Hosting the clan over Christmas can be stressful even for the most accomplished home cooks. Thankfully, TV chef and Barbican Kitchen co-owner James Tanner has shared five of his top tips to avoid kitchen chaos this festive season
Most local suppliers, farm shops and supermarkets will be promoting their Christmas order times, dishes and produce by now. Avoid the panic-filled aisles the week before the big day and start making your orders now. Getting in early should also give you first pick of the produce and avoid being lumped with a less-than-terrific turkey or limp-looking veg.
Start cooking now
There are lots of dishes that you can get a head start with now, and some taste all the better for being prepared in advance.
Gravy can be made ahead and frozen, with the juice from the turkey added just before serving. Stuffing also freezes well and, if made in an oven dish, can simply be popped in the oven on the day.
Some things will always taste better made fresh, but don’t let that stop you getting ahead of the game. Peeling potatoes a few days in advance, boiling sprouts and parsnips the day before, and making the Yorkshire pudding batter will significantly lessen the load.
Keep it simple
Don’t tackle too much at once. Remember, Christmas dinner is just a roast, albeit with a few added extras.
This isn’t the time to try new and elaborate dishes that you haven’t tested before. Focus on doing a few things well; this will give you the time to get your potatoes extra crispy and turkey wonderfully moist.
For those that crave a little creativity, simply put trendy twists on trad classics. Honey roasted parsnips with pancetta and red onion, sprouts with chestnut and orange, or even garlic buttered savoy cabbage all involve little effort with just a few extra ingredients.
There’s nothing worse than realising you’ve run out of fridge space when you’re knee deep in sides that need to be chilled on Christmas Eve. Make sure to clear enough space for your food prep in the days leading up to Christmas.
Preparation is key: start making lists of what can be bought in advance, as well as rough timings of when to cook what. Don’t leave it all to the last minute or you’ll end up spending more time with the AGA than your guests.
For those not racing around the house after excitable children, try and get all of the last minute prep done the day before. This includes weighing the turkey and working out its cooking time, making sure all of the frozen food is defrosting and, of course, that the mince pie and carrot are waiting for the late night visitors.