Lorraine's tips on surviving Christmas
There is so much pressure to make sure everything goes right and when I cook for family gatherings, I sometimes I think ‘why did I sign up for this again?’ But I have found that these top tips have enabled me to get through relatively unscathed and actually really rather enjoy it!
1. If you find all too late that the turkey does not fit in your oven (and I am not ashamed to say I have been there) then just get your best pair of scissors and cut the bird up into pieces- wings, legs, thighs, breast - and roast it. That way, it will cook much more quickly and will remain a lot more moist, too.
2. Give yourself a break - there is no need to cook everything from scratch. Being a last minute Larry when it comes to family gatherings, there are some things I buy ready-made with no shame whatsoever - things like pigs in blanket, easy to make at home, but still take up time. I buy cranberry sauce and then just add some orange zest or Cointreau at home. And with stuffing and canapés - if you buy the best ones you can afford and then scatter them with fresh herbs, no one will be any the wiser.
3. Draw up a little timeplan starting from the time you want to serve the meal and then work backwards to where you are now. (See my sample timeplan below.)
4. To avoid family fracas, my rule is no alcohol before the big meal is served (now this does not often work but the sentiment is there).
5. Shop online, shop online, shop online, I cannot emphasise this enough, for me it is the only way to avoid supermarket trolley wars and last-minute dashes on the high street, battling with bags and their breaking handles. Ok, this year it’s too much of a last-minute reminder. But learn you need to book your slot by the beginning of December next year.
6. This is really pedantic I know, and often not altogether popular, but I like to draw up a little washing-up rota so everyone knows where they stand and certain people, yes you know who you are, won’t get away without doing some washing up this year!
7. If you can, drag the family out for a walk before or after lunch, if your family and friends are anything like mine they will try and resist but the walk will prevent the inevitable cabin fever and sofa inertia which can strike this time of year- then once you are out, I like to slip away unnoticed back to the house and enjoy a well earned hours of peace and quite alone!
8. Expect at least one food or family drama. Then, when the inevitable happens, it won't be a surprise and you'll be better able to cope with it - whatever it is!
9. Plan your leftovers, and stock up on a few extra ingredients. Here are three of my favourites:
- Spicy Turkey Fajitas - Fajitas are always popular in our house so I tend to fry some onions, add some spices to the turkey leftovers and put out some salsa and sour cream and leave people to get stuck in.
- Toasted Turkey Sandwich with Goats’ Cheese, Bacon & Cranberry Sauce - We all love the turkey sandwich, and for me the perfect post christmas sarnie is a combo of turkey, goat’s cheese, bacon and cranberry sauce all toasted in a pan. Christmas flavours simply ooze out of this sandwich.
- Turkey Tikka Masala Curry -it’s such a great invention and there are so many different ways of making curry, but I particularly like creamy smoky tikka masala with turkey.
10. And finally, find someone else to do the cooking – nahh, just kidding!!!
Timeplan for 7.5kg/16lb 8oz turkey
The night before: Parboil spuds, cool, and drizzle with a little olive oil. Cover and store in the fridge.
09.00 Turkey out of fridge. Place a bag of frozen peas onto the breast of the turkey to keep the outside from getting too warm. Remove the bag of giblets for stock later.
10.20 Put herbs under the turkey's skin. Place a halved lemon in the cavity. Oven on to 200C/400F/ Gas 6.
10.35 Turkey into oven.
11.05 Reduce oven temperature to 180C/350F/Gas 4.
11.10 Prepare everything for trimmings. Make stock from giblets
13.30 Heat goose fat in a roasting tin.
13.40 Parboiled potatoes into the oven.
14.15 Sprouts into the oven (if roasting).
14.20 Remove turkey from oven. Increase oven temperature back to 200C/400F/Gas 6.
14.25 Make gravy.
14.30 Parsnips and any other root veg on to cook. Add sliced chorizo and chestnuts to the sprouts.
14.50 Maple syrup onto the roasting parsnips. Warm your plates.
14.55 Transfer to serving dishes
15.00 Eat and enjoy