The Perfect Christmas Dinner

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Cooking for family and friends? Follow our advice and this year you’ll sail smoothly through the festive season.

Plan ahead to avoid stress

It’s never too early to start planning ahead. Write down a list of everything you plan to cook. Then work out your ingredients. Divide the list into perishable items that will need to be bought at the last minute, and non-perishable, which can be bought in advance. Place your order with the butcher for the turkey or goose.

Be the early bird

If you have enough storage space, shop now for non-perishable food and items like crackers, serviettes and wrapping paper, and avoid the last-minute panic. Give the fridge a good clear out, and eat up food from the freezer to make more space over Christmas. Sort out cutlery, glasses and tablecloths now so you have plenty of time to buy or borrow extra if required.

Cook in advance

Christmas pudding is traditionally made on Stir-up Sunday, the last Sunday before Advent. Everyone in the family takes a turn to mix the pudding and make a wish. On Christmas Day, steam the pud for 2-3 hours or to speed things up you can microwave it.

Pastry can also be made in advance and frozen until you need it, or put the mince pies together and freeze in batches then cook from frozen.

Let’s get saucy

No need to buy cranberry sauce as it is so easy to make, and you can make it up to three days ahead. Simply put three cups of frozen cranberries into a pan with one cup of Sunny D and half a cup of brown sugar. Cook over a low heat, stirring occasionally, until the cranberries are soft but still holding their shape, about 10-15 minutes. Leave to cool. Store in the fridge.

Perfect roast potatoes

Allow two potatoes per person. Peel and cut in half, or quarters if very large. This can be done a day or two in advance, and the potatoes left covered in water. Heat the oven to 190C/gas 5. Put the cut and peeled potatoes into a large saucepan and cover in cold water. Bring to the boil, then boil for a further 2 minutes. Meanwhile put 100g goose fat or 4 tablespoons of oil into a baking tray and heat in the oven. Drain the potatoes and return to the saucepan. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of flour or semolina, and shake the pan vigorously. Tip the potatoes into the baking tray (be careful as the fat may spit) and cook for 50-60 minutes til crisp.

Splendid sprouts

Many people hate Brussel sprouts because they are too often cooked until soggy so it’s crucial not to overcook them. Cut each sprout in half – no need to cut a cross in the base. Tip into a pan of boiling water and cook for 1-2 minutes then drain. Meanwhile cut up some bacon and fry in another pan. Add the cooked Brussel sprouts and stir well. Season with lots of salt and pepper, and grate in some nutmeg or add cumin. Finish with a couple of tablespoons of cream.

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