Christmas is just around the corner, and the thought of feeding a throng of family, friends and loved ones on the big day can fill even the most capable of cooks with apprehension. Fortunately, help is at hand in the shape of my Christmas dinner hacks to save you time and effort – and hopefully give you the chance to spend more quality time with your nearest and dearest as you celebrate the festive season.
#1 No-fuss plate-warming
Your oven will probably be in use right up until the point where you’re serving the dinner, so how can you warm the plates while keeping the oven for cooking the food? Simple – put the dinner plates on a quick cycle in your dishwasher and they will come out toasty warm and ready to serve the lunch on. Unless your dishwasher has a very quick cycle option, for environmental reasons you may want to save washing the plates from the night before so you’re only running it once. If you’re really well organised, you could time it to perfection so they are dry just as your food is ready (but if not, don’t worry, just give them a quick wipe with a clean tea towel).
#2 Really know your stuff(ing)
You can reduce the time it takes to cook – and serve – stuffing by cooking individual portions in muffin trays.
#3 Freezing time
When you’re catering for larger groups, your freezer is your best friend! Main courses, side dishes and even gravy can be made weeks in advance and then frozen to reduce the hard work as Christmas Day approaches.
#4 Take time to chill
Most people (including the chef) like a glass of something cold while celebrating Christmas, but with all that pre-prepared veg taking up space in your fridge, you might not have space to chill the drinks. No problem – simply put them outside in a bucket or plastic box filled with cold water and ice. Adding salt to the water reduces its freezing point, which can help make your drinks super cold.
#5 Make it your own
You’ll have enough to do on Christmas Day, so no one will begrudge you making a few short cuts. Store-bought goodies are great for this, and by adding your own twist, you can really make it your own. For example, try adding extra fruit, ginger, or a dash of booze to jars of mince pie filling; or why not add a pinch of chilli or spice to a store-bought chutney? Just don’t serve it in the original jar, or you’ll be rumbled!
Balance out the Christmas comfort with our 'Light, Healthy and Easy' course