Christmas dinner. Or Christmas lunch, if you prefer; is a meal that is often looked forward to more than any other. That is, unless you are the cook. For the person organising what is often a giant feast for many hungry mouths, Christmas dinner can be a taxing and frantic meal to create. Firstly you have the pressure of cooking for a larger crowd than you are generally used to, and secondly, with Christmas being a time where most of us want everything to be absolutely perfect, there is the added stress of making sure everyone has a meal that is as perfect as can be.
With Christmas being a busy day anyway, cooking a turkey, roasting those potatoes, and preparing the rest of the meal is a mean feat, and one that often results in somebody (namely you!) having to be up at the crack of dawn, basting a bird that can barely fit in your oven, and panicking over whether the whole thing is going to be ready in time. Well, if the thought of cooking Christmas dinner fills you with dread rather than joy, perhaps it is time to let a little Christmas meal prepping help you de-stress, and actually have a little fun on Christmas morning rather than running around like a...well, headless turkey!
Yes, even the turkey can be prepped
Speaking of turkey, it isn’t just the side dishes that can be prepared in advance, the big centre-piece can be too, just maybe not as a whole turkey. For those that don’t mind a slightly different aesthetic (surely it’s the taste that really matters!), you can either cook a turkey a day or two early, and refrigerate it after carving, or you can get the turkey ‘boned and rolled’. This can then either be cooked on the day (far quicker than when cooking a whole turkey) or pre-cooked, popped into the fridge, and stored in your meal prep containers. For those wishing to prep the meal more than a few days in advance, there is no reason why you can’t freeze the cooked turkey either, so if your immediate run-up to Christmas is particularly busy, get cooking the week before! As always, make sure you defrost thoroughly on the day before you re-heat.
Another cherished meaty Christmas dish is ‘pigs in blankets’. These little sausages wrapped in bacon seem to be a firm favourite amongst adults and kids alike, but this Christmas, there may be a few households going short in this department. A worker shortage in multiple production facilities means that many in the UK may be without their favourite Christmas accompaniment, come the end of December. The only solution to avoid this? Grab your pigs in blankets now, or make your own from scratch! Similar to your pre-cooked turkey, this side dish freezes extremely well, so why not fill up a couple of your meal prep containers with them, and avoid any awkwardness at the dinner table when the kids ask you where those little sausages are!
Roast, freeze, and then finish on the day
Roast potatoes too, are perfectly good to freeze and reheat on the day. The caveat here is to avoid the microwave (it just doesn’t taste the same) and simply whack them back in the oven for 25 minutes with a little fat or oil, and you will find that they taste almost indistinguishable from those you would have cooked from scratch on the day.
One area that can be slightly trickier when prepping your Christmas meal, is the rest of the vegetables. While defrosted and re-heated carrots and Brussels sprouts taste perfectly good, to some people, they can look a little drab in comparison to their freshly cooked counterparts. This really is down to your aesthetical tastes. But, If you really don’t like the idea that they would have looked a little better if cooked on the day, it doesn’t mean that you cant cook and freeze them just like you do with your potatoes, you just have to prep them slightly differently...
One trick that works well for all frozen vegetables, and is highly recommended, is to slightly undercook them the first time around. This way, when you take them out of the oven after the second roasting, they will look and taste as if you had just cooked them, even though you are cutting the actual cooking time on Christmas day in half. Cook them but don’t allow them to lose their firmness, freeze them, and then re-roast them on the day. Viola! Nobody will even notice the time-saving technique you have just employed!
For those of you who are looking to create side dishes with a little twist, or maybe are looking to make your own stuffing for the first time, check out a few recipes we have selected to get the family talking this Christmas, all of which are great to prep early, and pop in the fridge or freezer, ready for the big day.
Go ‘easy’ on the dessert
Desserts are a slightly easier aspect of the Christmas meal. Traditional Christmas pudding tastes no different at all when heated up in a microwave (rather than steamed, as was the norm years ago), and Christmas cakes, on the most part, are prebought and simply laid on the table when needed. If you are one of those people who makes their own Christmas pud or mince pies (and we tip our hat to you), then you won’t be creating these desserts on the day anyway. If you are tempted to add something to the menu that requires even more time in the kitchen, we would recommend giving yourself a break, and for once buying something instead. Christmas is, after all, about spending time with your loved ones. Don’t spend all of the day tending to the oven! Let your hair down for once and enjoy!
With a little prepping, you Christmas day can be a breeze in comparison to what you have experienced in the past. In the busy modern world, where we have such little time to spend with those people that make our lives so special, there is a very good case for getting the hard work out of the way early, and allowing yourself a little more ‘downtime’ than usual. Prep ahead, and give yourself a break this Christmas.