The Easy Way to Cook Christmas Dinner

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Planning and preparing a Christmas meal

According to Delia, Gary, Jamie and Nigella you have to get up at the crack of dawn to prepare your Christmas dinner. Not so if you use common sense (something sadly lacking in TV chefs). If you follow these simple guidelines you can stay in bed till at least 8 o'clock, unless you have kids and you'll be up at the crack of dawn anyway.

The Turkey

Get it out of the freezer at least 48 hours in advance (72 if it is a big one) and leave it to defrost at the bottom of your fridge. Tip the water out of the plate at least twice a day. When it comes time to cook it, the size of your turkey is important, because the best way to time the cooking is to allow 20 minutes per pound at 180-200 degrees Centigrade: ie a 20-pound turkey will take seven hours to cook. If your turkey is that big it'll be best to cook it on Christmas Eve. The stuffing can also be made on Christmas Eve.

  • 4 slices crusty bread
  • Half an onion
  • 2oz suet
  • Herbs of your choice
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Put the bread and the onion in a food processor and switch on until bread and onions are finely chopped. Sweat off onions and breadcrumbs in a frying pan until lightly browned. Add the salt, pepper and herbs; mix thoroughly. Add the suet and stir until the suet has melted. Put in an ovenproof dish and cook at 200°C for 10 minutes.

The Veg

The veg can also be done the day before. The spuds can be left in a pan of water; change the water before you go to bed and add a wedge of lemon or a few drops of vinegar to the water to stop the spuds going brown. Sprouts, carrots and parsnips can also be left in water overnight.

The Pudding

Buy one – it's a lot easier! Alternatively, you could make a Black Forest trifle:

Black Forest Trifle
  • 1 Chocolate Swiss roll
  • 1 Blackcurrant jelly
  • 1 Tin black cherries
  • 1pt Chocolate custard
  • 1 Cadbury's Flake
  • 1 large pot Whipping Cream

Slice the Swiss roll, put the slices into the bottom of a bowl and add the cherries. Make up the jelly and pour over the cake and cherries. While you're waiting for the jelly to set, make the custard and leave to cool. When the jelly has set, pour on the cold custard and spread over the jelly with a knife. After that, whip the cream and smooth over the custard crush the flake (tip – leave the flake in the wrapper) then sprinkle the crushed flake over the top.

Christmas Day

The kitchen can be your sanctuary away from the kids and the mother-in-law – make sure you have your own supply of alcohol! If you cooked and carved the turkey the day before, the best way to reheat it is to put the slices in a dish, cover with gravy, then cover in foil and put in the oven with the potatoes, parsnips (these can be cooked in the same dish as the turkey, but not the same dish as the turkey and gravy) and stuffing. The rest is the same as any other Christmas, but without the hassle, I hope.


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