on Friday, 04 December 2015.

Some Simple Ideas To Help Make Your Menu Planning A Little Easier.

1 Think A Little Healthier

It is hard not to overindulge at Christmas when the kitchen is well stocked ! Try to be a little healthier inbetween festive meals. Have a large bowl of fruit to hand and a few vegetables that can be eaten raw.  Instead of too many salty nibbles, enjoy freshly cut vegetables or fruit with yoghurt based dips or salsas.

2 Make Sure Your Bird/Joint Fits The Roasting Tray 

This may seem obvious but it is a classic school boy error and very common.  Check that the roasting tray is a fit for the poultry or meat and that it will actually fit into the oven!  If using a whole bird, think about cooking the legs separately.  It will take less time and take up less oven space!

3 Calculate Cooking Times And Allow For Resting

Work out in advance how long your meat will take to cook and write it down. Remember, meat requires resting before carving.  Turkey for example, must rest to be properly tender and can sit for up to an hour. One of the most effective ways of resting a turkey is upside down.  This allows all the juices to seep back into the breast meat making it deliciously succulent.

4 Know How Many You Are Feeding On Christmas Day And Beyond!

Think carefully about the number you will be feeding and how often. Many people eat festive fare all over again on Boxing Day as well as leftovers in between!  Make sure you factor this in when getting the Christmas shop in.

5 Mould Your Stuffing  For Ease

If making your stuffing by hand, try rolling it in foil and storing it in the fridge ready for use.  It can be cooked separately in disposable foils which will make it very easy to handle and it can be cut into slices after cooking, making it easy and attractive to plate up.  In addition, it is important to remember that a stuffed bird takes longer to cook as air cannot circulate in the cavity.

6 Make Wonderful Gravy!

Place vegetables such as onions, garlic and celery underneath the joint or bird prior to cooking and ensure it is well seasoned.   Once your bird/joint is cooked and rested, remove it to a warm serving tray and keep it covered. Skim off any fat from the roasting tray and remove the vegetables.  Deglaze the tin by pouring over a little hot water and scraping up all the little meaty bits that get stuck on the base of the tin.  Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of plain flour into the roasting tray, set it over a low heat on the hob and continue to stir.  Add a large glug of wine followed by hot stock (about 500mls) which should be added very gradually until any lumps have disappeared.  Whilst stirring, bring to the boil.  You will notice the gravy is beginning to thicken.  Reduce heat and simmer for 2-3 mins.  Season to taste.  So easy and so amazing!

7 Draw Up Menus and Order Food

You really do not want to be shopping on Christmas Eve! Planning ahead works and will reduce stress.  Plan your menus and order the specialist items you need well in advance.  Non-perishables can be purchased and stored weeks before and fresh items can be bought in 2 or 3 days before.

8 Clean Out Your Freezer and Sort Out Your Fridge

Perhaps a little obvious not to mention tedious but it will make a huge difference to your organisation over the festive period.  You will be amazed at what you find lurking at the back of your freezer which you had long since forgotten about and quite frankly would prefer to.  You will find much needed space you didn’t know you had!

9 Relax On Boxing Day And Make Use Of The Leftovers

Whether you are entertaining or enjoying your immediate family, try and make Boxing Day a time to relax.  Think about serving buffet style food such as cooked meat, slices of cold turkey, leftover stuffing, chutneys and salad.  Pan-fry leftover vegetables and ‘pigs in blankets’ for a quick tasty dish. Chunks of ham or turkey can be mixed with blanched broccoli, béchamel sauce and finished off in a moderate the oven for 15 minutes with a grating of parmesan on top.  Leftover Christmas Pudding  is an easy dessert crumbled over ice-cream.

10 Don’t Feel That You Have To Make Absolutely Everything

Even with careful planning, tasks often take longer than you had expected and time can disappear.  With that in mind, don’t feel that everything must be handmade.  For example, a quality shop bought cranberry sauce can be given a personal touch with a little port and orange zest.  ‘Pigs in Blankets’ can be time consuming and fiddly to make whereas those reliably sourced are more convenient.  If you run out of time to make your own mince pies, remove the lid from shop bought ones and decorate with caramelised fruits or icing.

11 Make Your Cheeses Versatile!    

There is no doubt that cheese is a sumptuous treat at the end of a meal with a glass of port.  It can also make a wonderful starter. Crumbled Blue Stilton with freshly sliced pear or grilled Ragstone Goats Cheese with roasted cherry tomatoes, green salad and some simple dressing is delicious.  Cheese also makes for an easy lunchtime snack with crunchy vegetables, chilled grapes and fresh crusty bread or can be blended through pasta for an easy supper. Remember to serve your cheeses at room temperature for the best flavour. Remove from the fridge about 2 hours in advance.

12 There Are No Rules! 

In amongst all the planning and organising it is easy to forget that there are no rules and regulations around what you choose to eat or when you choose to eat it. Anything goes from Turkey or Goose to Poached Salmon or Roast Rib of Beef.  The main thing is to enjoy the traditions and customs that make your family’s festive experience unique and personal to you.