Do-ahead Christmas dinner: 10 tips for preparing your food early

Date:12-12-2013 08:58:34 read:2

Do-ahead Christmas dinner: 10 tips for preparing your food early

Cooking Christmas dinner needn't be stressful, if you prepare some of your dishes ahead of time

All done: take the stress out of Christmas with our top tips Photo: Alamy

We all know the feeling. It's Christmas Day, but rather than enjoying a glass of wine or catching up with family, you're peeling carrots, boiling brussels and hoping you'll have time to get the bread sauce out of your hair before the turkey needs basting. Dinner will, of course, taste delicious- but by the time you sit down to it, you'll be so exhausted you'll barely have the strength to pull a cracker.

With a little pre-planning, such chaos can be a ghost of Christmas past. At the end of the day, remember, Christmas dinner is just a roast - and there's plenty of elements in a roast that can be prepared days, if not weeks, ahead.

1. Gravy

You can make a tasty Christmas gravy long before the main event. Simply freeze it in a container, and defrost on the day. You can add the juices from your Christmas turkey to it before serving.

Recipe: Jamie Oliver has a good “get ahead” gravy on his website.

2. Stuffing

Stuffing freezes well – you can even freeze it in an oven dish, so once it's defrosted, you can pop the dish straight into the oven. Some people go so far as to cook the stuffing before freezing, so on the day it only requires warming up: a good idea when oven space is at a premium.

Recipe: Mary Berry’s apricot-and-chesnut stuffing is delicious and freezer-friendly.

3. Red cabbage

Braised red cabbage is one of those foods that actually improves its flavour over time, so it’s well worth making in advance. It will keep a few days in the fridge, and reheats brilliantly.

Recipe: Diana Henry’s braised red cabbage with blackberry jelly and spices keeps well and has a lovely festive flavour.

4. Brussel sprouts

Save time by using what chefs call “blanching and refreshing” – boil the sprouts, drop them in cold water to stop the cooking process, then the next day just reheat them in a pan or in the microwave. You can do this with most other vegetables too.

Recipe: Marcus Waering explains how to blanche and refresh brussels in his Christmas lunch guide

5. Potatoes

Some people parboil and freeze their potatoes to give them a headstart on Christmas Day. Personally, I like them cooked from fresh, but you can still get ahead by peeling and chopping them the night before. Keep the potatoes in a water-filled container overnight to stop them browning.

Recipe: Mary Berry explains the basics of freezing potatoes in her recipe for roasties

6. Turkey

Many turkeys are oven-ready, but if you want to do anything messy like deboning, you’ll want to get it out of the way on Christmas Eve. You could also prepare anything you’re planning on filling it with – be it stuffing or something like chopped onions and herbs, which you can store in the fridge in sealed containers.

Recipe: Much of the work for Stevie Parle's turkey is done on Christmas Eve, when you cover the bird in salt

7. Bread sauce

Nobody wants to be faffing around with sauces on Christmas Day. Bread sauce freezes well, but it also keeps for a surprisingly long time in the fridge - just make it a few days before, and you won't even need to defrost it. Cranberry sauce can also be made ahead.

Recipe: this bread sauce recipe from Matthew Drennan will keep for five days in the fridge

8. Parsnips

You can boil your parsnips and keep them in the fridge for up to a day before. Alternatively, you could freeze them.

Recipe: Delia's parmesan-covered parsnips are a classic: the recipe contains freezer instructions

9. Yorkshire puddings

If you’re serving Yorkshire puddings, you could make the batter a day in advance. You could also completely cook and freeze them, then, after they're defrosted, just give the puddings a quick 5-10 minutes in the oven to warm them up.

Recipe: This BBC Good Food Yorkshire puddings recipe is freezable and foolproof

10. Desserts

Christmas pudding, of course, can be made months ahead: simply steam it for a few hours on Christmas Day till reheated. Make sure any other desserts are simple and don’t require oven space. Cold desserts that can be made ahead and served straight away, like a chocolate mousse or a frozen dessert, are ideal.

Recipe: Rose Prince's damson and claret jellies are a perfect alternative to a heavy Christmas pud, and should be made the day before.

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