The food element of Christmas possibly shouldn't be the most important part, but nevertheless seems to be what causes us the most anxiety on the run-up to the big day. But we don't want you palpitating over parsnips or stressed about starters, so here's our gransnetters' guide to a smooth Christmas dinner.
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If you're hosting Christmas dinner, but still want some time to enjoy yourself with everyone else, it's worth getting ahead with anything you can freeze, peel, put in the fridge until later or leave to mature.
"I find making mince pies ahead of The Season very helpful. Make the mince pies as usual; place in the greased baking patty tins and put the tins in the freezer for a couple of hours. Remove pies from the tins and keep in a bag in the freezer. When needed, you can pull out a dozen or so, put them back in the tins, brush with milk and cook as usual, from frozen, maybe cooking a couple of minutes longer than usual. Result - home made mince pies, freshly cooked, less hassle."
"Buy in good quality frozen pastry - brill for last-minute mince pies, sausage rolls etc."
"Make stuffing up to a month ahead when you can buy parsley etc. Just don't put the egg in it. Bung in the freezer and get out on Christmas Eve to defrost, then add the egg and make up some stuffing balls. I always cook them separately after the turkey has come out of the oven, because a big one needs a good 30-40 minutes to 'relax'."
"I peel and prep all vegetables on Christmas Eve morning after breakfast. Then I pop them in cold water, bung the lid on and then on Christmas Day I only have to turn the hob on. I also make my rum sauce in advance: make up a white sauce then freeze without the rum. Defrost when needed and add the rum whilst heating."
Planning the shopping list is no mean feat, but getting the food back home from the shops makes the Christmas grocery shop all the more gruelling. Thankfully, there's no longer any need to struggle through elbowing, grumpy crowds and endless queues with heavy shopping bags. Most of the major supermarkets now offer internet shopping, so put your feet up and shop online from the comfort of your armchair - and check in with all the latest Gransnet threads while you're at it!
"I always order the Christmas food including turkey at M&S. Their food order book is out in plenty of time. Asda usually have lots of different wines on offer too. Different varieties of fizz and Cava for £5 - excellent for Christmas."
"Order your Christmas grocery shop now from one of the major supermarkets. You can book a delivery slot now but they will soon all be gone so get the time and date that suits you best. Just add a short list for now and add and subtract things from it as we get nearer to Christmas, saving yourself that drudge round the supermarket. Already done mine in M&S (collect in store at specified date and time) and Waitrose delivery to the door 23 December, so if something is missing I have time to get it from the local Spar."
"I do a hamper for a very busy married daughter by buying special groceries and especially 'three for two' offers etc. I start early and really don't notice the little extra. She then gets a whole load of extra goodies. When I'm really past it, she will no doubt return the favour!"
When the fridge is ready to explode from over-filling, there are always more places to shove food. One reason to be grateful for living in a colder climate - more options for outside-the-(freezer)box food storage!
"For extra fridge space, we use our cheap, zipped-up-over-a-frame greenhouse as a booze fridge. It's perfect in the garage: doesn't freeze up, but provides nice cold beers. In fact anything that needs to stay nice and cold can go in there."
"One of my best eureka moments last Christmas was realising it was so cold I could use my car boot as a fridge overflow. It was fantastic - took care of all the bulky stuff no problem." Joanna Gosling, 'Simply Wonderwoman' author.
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Christmas is all about traditions, passed down the generations (and perhaps modified a little bit along the way). A lot of these come in the form of delicious dishes, so make use of your familiy's favourites!
"One year we had a Lebanese lamb, apricot, sultana and bulgur recipe. It was very popular. We never have turkey."
"Our main tradition is just Christmas dinner - in the subtropics. We stick with English tradition regardless of the humid hot weather: chicken and stuffing, brussels sprouts, roast spuds - and Christmas pud and hot custard for afters, with dozens of mince pies around. The local tradition involves prawns and BBQs but not for us! The same family and friends come every year. It seems to be an unbreakable tradition."
"While the grandchildren are young (up to about five or six), we have the main Christmas dinner on Boxing Day. Much less stress for adults and little ones and it frees up time to spend with the children. We still have lovely food on Christmas Day, but easier - prepared in advance and not always requiring a table to be laid. Then full bells and whistles on Boxing Day."
"My tradition was always kedgeree or eggs benedict with champagne for Christmas morning breakfast. My daughters loved it and whenever they spend Christmas with me, we always have one or the other for breakfast."
"I made a big batch of gingerbread figures when I was spending Christmas with my family in New Zealand a few years ago. My daughter's icing bag had a split so my efforts to draw interesting faces and jolly decorations on their "clothes" were not quite so expert as I had planned. I said in passing that they looked more like aliens. My elder grandson (four) very politely took a plateful around to offer them to everyone else, saying, 'Would you like a gingerbread alien?' Thus a new family tradition was created."
"Someone remarked to me a couple of years ago that Christmas dinner is just a big Sunday lunch with crackers - keeps it in perspective. You never ever want to be the woman in Waitrose a couple of years ago who had a complete screaming fit when she found they were all out of organic celeriac. Her Christmas was 'ruined'. No doubt it was a camel's back and straw situation but hell's teeth, it's just one day and life's too short."