Our new star columnist Nadiya Hussain explains how getting ahead with cooking, meal plans, seating arrangements and kids' activities helps her beat Christmas Day stress.
Christmas is the only time Britain stops and my family is no exception. We are all free. The only downfall on Christmas Day is when we’re out of milk – and no amount of Googling will present us with an establishment open for business. So, a week before, I do the pre-Armageddon shop. I spend a small fortune on things I might run out of, like dried kidney beans or star anise. Well, you just never know when you might need them!
I have never celebrated Christmas in the traditional manner, but the essence of Christmas isn’t too far away. There is a warmth that envelops Christmas: people are in good spirits (apart from the last-minute Christmas Eve shoppers – you know who you are!), the streets are glowing and there’s a sense of anticipation. All helped by the fact that my birthday is on Christmas Day. Dad convinced me as a child that the country was celebrating my birthday along with Jesus’s. I really did believe that until my big sister made my dad tell me the truth.
To get prepared, I start a whole month in advance. I plan a menu, think about seating and jig my house around to accommodate. I think it’s really important to organise the children. I find the kids get bored sat around and so end up on some sort of electrical device, which I categorically ban five minutes before guests arrive – then change my mind five minutes later. So I arrange a room where they are all safe to play and we have tables with different activities, such as colouring, arts and crafts, decorating biscuits and lots of board games.
There is one rule in our house: if I sort the cooking, my husband does everything else – and I mean everything – so the cleaning is his domain. He cleans the house, he organises the bedrooms if we have people to stay over and he keeps the paths clear of Lego and laundry.
I do all my cooking in advance. I pre-cook all of my roast potatoes, Brussels sprouts, parsnips, stuffing, sausages and Yorkshire pudding. I even make my gravy. I cook it all in foil trays and then transfer into dishes for serving. This just means I have one less set of dishes to wash. All I have to do on the day is cook the turkey and reheat everything else.
This means less time stressing and more time enjoying the most important part of Christmas, family (and lots of time off work)!
Make Nadiya's white chocolate cake for the perfect Christmas bake.
Nadiya's top three ways to keep the kids entertained:
1. Colour-in tablecloths are the perfect investment if you’re catering to a few different age groups, as everyone from toddlers to teens will be keen to put their own personal stamp on the Christmas table. These are widely available online or they're in some big supermarkets.
2. Supply the children with some giant cookies, icing pens and sweets and set them up on a table to make edible name-place biscuits for everyone, or just use traditional card and paper. It's the perfect activity to keep them focused, happy, and out of the kitchen.
3. Older children will love assembling festive decorations to hang around the house. You can just use a simple string and a needle to thread on popcorn, berries, foliage and beads.