th : Make the Christmas Cake. Remember to give it a good drink of your finest brandy while still warm. Make the mincemeat and put it into Kilner jars.
December 13th : Make the Mince Pies and pop in the freezer, ready to be baked.
December 15th : Make Roast Chicken Stock, chill and freeze. This is the base for the turkey gravy.
Check that the carving knife is sharp
December 16th : Ice and decorate the Christmas Cake.
December 21st : Clear out the fridge to make room.
December 22nd : Do the big shop, with a proper list with all quantities worked out in advance. There is an awful lot of food waste at Christmas; don’t add to it.
December 23rd : Braise the red cabbage, and cook the gammon.
December 24TH : Peel and prepare the vegetables and potatoes. Make the Eve’s Pudding and the stuffing. Marinate the fennel salad, and prepare the cranberry sauce. Set the table and polish the glasses.
Christmas Eve – Get Ahead
December 24th will be your busiest day in the kitchen. At this stage, all your shopping and running about should be done and it is time to concentrate on the serious business at hand. Enlist help and write a new To Do list, planning to do as much ahead of the Big Day as possible.
If you are serving soup on Christmas Day, make it on the 24th and just reheat it on Christmas Day.
With all the jobs done, it’s time to relax and enjoy Christmas Eve.