1. Book an online shop for all your non-perishable items. With most supermarkets you can do this three weeks in advance; so, for delivery on 23rd, book on 2nd December. As you remember items over the three weeks you can just add them to your basket and it’ll save multiple trips to the supermarket in … Continue reading "Anna’s Top 10 Christmas Planning & Cooking Tips"

1. Book an online shop for all your non-perishable items. With most supermarkets you can do this three weeks in advance; so, for delivery on 23rd, book on 2nd December. As you remember items over the three weeks you can just add them to your basket and it’ll save multiple trips to the supermarket in the days running up to Christmas. On 23rd you can do a mini shop for perishables, for-gotten items or those that didn’t arrive.

2. Order all required meat (turkey, sausages, bacon, sausage meat ham, ham hocks as early as your butcher allows; usually about 4 weeks in advance. I can also order cheese from my butcher. Pick up everything on 23rd so that you have everything for Christmas Eve preparation.

3. Gravy can be made up to three weeks in advance. Every time we have a roast chicken I put the carcass in a bag in the freezer. They can be put into a large pan to make stock which is perfect for Christmas gravy. Alternatively cheap chicken wings roasted are a great base for Christmas gravy. I’ve played with many Christmas gravy recipes over the years but Jamie Oliver’s cannot be beaten. 

4. A couple of days ahead plan your food preparation and cooking schedule. Have one schedule for tasks that can be carried out before the 24th, a list for Christmas Eve and a cooking schedule for Christmas Day. I’ve shared my Christmas Day schedule with you.

5. Brine your turkey. I do this on the 23rd. The jury is out as to whether it adds flavour and increases tenderness but I believe not only does it do both, but as long as you’ve got somewhere safe to store it away from pets and foxes, it saves space in your fridge. Brining the turkey has become an event in itself in my house. We name the turkey, make her bath adding water, salt, sugar, spices and clementines to a large bucket and then submerge her. Put the bucket somewhere cold and safe (a shed is ideal) with a board and a brick on top.

6. On Christmas Eve prepare as much of your Christmas lunch/dinner as possible. Jobs that can be done on Christmas Eve (assuming you have fridge space) :

• Make any stuffings. I make a gingerbread stuffing which I bake in a tray and a traditional pork, sage and onion stuffing for the bird.

• If making a vegetarian option (I have two veggies at Christmas) this can be prepared. I make a vegetarian stuffing or nut-loaf.

• Wrap chipolatas in bacon and place on a baking tray lined with baking parchment. Cover and store in the fridge.

• If you’ve brined your turkey take it out of the brine and dry it off. Stuff and prepare the turkey. I stuff the neck and push herb butter under the skin.

• Peel potatoes, cut them to size and leave in cold water.

• Prepare Brussels and leave in cold water.

• Peel carrots and leave in water.

• Prepare red cabbage, leave to cool, cover ready for reheating on Christmas Day.

• Bread sauce can be made, cooled and refrigerated. On Christmas Day it will need reheating and loosening with more milk.

• The only vegetables I don’t prepare the day before are parsnips as they go brown even with the old trick of adding lemon to water. These are quick to prepare on Christmas morning.

7. If cooking a ham or doing my ham hocks for Boxing Day, take off the rind and put them in to pre-soak on Christmas Eve.

8. Instead of a starter, serve a platter of canapés and nibbles. These can be very simple. For a twist on a smoked salmon blini, quickly cure the salmon in a little gin and beetroot juice (from a jar). They look more festive than traditional blinis. Quails eggs (ready prepared) are another great canapé. Edible spoons can be filled with shop bought fish mousse and topped with dill or a chive. Or as an alternative to an edible spoon use a slice of cucumber as a base.

9. Most puddings, including my meringue, can be made on Christmas Eve. As an alternative to a dessert you can buy chocolate cups, pipe in vanilla cream and top them with a berry.

10. If anyone asks if they can bring something– say yes! I like to focus on the main meal and savoury dishes, so my mum brings a Christmas pudding or Christmas cake (often shop bought) and crackers

Anna’s Christmas Must-Have

“Any busy parent welcomes help when it comes to organising their families. I started Anna’s Family Kitchen to help simplify family meal times, planning and prepping. Christmas will challenge the most organised of us. I have now hosted Christmas for 16 years and used to rely on various lists and PostIt notes! Last year I treated myself to the Fraser & Parsley Christmas Planner. I love it! Along with sections for Present Ideas, a Christmas Card list, Thank Yous etc, there is a large Christmas entertaining section for advance food planning and preparation. It includes a Christmas Day cooking schedule (for example I make my gravy a week ahead and freeze it) and a Meal Planner taking you from Christmas Eve to New Year’s Day.”

Meal Planner & Shopping List Pad, £20,

Christmas Planner (space for five Christmases worth of planning), from £45

fraserandparsley.com 

Follow Anna on Instagram @annasfamilykitchen for a wealth of recipes, one-pot family favourites and cooking tips or see annasfamilykitchen.com/christmas-food-planning/ for Anna’s Christmas Day cooking schedule and all the recipes she uses on the day.  

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