25 Christmas treats for the freezer
I can’t stop making lists. Christmas is too good an opportunity to make all my favourite cakes, cookies and tiny tartlets that I have to organise each foray into the kitchen with military precision. But Christmas is also a time to be sociable – so making things ahead of time means I don’t have to spend the week before the big day hidden away in a flurry of icing sugar.
This year the freezer is stepping in to give me a hand. From constructing my gift hampers to wheeling out yet another special dinner after Boxing Day, it’s all about choosing foods that can remain on ice until I’m ready for them.
Jammy biscuits – cut into heart shapes – are on the list for this week. Freeze the sandwich halves, let them defrost uncovered, then stick together with jam and clotted cream when it’s time to construct the hamper. Other biscuit options include Nigella’s (really very) intense chocolate cookies, gingerbread tree decorations, and Simon Rimmer’s chocolate harlequin biscuits. My mum, who was known to make at least five different sorts of Christmas cookie, made these as pinwheels by rolling the two sorts of dough together like a roulade, then slicing and baking.
Nigella's Intense chocolate cookies
Mince pies likewise can be frozen and whisked forth with great confidence when the neighbours pop round. If you’re using (shah!) ready-made frozen pastry, it’s probably best to bake your pies, cool and then freeze them. You can freeze the whole uncooked, filled pies in the tartlet tin, then gently pop out into a freezer bag. Straight from the freezer into the oven for half an hour at 200C – tip top. For the mincemeat-resistant, little sweet shortcrust pastry cases can be filled with jam or chocolate and ginger.
Of course, this also applies to savoury tartlets. An impromptu gathering can quickly turn into a proper party, so these nibbles are great to have on hand. Incorporate the cheese of the season in a Stilton, spinach and potato quiche, or really knock their socks off with Rick Stein’s Crab, saffron and leek combination. It’s not just party food, you could get the whole vegetarian centrepiece done and in the freezer with this gorgeous Lentil and mushroom pithivier.
Of course, behind every successful meal is a well-prepared cook who knows what basics to have tucked away when it’s crunch time. Breadcrumbs always come in – especially in the bread sauce and stuffing. Blend any stale ends of loaves and pop into a freezer bag as the weeks go by, and you’ll never want for some crunchy parmesan crumbs atop a Brussels sprout gratin or around some homemade fish fingers. Stock is essential, too. Pencil in one of these weekends to make a large batch and store in ice cube trays.
By the time the big dinners have gone, the appetite is light for both cooking and eating. Now’s the time to pull a few soups out of the freezer, ready to warm you up after the holiday walks or slogging through the sales. Hugh’s bright pink Beetroot soup with feta or a humble Swede soup also balances out the spiralling cost per meal. For heartier dinners, store a stew – like Nigel’s Moroccan-style chicken casserole or this veggie-friendly Aubergine and bean casserole. If you’re a keen bread maker (or have a breadmaker), you can always load up on a variety of rolls to accompany the cold meats and soups – try herb and walnut or basic white.
And then there is the ice cream. Oh, the ice cream! In my freezer, patiently awaiting the festivities, is a litre of David Lebovitz’s Salted butter caramel ice cream. But vanilla is the perfect foil for hot Christmas pudding or bathed in espresso for an energy-boosting affogato. I’m also intrigued by this surprisingly simple Ginger ice cream as a wake-up call after some serious eating.
So now you have one of my lists – what’s on yours to make ahead for a sanity-preserving Christmas?
Advice on freezing food: