If you have volunteered (or been volunteered) to host the Christmas meal this year, you might be feeling a bit stressed about how to pull it all together. I’ve been hosting Christmas for years now each year the number of guests varies between 6-15 so I've learnt a few shortcuts to make it easier and I'm happy to share them with you.
Here are my tips and a countdown to help you keep calm and enjoy the day whilst pulling off a delicious spread.
Several weeks before
Do you really need 3 courses? Decide on your menu. I don’t bother with a starter anymore as everyone is always too full, but if you are providing one, choose something cold that can be prepped ahead ( salad, charcuterie etc.). Better still, ask one of your guests to bring it, as their contribution. If no one eats dessert, why not do a cheese board instead?
Use your freezer
Your freezer is your friend at this time of year so before the cooking really starts, make sure you have some room in there. Use up some of the contents in the next few weeks’ meals. Check the dates of the food you have in there to check it is all still ok.
Rearrange the food for maximum space. Flat freezing will help (more on that below).
Supermarkets often have reduced items (especially pigs in blankets) in the run-up to Christmas. You can buy them now and freeze them. Remember to defrost them on Christmas Eve in the fridge.
Cook in advance.
The first thing I make is my gravy. I always do this in advance. It saves work on Christmas Day, ensures you always have enough and is delicious. My go-to recipe is this one by Jamie Oliver though I leave out the star anise. You can make it anytime from now, cool and flat freeze (see below), then defrost in the fridge on Christmas Eve ready for the big day.
Choose a dessert that can be made in advance and get it out of the way. Freezing if possible.
It's okay to ask guests to contribute by bringing a course, some cheese, a starter or side.
Flat freezing means you make the most of your freezer space. When you have made your gravy, let it cool then pour it into a zip-lock food bag and seal. Then lie it flat onto a baking tray and freeze. Once frozen, remove the baking tray. Use this method for sauces and casseroles too.
Order your turkey
If you buy a turkey from the butcher, order it in advance and arrange a collection date to suit you.
A week before
Buy your veg
You can do this up to a week before. It will be fine stored in a cool place, there is no need to buy everything on Christmas Eve, spend that day with your family instead.
You can do most of your main shop in advance too, picking up only highly perishable items at the last minute.
Up to 2 days before
Buy your fresh meat and the main shop if you haven't already.
If you have bought a frozen turkey, make sure you allow plenty of time for it to defrost in the fridge. Up to 2 days depending on the size.
Prep your veg
You can parboil your roast potatoes and parsnips up to 2 days before Christmas. To do this, parboil as usual and leave to fully cool. Once cool store them in a roasting tin or food bag in the fridge. (You can even do this and freeze them at this stage if it helps, remembering to defrost on Christmas Eve).
On the day, remove from the fridge an hour or 2 before you are ready to cook and cook as normal.
Write a time plan
Working back from the time you want to serve the meal. I save mine from previous years which makes it easier in the future.
If you haven’t already, you can prep your veg if you want to free up your time on Christmas Day. Peel and chop carrots or sprouts or whatever veg you are serving and store in the fridge.
You can wrap pigs in blankets and prepare stuffing balls now too.
I always make my favourite sprout gratin dish for Christmas Day and this can also be made the night before.
Depending on what you have chosen, you should be able to prep your starter if you are having one.
Many desserts can be made ahead and frozen, or give yourself a break and buy one or ask a guest to provide dessert.
Remember to defrost any items you froze ahead (gravy, potatoes, dessert, pigs in blankets, turkey) in the fridge.
Fill up the ice cube tray and chill the drinks.
You can even set the table in the evening to give you more time to unwrap presents and spend with your guests.
Open presents pour a drink and relax. Most of the work is now done, let the oven do the heavy lifting.
Follow your time plan and remember, it’s ok to ask for help. Ask guests to pour drinks or take food to the table.
I hope this was helpful and I'd love to hear from you in the comments if it was.
If you'd like more tips on how to get organised this Christmas you may like to read my top 10 tips for getting organised at Christmas