It’s started……the Christmas decorations are everywhere, the buzz for everyone to start planning the Christmas menu has begun… so here is my helpful top ten tips to avoid extra stress and keep you calm.
1. Plan way in advance – make my Christmas cake in a 20cm wooden cake box to avoid time lining your cake tin with newspaper to retain moisture and here’s my fab tip – when the cake comes out of the oven drizzle a little brandy over the hot cake, cover with baking paper and pile a stack of tea towels over the warm cake. Perhaps have a wee sample yourself ? The brandy helps keep the cake moist, the baking paper protects the towels from the warm cake and your tea towels are “perfumed with brandy” which means on December 25 when washing the dishes and cleaning up your whole house will smell like an expensive room spray has been used! The recipe is here www.annabellewhite.com/christmas-cake
2. Plan ahead for easy turkey success – talk to your butcher and order your Crozier turkey now and defrost in fridge for several days ahead. Then brine it (see my recipe for brining chicken on my web site here) and use that for turkey. The research shows the brining encourages a huge amount of moisture retention in the bird! Great news and rashers of bacon over the breast meat also helps keep everything super luscious – another tip - combine softened butter and tarragon and place that under the skin of the turkey breast prior to cooking.
3. Christmas cake slices can be your pudding on the day with fresh cherries and chocolates, if making a dessert is too hard – and even a few days later you can always drizzle a tiny amount of brandy over a slice of cake and heat in a pan with a knob of butter – the cake gets deliciously crunchy and the perfect accompaniment to a wedge of room temperature blue creamy cheese.
4. Make my Christmas compote now. Recipe can be found here and leave in the fridge till Christmas day. It lasts forever in the fridge and if you buy a large clip jar or large plastic storage container with airtight lid – you can make extra and then give some away as a “Christmas present “. The compote is superb with cheese and crackers and also can be used as a dessert feature drizzled over a scoop of vanilla ice cream and served with meringues and cream. You can add extra brandy to the fruit is desired after you have been using the fruit and need to top up the liquid.
5. You can make an emergency trifle in minutes – this is a super recipe easy recipe you can find here buy some fresh cherries and destone them, then drizzle with crème de cassis or any berry or cherry liqueur and leave for 30 minutes. Now after a quick trip to the supermarket you can assembly this divine trifle in minutes. Break up a supermarket trifle into pieces place in bowl, scattering the drunken cherries and some fresh or frozen raspberries amongst the sponge. Heat a commercial custard and pour over the fruit /sponge and place in fridge. Just before serving top with softly whipped some cream and toast some flaked almond slices almost in a pan (no oil) and scatter the almonds over the trifle – then present with a flourish – no-one needs to know it was effortless and if you don’t want to use alcohol with the cherries use fresh orange juice.
6. Think about serving a luscious warm salad and for a main course at Christmas – it doesn’t have to be a marathon day in the kitchen – over the years I have told people to get a large white platter and serve my warm chicken, bacon and pawpaw salad on Christmas day, again a trip to the supermarket can get all the bits and pieces you need for this salad and make the herb salad dressing ahead of time – on the day – add a squeeze of fresh lemon to the dressing ( acidity always brighten things up ) and toss a few dried cranberries around the patter then walk out with a flourish saying “gobble, gobble, gobble “ no one will think it isn’t turkey !!!!
7. If you do enjoy a glass of bubbles – make this super Xmas cocktail – in a champagne flute place a shot of crème de cassis black currant liqueur (which you used for the trifle ) and place about 5 sweetened dried cranberries and top with bubbles – the berries almost jump around in the glass! Do not use expensive bubbles just methode champenoise like Lindauer.
8. Allocate menu items – no point in being a martyr of the day and it’s all about the togetherness not the expertise in the kitchen – no-one is going to say “Great Christmas, but wasn’t the turkey dry or the ham over baked”
9. Special dietary guests – if you are now vegan why not bring you own contribution so the host is less under pressure. Also don’t serve more than one or two desserts– it’s not the dessert buffet at Valentines – make a trifle and perhaps a pavlova or Xmas pudding and if people don’t like that – fresh fruit or cheese can be available. A friend of mine – a great hostess never enjoys making desserts so she pulls out her large glass platter at this time of the year and scatters fresh cherries and strawberries , a variety of individually wrapped chocolates over the platter – it looks wonderful, so festive, so simple and no one complains!
10. Behaviour – something always “happens on Xmas day”. Cousins may start fighting, Uncle Stan may fall into the trifle after drinking too much sherry and the dog may run away with part of the dinner – so please expect something unusual to happen and try to laugh it off. Even if your mother-in-law is critical of the behaviour of the children or says that the turkey is too dry – remember the day will pass and it’s on 364 days till the next celebration. The only guarantee is that the Norman Rockwell image is never accurate and perhaps that is best!