How to get ahead at Christmas
Don't stress over the spuds on 25 December, says Carol. Get prepared now and there'll be more time for opening presents on the day...
There's so much to do over Christmas, but even the busiest cook should have some time to enjoy the festivities, so why not do some of the cooking ahead of the big event? There's absolutely no need to peel veg or whisk up sauces on Christmas morning. I like to relax, like the rest of the family, on Christmas Day, before starting on the Christmas dinner. So for me, late November is the time to get the bulk of the Christmas cooking done and put away in the freezer, where it will be fine for up to a month.
Christmas pudding and mince pies
Christmas puddings, of course, can be made now and kept in a cool dark place to mature nicely until Christmas Day. I also make mince pies now and freeze them until needed. You can take out however many you need, heat them through in a moderate oven and just dust with icing sugar before serving. Rum or brandy butter can also be frozen.
For Christmas pudding-hating guests, I make a sumptuous chocolate roulade – a BBC Good Food recipe that's proved a favourite for years. I make the entire log, complete with creamy filling, roll it up and open freeze until firm. Then pop it into a freezer bag. I defrost it on Christmas morning, simply left on a serving plate. Sift over some icing sugar and add a sprig or two of holly just before serving...
Parboil potatoes (to roast) for five minutes, drain and cool. Freeze when cold. You can do the same with wedges of carrot and parsnip, but parboil them for just three minutes, drain, cool and freeze. I boil Brussels sprouts for two minutes, drain and run them under the cold water tap to preserve their bright green colour. Drain well and freeze when cold.
Freeze foods in freezer-proof bags or containers. If you're short of space, take the solidly frozen food out of their boxes and transfer to freezerproof bags which take up less room.
Sauces and stuffing
Cranberry sauce, bread sauce, gravy and sausagemeat (check that the sausagemeat is fresh and hasn't previously been frozen) and chestnut stuffing also freeze successfully. Freeze the stuffing in an ovenproof dish or rolled into balls.
Everything else should be removed from the freezer on Christmas Eve and left to slowly thaw out in the fridge overnight, ready to cook as usual on Christmas Day. The defrosted parboiled carrot and parsnip wedges are delicious drizzled with dark honey or maple syrup and a sprinkling of salt and pepper then roasted for 30-40 minutes. Add a splash of milk or cream to the bread sauce, which will just need reheating. The sprouts will need slightly less cooking time than usual too.
Finally, I prepare the turkey ready for cooking before I go to bed on Christmas Eve and put it into the fridge. Let it come to room temperature before putting it into the oven on Christmas morning.
Do you have any time-saving tips for cooking on Christmas Day? Leave a comment below...