Good Food Blog
Top 10 Christmas cooking cheatsPosted at 12:02PM, 19 December 2011 by Sarah Sysum - Assistant editor, Easy Cook magazine
I love Christmas, even buying presents, which as we all know basically involves standing in a shop and having your ribs decimated by elbows. However one thing that sends me into a massive panic is the idea of having to cook everything from scratch. We all lead such busy lives these days that this year I decided I'd rather stay sane and use a few ready-made items. So after taste testing my way through over 200 products for Good Food and Easy Cook magazines here are my top tips...
Buy your mince pies - most cheap pies taste great when warmed through and a dusting of icing sugar works wonders. Do check the use-by date though; I've been caught out in the past with pies that expire on the 23rd.
Forget last minute cake making - even at this late stage there's still plenty of choice in the supermarkets. I've come to the conclusion you either buy something you wouldn't have a hope of being able to decorate yourself and own up or buy an un-iced cake, decorate with some cut out stars from ready-made rolled icing and pass it off as your own.
Buy party food - there's lots of great stuff out there, which most of us would never make ourselves. This year pork crackling straws, mini ham hock pies and tuna tataki all caught my eye. If I tried recreating any of these at home I'd be a nervous wreck. Heat, serve and enjoy the party.
Make a quick cranberry sauce - if you do have the time, it's lovely to make your own sauce but nobody is going to judge you if you don't. We found many jars of cranberry sauce were very sweet though so to counteract this heat a few frozen cranberries gently and cook until soft. Then add a jar of good, shop-bought cranberry sauce. Trust me, I've passed this off as my own on many occasions.
Use frozen veg - the quality of ready-prepared frozen veg has really improved in recent years. Apart from saving waste you save huge amounts of time. No longer do you have to prepare a mountain of sprouts or peel umpteen parsnips. The veg is fresher and sweeter too. My top pick? Frozen red cabbage with Bramley apple.
Buy a Christmas pud - given the fuss caused by 'that' hidden orange pudding last year I'm not sure anybody makes their own anymore. And it's too late now anyway, so buy the best you can find. From experience I've found those made with beef suet have the best flavour and always steam, never microwave (one shortcut I don't do).
OK so my secret's out now, Happy Christmas, who's for a 'homemade' mince pie?'
Do you agree with Sarah's quick cheats or are you a slave to tradition? Let us know your top tips for Christmas cheating below and check out our quick Christmas recipes collection for more ideas.