Christmas Food Top Twelve Tips
Christmas is a busy time for us all and StarBistro is no exception! Learners at National Star are enjoying the build-up in the kitchen; planning, prepping and serving our special Christmas menu. If you’ve bagged a table with us over the festive period, you’ll see how proud we are of the way our students are coping with the extra Christmas activity and how their confidence is building with each customer they welcome.
So, here at StarBistro, we are as ready as we can be for Christmas, but if the thought of preparing food for a special occasion fills you with panic, don’t worry. We’ve managed to stop our talented chef Joe from chopping and stirring for ten minutes so we can share his top 12 tips for Christmas (one for each day) with you. So, grab a coffee, maybe a notepad and pen and take five minutes to learn some great tips from a culinary genius (stop blushing, Joe)!
Christmas food – our top 12 tips
1. Stay calm
Christmas lunch can be anything you want it to be – a full traditional Christmas dinner with turkey, goose or duck and all the usual Christmas trimmings or dispense with tradition and cook something you would enjoy eating, such as fish, vegetarian, salad or even beans on toast if that’s what you fancy. Having Christmas at home means you can please yourself, so start by choosing the foods and recipes you and your guests will love to eat. Christmas dinner at its most complex is nothing more than a Sunday roast with a cracker.
2. Write a plan
If you’re new to cooking a special meal, especially for a larger number of people than usual, writing out a menu, shopping list and preparation plan may seem excessive, but it really isn’t. Take time well before the Christmas holidays to choose your menu, including drinks, and then write out your shopping list. Each ingredient should come under one of the following categories:
- Got it
So take your list of ingredients, go through your cupboards and if you’ve already got that ingredient (check how much you have and sell-by dates) then it goes in ‘Got It’. Anything that can be bought in advance and stored (dried fruit, sugar, flour, wine, mixers, crackers) is listed under ‘Cupboard’. ‘Frozen’ food can be bought six to eight weeks before Christmas if you have enough room in your freezer. ‘Fresh’ items can be bought according to their use-by dates, but even fresh fruit, vegetables and dairy have use-by dates often a week ahead.
3. Begin prepping early
And by this we mean REALLY early. You really can make a Christmas cake, Christmas puddings and mincemeat in October. We’ve been feeding our boozy Christmas puddings with alcohol since the beginning of October and they will taste all the better for it in December.
4. Beg, steal or borrow
In addition to food and drink, think about other items you might need, especially if you will be feeding more people than usual. Do you have enough chairs? Napkins? Glasses and cutlery? Even pans, pudding basins, food processors and steamers can be borrowed from friends and family if you let them know far enough in advance.
5. Be realistic
You’re not feeding the nation, but equally you want to make sure everyone has enough to eat and drink. Think about food either side of Christmas dinner itself if you have people staying with you. If you’re having roast meat for Christmas dinner, then perhaps something lighter that can be prepared a week in advance and frozen might work. A fish pie or vegetarian spinach and feta pie, for example. Serve a light but special breakfast on Christmas day itself so people have an appetite for the main event. Maybe some berries, pastries, natural yogurt, juices and good quality coffee or tea. Don’t add to your workload by making breakfast too complex.
When you write your plan for cooking on Christmas day itself, check and re-check timings. The bigger the piece of meat, whether a bird or a joint, the longer the cooking time, so yes, when you work back from the ETTT (Estimated Time To Table) it really can mean that the turkey needs to go in the oven at seven in the morning! Invest in (or borrow) a meat thermometer to make sure the meat is cooked through properly.
You will find that people are more than happy to help. Make a list of tasks using tips 8 to 11 as pointers and you will probably find that one of your guests would love to be in charge of pudding, or one is a dab hand at table decoration. Ask for help because it is your day too and you should be able to enjoy it. People would rather you asked for help than get to three in the afternoon and find you hyperventilating on the kitchen floor!
8. Cold starter or soup
If you offer a cold starter, like a homemade cranberry and brie tart or a prawn cocktail, you don’t need to compromise on taste and you can assemble the starter an hour to forty-five minutes before everyone is due to sit down. An alternative starter is soup, which of course can be made well in advance, but it will take up valuable space on the hob.
9. Advance pudding
Complex puddings are for another day. If you follow the traditional route your Christmas pudding was made weeks ago, and it just needs to be kept warm after steaming and served with brandy butter or pouring cream to keep things simple. Trifle and pavlova can be made the day before – just add the whipped cream an hour or so in advance of eating. If all else fails, you can always buy a Christmas pudding (we won’t tell anyone).
Nearly all vegetables can be washed, peeled, chopped and prepped the evening before. You can also parboil the roast potatoes, coat them in oil, freeze and cook from frozen on the day if you think space in your oven will be tight. Put some Christmas tunes on, pour some drinks and get everyone to join in.
11. Don’t forget the table
After an early supper on Christmas Eve, clear the table and kitchen and make sure everything is washed and put away so you have enough space for cooking the following day. Then prepare the table. Why spend all that time and effort cooking if the table is a shambles? As we mentioned before, someone would love to do this task if you have too much to do.
12. Gravy is everything
Even if you have a few issues with timing, if the plates you are serving dinner on are warm, every other component is warm, and the gravy is hot, everything will taste fine temperature wise.
Merry Christmas from us all at StarBistro!