As seen by our friends at Le Creuset. Here is our Christmas present to you: a detailed plan – including menu and recipes – for a traditional Christmas feast, so you can minimise time in the kitchen and maximise every minute you can spend making merry with your family and close friends. (Fear not if your idea of a happy Christmas is a contemporary, relaxed, outdoor affair: watch this space next week for our Casual Christmas guide…)
MAKE IT YOUR OWN
The single most important tip regarding Christmas fare we can think of is: even if it’s totally traditional, if no one really likes a dish leave it off the menu. Not fond of turkey? Go for crispy roast chicken (although we challenge you to try our mouthwatering, indulgent and succulent Turkey Champenoise)! If the whole family loathes Christmas pudding, dish up cassata or delicious apple pie. Tradition lies in far more than the ingredients: it is about the honouring of faith; the gathering of multiple generations; reaffirming bonds between family and close friends; celebrating rituals; and communicating lasting love and affection.
Even if you’re not considering a big Christmas feast, enjoy traditional Christmas flavours with a special brunch or afternoon high tea. Whip up our Baked French Toast for a memorable breakfast, and serve a tower of treats reminiscent of Christmas-stocking favours from days of yore – think caramelised nuts, choc-chip shortbread biscuits, chocolate-dipped florentines, orange wedges and finely sliced nectarines. And the whole house will smell of Christmas if you put a pot of fragrant mulled wine to simmer on the stovetop, too.
THE NO-PANIC PLAN
- Confirm the number of guests you will be feeding, and check whether any of them have any dietary requirements that must be catered for.
- Select your recipes, or simply stick to our delicious festive menu below.
- Once you’ve chosen the dishes, make a detailed shopping list and buy as much as possible well in advance to avoid last-minute shopping and stress. (See ‘Shopping lists made easy’ below.) Many ingredients can be frozen.
- For the shopping list, don’t forget about the following: Christmas napkins/serviettes; Christmas crackers; drinks, including beer, wine, bubbly, soft drinks and juice; tablecloth; festive table runners; if you’ve chosen a colour theme, consider table decorations and candles to match; candles; flowers; kitchen roll; clingwrap; tin foil; matches; plenty of black bags and bin liners; serving platters; salad dressing; olive oil; pre-dinner snacks such as crisps, dips, olives, crudité, nuts and so on; dishwashing powder or liquid; and a plentiful supply of drying-up cloths.
- Allow 500g (raw uncooked weight) turkey per person and 350g gammon per person. (Any leftovers are a Boxing Day godsend, when the last thing you want to do is to spend more time in the kitchen.)
- Order your turkey and gammon, or buy them at your favourite supermarket and freeze them until closer to the time. TIP: remove the neck and giblets from the raw turkey and freeze them separately to facilitate defrosting later.
- If the turkey is frozen, allow a defrosting time of one day for every 2kg of turkey. You must defrost it in the fridge, and make sure you put it on a large platter or dish so that it doesn’t drip in the fridge.
- Shop for last-minute fresh produce early in the morning on 23 December – the earlier you arrive, the quieter the shops will be and the more produce you’ll find on the shelves. This also gives you time to track down any hard-to-find essentials if they’re out of stock.
- Lay the table on 24 December, down to the salt and pepper mill and the last festive decoration.
- Make sure your ice trays are full, and chill the cooldrinks, wine and champagne – you’ve earned yourself an ice-cold glass of bubbly!
SHOPPING LISTS MADE EASY
- Print or write out each recipe.
- On a separate page, write down every single ingredient required.
- See point 4 above and add these items to your list.
- Cross out every ingredient/item you already have adequate supplies of in your kitchen.
- Using a highlighter, mark every single thing you can buy in advance that will keep either in the fridge, freezer or grocery cupboard.
- In a different colour highlighter, mark everything that must be bought no more than 3 days ahead – usually fresh fruit, veggies, salad ingredients, fish/seafood and flowers.
- You now can consolidate this information into two separate, comprehensive shopping lists, the first of which you can tackle right now, the second you should do between the 22 and 24 December.
A WORD ABOUT TIMING
In terms of planning, you can time any baked side dishes so they are cooked before you start roasting the turkey; you can then simply pop them into the warm oven to reheat while the turkey is resting.
The turkey should be timed so that it is cooked half an hour before the meal is served. Take it out of the oven and cover it with a tent of tin foil to help retain heat and so that the meat can rest – this ensures it is succulent and juicy. It’s also a good time to reheat and finish off all your side dishes, toss the salad and whip up the gravy.
A TASTE OF TRADITION: OUR CHRISTMAS MENU
Asparagus and Mascarpone Gratin
Fresh asparagus is a gastronomic delight and one of life’s simple pleasures! Here it reaches new heights of indulgence baked in a Buffet Casserole with Parmesan breadcrumbs and dollops of rich mascarpone. A hint of nutmeg is the exotic finishing touch that brings all the flavours together.
Stuffed with delicious cocktail sausages, layered with masses of crispy bacon and served on a bed of roasted baby potatoes and pearl onions, this year’s Christmas turkey is bound to become a new family favourite.
Cranberry-Glazed Gammon with Sticky French Tarragon Honeyed Carrots
We recommend you buy a far bigger gammon than you think you’re going to need as everyone is certain to keep coming back for more of this cranberry-glazed savoury sensation served with tarragon-flavoured honeyed carrots.
French Apple Tart
The ginger and cinnamon-scented custard topped with tart fresh apple slices all on a crispy shortcrust base is indulgent yet not too rich – a wonderful way to end your Christmas feast.